At the end of this press release, UT Martin refers to the “new-look Skyhawks.” If you’re a UT Martin fan, no words should make you happier.
As expected, those new look Skyhawks will be made up mostly of Junior College transfers, although one true freshman is added to the mix as well.
You can read about each individual player in the full press release, plus read Jason James‘ comments about each at the bottom of this post.
With Mike Liabo and Myles Taylor returning, (and Liabo moving back into a more natural position from point guard) I felt that back court is where Martin really needs to get better. While we have good reason to believe Terrance Smith will return this next year, he’s not going to play 40 minutes a game, and it’s likely teams will try to take him out of games, so it’s good to see that James picked up three guards.
I like the addition of the only freshman, Dee Oldham the best. He’s a Tennessee player that had an outstanding high school career. He will likely need a year, but I do believe he’ll be a talented player down the line.
That being said, while Taylor was a force inside on offense, rebounding was often a struggle for the Skyhawks. I’m not particulary impressed by Tobias Dowdell (Best game is 14 points, 10 rebounds? Averages less than 5 rebounds despite being 6’7″?) I do like the smaller Orlando Ruthledge, who was a good high school player at Fern Creek. I’m somewhat surprised he spent 2 years as a JUCO, but I feel he could be a good compliment in the 3-slot.
Is this enough talent to turn around a 4-win team? That’s a tall order, but it appears to be a step in the right direction.
Full text of Press release is below. (As of this writing, release was not available on UTMSports.com)
The University of Tennessee at Martin head men’s basketball coach Jason James has announced the signings of Dee Oldham, Bobby Jones, Justin Childs, Orlando Rutledge and Tobias Dowdell to National Letters of Intent for the 2012-13 season.
Oldham will have four years of eligibility, Dowdell will have three years while Jones, Childs and Rutledge will have two years to play for the Skyhawks.”
“With this year’s recruiting class, we improved ourselves in every facet of the game,” said James, who will enter his fourth season at the helm next season. “There were a few areas that we really wanted to address in the offseason and with these five young men, we did that. One of the things I am most encouraged about is the fact these guys want to win. All five of them come from success and they want to continue that success to continue into their years at UT Martin. I also love the fact that all of these young men are team-first guys. I am very excited about this year’s signing class.”
Dee Oldham, G, 6-4, 180, Fr., Lebanon, Tenn. (Wilson Central HS)
In three seasons, Oldham became the Wildcats’ all-time leading scorer, pouring in 1,260 points for head coach Troy Bond. Oldham was a big part of the Wildcats’ run to the TSSAA Class AAA state tournament this past season, when Wilson Central posted a 26-6 record. In his final season at WCHS, he averaged 17.5 points, five rebounds, four assists and two steals per game. In the Region 5 championship game against Clarksville, he scored 17 points and in the team’s narrow 51-46 loss to Science Hill in the state tournament, he compiled 14 points, five rebounds, two assists and two steals. He was a three-year all-district and all-region honoree and was named to the 2012 third team all mid-state team.
“I love Dee’s feel for how to play the game,” James said. “He has a great understanding of offensive and defensive strategies. He plays with a calmness that is way beyond his years – he always seems to be under control when he is on the floor. He is effective at getting the ball where it needs to go and making a play. His teammates love to play with him and love to be around him off the floor – this is an attribute that sometimes goes overlooked but is extremely important. With a little bit of strength and experience, he can be a very special player in this league.”
Bobby Jones, G, 6-3, 185, Jr., Memphis, Tenn. (Eastern Oklahoma State College)
Jones was part of a remarkable turnaround at Eastern Oklahoma State College, located in Wilburton, Okla. and coached by Scott Edgar. The Mountaineers went 32-5 and made their first national tournament appearance since 1961 this past season, earning a fourth place finish at the NJCAA national tournament in Hutchinson, Kan. Willingly accepting the team’s sixth man role, Jones averaged 14.1 points, 3.8 rebounds and 1.3 assists per contest last season, earning All-Oklahoma Collegiate Athletic Conference third team accolades.
As a prep, Jones attended Trezevant High School in Memphis, where he averaged 16.4 points, 4.3 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.9 steals per game his senior year when the Bears went 19-12. A member Memphis Commercial Appeal “Best of the Preps” Class A-AA team as a senior, Jones had a knack for big scoring games, including a game-high 24 points over Manassas in the Region 8-AA semifinals.
“Bobby is a scorer – he can put the ball in the hole in a number of different ways,” James said. “He stretches the defense with the jump shot and also puts the ball on the floor very effectively. I am very encouraged by his toughness – he loves to win. He loves to compete at a very high level and he comes from winning – his junior college team was one of the best in the country. He knows what it takes to be successful and will do anything to help our team get there. The hustle that he plays with and the talent he has will make him a very good player for us.”
Justin Childs, G, 6-4, 190, Jr., Greenwood, Miss. (Mississippi Gulf Coast CC)
Childs was a member of back-to-back Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges conference championships in his two seasons at Mississippi Gulf Coast, located in Perkinston, Miss. Playing for head coach Wendell Weathers, Childs led the Bulldogs to a 23-5 record and a Region 23 Tournament semifinals appearance as a sophomore. He was an all-region, all-state and All-MACJC second teamer last season and was voted as the team’s MVP after he averaged 7.9 points, 6.9 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.8 steals per game. As a freshman, Mississippi Gulf Coast posted a 21-6 record and Childs was named the team’s Defensive Player of the Year, averaging 9.0 points, 5.0 rebounds. 2.1 assists and 1.8 steals per game.
Childs prepped at Greenwood High School, where he played for head coach James Cole. In Childs’ senior campaign, the Bulldogs went 24-7 while Childs averaged 16.1 points, 3.2 rebounds and 1.6 steals per game. Greenwood boasted another 20-win season (20-11) when Childs was a junior, as he stuffed the statsheet to the tune of 9.4 points, 5.4 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 2.2 steals per game.
“Justin is a jack of all trades – he can do a number of different things on the basketball floor,” James said. “From shooting the ball, to penetrating, to finding an open teammate – he will make a play to help his team win. He has a ‘whatever it takes’ attitude – he will do whatever it takes to win the game and I love that type of mindset. Our program will not only benefit from his game but also from his leadership. One of the best things about him is that he is a positive influence on his teammates. He is one of the most talented players that we have, on or off the floor. We are very fortunate to have him and we look forward to watching him grow as a person and a player.”
Orlando Rutledge, F, 6-5, 200, Jr., Louisville, Ky. (Lake Land College)
Rutledge joins the Skyhawks after a successful two-year run at Lake Land College in Mattoon, Ill. Playing for head coach Cedric Brown, Rutledge was the leading scorer (16.6 points per game) and rebounder (6.8 per game) in 2011-12 for the Lakers, who tied for the Great Rivers Athletic Conference championship. Lake Land was 22-10 this past season thanks in large part to Rutledge, who was an All-GRAC and NJCAA All-Region 24 selection. He pulled down five double-doubles, including a 25-point, 12-rebound performance in which he stepped out to make five 3-pointers against Lincoln College on Nov. 16. His high-scoring game as a sophomore came against ABCD Preparatory on Dec. 3, when he poured in 28 points. As a freshman, he was an All-GRAC second teamer, averaging 12.1 points and 4.7 rebounds per contest while shooting 57 percent from the floor.
In high school, Rutledge was one of the top prospects in the state of Kentucky at Fern Creek High School in Louisville. He was recognized by national recruiting guru Rick Bolus and took part in the prestigious Kentucky/Ohio All-Star Game in 2010. Rutledge averaged close to 20 points and 10 rebounds per game as a senior and poured in 16 points per game as a junior for head coach Dion Layfield.
“Orlando just plays basketball – he always finds his way around the court,” James said. “He is one of those guys who is around the ball, making plays. He is good at scoring the ball at a solid rate. Any time you have an athletic player who can just play and be effective, that player can be very successful in our system. I think he fits perfectly into what we are trying to do on both ends of the floor. I love his athleticism and his ability to rebound from the perimeter. We are looking forward to big things from him.”
Tobias Dowdell, F, 6-7, 215, Soph., Birmingham, Ala. (Lawson State CC)
Dowdell played one season under head coach Phillip Shumpert at Lawson State Community Coillege in Birmingham. Competing in the Alabama Community College Conference, the Cougars went 23-8 last season. Dowdell averaged 4.8 points and 3.3 rebounds per game while making 56 percent of his shot attempts from the floor. His best game of the season came on Nov. 15 against Lurleen B. Wallace Community College, when he recorded 14 points and 10 rebounds. Overall, he cracked double-figures in seven games – including five times in the first nine games of the season.
Dowdell was a ferocious rebounder and defender at the high school level, competing at Wenonah High School. The Dragons went 26-8 competing against Class 5A competition during Dowdell’s senior campaign when he averaged 7.2 points, 13.1 rebounds, 3.2 blocks, 2.9 steals and 1.9 assists per game. As a junior, he led Wenonah to a state tournament appearance and was MVP of the regional tournament. In the regional semifinals against Arab, he scored 27 points and snagged 15 rebounds.
“If I had to use one word to describe Tobias it would be active – he is an extremely active basketball player,” James said. “He runs the floor well and plays hard every possession – his motor does not stop. He is an excellent rebounder in and out of his area and his activity level allows him to get a lot of things done on the basketball court. The thing I love most about him is his ability on the defensive end. He can guard the 2-5 positions and he has great feet on the defensive end. I expect him to make an immediate impact on both ends of the floor – he has a chance to be a great player in this league.”
These signees will join UT Martin’s eight returning players in 2012-13. The new-look Skyhawks will make their season debut on Friday, Nov. 9 on the road at Arkansas-Little Rock.