UE women offer 2016 center from Memorial High School

University of Evansville women’s basketball coach Oties Epps has continued to recruit the state of Indiana hard, recently offering a scholarship to a 6-foot-3 center in the Aces’ backyard.

Emily Sullivan, a junior at Memorial High School, tweeted earlier this month that the Aces were the first program to offer her a scholarship.

The Aces picked up a verbal commitment Oct. 7 from Macie Lively, a Class of 2016 point guard from Tipton (Indiana) High School.

Sullivan averaged 8.5 points, 8.5 rebounds and 4.4 blocks per game in her sophomore season at Memorial, according to Maxpreps.com. She starred in the Tigers’ upset of No. 1-ranked Princeton in the Class 3A Boonville Sectional, posting 14 points and 20 rebounds as Memorial won 41-26.

Indianapolis guard reportedly to take official visit to UE

In his recruiting notes published Tuesday night, the Indianapolis Star’s Kyle Neddenriep reported that Howe High School point guard Harris Brown will take an official visit to the University of Evansville this weekend.

The 5-foot-11 Brown previously committed to fellow Missouri Valley Conference member Loyola (Ill.) but later decommitted. According to his profile on verbalcommits.com, Brown also holds scholarship offers from Northern Illinois and New Orleans. He was an Indiana Junior All-Star last year.

This video, which is more than a year old, shows that Brown has good explosiveness and a solid shooting stroke.

The following highlights are more recent but less comprehensive (it appears only a couple of games were filmed for this video).

Aces offer Class of 2016 shooting guard

Christian Willis, a 6-foot-2 junior shooting guard from Christian Brothers College High School in St. Louis, received a scholarship offer Friday from the University of Evansville men’s basketball program. Willis was on campus to take in the Aces’ first official practice for the 2014-15 season.

The Class of 2016 prospect announced the scholarship offer on Twitter Friday evening.

Willis averaged 10.8 points per game during his sophomore season. He also holds offers from Eastern Illinois, Arkansas State and San Jose State, according to his online recruiting profile at verbalcommits.com.

Women’s basketball picks up commitment from Tipton guard

Macie Lively, a 5-foot-6 point guard from Tipton (Indiana) High School, gave a verbal commitment to the University of Evansville women’s basketball program Tuesday during a visit to campus.

The Class of 2016 prospect announced her decision via Twitter and posted a photo that included Aces head coach Oties Epps.

In August, the Aces became the first Division I program to offer Lively a scholarship.

Lively averaged 15.7 points, 3.7 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 2.3 steals per game during her sophomore season at Tipton, which finished 18-5 and advanced to the Class 2A semistate.

UE baseball adds commitments from high school teammates

Shawnee Mission Northwest (Kansas) High School seniors Brandon Gomer and Nathan Reeder verbally committed to the University of Evansville on Saturday. The pair made official visits to UE on Friday, according to this story by Prep Baseball Report Kansas.

Reeder, a 5-foot-10 outfielder who bats and throws left-handed, announced the players’ decision on Twitter Saturday morning.

Reeder batted leadoff for Shawnee Northwest last season, posting an on-base percentage above .500 en route to Class 6A all-state honors.

Gomer is a 6-foot-4, 175-pound pitcher. The right-hander can throw his fastball 86-89 mph, according to Prep Baseball Report.

UE women offer 2016 point guard

The University of Evansville women’s basketball program has reportedly offered a scholarship to Macie Lively, a Class of 2016 point guard from Tipton (Indiana) High School.

Here is a tweet from Lively posted on Aug. 22:

Left-handed pitcher commits to Evansville

Alex Weigand, a left-handed pitcher from Bradley-Bourbonnais (Illinois) Community High School, announced his commitment to the University of Evansville Saturday on Twitter.

The class of 2015 prospect went 6-2 with a 1.22 earned-run average as a junior this spring. He is listed at 6-foot-2 and — according to this scouting report from Prep Baseball Report — possesses a fastball in the 83-87 mph range and a “highly advanced” curveball with a “12/6 shape” and “late, sharp, biting action.”

UE showing interest in Lithuanian power forward, but no scholarship offer

Dainius Chatkevicius — who was referred to as “an Evansville commit” earlier this month by ESPN recruiting analyst Reggie Rankin — has not committed to the University of Evansville men’s basketball program. In fact, the Aces haven’t even offered the class of 2015 prospect a scholarship, a representative of the athletic department said Tuesday.

The Aces are continuing to track the 6-foot-9, 245-pound power forward, but the lone scholarship expected to become available after this season is unfilled.

(Full disclosure: I used Rankin’s tweet for this blog post, in which I introduced the big man to readers, pointed out there was no other link between Chatkevicius and Evansville and tried to dig up some tidbits about him.)

Chatkevicius averaged eight points and nine rebounds last season for West Oaks Academy, a private school in Orlando, Florida, that attracts loads of Division I prospects.

West Oaks’ 2014 graduating class contained men’s basketball players headed to Louisville, New Mexico State, Texas A & M, UC Irvine and South Alabama, coach Shaun Wiseman said.

Chatkevicius’ role on that stacked squad was to rebound and hold down the middle of the lane on defense.

“He’s tough, he’s rugged, he’s physical,” Wiseman said. “He’s not afraid to put his body on people.”

Chatkevicius became interested in UE when a Lithuanian coach recommended the school to him. He said he hasn’t visited campus, but hopes to sometime this season.

“I watched a few (Evansville) games online last year and that’s it,” said Chatkevicius, who came to the U.S. last September and has been in communication with Evansville assistant Geoff Alexander.

Chatkevicius said he hopes to improve his shooting, footwork and agility in his final prep season. Wiseman expects the big man to accept a larger offensive role.

“He’s gonna do most of his work 10 feet and in but if he needs to step out, he can take a jump shot every now and then,” Wiseman said. “He can pick and pop and do some stuff as he keeps developing.”

Updates on Kyle Freeland, Mislav Brzoja and a UE men’s basketball target

Some news and notes regarding University of Evansville athletics:

— Former UE left-hander and 2014 MLB first-round draft pick Kyle Freeland made his second professional start Monday night for the Grand Junction (Colorado) Rockies, Colorado’s Rookie League affiliate.

Freeland tossed three innings, allowing four hits and one earned run while striking out two. In his first appearance, Freeland pitched two scoreless innings, so his ERA is currently a solid 1.80.

Mislav Brzoja, a 6-4 guard who has three season of eligibility remaining with the Aces beginning with 2014-15, is midway through the European Championships playing for Croatia’s U20 national team.

Through five games in which Croatia has gone 2-3, the Villanova transfer is averaging 30 minutes, 9.8 points, 8.8 rebounds and 2.0 assists. Brzoja is also tied for the team high with 3.4 turnovers per game.

Although Brzoja is not currently working out on campus like many of his UE teammates, playing in a structured environment (and for 30 minutes per game) against quality competition is a productive use of his summer. And Aces fans probably like those rebounding numbers considering UE finished second-to-last in rebounding margin last year in the Missouri Valley Conference (minus-2.1).

The U20 European Championships are being held in Crete, Greece.

— This tweet from Wednesday lists Evansville among four Division I schools that have offered scholarships to Class of 2015 forward Dean Wade.

The 6-foot-8 Wade averaged 22.1 points, 8.1 rebounds and 3.7 blocks during his junior season for St. John (Kansas) High School. His team finished 26-0 and won the Class 2A state title.

Here is a video of Wade dunking in the state championship game that is pretty entertaining for three reasons: 1) it’s a nice move; 2) the commentator cackles like a madman; and 3) Wade gets knocked over awkwardly by the guy taking the ball out of bounds.

Wade is listed as a three-star prospect by Rivals.com.

UE’s concentration now on 2015 class

UE coach Marty Simmons has a lot on his plate with four seniors leaving. Recruiting the class of 2014 isn't one of them. Photo by Denny Simmons/C&P

UE coach Marty Simmons has a lot on his plate with four seniors leaving. Recruiting the class of 2014 isn’t one of them. Photo by Denny Simmons/C&P

UE coach Marty Simmons enters next season with a full roster, no seniors and no reason to recruit the class of 2014.

“That will be new,” said the men’s basketball coach, who by signing five high school seniors filled his 13-scholarship allotment. “I’m sure we’ll watch some guys play in the next class. Things happen, and that’s just kind of the world we live in.”

UE’s coaching staff will concentrate instead on the class of 2015, which means current rising high school juniors. The Aces are on track to graduate Ryan Sawvell, Jaylon Moore, Jordan Nelson and Rokas Cesnulevicius before the 2015-2016 season, opening up four scholarships.

“Obviously our main focus will be with the following class with the guys who will be graduating in our junior class,” Simmons said. “We’ll try to get a real jump start in building relationships with guys in that class.”

UE’s only reported class of 2015 scholarship offer so far went to Josh Speidel, a forward from Columbus North High School.

Too early to talk redshirts

Tyler Ptacek, a late spring signee and former UNC Wilmington commit, raised some eyebrows when the Padua (Ohio) Christian High School guard said, “I didn’t want to go into Wilmington or any other college not knowing if my coach was going to be there all five years.”

Simmons said Wednesday he hasn’t actually talked with Ptacek yet about redshirting.

“I think I’ve told you my philosophy on that is pretty much that we have to evaluate them first,” the coach said. “You watch them in high school, but now that you’ve got them in your environment there’s a lot that can go into redshirting — depth at a position, if you’ve got a guy who lacks some physical strength, obviously injury — but ultimately from my standpoint, it’s the player’s decision.”

David Howard, a forward, went through that process last year and decided to redshirt in November.

“He was dedicated to all the time and effort outside of regular practice, and he’s made considerable improvements to his body and just I think his overall confidence and knowledge of our system,” Simmons said.

Ryan working out in front of pro scouts

Most outgoing seniors will wait until after the June 27 NBA Draft to sign professional contracts, waiting to see whether there’s a chance to land on an NBA roster or spot in the summer league.

Maybe you can count Colt Ryan among those players.

“Colt’s in town,” Simmons said. “He’s working out here and looks great. You’ll probably have to talk to him, but I think he’s got some workouts set up with some NBA teams. That’s his next step.”

I haven’t been able to reach Ryan for an update but hope to do so today.

Simmons said he hasn’t had much contact with Troy Taylor and Ned Cox, both guys who tweet often about continuing their basketball workouts.

As for the Aces’ other senior last season, Lewis Jones, Simmons said the Memphis native is ready to put his sociology degree to work.

“Lewis is actually looking to relocate in Evansville right now and get in the workforce here in the community,” Simmons said. “I think just community involvement and working with kids — he’s got a real passion for that.”

Schedule still a work in progress

Aces coaches are still working to complete their non-conference schedule. Games at Indiana and Miami (Ohio), as well as one against Butler at the Ford Center are confirmed. UE, like all Missouri Valley Conference members, is required to also play in a regular-season exempt tournament. The Aces are still finalizing that deal, and Simmons declined to comment on specifics at this point.

A conversation with Tyler Ptacek

Tyler Ptacek

Tyler Ptacek

This time last month, Tyler Ptacek was signed with UNC Wilmington but growing uncomfortable with the situation. The Seakhawks experienced turnover on their coaching staff before the 3-point specialist from Padua Christian (Ohio) High School received a release from his letter of intent and a week later verbally committed to UE.

Aces coach Marty Simmons formally announced Ptacek’s signing with UE today. He’s one of five incoming freshmen, and his decision was influenced by another future Ace.

Ptacek on his decision to break his commitment to UNC Wilmington and play for UE: “Me and my dad were talking about de-committing and releasing. And that morning – I don’t know which day it was, but I was at school – I checked my phone and had a bunch of missed calls from coaches. I saw Evansville on there. One of my close buddies, Duane Gibson, who I played AAU with (on the Ohio Basketball Club) and am real close with, is committed there so it interested me to get to know what Evansville is all about. That’s one of the main reasons I wanted to go down there – to play with Duane.”

Why not go to UNC Wilmington? “I kind of felt uncomfortable with the whole situation because the guy who recruited me and was really texting me during the whole process was Jamie Kachmarik – he was my main guy – got fired. There was another guy on my visit…that made me feel uncomfortable. I didn’t want to go into Wilmington or any other college not knowing if my coach was going to be there all five years, because that’s the main reason I was there – or committed there.”

Ptacek visited UE on May 14 and made a quick decision. “I knew there was going to be a stop to the recruiting period, so I just got down there as fast as I could and talked to coach (Carson) Harris,” he said. “I talked to him on the phone one time, and me and my dad got down there on a Tuesday. After the drive home, me and my dad and my grandfather all talked about it because they’re both big keys in helping me decide where to go. We decided that would be the best fit for me.”

Ptacek posted results of a shooting drill Tuesday in which he made 672 of 820 3-pointers“I’ve always been known as a shooter,” he said. “Everyone around my area knows me as a shooter, and I just try to keep that through repetition. Me and my dad have different kind of competitions to see who can get up the most shots in a certain period of time, so that’s what we’re doing before I get to college. I’ve already got up around 3,000 shots in the last three days. Every single day, Monday through Sunday, I’ll be in the gym getting at least 500 shots. It’s all about repetition.”

So if Gibson, the Villa Angela-St. Joseph’s guard, could affect Ptacek’s college decision, how good is Gibson? “I really didn’t know who Duane was,” Ptacek said. “I don’t know if he even played AAU until last year, and everyone kind of overlooked him. Me and my dad both said he’s going to be legit. Once he started playing AAU, he did exactly what we thought. I’d say he’s the top point guard in Ohio, honestly. He’s the most underrated player. I kept saying it to all the coaches at Evansville – they got a steal with him because he’s a true pass-first guy who can score if he needs to. He’s a smart player and always does the right thing. On my AAU team, he was the guy who always found me and got me 90 percent of my shots. That’s why, when we were doing rotations and stuff in AAU, we always played together because it worked so well.”

A conversation with Christian Benzon

A friend of UE commit Christian Benzon tweeted this picture of the guard signing his binding letter of intent to the Aces' coaching staff.

A friend of UE commit Christian Benzon tweeted this picture of the guard signing his binding letter of intent to the Aces’ coaching staff.

Christian Benzon tweeted Tuesday night, “It feels right being a future part of UE!”

The 6-foot-4 guard out of The Rock School in Gainesville, Fla. — a third-year Danish exchange student — then discussed with me how he ended up becoming one of two commitments secured by Aces men’s basketball coaches during the spring signing period.

UE wasn’t among your original list of interested schools. How did the coaching staff find you? “They saw me at an exposure event here (in Florida) a month ago. I was at this event and they called me. I looked up the University of Evansville and found it interesting. I was talking to the coaches, and it sounded really exciting.”

What exactly was exciting about it? “The thing that really caught me was that it’s such a small school, but they still compete at a high level. I thought that was really big. You can go there and get a great education. You can work with the teachers, and at the same time you can compete with big schools like Wichita State and Drake.”

What kind of player are you? “I would say I feel comfortable playing anywhere from one through three on the court.”

Did you get to meet your future teammates on your campus visit over the weekend? “I got to meet most of them. I didn’t meet the freshmen, but I met the other guys. They seem like good guys with great character — a bunch of sweet, good guys.”

How did you end up in the United States? “I was playing at a tournament with my Danish high school over here, and I got to talk to a head coach in Gainesville. Basically, from that point on we worked on me trying to get over here and play.”

How often do you get to go home? “The last time I was home was in July. I get home at least once a year, hopefully.”

How out of the ordinary is that for Danish players? “It’s a commitment, and I know lots of people who are doing it too. If you want to pursue what you really want to do, you’ve got to make some sacrifices. That’s one of them.”

Do you know when you’ll be on campus, and what do you want to work on this summer? “I don’t know yet, but this summer I’m hopefully going to work on my ball handling, my shooting and my physicality, I’d think.”