Rams coach looking to replace players, focus on quality recruiting

Rams coach looking to replace players, focus on quality recruiting
March 12
00:00 2015
(Above: Photo by Craig T. Greenlee- All-Rookie pick Dedric Byrd (33) goes up for a rebound.)

Although the basketball season is over for Winston-Salem State, there’s much ground to cover over next 50-60 days. The Rams (18-10) lost four players who collectively averaged 51.3 points per game. So now there are some vacancies on the roster for next season. There are also recruiting priorities to focus on.

It’s imperative that Coach James Wilhelmi bring in quality offensive firepower to replace departing seniors Donta Harper, WyKevin Bazemore, Marquez Jones and Javan Wells. Harper and Bazemore were voted All-CIAA and All-Tournament this season.

Scoring points, however, is only one part of the equation. Getting better on the boards is the other part. Bazemore was the league’s top rebounder at 9.8 per game. But even with his presence in the paint, Winston-Salem State was still routinely beaten on the glass by an average of 5.9 rebounds per game against conference opponents.

“We have needs to fill across the board,” said Wilhelmi. “But there’s no question that we must get stronger on the front line. We need some big guys to help with the rebounding.”

This isn’t the first time that the Rams’ cupboard has appeared to be empty after suffering heavy personnel losses at the end of a season. After the 2012-13 campaign, six seniors completed their college eligibility. WSSU filled the void with a harvest of recruits comprised of Division I and JUCO transfers, plus a few freshmen.

Wilhelmi will continue to use that formula from two years ago. A good portion of that recruiting class played significant roles in the Rams making back-to-back appearances in the CIAA Tournament championship game.

Winston-Salem State is in good shape at the guard positions. Terrell Leach proved himself as a lethal 3-point shooter in his freshman season. Leach, a CIAA All-Rookie pick, came off the bench to average 12.3 points a game. In the CIAA tournament final versus Livingstone, he provided a spark with 23 points on 5-of-8 shooting from beyond the 3-point arc.

Leach will get plenty of help from C.J. Ford, who can play both guard spots. Kerry Campbell, a savvy point guard who played at Winston-Salem Prep, turned in his best performances late in the season.

Up front, there are question marks, primarily because the returnees filled in as role players who didn’t get a huge amount of court time. Dedric Byrd, Nate Long, Stacy Caroway and Quinton Alton will vie for increased minutes with the newcomers that join the Rams fold.

William Crandell, a 6-feet-5 small forward who signed early with WSSU last November, could make an immediate impact as a freshman. Crandell runs the floor well and has a strong inside presence.

Now that Wilhelmi has finished his first season as a college head coach, he looks forward to the future with much optimism. “I’m thankful for all the support I’ve received from our administration and fans,” said Wilhelmi, who joined the Rams as an assistant four years ago. “Hopefully, we can reload for next season. I’m looking forward to carrying on the great tradition here.”

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Craig Greenlee

Craig Greenlee

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