Miners Continue To Recruit For Depth at Point Guard Position
Over the weekend, the Miners basketball team reportedly spoke to North Carolina transfer point guard Jeremiah Francis. UTEP is on the hunt for a point guard and more depth for the 2020-21 season.
The recruiting news comes a week after the Miners were actively pursuing Oklahoma transfer point guard Jamal Bieniemy. Whether it be a Division I transfer with experience, a JUCO product or a graduate transfer, UTEP has a glaring hole at point guard this offseason and needs to fill the void this offseason.
Francis is a three-star prospect out of Ohio, where he was ranked the No. 19 point guard in the country by 247sports. He has battled knee injuries over the past years and sat out of UNC's first eight games last year. Francis played in 16 games for the Tar Heels, starting three and averaged 13.6 minutes, 3.3 points, 1.3 rebounds and 1.6 assists in his freshman season. He has received interest from BYU, Dayton, New Mexico, New Mexico State, Ohio U, Utah State, TCU and Oregon State, per Jake Weingarten.
Bieniemy is another point guard with Power-5 experience. The Houston-area product played two seasons for Oklahoma, where he played 65 games. As a sophomore, Bieniemy made 30 starts while averaging 5.2 points, 4.0 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.1 steals in 31.9 minutes. The Sooners were 6-1 when he scored in double-figures this past year. Per CBS' Jon Rothstein, he is also being sought after by Creighton, Louisiana Tech, UT Arlington and New Mexico State.
Upon adding Georgia Tech transfer forward Christian Sjolund, UTEP has three scholarships remaining. Other incoming transfers include North Alabama transfer Christian Agnew and Salt Lake Community College transfer Adam Hess. Souley Boum, Tydus Verhoeven, Bryson Williams, Eric Vila and Efe Odigie round out the returners for next year's squad, along with sophomore guard Keonte Kennedy, who sat out last year per NCAA transfer rules.
UTEP saw Kaden Archie, Deon Stroud, Anthony Tarke, Jordan Lathon, Nigel Hawkins and Kaosi Ezeagu enter the transfer portal this offseason.
As the offseason continues amid this pandemic, where the program cannot formally host any official or unofficial visits, the Miners will be tasked with completing their roster and filling those holes, like the point guard spot. Along with those restrictions, there is still nationwide uncertainty regarding the one-time transfer policy.
Last week, the NCAA Division I Board of Directors and Presidential Forum recommended against players in football, men's and women's basketball, baseball and hockey being granted the one-time transfer exception. Undergraduate players in those five sports—including basketball—currently have to sit out a season before being eligible.
That would mean that in order for guys like Agnew and Sjolund to be immediately eligible for the Miners, the players would need an approved transfer waiver. It could also change the recruiting methods for the team. Recruits like Francis and Bieniemy could bring a ton of promise to a team like UTEP, but if they aren't eligible to play immediately, the Miners will still need to fill the void at the point guard position.