Towson's hoops class earns rave reviews
Up to that point, Parker-Rivera, a three-star prospect according to Scout.com, was hearing mostly from Charlotte, Seton Hall, St. Bonaventure, St. Joseph’s and Temple. Parker-Rivera was certainly happy to add a scholarship offer to his already lengthy list, but ESPN.com’s No. 2 prospect in Connecticut didn’t give much thought to Towson. Enter first-year Tigers coach Pat Skerry, who changed that line of thinking in a hurry.
“Coach Skerry was recruiting me at Pitt and Providence before he came down,” to Towson, Parker-Rivera said. “But then I had to talk to the other schools recruiting me. Coach Skerry, he was consistent, really consistent. We had good conversations. He just kept fighting for me no matter where I was leaning. I was leaning toward Temple, but he kept fighting and got me down on campus. I liked it there and I chose Towson.”
Parker-Rivera’s story is a familiar one for Towson in compiling its 2012 class. Step one was identifying well-regarded East Coast prospects and offering those players scholarships. After getting past the inevitable “What’s Towson?” moment, Skerry, Murray, Kevin Clark and Kenny Johnson put on the metaphorical full-court press. What resulted in the Tigers staff’s efforts was one of the most surprisingly impressive classes of the fall signing period. Towson’s four-man group was rated by CBSSports.com as the No. 6 Non-BCS Conference recruiting class in the country. The Tigers finished behind just Memphis, Houston, Xavier, UNLV and UTEP. The writers at CBSSports.com were far from the only analysts impressed with Towson's class.
“Let’s just be honest: Towson hasn’t done a whole lot the last few years,” said Dave Telep, ESPN.com’s national recruiting analyst. “Obviously, kids are attracted to the program for a reason. I think it’s probably Towson’s commitment to taking the program to a different level in the CAA. The commitment to building and upgrading has paid off with this staff. The other thing is what the staff has done in leveraging their relationships into commitments. Those are two reasons why I think they’ve been successful with this group.”
In addition to Parker-Rivera, Towson signed Barrington Alston, a 6-foot-8, 220-pound forward from Wilmington, Del., Jerome Hairston, a 6-foot-3, 185-pound combo guard from Roanoke, Va., and Frank Mason, a 6-foot, 170-pound point guard from Petersburg, Va. Alston, a three-star prospect according to Rivals.com and Scout.com, picked the Tigers over Delaware, George Mason and VCU. Mason, a three-star prospect according to Scout.com, chose Towson over George Mason, Jacksonville, Kent State and Tennessee State. And Hairston, the No. 114 prospect in the country according to Rivals.com, considered Liberty and Richmond before committing to TU.
Van Coleman of Hot100Hoops.com ranks Towson’s class just outside the Top 40 nationally in his near misses and potential breakthroughs category. The veteran basketball analyst is high on all four future Tigers – particularly Hairston.
“They’ve got Jerome Hairston, who I think is one of the most underrated players in the country,” Coleman said. “I rate him in the Top 150, and he could easily be ranked in the Top 100. When that jump shot falls, he’s a Top 100 player. … Alston and Mason are both solid guys who I think will compete and be really solid players down the road. The reason why I’ve got [Towson] on the cusp of being in the Top 40 is Hairston and Parker-Rivera.”
Coleman said it was “somewhat surprising” that the Tigers were able to land Hairston, who reportedly had Big East interest in addition to being courted by “most of the CAA.” Towson landing the three-star prospect was “a great selling job” by Skerry and his staff, Coleman said.
Said Telep: “I think the backcourt is secure now. In the CAA, like any other mid-level league, you have to have guards. Mason and Hairston, they’re going to take their lumps just because of how good the league is. But you’re looking at a four-year backcourt, a 1-2 punch of pretty good players. … [And] Parker-Rivera, he’s just going to be the guy everyone falls in love with. He’s just a blue-collar, unheralded junkyard dog.”
Everyone who follows the program knows – as Telep says – that Towson is “not an overnight fix.” The Tigers finished just 4-26 last season, and their best record under former coach Pat Kennedy came during the 2006-07 campaign when TU went 15-17. But with a sparkling new arena on the way and an excellent first recruiting class for Skerry – combined with the 2011 recruits he added last spring – the Tigers hope that their future is bright. Parker-Rivera is definitely a believer.
“[Towson’s past struggles] didn’t bother me as much because I believe the team we have coming together, with me and a couple other kids,” will be very good, Parker-Rivera said. “I’m a winner. I want to win. I’m going to push my team and we’re going to make this thing happen. All schools have to start somewhere. North Carolina had to start somewhere. Duke had to start somewhere. Now Towson has to start somewhere. I’m guessing that can start with me.”