UT Arlington’s Summer Signings Solidify Center and Guard Positions


I finally renewed my season tickets the other day–so stoked for basketball at College Park Center this season! This is also good time to discuss several recent roster updates heading into the 17-18 season.

The Mavs added three players over the summer: one to help us this year at center, two others to bolster an already very deep back court.

Johnny Hamilton, an athletic 7’0″ 230lb. center is a graduate student who is playing his final season at UTA after transferring from Virginia Tech. Originally from Rio Claro, Trinidad, he played his first two years of college ball in Jacksonville College. He averaged 9 points a game his sophomore season and blocked a whopping 112 shots in 26 games. At Virginia Tech, he played in 17 games in his junior season but suffered a season-ending thumb injury just three games into his senior year. Coach Scott Cross said “Johnny is an extremely athletic big man who has a chance to be among the elite centers in the Sun Belt Conference. At 7-feet, he obviously has tremendous height and length.  But, more importantly, he has good skills at both ends of the floor, great timing and will be an elite defender for us.” An elite rim protector that has played in the ACC and against good junior college competition, Hamilton could be major defensive presence for UTA.

In what might be deemed an embarrassment of riches, it will be interesting to see how Our Leader Coach Cross manages minutes at the center and power forward positions. Link Kabadyundi (7’1, 274) will also compete for playing time, and one would think freshmen Tim Holland (6’8″, 220) and Nils Huizenga (6’7, 210) will also see some action at the 5 position as well. This is one of the biggest front courts the Mavs have had in a long time, and with Kevin Hervey, forms one of the biggest forward lineups most of our opponents will see this season.

And with all the offensive weapons the Mavs have, the 5 position likely won’t be asked to produce big numbers in the points column to be successful. The sheer size of our forwards will serve as a natural deterrent for those daring and foolish enough to attack the paint. Simply being efficient at cleaning up loose balls around the basket, grabbing rebounds and blocking shots will suffice. You know, doing all the things that Jorge Bilbao did (perhaps by committee) and we’ll be in good shape. Depth at all positions has been a key part of the success the Mavs have had the last few years, and being able to rotate several fresh big bodies into the paint this season will make for some long nights for opposing forwards this season. Looking into next year at the front court, Kabadyundi and Hamilton graduate after this season. So depending on how Huizenga’s and Holland’s games develop (and what roles they may be asked to play–4? 5?), we might see another junior college big or two signed in November or April. But that’s a long way off. Or is it?

UTA also signed two skilled guards with local ties and Division I experience, which will allow us to maintain the uptempo offensive approach and add extra scoring punch after sitting out this season due to transfer rules.

With Erick Neal graduating this year, it appears the 2018-2020 offenses will be run by PGs DJ Bryant and 5’10 150 UTEP sophomore transfer PG Deon Barrett. Lightning-quick with an electric game similar to Neal’s, Barrett won back-to-back titles at Lancaster High School and was ranked as the 15th best player by Mike Kunstadt’s Texas Basketball Review. He’s a great passer and shot .397% from outside and 85.7% FT in 31 games for UTEP, where he averaged 13 minutes a game and started four contests. He played his sophomore year at Dallas Skyline, where he was a teammate of new UTA transfer Edric Dennis.

Dennis is another experienced guard returning to the Dallas area after playing for Jackson State and Hill College. Dennis played his senior year of high school at DeSoto, where he was a Rivals.com top-50 players in the state. At Hill College, he averaged 9 points and 1.7 assists a game. At Jackson State, he started 26 games and averaged 14 points in 33 minutes per contest.

Dennis can really fill up–torching Fisk for 36 points and dropping 21 at Memphis and Baylor. He’s proven he can play well against some of the best programs in the country and will be a huge asset to the Mavs for the next few years.

Coach Cross: “It will be a big advantage that Deon and Edric will be able to use this year to integrate into our system then hit the ground running next year, especially since we lose seven seniors from this year’s team.”

The next signing period isn’t until November, but it appears the Mavericks have a verbal commitment from Bloomington, IL shooting guard Colton Sandage. With a quick release, NBA range and good size…is he the next Drew Charles or Bo Ingram? Time will tell. The Mavs have had other good outside shooters from the Midwest on their roster in recent years, notably Brandon Long and Armani Williams.

And, it looks like forward Erkam Kiris has transferred to Midland College. Kiris was a very promising 6’8″ 209 lb. freshman from Turkey with international tournament experience who played his prep ball at Spire Academy in Ohio. Despite missing summer and preseason workouts due to travel difficulties related to political unrest in his native country and missing 10 games due to injury, he appeared in 17 games and made 6 of 7 FG attempts. Will be interesting to watch his game develop at the junior college level and could be a very nice addition to a Division I roster in the next year or two.

That’s it for now. Rival North Texas recently released their non-conference schedule, and it’s brutal. We’ll tackle that one in our next post.



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