UTEP Lands Top Buffalo Guard Yazid Powell. Now What’s Next in Recruiting?
There's light at the end of the tunnel for Miner men's basketball recruiting, as the team continues to maneuver through an up-and-down offseason. UTEP received a positive commitment from a double-digit scoring mid-major transfer on Sunday that should provide a spark of optimism and excitement for the fan base.
Combo guard Yazid Powell, a 6-foot-4 junior transfer from Buffalo with one year of eligibility left, announced his commitment to UTEP after visiting El Paso last week. Powell was highly sought after when he initially hit the transfer portal, reportedly garnering interest from schools like Arizona, TCU, SMU, Arkansas, Fresno State, Wyoming, Tulsa and plenty of others. Weeks passed without Powell committing to a school and UTEP swooped in with a special connection.
Current Miner assistant coach Bryen Spriggs was previously the head basketball coach at Community College of Beaver County in Monaca, PA, during the 2019-20 season, to which Powell—a freshman at the time—was his top scorer (14.1 points on 52% FG). Now four years later, Powell acknowledged rejoining his former JUCO head coach for the "end" of his college basketball career.
In his first season with Buffalo, the Philadelphia native finished the 2022-23 season averaging 13 points, 4.1 rebounds and 2.7 assists on 41.8% shooting from the floor. Powell scored a season-high 27 points on 11-of-19 shooting with 10 rebounds in a conference win against Bowling Green. Buffalo finished in the middle of the pack in the MAC (15-17, 9-9).
Physically, he reminds me of Jordan Lathon and Deon Stroud. He can create his own shot as an off-ball guard and looks his best when he plays in transition. He also has experience playing point guard in Junior College. Powell's athleticism and playmaking ability will make him an immediate impact player offensively. He isn't going to shoot lights out consistently, but he can be a reliable scorer that can put his head down and drive to the hoop for a bucket, while also getting his teammates involved.
Powell instantly becomes UTEP's best offseason commitment thus far. The question is, where do they go with their final scholarship?
Current Roster Breakdown
Way-too-early depth chart preview
- PG Corey Camper / Antwonne Holmes
- SG Tae Hardy / Baylor Hebb / David Terrell / Trey Horton
- G Yazid Powell / Otis Frazier / Garret Levesque
- PF Calvin Solomon / Elijah Jones / Jonathan Dos Anjos
- PF Kevin Kalu / Derrick Hamilton
Newcomers: G Corey Camper Jr. (Tyler Junior College), G Baylor Hebb (Colorado State), G David Terrell (Mansfield High School), G Trey Horton (Providence Day High School), F Elijah Jones (Eastern Carolina), G Yazid Powell (Buffalo)
Departures: Shamar Givance (Graduation), Ze'Rik Onyema (Transferred to Texas), Jamal Sumlin (Transfer Portal), Malik Zachery (Transfer Portal), Mario McKinney Jr. (Transfer Portal), Carlos Lemus (Transfer Portal), Jamari Sibley (Transfer Portal),
Who gets the final scholarship?
It's no secret that this has been a challenging recruiting offseason for UTEP men's basketball. They were in the mix for many different players early into the offseason and have lost some recruiting battles involving key recruits. For example, the Miners were on the final list of preferred teams for Temple transfer Zach Hicks, who ultimately chose Penn State.
Sources tell 600 ESPN El Paso that UTEP hosted other recruits last week besides Powell. They expect to have more prospects in town this week. But, there's no rush to give this final scholarship away. The thought from the team is the more the Miners can be patient with their final scholarship, the more possibilities to attract top-level talent. Conversely, they can't hold this scholarship for too long knowing they still have needs to fill on their roster.
Some might look at this projected depth chart and think immediately that UTEP needs to get a big with their final scholarship. With the loss of Onyema, do you trust Kevin Kalu with the starting center role if you're UTEP?
Then there's an argument to be made that UTEP needs a serviceable wing or combo forward for their final scholarship. UTEP has been targeting several 6-foot-6/6-foot-7 prospects that might remind Miner fans of an Alfred Hollins-type of player. Remember, this coaching staff envisioned Jamari Sibley taking over the starting No. 3 spot last season and thought he could morph into more of a 3-and-D player, which never happened.
One can simply suggest by looking at this roster that UTEP needs a playmaker or the best available player, regardless of position. This is a safe answer, of course, knowing how adaptable and fluid this roster is at the moment. Maybe the answer is a playmaking forward to play alongside Calvin Solomon. Maybe it's a sharpshooting guard that UTEP has been desperately searching for. Or, maybe it's a point guard.
And, point guard is precisely the position I'll advocate for.
I'm of the firm belief that you live and die in college basketball by virtue of your guard play. As it stands, UTEP lacks a true proven ball handler and initiator for the offense. JUCO All-American Corey Camper Jr. might be a solid candidate to take the point guard spot, though he lacks Division I experience. Tae Hardy is more of an off-ball guard. Antwonne Holmes, David Terrell and Trey Horton each lack playing experience. If the coaching staff has already thought to place Powell as their point guard, I could live with that decision.
But as I watched Jordan "Jelly" Walker lead UAB over the years, or witnessed Tylor Perry make North Texas a C-USA title contender, I realized the importance of having a top-level point guard that can not only impact the game on both ends, but can also win matchups in late-game situations.
UTEP can patch up their frontcourt by going smaller in stretches with Solomon as the center. They can throw Otis Frazier III back in the starting lineup as a combo forward and let him grow into a true 3-and-D player. But I think they need more firepower in the backcourt from what they currently have.
So now we wait as the Miners coaching staff continues to evaluate where they should spend this final scholarship.