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Men's Basketball - Wed, Sep. 13, 2017

ST. LOUIS— Missouri Baptist Men's Basketball announced the signing of its nine-man recruiting class for the 2017-18 season. 

With just six members of last year's squad returning, it's this year's new additions that will be expected to step in and contribute immediately. Head Coach Matt Brock and staff reloaded with four new freshman in addition to a group of five transfers.

The transfer class is headlined by graduate senior Fitzgerald Hopkins. Hopkins (5-11, G) will be familiar with the landscape after spending the last three seasons at AMC opponent Freed-Hardeman. The Fayetteville, Tenn. native led the Lions in points per game (12.6) and assists (126) in 2016, earning him a Second-Team All-AMC selection in addition to an All-NAIA Honorable Mention nod.

"After losing three senior guards to graduation that played a majority of minutes in the last two years, we felt like we needed some experience on the perimeter," Brock said. "Fitz is a proven guard who can shoot it, score it and run the team. We are excited about what he brings to the table."

The Spartans graduated a key piece at the forward spot in the form of David Gabrovsek so the additions of Torrance Littles (6-8, JR) and Zach Beel (6-7, R-FR) will be key in filling the void. Littles comes to MBU from Trinidad State (Colo.) where he played 25 games and shot 56 percent from the field in 2016. Beel redshirted at Maryville University (Mo.) last season after a standout prep career at Woodland High School in Marble Hill, Mo. Beel averaged 14.3 points per game and was named to the All-Missouri Team as a senior in 2015.

Karson King and Joel Baskin are two more transfer pieces expected to contribute substantial minutes. King is another new addition via Maryville University. The 6-6 junior forward averaged 5.7 points per game and tied for the team lead in rebounds with 5.3 per game in 2016. Baskin (6-4, G) played at Hinds Community College (Miss.) last season where he posted 10.9 points per game and 4.6 rebounds per game.

Brock was optimistic when it came to the depth the incoming transfer class provides:

"Karson is skilled and can really pass and rebound. Torrance is long and can really run the floor. Zach is athletic and can shoot the ball from the perimeter a little bit. That group combined with Andrew [Howard] and Pablo [Hernandez] should make for a strong rotation inside. At the guard spot, Joel Baskin is another addition who has good size on the wing and can really shoot the ball."

This year's freshman class features two international additions. Jesus Castillo (6-6, G/F) is MBU's second import from Spain, joining junior forward Pablo Hernandez. Castillo is a native of Malaga, Spain where he was a City Champion and an Andalucia State Champion. He also played for Unicaja Basketball Club, one of the premier clubs in Europe. Geri Kozma is a 6-4 guard from Szombathely, Hungary. Kozma last played for the Falco Basketball Academy in his home country and was also invited to the Hungarian U-20 National Camp.

"This freshman class has great potential. We have five very solid freshmen (including Zach Beel). Jesus played at a high level in Spain and has great size and range. Geri is a big guard with good feel."

Two additions from within the state lines of Missouri round out the freshman class. Matt Sommer (5-11, G) starred at Nevada High School (Nevada, Mo.) where he posted 14 points per game in leading the Tigers to the Class 4 District 12 State Championship game. John Yaeger (6-4, G) averaged 21.3 points per game for Lutheran South HS (Mo.) and joined the school's 1000 point club in 2016.

"John is a versatile scorer and Matt is a great leader and playmaker," Brock added. "Overall, I think fans will love to see this freshman group develop over the next few years."

The Spartans open their 2017 campaign at home on November 4 against Baptist Bible College.