Where are they now? The Keatts recruits that never came to UNCW

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Where are they now? The Keatts recruits that never came to UNCW

Kevin Keatts, head coach of the UNCW Seahawks, raises the game net over his head after winning a second consecutive CAA tournament title.

Kevin Keatts, head coach of the UNCW Seahawks, raises the game net over his head after winning a second consecutive CAA tournament title.

Kevin Keatts, head coach of the UNCW Seahawks, raises the game net over his head after winning a second consecutive CAA tournament title.

Kevin Keatts, head coach of the UNCW Seahawks, raises the game net over his head after winning a second consecutive CAA tournament title.

Brandon Sans, Sports Editor

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When then-coach Kevin Keatts left UNC Wilmington, all five recruits he signed for the 2017-18 class opted to head elsewhere as well.

This loss of five recruits (and four starters) left the newly-hired C.B. McGrath with holes to plug and a limited time to plug them, having been hired in April. McGrath and his staff responded by signing Jacque Brown, Jeantal Cylla, Jay Estime, Daniel Etoroma, Jeff Gary and Trey Kalina.

On Friday, it was reported that Jeantal Cylla would be the second player (after Gary) from McGrath’s first class to transfer from the program. As Etoroma and Kalina will graduate in May, this leaves Brown and Estime as the lone recruits from two years ago.

The five recruits (and a bonus) have experienced mixed results since navigating their basketball careers away from South College Road. Here’s a look about what they’ve been up to in the two years since decommiting from UNCW.

Josh Boutte- Forward 6’6″ 225 lbs. New Iberia, La.

After opting out of his commitment to UNCW, Boutte transferred to Sam Houston State from Dodge City Community College. He started 21 of the 23 games he appeared in, but only averaged 13.7 minutes per contest. Ultimately, he finished with 5.5 points, 3.4 rebounds, but did shoot 62 percent from the floor.

Boutte transferred again to Angelo State, a Divison II program in Texas, prior to the start of this season. It appeared he found a home after scoring 26-points in his Rams debut, followed by 19 points a game later.

However, Boutte only scored more than 11 points once after the first two games and finished with 6.9 points and 7.2 rebounds. The Rams went 21-9 and lost in the first round of the NCAA Division II tournament.

Evan Cole- Forward  6’9″ 217 lbs. Cumming, Ga.

After being released from his Letter of Intent, Cole stayed in his home state of Georgia by committing to Georgia Tech. After averaging 13.8 minutes-per-game his freshman year, Josh Pastner inserted him into the starting lineup this season.

Cole missed time with a sprained ankle and the flu which regulated him back to the bench when healthy. The time missed prevented Cole from establishing himself thus far as he averaged 4.1 points and shot 43 percent from the floor in 18 games this year.

The Yellow Jackets are 27-37 in Cole’s two years.

Zac Cuthbertson- Forward 6’7″ 195 lbs. New Bern, NC.

Cuthbertston stayed on the Carolina coast, moving south a few hours to Coastal Carolina. After averaging 14.7 points and leading the Chanticleers with 6.8 rebounds in the 2017-18 year, Cuthbertson was named to the preseason All-Sun Belt team.

He became the Chants featured player this season with 18.2 points, 8.3 rebounds and shot 36 percent from three-point range. Cuthbertson was the Chants’ leading scorer in 22 games and leading rebounder in 25 games.

Coastal won their opening round game of the CBI and sit at 16-16 this year. Cuthbertson seeks to continue Coastal’s season against West Virginia on March 25.

Clayton Hughes- Guard 6’6″ 206 lbs. Jackson, Tenn.

Keatts pulled Hughes from his Hargrave Military Academy tree after graduating from the University School of Tennessee. He was a three-time all-state selection and scored 1,5000 at the University School. Hughes ended up attending Indiana State.

Apart from a season-best 23-point effort against San Jose State, Hughes has struggled to make a mark on the stat sheet in his time as a Sycamore. In 54 games (15 starts) across two seasons, he’s averaged 3.9 points. Hughes scored five or fewer points in 20 games this season.

UPDATE 3/25: Hughes announced on Twitter that he was transferring from ISU.

Brion Whitley- Guard 6’4″ 200 lbs. Sarasota, Fla.

Whitley wound up at Murray State where he’s been part of a Racers resurgence. The program has made the NCAA tournament in back-to-back years for the first time since three consecutive years from 1997-99.

(In reality, that likely has less to do with Whitley and more to do with another sophomore guard on the Racers, but I digress.)

Whitley averaged 3.5 minutes in his freshman year but has been a part of coach Matt McMahon’s rotation this year. Even though his minutes have fluctuated throughout this year, Whitley has shot 46 percent from three-point range including a season-best three treys in 22 minutes against Spalding on Nov. 16.

12th-seed Murray State upset fifth-seed Marquette in the first round of the NCAA tournament, 83-64 and will attempt to advance to the Sweet Sixteen for the first time in program history against fourth-seed Florida State.

Mawdo Sallah*- Forward 6’9″ 235 lbs. Latri Kunda, Gambia

Sallah is a bonus here because he was not part of the Keatts would-be class, but announced his intention to spend his grad transfer year at UNCW after being recruited by McGrath. Sallah quickly backtracked on his verbal commitment to the program and ended up at Kansas State under Bruce Weber.

Sallah played in 21 games off the bench, but only played 10 or more minutes seven times. By the time KSU entered Big 12 play, Sallah’s minutes were far and few in between as he scored five total points in conference play.

The Wildcats’ did make an Elite Eight run in the NCAA tournament in Sallah’s one year in Manhattan. They lost to Cinderella-story Loyola-Chicago 78-62.

He transferred again to Radford where he started 33 games and averaged 5.6 points and 4.2 rebounds.

Sports Editor Brandon Sans can be found on Twitter @bsans10. Any tips or suggestions should be forwarded via email to bms8544@uncw.edu.