Gulf Coast aims to get tougher, more athletic with new recruiting class
By DUSTIN KENT
News Herald Assistant Sports Editor
PANAMA CITY — Gulf Coast’s men’s basketball team had very little trouble generating offense last season, but a lack of consistency defensively and on the boards contributed largely to the Commodores failing to make the postseason.
With a new group of 10 players coming in, Commodores coach Jay Powell hopes his latest recruiting class will go a long way toward remedying those issues next season. Powell said he’d like to add one more before the start of the school year, but he believes the players already in the fold will make a substantial impact next season.
“I think we became very athletic and I think we became substantially tougher,” he said. “I think we’re going to be more athletic defensively. I felt like we scored it well last season, but for a few reasons we didn’t bear down on the defensive end the way I’d say my teams traditionally have. I think (with this class) our overall defensive intensity and fundamentals will be back up to where I want them to be next year.”
GC lost its starting point guard and top scorer Donovan Franklin, but the Commodores have signed a pair of point guards in Dontavious Marshall and Dyshane Murphy to battle for the lead guard position.
At 5-11 and 5-10, Marshall and Murphy don’t possess the size of the 6-5 Franklin, but Powell said that each have the attitude and disposition to be effective floor generals at the college level.
“I’m excited about them,” he said. “Both are quick, both shoot it pretty well, and they’re both very aggressive and competitive young men. Dyshane may have an edge scoring the ball, and Dontavious may be a little further along with the total point guard mentality. Neither one is very tall, but they’re both super competitive and well built. I’m excited to coach both of them.”
The Commodores made two more additions to the backcourt in shooting guards Tyler Byrd and Cameron Enzor. The 6-5 Byrd is a prolific scorer and explosive finisher who scored 2,075 points in his four-year high school career at Notre Dame High School (Tenn.), while the 6-4 Rickards grad Enzor gives Gulf Coast another dynamic athlete who plays above the rim.
“(Byrd) is an extremely athletic young man who can get up and down the floor and shoots it pretty well,” Powell said. “Once he gets used to the speed of the college game, Tyler is going to be a very nice player. (Enzor) is a super athletic guard, but he shoots the ball well also. I think he has a really good upside because of his athleticism and because he’s an intelligent player. He’ll have to really work on his ball handling if he’s going to be a dominant type guard, but he shoots it well and can really play in the open court.”
In 6-5 combo forward Will Robinson, the Commodores get another player with an impressive scoring pedigree. Robinson averaged 21 points
per game as a senior at Oakland Mills High School in Baltimore before spending last season at prep school.
GC added to the frontcourt with 6-9 post player Ricquail Smoot of Potter’s House Christian, as well as 6-7 Godby grad Londell King, who transfers in after redshirting last year at Southern. King averaged 12.1 points and 9.3 rebounds in his senior year with the Cougars, with Powell saying that his energy and activity level allows him to affect the game in a variety of ways.
“He has a high motor, good post moves, and he goes and gets 50-50 balls really well,” he said. “He’s very active around the hoop. I like his jump shot for his size, but if the guy that’s guarding him is not swift of foot, he’s good enough to put it on the deck and go by him.”
At 6-7, Bay’s Cody Johnson gives the Gulf Coast frontcourt another athletic presence and some much-needed versatility, especially at the
defensive end of the court.
“We’re excited about Cody Johnson,” Powell said. “He’s long and athletic and a very hard worker. He’s been around the guys and they really like him. We expect big things out of him. Right now, I think he and Londell King will be a good combination for us in that combo forward type position.”
Johnson averaged 14.6 points and 10.1 rebounds per game as a senior for the Tornadoes. While still having work to do to polish up his offensive game, Powell said that Johnson has a chance to make an immediate impact with his athletic ability, particularly on defense.
“I think he’ll contribute very well in the open court offensively,” he said. “He’s got a nice 12-15-foot jump shot, but I do think he has an opportunity with his length and athleticism to give guys some problems on defense.”
Powell inked two more local players in 6-3 North Bay Haven guard D.J. Jones and 6-6 Arnold alum Chris Shorter. Jones averaged 22.7 points per game to go along with 9.6 rebounds, 5.3 assists, and 2.1 steals per game last season. Shorter graduated from Arnold in 2015 and took the last year off, though Powell said the former Marlin used that time productively.
“He stayed in the gym all last year and improved his perimeter shot and improved his body,” he said. “He’s gotten thicker and stronger. He’s another man that can really finish above the rim in the open court and do some nice things. He’s going to be a nice player.”
Powell hopes to sign one more post player before the season, but he said that he likes his roster as it currently stands even if no one else is added. The 10 newcomers join Gulf Coast’s three returning players: Jeremy Harris, Van Johnson, and Josh Wade.
In Harris, the Commodores have one of the top returning sophomores in the Panhandle Conference. The 6-foot-6 wing player averaged 13.7 points and 6.3 rebounds per game as a freshman and is currently being recruited by the likes of N.C. State, Marquette, and Virginia Tech. Johnson averaged 7.1 points in Panhandle Conference play last year while shooting 48 percent from the field and 42 percent from the 3-point line.
With only two experienced players coming back, the Commodores will go into the fall with a lot of questions to answer about roles and the rotation. But Powell said he expects the players will sort those out once they’re all together on campus.
“I think we’re going to have highly competitive practices with lots of scrimmaging up and down the court,” he said. “The men will be able to settle it for themselves who will earn the most minutes and do the things to help us win games and try to win a championship.”