HATTIESBURG, MS. (WDAM) _ The University of Southern Mississippi landed a high school standout, a prep school graduate and a junior college transfer to a men’s basketball signing class that is expected to help reshape the Golden Eagles’ roster.
USM coach Jay Ladner, who was introduced on April 18 as the successor to Doc Sadler, recently announced the additions of Connors State College forward Isaiah Jones, Mandeville (La.) Lakeshore High School forward Hunter Dean and Massanutten Military Academy point guard Jeffery Armstrong.
“I think it’s a five-star class, based on the challenges our staff faced in terms of being a new staff with not a lot of time to put this group together,” Ladner said in statement.
Jones, a 6-foot-8, 235-pound forward, was named PacWest Conference “Freshman of the Year” during the 2017-18 season, averaging 8.8 points and 7.1 rebounds a game for Division II Biloa University in LaMirada, Calif.
After transferring to Connors State in Warner, Okla., Jones averaged 11.2 points and 8.6 rebounds.
“He’s a young man with ties to South Mississippi, with several family members from Biloxi,” Ladner said. “He’s a big, strong interior player.
“During the interim when Doc Sadler left and when I was hired, his junior college coach told me more than 35 schools had called about him. He’s a high-level player, and as we got face-to-face with him, he got more comfortable with myself and the staff and recommitted. He gives us immediate help in a spot where we are thin on depth.”
The 6-7, 190-pound Dean averaged 18.4 points, 12.5 rebounds and 3.1 blocks per game as a senior forward at Lakeshore High. As a junior, he averaged 12.8 points, 9.5 rebounds and 3.5 blocks per game.
A standout on the baseball diamond as well, Dean tossed a one-hitter with nine strikeouts as Lakeshore advanced to the state semifinals.
Ladner, who had been head coach at Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond, La., before moving on to the USM post, said he was quite familiar with Dean.
“I feel like he was the best big man out of Mississippi and Louisiana,” Ladner said. “For us to have him and retain him is huge.”
The 6-0, 190-pound Armstrong was a first-team All-State selection as a senior by the Alabama Sports Writers Association. He averaged 18 points, eight rebounds, five assists and five steals per game in helping Plainview High School to a Class 3A state championship.
Armstrong spent last year at Massanutten Military Academy in Woodstock, Va., last year.
“He could be the steal of the class,” Ladner said. “He comes from an outstanding high school program and well-respected prep school.
“He’s an athletic point guard that can help us win a lot of games.”
USM lost five senior perimeter players from a 2018-19 team that went 20-13, including starting guards Cortez Edwards, Tyree Griffin and Kevin Holland, as well as guards Dominic Magee and Anfernee Hampton.
This spring’s signing trio will be joined by three players signed by Sadler and his staff in the early fall period, including Southwest Mississippi Community College teammates, wing Denijay Harris of Columbus and guard Jay Malone of Meridian, and swingman Jorell Satterfield of Las Cruces, N.M.