Orton adds athleticism to DSU men's basketball team with batch of late additions
Ty Orton stressed Dickinson State's move to the Frontier Conference when recruiting men's basketball players this year.
The Blue Hawks' head coach, who enters his sixth season this winter, went looking for the type of players he felt could help the Blue Hawks not only be competitive in the Frontier, but prosper.
Orton has wrapped up his recruiting for the 2012-13 season and feels confident that the group of newcomers can help the team win immediately as it moves from NAIA Division II to Division I.
"I like our recruiting," Orton said. "We're athletic and we still have the right kind of kids coming in. We have great kids coming in."
In addition to the five incoming freshmen signed during the spring, the Blue Hawks will add six transfers and another freshman to the mix. They are:
n Anthony Hodges, a 6-foot junior point guard from New York City who played last year at West Los Angeles College where he averaged 5.5 points, 3.5 assists and 2.4 rebounds per game. He spent his first year at Cayuga Community College in Auburn, N.Y.
"I'm just here to work hard and hopefully bring some championships to the school," Hodges said Tuesday during a team shoot around.
n Tevin Russell, a 6-3 sophomore guard from San Antonio, Texas. He spent his first college season as a redshirt for Texas A&M-Kingsville before transferring to McLennan Community College in Waco, Texas. There he averaged 3.6 points and 1.1 rebounds per game.
"We're excited about him," Orton said. "He's really going to bring some things to us."
n Johnie Sanders, a 6-4 senior guard from Farmington, Minn., who committed to the Blue Hawks last year before running into eligibility issues.
Sanders averaged 10.6 points, 5.4 rebounds and 1.7 assists per game while shooting 48.1 percent from the field in two seasons at Otero Junior College in La Junta, Colo. He averaged 4.2 points, 2.4 rebounds and shot 49 percent from the field for Northwest Oklahoma State as a junior in 2010-11.
n Phillip Johnson, a 6-6 junior forward from Chicago who played last season at Triton College in River Grove, Ill. He averaged 2.6 points and 2.8 rebounds per game.
n James Hayden, a 6-foot senior guard from Jackson, Wyo. He last played for Casper (Wyo.) College in the 2009-10 season when he averaged 5.7 points, 2 rebounds and 1.7 assists per game. He spent the past two years as the team's assistant coach.
n Ty Ackelson, a 6-2 junior transfer from Northwest College in Powell, Wyo., where he averaged 8 points, 3 rebounds and 2 assists per game.
n Timmy Benedict, a 6-6 freshman from Wright, Wyo. He was a Class 2A all-state selection and was a Wyoming All-Star team selection.
Earlier in the year, the Blue Hawks signed Preston Smith, a 6-3 Class B all-state forward from New Town, along with Ryan Sullivan, a Montana Class A all-state 6-3 guard from Sidney.
They'll be joined by three likely redshirts: New England all-region guard Nick Wolf, Heart River all-district guard Dylan Northrop and Josh Torgerson of Sidney, Mont.
Hodges, who grew up in the borough of Queens, said he never thought he would end up in North Dakota but is, so far, impressed with his teammates and the way Orton's team operates.
"He told me to help the guys stay ready and stay mentally prepared," Hodges said. "But I think we're good enough to play. We're getting after it. I'm making sure I stay on top of everybody and I know I'm human too, they're going to stay on top of me."
Orton said he stressed the need for defense and improved athleticism at the wing positions after DSU was outscored by an average of nearly 2 points per game last season and finished their lone season as an NAIA independent with a 12-18 record.
"We got stronger at the wing position, stronger at the guard position," Orton said. "I think everything worked out quite a bit better."