Winston-Salem State men’s basketball lands three frontcourt players

WSSU Rams (WGHP)

WSSU Rams (WGHP)

When 6-8 power forward Michel-Ofik Nzege left Winston-Salem State to transfer to East Carolina, Coach Bobby Collins of the Rams didn’t panic.

Instead, he and his staff went about finding frontcourt help and did so in a big way.

Center Brian Okam, a 7-footer from Appalachian State, has transferred to WSSU and so has 6-7 Stacy Caroway, who started his career at Morehead State. The Rams also picked up 6-10 post player Freddie Scott, a transfer from Delaware State.

“We needed help up front because … our two inside guys that were coming back this season were Wykevin (Bazemore) and Victor Holloway,” Collins said. “I’m a big believer in my faith and what our program needed and while we hated to see Ziggy go, we also recruited some young men who were intent on making good decisions for themselves.”

The Rams, who were 21-7 last season, lost eight players from that team. Collins said he has 13 new players on his roster to add to his seven returning players.

“Yeah, we have a few new guys but now that we have them here we have to go about molding them into a cohesive unit — and if we can do that, we have a chance to have a special season,” Collins said.

The usually-humble Collins couldn’t help but deliver this message as well. “We really don’t rebuild — we reload,” he said with a laugh.

Okam, 23, weighs 245 pounds and is from Nigeria. He played one season at Rutgers before transferring to Appalachian State. He will have one season of eligibility after playing in just 10 games last season, averaging 8.3 minutes. Okam made two starts and averaged 1.3 points and 2.2 rebounds.

In his first season at Appalachian State (2011-12) he played in 15 games and made nine starts, playing a total of 88 minutes.

Scott, who weighs 215 pounds, is from Washington and will have two seasons of eligibility left. He played in just two games in two seasons at Delaware State.

Caroway, who is from Raleigh and played at Word of God, has three years of eligibility left.

“After Stacy went to Morehead State he went to a community college and then decided he wanted to be closer to home,” Collins said. “He’s going to be a good addition for us and, along with Brian and Freddie, will give us more options in the paint.”

This is the largest recruiting class in Collins’ seven seasons at WSSU. The class’s marquee player is guard Terrell Leach of Southwest Guilford, who averaged 30 points a game last season as a high-school senior. Leach can practice with the Rams this season but isn’t eligible until next season because of academics.

The others in the class are wing Nate Long from Mount Tabor; guards Clarence Smith of Valdosta, Ga., and Sean Deniton of Guilford Tech; and forwards Jaelan Kennedy of Gastonia, and Preston Ross, a transfer from Western Carolina.

The Rams will begin practicing in full Oct. 15, but they can also practice as a team for two hours a week.

“We’ll need those extra hours so guys can learn how we do things because we have a system and the guys need to learn it in a hurry,” Collins said.

Collins also said the Rams’ schedule will once again be a difficult one.

“We’re excited about the Big House Gaines Classic to get our season going on Nov. 8th at the Gaines Center,” Collins said. “Fayetteville State is the fourth team in the tournament, so that’s going to be a good way to begin the season.”

The Rams were outstanding at the Gaines Center last season, going 12-1.

“We have to learn how to win on the road in the CIAA,” Collins said. “That’s where you can make or break your season in our league.”

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