Ja Havens’ first signing class needed some immediate help at the guard positions.
Havens, who will be entering his first year as Northeastern State men’s basketball head coach, signed a total of 10 players, seven of them backcourt players.
A large bulk of NSU’s scoring came from the guard duo of Caleb Smith and Kendrick Thompson last season. As seniors, they combined for 32.2 points per game and buried 141 3-pointers. Bradley George, who contributed with 5.5 points and had 25 starts in 2019-20, has also departed.
The RiverHawks do return guards Troy Locke, Brad Davis, Payton Guiot and DeVonta Prince
Three of the guards in this year’s class have experience on the collegiate level — senior Caleb Williams, and juniors Kavion Hancock and Rashad Perkins.
Williams played his junior year under Havens at East Central University and played in 24 games with one start. He averaged 8.3 points, 3.5 rebounds and shot 43.7 percent overall from the floor. Williams scored 19 points and pulled down 10 rebounds against Henderson State. Prior to his time at East Central, he played for two seasons at Richland College and was a NJCAA Division III First Team All-American, averaging 19.9 points, 8.5 rebounds and 2.8 assists.
“Caleb is an explosive and athletic guard that has the ability to score in bunches,” Havens said. “He will bring a high motor and a strong work ethic to our program. Caleb is a competitor and a winner, and he will be counted on to play a big role for our team next season. As a senior with experience in our program, Caleb will be expected to be a team leader for the RiverHawks.”
Hancock was a prolific scorer last year at Jackson State where he was a NJCAA Division I First Team All-American and the Tennessee Community College Athletic Association Player of the Year. He averaged 26 points, shot 47.5 percent overall and 39.3 percent from behind the 3-point arc.
“Kavion is a dynamic guard that has the ability to score at a very high level and comes to NSU as one the top scorers in the country at the junior college level,” Havens said. “We are excited about his ability to test the defense and create for his teammates. Kavion plays with a chip on his shoulder and competes hard at every opportunity.”
Like Williams, Perkins was a NJCAA Division III All-American at Richland College. Perkins averaged 16.7 points and 5.6 rebounds, shot 52.2 percent overall and 46.6 percent from 3-point territory.
“Rashad is a tough and talented guard that has the ability to be a 3-spot scorer in our system,” Havens said. “He is an intense competitor and an incredibly efficient shooter, and he comes to NSU from a great program at Richland College. He understands what it takes to win and values hard work. Rashad will make an immediate impact and will be counted on to provide leadership and offensive production.”
The remainder of the incoming guards — Jaxon Jones, Dillon Bailey, Christian Cook and Cale Eaton — are freshmen.
Jones, a Tahlequah High School product, scored 1,394 points and averaged 19 points per game in his final year. Jones had five games of 30 or more points in 2019-20, including a career-high 38 on Jan. 25 against Tulsa Edison. Jones was the Metro Lakes Conference Most Valuable Player.
"Although Jaxon had signed with NSU prior to our arrival, our staff feels like he fits our program perfectly,” Havens said. “Jaxon brings a college-ready body and an excellent skill set to our program. He is a coach's kid with a high basketball IQ and a great understanding of the game, a great work ethic, and the ability to score proficiently. It is always a positive to attract local talent to the RiverHawks and we look forward to watching him develop."
Bailey averaged 25 points and shot 40 percent from 3-point range as a senior at Bentonville West High School in Arkansas. He led Arkansas 6A West in scoring, was the first All-State player from Bentonville West and was an all-conference selection.
“Dillon is a high-character young man known for his toughness and competitiveness,” Havens said. “He has the ability to lead a team from the point guard position and is a proven scorer that can produce in a variety of ways. Dillon leads by example on and off the court and will positively impact our program upon his arrival.”
Cook was the Class 6A Offensive Player of the Year at Midwest City as a senior, averaging 18 points. He was a 2020 Oklahoma Coaches Association All-State selection.
“Christian is absolutely one of the top players in the state of Oklahoma for the 2020 class,” Havens said. “He is an athletic and very talented two-way player that is known for his offensive prowess. Christian was a leader that produced and played at a high level every night out for one of the best teams in the state at Midwest City High School. We expect him to make an immediate impact on our program with the opportunity to have a great 4-year career.”
Eaton is another Oklahoma product from Byng and scored over 1,000 career points. He was an Oklahoma Coaches Association 4A All-Star selection.
“Cale stands for the right things on and off the court,” Havens said. “He has the ability play multiple guard positions, and he is a dangerous shooter with deep range. Cale will bring a tremendous work ethic, a high basketball IQ, and the toughness and intangibles that NSU basketball fans will love and appreciate.”