It has been a busy off-season for the Co-Coach of the Year in the Horizon League. Dennis Gates and his staff have spent the last few month fine tuning their roster in preparation for the 2020-2021 season. The Vikings have been able to build upon the good will gained during the previous campaign, as Cleveland State has posted the Horizon League’s best recruiting class for the upcoming season, the eightieth ranked class in the country according to rivals.com.
The Green and White received an extra bit of good news when senior forward Al Eichelberger announced he would be retiring to Cleveland State for his final year of collegiate eligibility. Eichelberger, an All Horizon League Third Team performer from 2019-2020, had the option to transfer to a bigger school for his final year. Instead, Eichelberger announced he was staying at CSU. The Cleveland State big man plans to pursue a master’s degree in either business administration or sports management. This is huge news for Viking fans, as everyone knows just how badly the program was hurt by transfers in recent years. In addition to landing the re-commitment of Eichelberger, the Vikings landed three incoming freshmen, as well as three junior college transfers, each of whom have two years of eligibility at Cleveland State.
The three incoming freshmen the Vikings were able to land, are Alec Oglesby, Mabor Majak, and Jason Woodrich. Oglesby, a 6-5 shooting guard from Gainesville, Florida was a thee star recruit who committed to CSU over Cincinnati, Milwaukee, San Jose State, and Yale.
Oglesby had this to say to rivals.com about his decision to commit to Cleveland State: “It was just Coach (Dennis) Gates. His rep that he has from the past but also the family atmosphere there. I believe in Coach Gates and that he can develop me as a ballplayer. I just loved the atmosphere there and it was just a great visit.”
Oglesby is a player most well known for his shot making abilities, however he has the ability to effect the game without the ball in his hands as well, both offensively and defensively.
The second incoming freshman is Majak, a 7-1 center, who played his high school basketball at Hamilton Southeastern in Indiana. He comes from South Sudan, and was very much able to escape the war torn area, in pursuit of a safer life. Majak made it to America leaving behind his entire family and prior way of living. Two years later, he started high school, and began playing basketball. In terms of the fit at Cleveland State, he is very optimistic.
“Me and coach (Dennis) Gates have been talking for a while and we created a good relationship in the time we were there,” Majak, who took an official visit to Cleveland State in August, told the Indianapolis Star. “They want to start a powerhouse there and they have recruited some good players.”
Majak will provide the Vikings with another interior presence and will be able to develop naturally with Eichelberger returning to the team.
The third and final incoming freshman is Jayson Woodrich. A Beachwood Ohio native, Woodrich graduated from Beachwood High School in 2019, and played a season of college preparatory basketball for Scotland Performance Institute, located in Scotland PA. In his final season playing for the Beachwood Bison, Woodrich averaged a staggering 26.7 points per game in addition to 9.8 rebounds. In his season with Scotland, Woodrich poured in 18 points per game and also grabbed 9 rebounds per contest.
Woodrich told cleveland.com, “I wanted to come back home…I didn’t want to be separated from everything else.” Being able to effectively recruit the area of Northeast Ohio has been a huge problem for Cleveland State in recent years, and gaining commitments from players like Woodrich and junior college transfer and Cleveland Heights graduate Yahel Hill can only help the program.
On September 29th, 2019 via his twitter page, Hill announced he was committing to Cleveland State. Hill spent his freshman season at Division II West Liberty, where he averaged just over 13 points per game on 53% from the floor. In hopes of landing with a Division I school, Hill transferred to Tallahassee Community College, where he spent his sophomore season. He is the all time leading scorer in Cleveland Heights men’s basketball history, breaking Damon Stringer’s record of 1,470 points.
When asked about his return to Cleveland Hill told csuvikings.com, “I look forward to returning home and having the basketball community that supported me at Cleveland Heights High School support me and my teammates at Cleveland State University.”
Gates was also extremely excited to land a player of Hills’ prowess, telling csuvikings.com, “Yahel is a tough young man that brings a variety of skill sets to our program. “He has an extremely high basketball IQ. His ability to control the pace of the game along with his vision and unlimited three-point range will permit him to make an instant impact to our program. We are also very excited that he is from Cleveland. It is crucial that we recruit our home city and state relentlessly.”
The second junior college transfer the Vikings were able to land is arguably their most high profile signing of the class. Dennis Gates and the Vikings signed junior college All-American D’Moi Hodge. Hodge, a third year sophomore from the British Virgin Islands, redshirted his first season at New Mexico junior college, before transferring to the State College of Florida, where he averaged 19.3 points per game, over eight rebounds and two blocks per contest last season.
Gates seemed extremely pleased to land Hodge. “We are really excited to have D’Moi join our Cleveland State family,” he said. “He is a wired scorer having the ability to separate from defenders and get his own shot. He is a threat at all three levels and his athleticism allows him to be a dynamic defender, blocking shots and creating steals. D’Moi is equipped to play all three positions in the back court and we are ecstatic to have his experience join our program.”
When asked about the relationship between Hodge and Coach Gates, Hodge stated, “Coach Gates and I have a great relationship. He recruited me while he was coaching at Florida State,” said Hodge. “I trust him and I know he will push me to be great. I am very excited to be a part of the Cleveland State family.”
Hodge is a mult-italented scorer who has a history of putting up huge point totals. It will be fascinating to see Coach Gates maneuver minutes between so many talented guards like Oglesby, Hill, and Hodge.
The most recent addition to the Cleveland State men’s basketball family was made on April 10th, as Chris Greene, a 6-7 forward from Virginia Beach, VA committed to CSU. Greene most recently played at the Community College of Beaver County, where he averaged 13.7 points per game, and nearly seven rebounds. Greene shot an impressive 58.5% from the field this past season in addition to almost 42% from beyond the arc. Greene will provide the Vikings with some depth at the wing spots, and give Coach Gates someone that can not only knock down 3-pointers on a consistent basis, but also defend at a high level.
With the Vikings’ top four scorers from this past season all returning to the team, Dennis Gates did not need to do all that much to see improvements. However, Gates went out and landed the top ranked recruiting class in the Horizon League according to rivals.com.
It was important for Gates to begin to put his personal stamp on the program by recruiting his type of player. We already know Gates can coach, now let’s all watch as he begins to put it all together. The future is bright for Cleveland State men’s basketball; perhaps brighter than it’s been in quite some time.