WSU receives NLI from Keyser, Smith and Willis

Fred VanVleet
(AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

WICHITA, Kansas – Wichita State men’s basketball coach Gregg Marshall formally announced the signing of three student-athletes to National Letters of Intent during the fall signing period.

WSU received and processed the last of the three letters on Tuesday.

Prep school combo guard, C.J. Keyser joins junior college point guard Daishon Smith and JUCO power forward Darrlyn Willis as the first members of the Shockers’ 2016 recruiting class.

The 6-foot-3 Keyser will be a true freshman in 2016-17. He graduated last spring from Sunrise Christian Academy near Wichita, but elected to take a prep school year at Brewster Academy in New Hampshire before moving on to the college ranks.

Keyser’s game and physical stature have drawn comparisons to former Shocker guard Tekele Cotton, a two-time conference defensive player of the year.

“He’s explosive, can play a multitude of positions on the perimeter and profiles as a lockdown defender,” Marshall said. “We had an opportunity to watch him quite a bit last year at Sunrise, and he had a chance to see how this program operates.”

Keyser, who played for WSU assistant Kyle Lindsted at Sunrise, earned three stars from both ESPN and Rivals and was considered a top-20 shooting guard by ESPN prior to reclassifying to the class of 2016. He also drew interest from Utah, Nebraska and Long Beach State.

Adding the 6-foot-1 Smith, out of Tallahassee (Fla.) Community College, gives WSU another experienced floor general to help replace senior All-American Fred VanVleet next season.

As a freshman at Eastern Florida State College he was an honorable mention all-conference performer for a team that finished 29-5 and advanced to the NJCAA National Tournament.

“Daishon is the type of point guard who has been successful in our system. He has good size, is explosive with the ball and is extremely athletic,” Marshall said. “He’s a guy who can score and also be a playmaker for others, depending on the situation, and he affects the game with his defense, too. He plays for a tremendous junior college coach in Mark White, who holds him accountable every day.”

The Shockers have had a solid track record with junior college point guards. Transfers Clevin Hannah (2008-10) and Joe Ragland (2010-12) were both first team all-conference selections as seniors. WSU has had a first-team All-Valley point guard in four of the last six seasons overall.

The 6-8, 215-pound Willis – currently a sophomore at Pearl River (Miss.) Community College – will provide a similar veteran lift for WSU in the low post with seniors Anton Grady, Bush Wamukota and Evan Wessel all scheduled to depart.

“We think he’s a guy who can come in play big minutes at the four,” Marshall said. “He does everything well. He can shoot, he can drive, and he can score facing or with his back to the basket. He runs, rebounds, defends and comes from a winning program.”

Willis was an all-conference and all-region performer as a freshman, averaging 13.8 points and 7.1 rebounds to help lead Pearl River to a 25-5 finish and the MACJC state title.

Like Smith, Willis will have two years of eligibility to complete at WSU.

The Shockers are scheduled to graduate five seniors at the end of the 2015-16 season: Ron Baker, Anton Grady, VanVleet, Tom “Bush” Wamukota and Evan Wessel.

Keyser, Smith and Williams combine with Texas A&M transfer Peyton Allen (who joined the team in August and will sit out the 2015-16 season, per NCAA rules) as roster additions for the 2016-17 school year.

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