It’s been almost three weeks since Paul Mills signed one of his best recruiting classes since taking over the Oral Roberts basketball program in 2017, but he still doesn’t know when his new players will actually be ORU students and practicing in the Golden Eagles’ facilities on campus.
The COVID-19 crisis halted college athletics and the future is still up in the air, with return dates and possible situations changing almost daily. Even though graduate transfer Deondre Burns and freshman Max Abmas from last year’s recruiting class cracked the starting lineup their first season with ORU, Mills can’t yet count on any players from his most recent class making an immediate impact.
“There’s just so much up in the air without not only spring workouts, but who knows what’s gonna happen with summer workouts,” Mills said. “It’s really hard to see these guys every day, knowing what you’re having, just watching guys improve. You just never know when that light bulb clicks for some guys and they start to see things maybe that they hadn’t seen before, or they started receiving that message from coaches that they had heard, but not necessarily ever applied or it never made sense for them. So it’s just so hard to guess, given the current conditions.”
Fortunately for Mills, his strategy of regularly recruiting transfers might have more of a benefit when his new additions finally get to campus and most already have college experience.
This year’s class featured three transfers, including graduate transfer R.J. Glasper, who led Arkansas Tech in scoring the past three seasons after redshirting a year at Arkansas. One of his two high school signees, Jamie Bergens, also has FIBA experience as a starter on the Netherlands’ national team at the 2019 FIBA U18 European Championships.
“Well, there’s less guesswork involved (with transfers),” Mills said. “I think a lot of times with high school players, you’re trying to figure out ‘Will they make it?’ but sometimes you’re unaware of the competition level. Is that a shot that necessarily translates to the college level? Are those finishes that you would make against other Division I teams?
“The good thing about college guys, specifically guys who can make perimeter jump shots, is that they’ve demonstrated it against other athletes, whereas in high school, you may have one kid on the court, possibly two, who are going to go play Division I basketball. Whereas, at an international setting, at the FIBA level, or even at a junior college setting, you’re dealing with multiple guys who are your caliber, high-caliber players.”