HARTSVILLE, S.C. - Coker University men's basketball has added seven signees for 2019-20, announced today (Monday, July 15) by first-year head coach Jarred Merrill. Royce Hunter, Jaylin Stewart, KJ Harris, Noel Pinnock, Sparky Fabre, Williams Onyeodi and Chris Swiney have signed on to play basketball at Coker. Harris and Pinnock will have three years to play since they were only freshmen a season ago. In total, the Cobras will bring in four transfers and three true freshmen.
Hunter joins Coker from Coastal Bend College, where he was a member of the basketball team. In a Coastal Bend uniform, he averaged 15.4 points per game, 4.0 rebounds per game and 2.0 assists per game while also being named Second Team All-Conference. He had nine games where he scored at least 20 points, including a season-high 26 against Blinn Junior College. He also attended Ranger Junior College as a freshman, where he averaged 7.0 points per game under Billy Gillispie. Before junior college, he was a member of the J. Frank Dobie High School basketball team. He averaged 12.6 points per game as a junior. As a senior, he averaged 21.5 points per game and 5.0 rebounds per game, and was the 6A District MVP. In the classroom, he was an honors student. He also played AAU basketball for the Houston Top Guns. The Houston, Texas native is the son of Roy and Ginger Hunter, and plans to major in business.
"Royce is very confident, he has a high basketball IQ, he really knows how to score the ball in multiple ways and he also possesses an ability to make big shots in crunch time," said Merrill. "We will be able to use Royce in a lot of ways, he's good enough to make plays in ball screen actions, isolation situations, and also understands how to read screens and shoot on the move which is very important to our style of play. Hunter has good size and strength which has helped him become an excellent rebounder at the guard position, as he had one 25 point/10 rebound game this year. The thing that I like most about him is his ability to not shy away from big moments and his overall understanding of how to play the game!"
Stewart comes to Coker from Walsingham Academy where he played basketball. He was the Tidewater Conference of Independent Schools (TCIS) Player of the Year in 2017-18, while also being a three-time All-Conference First Team selection. He was a two-time All-State selection by the VISAA, and also named a Daily Press All-Star twice. He was named the Walsingham Academy Athlete of the Year in 2018-19. In total, he scored over 2,000 points, dished out over 500 assists and pulled down 500 rebounds during his high school career. Away from the hardwood, he was the leader of his school's Spirit Club for two years. He also played AAU basketball for Team Richmond Garner Road. The Petersburg, Va. native is the son of Terrelle Stewart, and plans to major in business.
"Good ole Stew, this young man will be loved by Cobra fans on and off the court, his infectious attitude, competitiveness, and outlook on the game will be a huge boost for our program," said Merrill. "Jaylin is a very skilled offensive player, he knows how to make others better with the pass, but also knows that he's a gifted player who has always been able to score the ball. His ability to make three's and also drive the ball to score or make others better will help us going forward. There aren't many freshmen who have his body with the ability to still be silky smooth. I'm looking forward to great things from Stewart. What stands out the most to me about Jaylin is his competitive edge and his strive to be great. He's a gym rat, and that will help him become the player we all envision that he can be!"
Harris joins the Cobras from Otero Junior College where he was a member of the basketball team. In an Otero uniform, he averaged 8.0 points per game and 6.0 assists per game. He shot 43.5 percent from downtown and 52.0 percent from the field last year. He also posted eight double-digit assist games while ranking 11thin JUCO in assist to turnover ratio and also ranking 22ndin assists. Prior to junior college, Harris played basketball at McKinney North High School. He averaged 14.0 points per game, 5.0 assists per game and 4.0 rebounds per game and he was also named All-District Team Most Valuable Player. Academically, he was a member of the National Honor Society. The McKinney, Texas native is the son of Valerie and Kenneth Harris, and plans to major in business.
"KJ is a player that we're extremely grateful to have in our program, he has the ability to score at all three levels, has a very high basketball IQ, and he really enjoys making others better with his unselfishness and court vision," said Merrill. "Harris is able to make the three-point shot off the bounce or in catch and shoot situations, this will really help our team moving forward. With KJ having three years of eligibility, I believe he will only continue to progress and grow as a player, he really loves the game. What I love most about him is that he does not turn the ball over, having players that valuable the basketball and are willing to take the focus off of themselves is vital to team success!"
Pinnock comes to Hartsville from Redlands Community College where he was a member of the basketball team. He scored a career high 20 points on three occasions and averaged 10.0 points per game and 4.0 rebounds per game. Before community college, he was a member of the Fort Bend Elkins High School basketball team. He was named Honorable Mention in 2015-16, and the team was a state finalist in 2016-17. Academically, he was named cum laude in 2016 and also a member of the honor roll. He also played AAU basketball for M&E Elite, who were the 2016 EYBL Big Cup Champions. The Houston, Texas native is the son of Noel and Tiffany Pinnock, and plans to major in business.
"Noel is a young man who is incredibly cultured, intelligent and well spoken, and because of that he will be great in the community, on campus, and in the locker room," said Merrill. "Part of being a consistent player on the floor starts with being a consistent person off the floor, and Noel is just that. His ability to handle the ball and get to the rim driving right or left and finish at or above the rim will be a huge asset to our program. Noel has a great body that will only get better over the next three years that he's with us here at Coker. Pinnock's gift of being able to make outside shots and use his skill to put the ball on the floor will be great for us, he's a player that can actually play the shooting guard through center positions. The thing I love most about Noel is his size, strength, skill level, and his ability to play and guard multiple positions on the floor!"
Fabre comes to Coker from Lake Brantley High School where he was a member of the basketball team. In a Patriots uniform, he averaged 15.0 points per game, 5.0 assists and 4.0 rebounds per game. He was also named First Team All-Conference and All-Area Honorable Mention in 2019. Academically, he was a member of the honor roll and he was also involved in peer counseling and the sunshine club. The Longwood, Fla. native is the son of Sheffie and Gudrun Fabre, and plans to major in either business or sports management.
"Anybody with a name like Sparky has to have an edge, our fans will love the energy and relentlessness that this young man plays with," said Merrill. "Sparky is a kid that will never back down from anything on the court, he just has another gear when he has the ball in his hands. Fabre will help us on the defensive end of the floor because he can really pester the ball and is a multiple effort kid. On the offensive end, he is a ball of lightning in ball screens and excels in isolation situations because of his size and speed. What stands out most to me about Sparky is his heart and loyalty to his friends, family and teammates!"
Onyeodi comes to Hartsville from Fayetteville Academy where he played basketball and soccer and also competed in track and field. On the basketball court, he was selected to All-State, All-Tournament, All-Conference and 910 prep second teams. He was also part of a NCISAA 2A state championship and a regular season conference championship team. Academically, he was named to the honor roll and he was also a member of the Brave Club. He also played AAU basketball for Team Felton. The Raeford, N.C. native is the son of Franklin and Lillian Onyeodi, and plans to major in business administration.
"Wills is a player who will not only be a fan favorite but will also be a campus and community favorite, people are drawn to him because he cares about others and always has a smile on his face," said Merrill. "This young man is extremely athletic and he's just naturally strong, he's got a man's body which will help him compete as a freshman in a conference with a lot of older players. Wills can make three's, finish above the rim in the half court or in transition and he can also hit the midrange jump shot. What I love most about Onyeodi is his gift of understanding for others and his competitiveness, both of these attributes make him the perfect teammate!"
Swiney comes to Hartsville from Tallahassee Community College, where he was a member of the basketball team. He played high school basketball at Notre Dame High School, where he was a member of one Colonial Valley Conference championship team. Academically, he was a Dean's List selection. The East Orange, N.J. native is the son of Craig and Yolanda Swiney, and plans to major in exercise science.
"Chris is a player who possesses an ability to play and guard multiple spots on the floor, he will be a player that will help bolster our outside shooting and at the same time boost our basketball IQ as a team. He is player that also has great size and strength which will help him compete right away in SAC play. Chris is soft spoken, thoughtful, but yet very competitive, these gifts will help our team tremendously moving forward. The thing I love most about Chris is his calm demeanor, ability to make three's, and his willingness to be coached!"
Merrill also spoke very highly of his first Coker recruiting class as a group.
"Every young man we have signed for the 2019-2020 class comes to us from great families, we have had the opportunity to spend time and build relationships with all the families of our recruits and you can see why these kids act the way they act," said Merrill. "Not only did we attempt to diagnose top talent on the floor, but we tried to find the same off the floor and in the classroom. We want all of our young men to know that education, loyalty, honor, respect, and character will carry you long after the ball stops bouncing!"
The Cobras open their 2019-20 season at Limestone on Nov. 13.