Nov. 10, 1999
NORMAN, Okla. - Men's basketball head coach Kelvin Sampson announced that four standout players have signed national letters of intent to attend the University of Oklahoma today. Expected to join the Sooner program next year are junior college players Aaron McGhee and Daryan Selvy, and prep players Johnnie Gilbert and James Wright.
"When we recruit, what we try to do more than anything else is fill our needs -- make sure we get better at the positions where we need help," said Sampson. "We had a great recruiting class last year with our backcourt signees, so one thing we wanted to do this year was sign some size on the wings. We feel great about our wing forwards with Wright and Selvy. And then we wanted to sign some size up front. At one of the post spots we've got McGhee and Gilbert. In April we'll go after a couple of more size guys. We're real excited about this group. It gives us exactly what we wanted -- athleticism and size."
"This class will be ranked no lower than 15th nationally," said recruiting analyst Bob Gibbons, editor of All-Star Sports Publications. "And it should wind up being a top-10 class."
Johnnie Gilbert (6-7, 220, Forward, Minneapolis, Minn., Patrick Henry HS)
A third-team All-State performer last year at Patrick Henry High School in Minneapolis, Gilbert averaged 14.5 points, 14.3 rebounds and 6.0 blocked shots per outing while leading his squad to a 21-4 record and an appearance in the state championship quarterfinals. This preseason, Patrick Henry is ranked No. 1 in Minnesota's 4A class. Gilbert is regarded as one of the top 100 high school seniors in the country. Gibbons rates him as the nation's 88th-best senior.
"He's a hard-nosed, tough, blue-collar guy who can really run the floor," said Sampson. "He's extremely athletic, has long arms and plays a lot bigger than he is. I think he's a big-time, big-time rebounder who really goes after missed shots and impacts the game in that phase. One of the first games I saw him play was against Riverside Church, a nationally known AAU program from New York City, and he had 26 rebounds. It seemed like every time the ball was shot, he was programmed to where it would come off the rim.
"He's a wonderful kid who comes from a great family. He's a winner, much like a lot of the kids we've had in the past and have now. Johnnie fits in well with us and I expect him to come here and play right away. He's one of the top players in Minnesota and he'll be great for us."
"I think Oklahoma has something special," said Larry McKenzie, Gilbert's coach at Patrick Henry. "I've been around basketball for quite some time, and I've not seen kids who work as hard as he does. Four years from now, people are going to realize that Johnnie was a steal. He's really just learning to play the game and I think he's got a tremendous up side. He's the kind of kid you love to coach. He's very respectful, he comes to work hard every day, is always looking to improve and he provides great leadership for our guys."
"He's in the mold of Eduardo Najera," noted Gibbons. "He has that level of intensity. He does not have the scoring skills that Eduardo does, but he's a competitor, a great rebounder. He's almost Rodmanesque with his rebounding ability. He will be a strong, physical player."
James Wright (6-6, 210, Forward, Milwaukee, Wis., The Winchendon [Mass.] School)
A very athletic wing player, Wright is the Wisconsin state record holder in the high jump. He averaged 10.0 points, 13.0 rebounds and 4.0 blocked shots as a senior last year at Vincent High School in Milwaukee. He has experienced tremendous success at the high school level, helping his teams to state titles as a freshman, sophomore and junior, and a four-year 97-10 record. Following his junior season, Vincent was ranked seventh nationally by Street & Smith's and ninth nationally by USA Today. This year, Wright is attending The Winchendon School, a prep school in Winchendon, Mass. According to Gibbons, he is one of the 10 best post-graduate prep players in the country.
"James is another tremendous athlete," noted Sampson. "In high school he ran a 10.5-second 100 meters and a 47.3-second 400 meters, and also broad jumped 23-8. He's a big-time leaper. Defensively and athletically, he already plays at the major college level.
"He finds ways to beat you," continued Sampson. "He'll go defend the point guard, grab offensive rebounds, run the break, get out in front, dunk in transition. I think James significantly upgrades our athleticism. That's one thing we continually work to do, especially at our wing position."
"James is Dennis Rodman at 6-6 without the tattoos," said Mike Byrnes, Wright's coach at Winchendon. "He gives the same effort on the boards and is the same type of defender. You'll never find a kid who works harder and he will fit into to everything that Kelvin Sampson stands for. There might be guys in the league who will be bigger and might be stronger, but nobody will outwork this kid. He'll get to every loose ball and every loose rebound. He's a human highlight film, a pogo stick. He'll have a tip-back dunk and make you turn your head and say, 'Did I just see that?' He's an unbelievable kid with an unbelievable personality. He brings his lunch pail and works every single day."
"James is a tremendous competitor, is very athletic, plays great defense and is a tremendous rebounder," said Tom Diener, Wright's coach at Vincent the past four years. "He had a tremendous career here at Vincent and I think he'll do very well at Oklahoma."
"He is so quick to the hoop and the fans are going to love him," said Gibbons. "Every game he plays is like a slam-dunk contest."
Aaron McGhee (6-8, 250, Forward, Aurora, Ill., Vincennes [Ind.] JC)
McGhee, who hails from Aurora, Ill., was regarded as one of the 50 best players in the nation his senior year at Aurora East High School where he was a two-time All-State selection. As a senior, he earned honorable mention All-America honors from USA Today and The Sporting News after averaging 25.0 points, 10.0 rebounds, 3.9 blocked shots and 2.3 steals per game. He guided East to a 24-3 record that year and went on to earn MVP honors in the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association state all-star game. He originally signed with Cincinnati and sat out the 1997-98 season. Last year with the Bearcats, McGhee played in 30 games and averaged 2.8 points and 1.9 rebounds in 8.1 minutes per contest. Against Southern Mississippi, the forward scored a career-high 15 points and grabbed seven rebounds. Gibbons considers him to be one of the country's top 15 junior college players.
"Certain junior college players we recruit we know will come in and be impact players," said Sampson. "We knew Corey Brewer would start for us and he became Big 12 Newcomer of the Year. When we signed Nate Erdmann we knew he'd be a major impact player. Well, Aaron McGhee can have the same impact. He's a monster athlete who we expect to step in and make us better right away. In fact, he's as good an athlete up front as you'll find anywhere. He can really score the basketball.
"I saw him play in three junior college all-star games in September and he averaged 29 points per game. He's playing for a great coach in Dan Sparks at Vincennes Junior College. We're extremely excited to be able to sign a player of Aaron's caliber."
"We're expecting big things out of him this year," said Sparks. "He's real mobile, runs the floor very well and has a real nice touch. He can score with his back to the basket or facing it. He can shoot the 16 or 17-foot jump shot, as well as power it inside. We're looking for big things from him in the low post."
"McGhee is another physical competitor," said Gibbons. "He's a big, strong kid who is also in the mold of Najera. He can shoot the ball and has excellent scoring ability."
Daryan Selvy (6-6, 215, Forward, West Memphis, Ark., Carl Albert [Poteau, Okla.] JC)
Selvy, who attended the same high school as former first-team All-Big 12 guard Corey Brewer, is a sophomore at Carl Albert Junior College in Poteau, also the same junior college Brewer attended. Last year, Selvy averaged 18.0 points, 7.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game. As a senior at West Memphis, he guided his team to a state championship. Gibbons rates him among the 35 best junior college players in the country.
Sampson said, "Daryan is a Kevin Freeman-type from UConn. He can play the 3 or the 4, he's very athletic, has a great defensive stance with a wide wingspan and he can score the ball. Through his first three games this year, he's averaging more than 27 points and 12 rebounds. He was the Oklahoma preseason junior college player of the year and has tremendous potential. He's another great kid."
"I don't want to put pressure on Daryan, but he's one of the best I've ever coached in 32 years of the business, both on and off the court," said Selvy's junior college coach, Ron Murphree. "First, he's a wonderful person. He's a yes-sir, no-sir kid. He takes criticism and is one of the most coachable players I've ever been around. I think the closest guy I could compare him to is (former Sooner) Corey Brewer, in terms of being hard-nosed, competitive and a workaholic. He's one of the most improved players I've coached from his freshman to his sophomore year and he wants so much to get better. Most kids work on their strengths, but Daryan works on his weaknesses. That's not something coaches see very often.
"He's very athletic, much more athletic than Brewer," continued Murphree. He can score inside or outside and can play the 2, 3, 4 or 5. I don't think anybody realizes the impact Daryan could have. Oklahoma is getting a great one and I'm usually not one to oversell a kid. He's a tremendous person and player. I think back through the 32 years I've coached and I don't know if there's a player I'd trade him for."