Success at college level can almost always be traced back to a consistent string of recruiting classes featuring talent, versatility and high-character student-athletes. Days prior to his second season at the helm of the University of Mary Marauders, Coach Joe Kittell added a foursome of high school standouts on National Signing Day that embody the term student-athlete.
“It’s not about plays, it’s about players,” Kittell said. “We recruit really good young men that happen to also be really good at basketball. These are guys that want to compete and have a strong desire to do whatever it takes to win.”
Kittell once again took care of business from a local recruiting perspective, adding Century Patriots multisport standout Lucas Mayer. The 6-foot-7, 205-pound forward will join former Bismarck Demons All-WDA guard Connor Hellebust as the second Bismarck native signed to the Marauders roster in as many recruiting classes for Kittell.
“Whenever you start the recruiting process you want to check out the class in your area, and the 2017 class is very talented” the U-Mary coach said. “Mayer is a great student-athlete and has great character. He’s very long, athletic and plays with great energy and a great motor. We’re very excited about him because he has gotten better every year that he has played.”
Mayer, who averaged 5.7 points, 5.3 rebounds and a hair under a block per game as a junior, recently capped off a senior soccer season that saw him pace the West Region in goals with 15 en route to another state tournament appearance.
“He’s fast, and he can stop-and-start,” Kittell said of how his skill on the pitch translate to the court. “Obviously being able to jump is important as well as great endurance and conditioning.”
He will be joined on the 2017 Marauders roster by fellow West Region standout Justin Engg. The 6-foot-5, 205-pound forward and Minot Magicians captain boasts a decorated resume that includes a pair of state championships, an All-WDA tournament team listing and honor roll-caliber success in the classroom.
“Engg is another tremendous student and great young man,” Kittell said. “Last year he was a starter on a state championship team, and he is the type of player we need in the Northern Sun because he can play multiple positions.”
Like Mayer, Engg has found success in multiple sports, as he qualified for state in the long jump and previously played wide receiver and defensive back for the Magicians football team.
Kittell rounds out a trio of North Dakota signings with Wyatt Carr, a highly-recruited point-scoring machine from Hazen high school. As a junior, he averaged 29.7 points, 5.7 rebounds, 6.0 assists and 3.0 steals per game, and will enter his senior season with the Bison having already crossed the 1,000-career point plateau.
Consistent with a growing theme, Carr also won a Class A state football championship in 2013 as a linebacker before making a fluid switch to quarterback and tossing 25 touchdowns on 66 percent completion as a junior.
“Wyatt is one of those guys we started recruiting as soon as we could,” Kittell said. “He puts up numbers both during the high school as well as the summer. He competes at a high level and was highly recruited both for basketball and football. “For us to snag him, that was a good one.”
The second-year Marauders coach also crossed the state border to sign versatile Minnesota Native Zac Olson from Waterville-Elysian-Morristown high school. He is a two-time Most Valuable Player award winner, a three-time first-team all-conference selection as well as a three-time Gopher Conference champion.
Olson averaged 24.1 points, 10.4 rebounds and 2.4 assists during a junior season in which he played both forward and guard. He enters his final season having already set school records for career points (1,562), rebounds (802) and blocks (193).
“Zac is a very tough kid,” Kittell said. “Every time I watched him play I never had to question his toughness, his passion, his energy or his drive. He possesses great size (6-foot-5, 225 pounds) and can play multiple positions, which gives us some nice options to work with.”
Having added four accomplished, high-character student-athletes to his 2017 roster, Kittell now shifts his focus to building on an outstanding first season that saw the Marauders post a 19-12 regular season record and a pair of postseason victories just one year removed from a nine-win season.
U-Mary is scheduled to open the regular season on the road in Bolivar, Mo. against the Lincoln University of Missouri Blue Tigers on Friday at 1:30 p.m.