New blood: UTA men's basketball welcomes 7 newcomers

Redshirt forward Grayson Carter high-fives children before a game against Arkansas State University on Feb. 13 at College Park Center.

Before the men’s basketball team heads into an uncertain 2020-21 season, seven newcomers join the team to round out its 16-player roster.

Two returners in freshman forward Tre Jones and sophomore forward Grayson Carter will make their Maverick debut after redshirting during the 2019-20 campaign.

Here’s what you can expect from the Maverick newcomers before they take the court at some point late in 2020.

Tre Jones and Grayson Carter

The forward duo sat out the 2019-20 season for different reasons. Jones was nursing a knee injury, and Carter was sitting out to comply with NCAA transfer rules.

Before Jones came to UTA, he was a 4A all-state selection at Kennedale High School. The Arlington native averaged 17 points, 13 rebounds, 3 blocks and 2.6 steals per game in his senior year at Kennedale.

Jones said some of the strengths of his game include his defense, rebounding and high basketball IQ. He said he wants to work on staying conditioned throughout the season and making smart plays on offense.

Carter transferred to UTA from Georgetown University before last season. He played 14 games for the Hoyas, averaging 1.1 points per game.

Head coach Chris Ogden describes Carter as having an “all-around” skill-set.

Kaodirichi Akobundu-Ehiogu

Akobundu-Ehiogu joins the Mavericks as one of the team’s three walk-ons.

Before coming to UTA, the sophomore forward averaged 0.88 points per game at Southwestern Assemblies of God University in the 2018-19 season.

The Mesquite native brings length and athleticism to the team, according to Ogden.

Carson Bischoff

Bischoff transferred to UTA from Utah State University. Before that, the junior guard played his sophomore season at Treasure Valley Community College and his freshman season at Utah State University Eastern.

The Ogden, Utah, native averaged 19.7 points per game his sophomore year and 6.8 points his freshman year.

Ogden said Bischoff is another high-IQ player who adds shooting to the team.

Fredelin De La Cruz

De La Cruz played at two junior colleges before joining the Mavericks. He spent his sophomore year at South Plains College and his freshman year at Los Angeles Trade-Technical College.

The junior forward played all 31 games of the season last year at South Plains, where he collected a team-high 6.8 rebounds per game.

Ogden said De La Cruz will bring his rebounding ability and toughness to the Mavericks for the 2020-21 season.

Lazaro Rojas

Rojas spent four years at Fresno State University, where he averaged 1.9 points per game. He played in 45 games for the Bulldogs, starting two.

Before committing to Fresno State, Rojas received offers from notable programs like the University of Alabama and Ohio State University.

Ogden said Rojas is a skilled player who will add size and experience to his team.

Anthony Romanelli

Romanelli is another one of the Mavericks’ three walk-ons.

He was born in Sydney, Australia, but lived in Singapore for most of his life until he and his family moved to Dallas.

Romanelli adds personality and toughness to the team, according to Ogden.

Brandyn Talbot

Talbot, an Innisfil, Ontario, native, played his senior year of high school at Dream City Christian School in Glendale, Arizona. He averaged 12.4 points per game and shot 44% from the 3-point line that year.

Before transferring to Dream City Christian, Talbot played at Bella Vista College Preparatory School in Scottsdale, Arizona. There, he was roommates with UTA sophomore guard Nicolas Elame.

Talbot adds skill and “wiggle” to the Mavericks, Ogden said.

Shahada Wells

Wells was an NJCAA Division-I First Team All-American in his last year at Tyler Junior College. He was also named Region XIV Player of the Year.

The Amarillo native said he was drawn to UTA by former guard Brian Warren and sophomore guard McKade Marquis. Wells was coached by Marquis’ dad, Mike Marquis, for two years at Tyler Junior College.

He said his strengths as a player include his scoring and passing ability and his ability to uplift a team. He wants to work on his 3-point shooting, ballhandling and defense ahead of his first year at UTA.

Ogden said the new class of players helps fill areas of need that were left behind after last season. The new recruits help in rebounding, physicality, shooting and playmaking.

The group of players have already shown Ogden they care and want to be a good team in the few practices they’ve had during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We just put together a class that fills a lot of different needs,” Ogden said.


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