It’s only been a little over a month or so into the offseason for Loyola Marymount, but that hasn’t stopped head coach Mike Dunlap from having an extremely productive and eventful start to the spring. LMU’s rebuilding process took a big step forward this past month, as the Lions added four new recruits to next year’s basketball roster.
With Evan Payne’s announcement to transfer at the end of last season, Mike Dunlap had his hands full with trying to find the pieces to bulk up this squad. After all, Payne was LMU’s bread and butter – he was Dunlap’s centerpiece in which the program was to be constructed around for the next two years. His removal from the lineup, along with the departure of Ayodeji Egbeyemi, Godwin Okonji, and Chase Flint to graduation, meant a monumental step backwards for the Lions, but the addition of these four talented youngsters proves that the rebuilding process is off to a solid start. Let’s examine the newest Lions and welcome them into the West Coast Conference:
Brandon Brown: To put it lightly, Brandon Brown’s path to Loyola Marymount has been far from traditional. The 5-foot-11 point guard has dazzled audiences with one incredible performance after another in the Arizona Community College Athletic Conference – only thing is, he wasn’t given the opportunity to amaze crowds until he finished his two-year prison sentence.
Per a Tempe Police report, Brown and Jerrell Carter robbed three men at gunpoint back in September of 2007. At the time, Brandon was 15 years old and a sophomore in high school. His initial sentence of six years in prison got reduced to a two-year sentence, in which he spent every day conditioning, taking classes, and focusing on basketball.
Since being released, Brown has devoted himself to being a leader on the court and in the classroom. Last year, Brown led Phoenix College to the National Junior College Championship, averaging 20 points and six assists per game. He was named a First-Team All-American and crowned the MVP of the national tourney.
The amount that he’s matured and grown not only as a basketball player, but as an individual, is absolutely outstanding. His story is remarkable – everyone makes mistakes and I believe that everyone deserves a second chance. Brown is clearly making the best of his. He chose Loyola Marymount over the likes of Washington State, Utah State, St. John’s, Kansas State, and Purdue. He’s going to be a solid leader and contributor for the Lions next season. Expect to be seeing his name pop up a lot once the season begins.
Jeffery McClendon: The 6-foot-2 shooting guard out of Lancaster, California, committed to Loyola Marymount on March 21, choosing the Lions over fellow WCC schools Pepperdine, Portland, and San Francisco. McClendon is regarded as one of the best defenders on the west coast, according to ScoutHoops, and you can bet he’s going to make a big difference surrounding the perimeter for LMU.
He played at three different high schools throughout the Southern California area, but it was during his time at Eastside High School, his most recent school, that Jeffery earned a nomination for the 2015 All-American games, averaging 25 points, seven rebounds, and five assists in his final season.
McClendon is known for consistently playing with a relentless energy on the court. He is capable of exploding to the rim and attacking in the open court, and can absolutely suffocate opponents with his defensive intensity. His energetic nature and pure strength will be greatly valued by Mike Dunlap, as McClendon will fill a key role for LMU on the defensive end.
Shamar Johnson: Standing at 6-foot-6 and 260 pounds, Shamar Johnson will provide Loyola Marymount with some size, which is especially important with the loss of Egbeyemi and Okonji to graduation. The sophomore power forward transfers to LMU from Pensacola State College, in which he started for the PSC Pirates for two years.
He was an All-Panhandle Conference selection and even made a spot on the FCSAA/Region VIII All-Tournament Squad last year. According to his coach at PSC, Johnson gives it his greatest effort every single day, and he’s a wonderful teammate. His size will make an immediate impact for the Lions.
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Munis Tutu: And now, we have our highlight to this spectacular 2015 class. Munis Tutu, the #1 ranked Canadian prospect in the class of 2015 according to North Pole Hoops, committed to Loyola Marymount only days after Evan Payne announced his transfer. Despite North Pole Hoops’ rankings, Tutu flew somewhat under the radar for the class of 2015.
The point guard from Windsor, Ontario, is an absolute force on both ends of the floor. Originally, Tutu thrived in the transition game, but has also recently developed a strong ability to control the tempo of a game. He’s a commanding floor general; his ability to lead his team and manage a game is reminiscent of Kevin Pangos’ leadership these past four years with Gonzaga.
But undoubtedly the biggest upside to Munis Tutu’s commitment to LMU is his room for growth. Mike Dunlap is widely revered for being one of the best player development coaches in the game, and with a player who has as much as potential as Tutu, the sky truly is the limit. At 6-foot-0, he’s got length, agility, foot speed, athleticism, and remarkable ball-handling skills. He thrives in any area on the court – he’s excelled at the American high school scene and played with the Canadian national team as well.
Tutu is likely to be the heralded leader of this team for years to come. He was an amazing pick up for Loyola Marymount and is a diamond in the rough.
This is a unique and incredibly talented 2015 class. Loyola Marymount took a colossal hit after losing Payne, Flint, Egbeyemi, and Okonji, but Mike Dunlap helped this program take a huge step forward with these four additions. Next year might be tough with so many new players learning to work together, but once all of these talented athletes can form relationships on and off the court, expect to see a revamped and revitalized Loyola Marymount squad that is going to make some noise in the West Coast Conference.