|Posted on April 28, 2016 at 1:25 PM|
Coming off the program’s first NCAA Tournament appearance in two decades, it’s important to build on the momentum that the increased exposure has brought.
“It’s huge,” Darner said recently at the annual Phoenix-Packers Steak Fry at Lambeau Field. “Kids saw us play not only in the in the NCAA Tournament, but in the Horizon League. We’ve got to sell our product by winning on the floor, which is always a big thing.”
“It never hurts when you make it to the NCAA Tournament in recruiting.”
Darner implemented a brand new, completely different style of basketball in Green Bay this past year, bringing his up-tempo “RP40” (Relentless Pressure for 40 minutes) style to replace the “CDR” (Compete, Defend, Rebound) mantra used under former head coach Brian Wardle.
He was able to install his high scoring offense despite having players that were geared more towards the previous regime’s style.
A full offseason of practice in the system as well as Darner’s first recruiting class featuring an impressive duo of incoming players can only help Green Bay take a step towards overcoming the program’s next big obstacle: winning an NCAA Tournament game for the first time since 1994.
With recruiting for the upcoming 2016 season wrapped up – Trevor Anderson (Stevens Point) and Kam Hankerson (Novi, MI) signed last November – the focus this summer turns towards the 2017 class. The Phoenix will have to replace at least six outgoing seniors, meaning the coaching staff will have 6 available scholarships in which to bring in players that fit Darner’s style.
“It’s going to be a big year next year for us,” Darner said. “We’re done with the upcoming season but the  class is a big recruiting class for us. We potentially could have to sign 6 guys.”
It is likely that the Phoenix coaches will look to even out the classes if possible by bringing in a mix of high school players as well as junior college and Division I transfers. This past season after Green Bay lost 5 players (4 to graduation and 1 transfer), Darner brought in a blend of prep players (Anthony and Avery Brown), Division I transfers (David Jesperson and Warren Jones), as well as striking gold with two JUCO players (Charles Cooper and Jamar Hurdle).
This summer, however, has been all about recruiting the prep players. Needing to fill several spots, the Phoenix have extended scholarship offers to a handful of class of 2017 players from across the Midwest and beyond.
The Green Bay coaching staff has been spotted at AAU events across the country this spring and offered scholarships to at least five players in the 2017 class during the April recruiting period – Darryl Morsell (6’3”, Baltimore, MD), Simon Wright (6’6”, Minnetonka, MN), Caleb Coleman (6’6”, Hammond, IN), Lucas Williamson (6’5”, Chicago, IL), and Therren Shelton-Szmidt (6’5”, Mississauga, ON).
Prior to the April recruiting period, the Phoenix extended scholarship offers to several players during the high school basketball season – Ryan Krueger (6’5”, New London, WI), Trevian Bell (6’5”, Joliet, IL), Will Chevalier (6’8”, Kimberly, WI), Alou Dillon (6’7”, Wauwatosa, WI), and Romon Douglas-Watkins (6’5”, Peoria, IL).
Darner and company have known from the start that filling six scholarships won’t be an easy task. The coaching staff offered scholarships to eight class of 2017 players last summer during the July recruiting period – Terrence Lewis (6’5”, Milwaukee, WI), Manny Patterson (6’8”, Kenwood, IL), Nana Akenten (6’6”, Bolingbrook, IL), Elijah Joiner (6’3”, Chicago, IL), Trae Berhow (6’5”, Watertown, MN), Nathan Ruevers (6’9”, Lakeville, MN), Bennett Vander Plas (6’7”, Ripon, WI), and Chris Knight (6’7”, Madison, WI).
Of that group, Lewis and Ruevers have attracted several high major offers and are likely beyond reach for Green Bay. Akenten has also seen his recruiting stock explode this spring and already has ten scholarship offers to his name. He is believed to be one of Green Bay’s biggest priorities.
Another priority for the Phoenix appears to be Luke Loewe (6’2”, Ripon, WI), who Green Bay offered a scholarship to last April.
With so many spots to fill, it will be important to keep an eye on the recruiting progress the Phoenix make this summer. This class will be vital for Darner and his staff to bring in handpicked players to better fit his system and hopefully make trips to the NCAA Tournament an annual occurrence.
Coming soon, prospect profiles for Green Bay’s class of 2017 and 2018 recruiting targets