Roster shakeup hits GW entering spring recruiting period

Roster shakeup hits GW entering spring recruiting period
April 7, 2013, 6:30 pm
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Updated April 8, 11:52 a.m.

There has been a healthy amount of shakeup recently involving the George Washington men's basketball team. Some potential roster pieces remain in flux.

Because of the program's growth during coach Mike Lonergan first two seasons, legitimate optimism remains heading into the 2013-14 campaign despite the player movement. Such thinking could become dicier if an incoming recruit's wavering commitment proves permanent and the spring signing period does not help bolster the team's depth.

This past week the school announced that upon graduation this spring, guard Lasan Kromah would play his redshirt senior season elsewhere. A key bench scorer and possible starter next season, the 6-foot-6 Kromah finished second on the team with 10.1 points per game.

Previously the school announced David Pellom, who sat out the 2012-13 campaign with a left wrist injury, would also transfer. As a junior, the 6-foot-8 forward Pellom led the Colonials in rebounding and set the school's single-season record for field goal percentage. There is an outside chance Pellom returns, but sources familiar with the program make such a scenario sound unlikely.

Deep reserve Jonathan Davis also intends on transferring though he must sit out a full season should he remain in D-I. Kromah and Pellom are eligible for action next season.

From a talent perspective, there is no question having Kromah's point-producing knack or Pellom's interior presence would boost a program seeking its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2007. However, neither player was a lock to start next season, not with shot blocking Isaiah Armwood still around and Lonergan's heralded 2012 freshman class all entering their sophomore seasons.

Though Kromah offered the edge in experience, Lonergan's emphasis on fundamentals and defense plus a youth movement plan to get a jumpstart for the upcoming campaign led him to start guards Joe McDonald and Patricio Garino.

Despite starting four freshmen much of the season, the Colonials (13-17, 7-9) reached the main draw of the Atlantic 10 Tournament for the first time since 2007 and nearly upset Massachusetts in the opening round before falling in the final minutes. That was one of several near misses as George Washington lost to NCAA Tournament teams Butler, Kansas State and Temple by a combined eight points.

First-year players Kethan Savage and Kevin Larsen, and Armwood rounded out the starting five for much of the season.

On the other hand, the Colonials now return just eight scholarship players and currently have only one incoming recruit signed for next season. Riverdale Baptist guard Nigel Johnson previously committed to GW, but recently informed Lonergan of his plans to reopen his recruiting. The Colonials, however, remain in the mix.

McDonald (7.5 ppg, 3.2 apg) had arguably the toughest transition of the newcomers, but the former Landon product swam more than he sunk while learning the lead guard role. With senior Bryan Bynes graduating, McDonald is currently the only true ball-handler on the roster.

Garino offers headliner upside and likely gets there once the Argentine's shooting touch (28.6 percent on 3-pointers) catches up to his defensive prowess and high basketball IQ. Limited late in the season with a knee injury, the 6-foot-6 Garino averaged 8.8 points and 2.3 steals.

Though Savage's starting role was in name only - the Fairfax native averaged 11 minutes per game compared to Kromah's 24 - he picked up valuable experience and confidence. The former Episcopal product averaged 3.1 points.

Larsen (8.2 ppg) helped Armwood man the middle, finishing second in rebounds (5.0) while leading the Colonials in field goal percentage (51.3). The wide-bodied big man improved significantly over the second half of the season and with his quality low-post moves scored at least 14 points in three of his last five games.

George Washington also lost forward Dwayne Smith to graduation. Senior perimeter threat Nemanja Mikic, hard-nosed John Kopriva and forward Paris Maragkos inherit the reserve frontcourt roles. Mikic is the only player remaining on the roster recruited to GW by former coach Karl Hobbs era, who was replaced by Lonergan entering the 2011-12 season.

Replacing Bynes, a stout perimeter defender and the only other point guard on the roster, is likely Lonergan's toughest challenge - especially if Johnson does not show up on the Foggy Bottom campus.

The 6-foot-1 point guard committed to GW after leading the DC area in scoring as a junior for Broad Run with 29.5 points per game. After transferring to Riverdale, Johnson averaged 17.9 points this past season.

While Johnson may be seeking an offer from a BCS program, he previously received offers from the likes of Bucknell and Lehigh, according to ESPN.com. The spring signing period for Johnson and other potential recruits runs from April 17-May 15.

Nick Griffin, a 6-foot-2 shooting guard who played at Magruder, signed his Letter of Intent for the 2013 class.