BELLEVILLE — In the midst of a battle for the Great Rivers Athletic Conference title Southwestern Illinois College basketball coach Jay Harrington still has time for other activities.
Like recruiting top local talent.
Harrington announced Thursday that Falando Wilkinson of Collinsville, Hunter Reine of Roxana and Kyle Lemons from Francis Howell North High School in St. Charles, Mo., have given verbal commitments to join the Blue Storm beginning with the 2013-14 season.
"We are thrilled to have these young men join our program and our school,'' Harrington said. "As basketball players, they are all three very talented. But more importantly, they are even better people who come from wonderful families.
"They are the type of student-athletes we want in our basketball program.''
The 6-foot, 2-inch Wilkinson has been a bright spot in what otherwise has been a long season at Collinsville. The Kahoks quarterback on the court, Wilkinson is averaging 17.5 points, 5 rebounds and 2 assists per game on a team which at times has struggled to score.
"The thing I like most about Falando is his basketball IQ. The young man is just very smart and really knows how to play the game,'' Harrington said. "He's treated a lot like our Keanu (Post) in that teams are very physical with him and make it hard for him to touch the basketball once he gives it up.
"But he's still averaging 17 points a game. That tells me something right there.''
Harrington said Wilkinson will play both point guard and off-guard for the Blue Storm.
"Also, the kid can flat out shoot the basketball. A college coach told me that Falando reminds him of Jerry Eaves, who played at Louisville a few years back,'' Harrington said. "To some he may look slow, but when he needs to, Falando can play fast as well. He knows how to pace himself.''
In the 6-9 220-pound Reine, the Blue Storm landed a player who has been one of the best in the metro-east for the past two years.
Reine is averaging 18 points and 13 rebounds for a Shells, who are 23-7 heading into the title game of the Class 2A Staunton Regional. Reine also recently scored his 2,000th career point.
"That doesn't happen very often,'' Harrington said of Reine's accomplishment. "Hunter is a big, strong kid we feel could be a very good college player. He's a power forward/center combination with good hands who can shoot the basketball.''
Harrington has little doubt Reine can play at the NJCAA Division I level.
"We've had several small-school players come in and excel in our program. I know Hunter is excited and anxious to show what he can do,'' Harrington said. "He's played with the St. Louis Eagles. That tells me a lot right there.''
In Lemons, a 6-5 guard, SWIC may have landed a missing piece of its puzzle.
Ranked among the top 10 scorers in the St. Louis-area at 22.8 points per game, Lemons is a pure shooter.
"If there was one thing missing from our basketball team this year, it's that we don't have the one big jump shooter. Kyle Lemons is a pure jump shooter and at 6-5 and with the ability to really get up in the air, he can shoot over people,'' Harrington said. "He broke his collarbone the first game of the season, but since he's been back, he's had a pair of 38-point games and a 40-point game.
"Plus he's a great kid. All three of our recruits are just great kids.''