Men’s basketball coach signs new player, recruitment continues

Edgar Ayala – Special to the Southern News 

Southern Connecticut State University men’s basketball Coach Michael Donnelly announced the signing of Isaiah McLeod from Cambridge Mass., who is set to join the Owls in the 2015-16 season.

McLeod, is a 6-foot-1 guard who attended Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School. And according to ESPN’s High School Report, he was one the leading scorers in the state averaging 26.0 points a game, while grabbing 8.2 rebounds in his last season as a Falcon.

Assistant Coach Makubika praised his new signing, stating that McLeod is a versatile player who can do it all.

“He’s a combo guard who can really score the ball at a high rate and can score in multiple ways,” he said.  “He’s a very good leader on the floor and can also facilitate for others, and like I said he can really score the basketball.”

Although McLeod’s arrival to Southern is a huge addition to the squad, Southern still needs to fill the senior shoes of Tylon Smith, Luke Houston and Jose Cruz, who have already served their four years of college hoops.

Smith, the team captain, finished his career with the Owls being the all-time leader in assists with 528, and also placed 7th on the all-time list for career points and rebounds.  He said that even though Southern was losing three key players, the coaching staff would always be able to turn things around and make way for new stars.

“Luke, Jose and myself really turned this basketball program around and created a winning culture,” Smith said. “At one point in time we were freshman and had other upperclassmen to look up to. Now our time has come to move on and pass on the torch to the new era of Southern basketball. We will be a big loss, but we have laid down the foundation on what is expected day in and day out so it’s up to the returners to fill our shoes and keep the train moving.”

Coach Donnelly said the losses of Smith, Houston and Cruz was a “huge loss” to their program, and replacing them isn’t going to be easy.  But on the other hand, he was confident enough in being able to find new players and fill in the roles of the departing ones.

“It’s obviously a huge loss but we think we’ve built a solid enough program with a strong foundation where we can rebound and recover,” coach said. “Were certainly not going to be in rebuilding mode next year, that’s not going to happen.  We have a lot of talent that we are turning in and we are going to have a very strong recruiting class.  They’ll just be a different look, a different team, new set of goals, new set of objectives but it’s still going to be Southern Connecticut basketball on the floor.”

When both Coach Donnelly and Makubika go recruiting in the off-season, they said that they look for certain characteristics in a player.  The player has to be individually talented but they also look to see if the student-athlete can perform inside the classroom too.

It’s truly a 50-50 split because we’re not going to necessarily recruit a high-academic kid if he can’t play because we’re not going to win, and we’ll be out of a job,” Donnelly said.  “But then again were not going to recruit a high level athletic kid or a high level basketball talent if he’s not capable of succeeding here academically, because we’ll be out of a job.”

“We really would be, because that’s not what Southern wants, that’s not what our president wants, that’s not what the athletic director wants and that’s not what we want,” he said.  “So honestly its split right down the middle 50-50, it’s got to be both.”

And with the addition of Isiah McLeod, he certainly met that requirement of having talent both on the court and off.

Photo Credit: Derek Torrellas


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