His first season as the head men’s basketball coach at Waynesburg University didn’t go as Tim Fusina wanted. The Yellow Jackets limped to a 6-20 record and finished in seventh place in the nine-team Presidents’ Athletic Conference.
However, don’t assume that Fusina wasn’t putting in long hours to improve the program. All of his hard working can be shown in his first recruiting class, which is large. Very large.
Fusina successfully recruited enough players, 17 in all, to field an entirely new team and then some.
“We had to improve our roster and get better,” Fusina said. “I think we do a good job of selling our program.”
That wasn’t easily done during a pandemic, but Fusina and assistant coach A.J. Uhl were able to get more than 60 potential recruits onto campus and even landed a few players who saw Waynesburg only through a virtual tour of the school.
“A.J. is a great recruiter and stays in touch with the recruits on a daily basis,” Fusina said. “He does a great job of making sure we’re seeing the right people.”
Four of the recruits are from Washington or Greene counties. Fusina didn’t even have to leave Waynesburg to recruit one of them, Lucas Garber, a 6-3 wing player who led Waynesburg Central in scoring in each of the last two years and is a two-time Observer-Reporter All-District first team selection after averaging 20.9 points per game this season and 23.5 as a junior.
The other local recruits include two players from Trinity, forward/guard Dylan King and guard Noah Johnson, along with Charleroi guard Joey Caruso. King was a two-time all-section selection and Johnson was a second team all-section pick this season, helping the Hillers to a 13-9 record. Caruso was Charleroi’s most consistent player as the Cougars had a 16-7 record and shared the Section 4-AAA title with Washington.
There are four transfers in the group, including Jake Benhart, a 6-5 guard who played high school ball in the WPIAL at Indiana before spending time at Edinboro and Grinnell (Iowa). He started five games for Grinnell last season and had a 19-point performance in the season opener. One of the transfers, point guard Carlton Brown, comes from Cal Lutheran, where he was recruited by Fusina when the latter was head coach there.
The other transfers are guard Steve Eng, who arrives at Waynesburg from Valley Forge College, and guard Jordan Tomkinson, who is from Australia and played last season at Concordia (Minn.).
The other members of the recruiting class are Tyler Banks, a guard from Montour; Will Helton, a 6-4 guard from Bishop Guilfoyle; Jansen Knotts, a forward from Ridgeley, W.Va.; Nick Larson, a wing from Ijamsville, Md.; Logan Marshalek, a wing from North Hills; Jake Scheidt, a 6-4 point guard who played at Knoch; Devin Swope, a point guard who played at Tussey Mountain; Bryson Wilt, a guard from Oakland, Md., and Ronnie Zeller, a forward from Bethel Park.
“What stands out about this group is versatility,” Fusina said. “There are guys who can play and also guard different positions. Skill-wise, we’re light years ahead of where we ended the season. All of these guys had over 3.0 (grade-point averages). They are amazing people from great families.”
The recruiting class is heavy on guards who can go along with 6-10 forward Isaiah Alonzo, who will return after leading the Yellow Jackets in scoring (14.5 ppg), rebounding (7.6 rpg), blocked shots and free-throw percentage (80.3%) this past season.
“We have the best returning post player in the conference in Isaiah Alonzo, so we’re good there,” Fusina said. “We had to get guys who handle the ball and shoot better, and we had to get guys who guard better. I think we did that.
“Recruiting is always a priority, especially that first class. You have to get guys who make your better. … I’m thrilled with this group. We’ve addressed our needs. Next year, there could be times when we have four or five new guys on the floor at the same time.”