When JMU decided to move its men’s basketball program in a new direction and hire head coach Mark Byington, roster turnover was expected. As with many coaching changes, players recruited under their former head coaches will decide to take their talents elsewhere, seeking a new opportunity to play at the collegiate level.
The Dukes have been a part of that major turnover, with three players already departing and three more expected to follow. It’s not an easy task for Byington, but the Salem, Virginia, native has managed to bring in a mixture of high school talent and transfers to make up his inaugural team.
Who’s coming in?
For the past few years, JMU hasn’t seen many transfers come into the program. The most recent was former guard Antanee Pinkard, who came to Harrisonburg in 2017. For the 2018-19 and 2019-20 seasons, the Dukes relied on younger talent coming out of high school. Now with a new head coach, the way JMU’s roster is being composed contains graduating high school seniors along with a few transfers.
With transfers coming in, the current NCAA rules mean players have to sit out one season before playing for the school they transfer to unless they’re granted a waiver. However, the Division I council can still vote on the change as early as this month.
Guard Jalen Hodge was the first addition to the team under Byington. Hodge transferred from Louisiana Monroe, where he averaged 7.7 points and 1.8 assists per game in 2019-20. He’ll have to sit one season before being eligible to play two more.
On the same day Hodge signed, forward Justin Amadi signed his letter of intent to play for JMU. A three-star prospect according to 247 Sports, the South Carolina native stands at 6 feet 6 inches tall and chose the Dukes over schools like Ball State, Kent State and Missouri State.
Guard Terell Strickland made his commitment official shortly after Hodge and Amadi. Strickland played at St. Petersburg (St. Petersburg, FL) — the same school as former JMU guard Darius Banks — before playing a year at Scotland Campus (Franklin County, PA).
"Terell is an explosive guard and thrives in transition. We want to play fast and have guards like him who make great decisions,” Byington said to JMU Athletics. “Terell has high character and leadership ability and is a tremendous student. He'll fit in right away in the JMU community.”
The Dukes added a second transfer in guard Rashawn Fredericks. Fredericks played two seasons at Motlow State, where he averaged a double-double in both years and helped lead the team to a 53-14 record in that time. He then played a season at Cincinnati before transferring to Alabama at Birmingham, but didn’t see the court due to NCAA transfer rules. As a graduate transfer, he’ll be immediately eligible to play, but only for one season.
JMU got help in the paint in the form of forward Joel Mensah, a transfer from San Diego State. At 6 feet 10 inches tall, Mensah played on a team that breached the top five in the country last season. Like Hodge, he’ll have to sit out this season, but has two years of eligibility.
Continuing the trend of recruiting from the west, forward TJ Taylor — a Chesapeake, Virginia, native — comes to the Dukes from Wyoming. As a sophomore, he averaged 6.9 points and 3.4 rebounds per game for the Cowboys, making 16 starts as well.
Guard Vado Morse headlines a powerful incoming class for Byington’s first season. Morse transferred from Mount St. Mary’s, where he averaged 10.8 points and 2.3 assists in 2019-20. The season before that, Morse racked up 14.7 points and 2.9 assists per game, earning the Northeast Conference Rookie of the Year award.
When JMU moved on from former head coach Louis Rowe, it was expected that a few players would seek opportunities to play elsewhere. So far, the Dukes have had three players transfer out, one player declare for the NBA Draft and three players that are currently in the transfer portal.
Rising senior forward Dwight Wilson made the move to Ohio University, where he’ll compete in the Mid-American Conference. The Tallahassee, Florida, native averaged 9.8 points and 9.3 rebounds per game last season.
Fellow Florida native and rising senior guard Darius Banks departed the program and will take his talents to Chattanooga. Banks was the second-highest scorer on the team in the 2019-20 season, putting up 12.1 points per game.
Rising junior guard Deshon Parker announced his transfer to Appalachian State, whose program is working to raise the bar under head coach Dustin Kerns. The Mountaineers finished 18-15 (11-9 Sun Belt) and welcomed a player who averaged 10.1 points per game and led JMU in assists last season.
Rising sophomore guards Zyon Dobbs and Quinn Richey, along with rising redshirt sophomore forward Devon Flowers, are all currently in the transfer portal. Rising senior guard Matt Lewis declared for the 2020 NBA Draft while maintaining his eligibility, meaning he’s able to return to the Dukes with one season left to play.
While the team is undergoing a significant transition, the Dukes are overhauling how they’ll look in the upcoming season and beyond. Byington has had to face adversity in order to get the roster best suited for him, and ahead of his inaugural season at the helm, he’s laying the foundation for what could be the new brand of JMU men’s basketball for years to come.
Contact Noah Ziegler at email@example.com. For more coverage, follow the sports desk on Twitter @TheBreezeSports.