Recruiting class brings Milligan six new players

By Matt Hill
STAR STAFF
mhill@starhq.com

   A year ago, it looked like there wouldn't be much to say about the 2003 Milligan College men's basketball recruiting class after not having a senior on the upcoming squad and a boatload of underclassmen.
   That was then, this is now.
   After having several players become ineligible and some others leave the program, Milligan head coach Tony Wallingford was able to sign six new players this recruiting season.
   "We had some guys leave the program for different reasons," Wallingford said. "We did finish the season with 10 players. All 10 of those players are coming back and got a lot of playing time, good experience, and are very competitive. We struggled in some close games, but now we feel like we've got a little experience under our belt with this group. We've added some talented players to go with the 10 returnees. We're looking forward to having a good season."
   Two junior college players headlining the class are Cleveland State's Scott Ferguson and Roane State's Eric Coggins.
   Point guard was a position that Milligan really needed to fill some gaps in, so they called on Ferguson to try and contribute right away.
   Ferguson will be used to one Milligan Buffalo, as he played with standout Jonathon Harris at Cleveland State.
   "Scott's a very quick point guard, excellent ball handler, excellent passer and has always finished around the six to seven assist per-game range," Wallingford said. "We're looking forward to adding that dimension to that position.
   Coggins, a former Cosby standout, is known throughout the Tennessee JUCO ranks for the way he shoots the basketball.
   "Eric is one of the top three-point shooters in the Tennessee Junior College league," Wallingford said. "We probably haven't had that dimension on our team. We had to increase our ability to score from the outside. Eric, can really shoot it. He's got two years of junior college experience under his belt, and we look forward to having him.
   "Of course Michael (Morrell) was really our only consistent outside shooter last year, so we felt we really had to improve in that area."
   Milligan also met its needs in the post this recruiting season by signing two 6-7 kids from the IMAC.
   Greeneville's Bradley Blair is a guy that Wallingford thinks could be a steal for the Buffs. Blair played in the shadows of 6-10 Chattanooga signee Matt Malone, but Wallingford feels real confident about Blair's abilities.
   "Bradley just continued to get better and better throughout his career at Greeneville," Wallingford said. "I'm excited to have him, because he has good offensive skills and he's a hard worker. There's a lot of talent there."
   Malone was 6-10 and had signed with UTC and was getting much of the attention, but when you look at the meat and potatoes of that team, Bradley was right there getting it done. He was doing a good job in all areas; defensively, rebounding, scoring. We're really glad to have him. He's going to help us inside.
   Wallingford feels 6-7 Morristown West standout Channing Richardson has some work to do on his game, but his new coach feels he will be an asset to the program.
   "Channing is another player that has a lot of potential," Wallingford said. "He needs strength right now. We're going to work with him in that area. He's got good skills. He's a good athlete. We just feel right now it's going to take him awhile physically to develop."
   Two signees, Hancock County's Aaron Seal and Johnson County's Matt Cornett, will redshirt their first year in West Carter County.
   Seal is being redshirted due to a car accident he had recently.
   "He's a hard-nosed point guard," Wallingford said. "Excellent assist man, team leader, coaches son, that type of thing."
   Cornett, who will also play golf for Wallingford and may do some track while at Milligan, led the Watauga Conference in scoring his junior year and led all scorers in this year's Region I-AA Tournament.
   Cornett is being moved from the inside to the perimeter, and Wallingford wants to give him a year to adjust.
   "We wanted to give him the opportunity to develop perimeter skills that he had, but he's primarily played inside for Johnson County the last two years," Wallingford said. "We're going to give him the opportunity to work out there on the perimeter, and I think he will be comfortable in that position with that one-year redshirt."
   The class is definitely a talented one, but also has local flavor. Five of the six are from Northeast Tennessee.
   "We want to do a good job here in our region," Wallingford said. "It goes in cycles as far as our needs. Sometimes there is a good player locally, but he might be playing a position that we can't spend scholarship money on. But whenever we can fill a position with a quality local player from our region, we're going to do it."
   Overall, Wallingford feels this is going to be a good class.
   "Each one is going to contribute in their own way and make us a better team," he said.