Former Westover star Chris Wheeler, right, is one of several former prep stars from Albany to sign with Albany State this summer. Joining him are Mike Green (Westover), Robert Arnold (Monroe) and Jonathan Morine (Monroe). (Herald file photo)
ALBANY — Westover star and reigning Herald Player of the Year Mike Green officially signed his National Letter of Intent with Albany State University on Thursday, but Green is only part of a wave of local talent washing ashore the ASU basketball program this summer.
Rams coach Chris Cameron revealed that three other former prep basketball stars from Albany will suit up for ASU this season.
Joining Green will be former Monroe star and 2009-10 Herald Player of the Year Robert Arnold, ex-Westover standout Chris Wheeler and Monroe grad Jonathon Morine.
Arnold, the 2013 Alabama junior college Player of the Year, is transferring from Chattahoochee Valley Community College; Wheeler most recently played at Middle Georgia College; and Morine is a transfer from Middle Georgia Tech.
It’s a mass homecoming that has Cameron excited about the upcoming season.
“I am excited about the talent of this class and extremely excited about the local players that we have in it,” Cameron said. “It has been extremely difficult to land the top talent in Albany, but to have these guys from Albany who are all Division I-caliber players to sign with us is amazing for our program and the community.”
ASU’s 2014 signing class also consists of Talonza Edwards (USC Salkehatchie), Junaid Olusesi (Dillard University), Lance Dixon (Stephenson High School, Lithonia, Ga.), Stephen Shaw (Kentucky Wesleyan University) and Jeremy Whitmore (Lane College).
The Rams run an up-tempo offense and pressure defense, and Cameron said he wanted the 2014 signing class to reflect that system. Whitmore, who played against the Rams the past two seasons, said Albany State’s fast-paced style was one of the reasons he transferred.
“That’s the kind of basketball I’ve been playing my whole life,” said Whitmore, who started 19 games last season at Lane, averaged 11.9 points and led the team with 42 steals for the season and 2.5 assists per game. “I’m ready to come to Albany and be a part of something great.”
The Rams lost eight players from last year’s team that finished second in the SIAC East Division, making this summer’s signing class an important one for Cameron.
“I was very careful in who I wanted to recruit,” he said. “I needed to make sure I got the right pieces that would fit our style of play as well as complement our returning players. My goal for recruiting was to bring in athleticism, toughness, high-character guys and talent. I think we did a great job addressing those needs.”
The most notable of Cameron’s additions is Arnold, the younger brother of former Dougherty and Florida State hoops star and ex-NBA player Alexander Johnson. Arnold averaged 19.5 points and 11 rebounds a night at Monroe in 2009-10 and helped the Tornadoes jump out to a 20-0 start and a No. 1 ranking in the Class AAA state poll.
He took his talents to Chattahoochee Valley Community College, where he had one of the best seasons in school history as a sophomore with averages of 19.6 points and 10.8 rebounds per game.
“Arnold is a fierce rebounder and has great touch around the basket,” Cameron said. “He’s a very polished player that has played with some big time players, and we are looking forward to him joining the team.”
Few know Arnold better than 2010 Westover grad Wheeler, who spent each school year playing against Arnold and the rival Tornadoes and each summer on the same travel team.
“With us being the players we are and with the way we went at each other on the court in high school, I know it’s going to be great playing with him,” said Wheeler, who spent two seasons at Middle Georgia College but hasn’t played since 2012. “We still have that chemistry. I know this year will be fun. We are going to have a great run.”
Wheeler, Arnold, Edwards, Olusesi and Dixon are all post players, while Green, Whitmore, Shaw and Morine each play guard positions.
Green and Dixon are the lone signees straight out of high school. Dixon led Stephenson to the Class AAAAA Final Four last season with 15 points and seven rebounds per game, while Green led Westover to a Class AAAA Final Four appearance and averaged 13 points, 5.5 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 2.1 steals.
“(Green) is a great signing for us,” Cameron said. “He fits the mold of the type of student-athletes we try to recruit. He has a great personality, is a humble kid, a hard-working kid, a talented kid and is very athletic. It fits in with what we have been trying to accomplish at Albany State.”