By Brandon Roberts/Sports Writer

Along with a handful of returning players from last years’ squad, there will be several new players sporting the Colonel maroon on the basketball floor for the upcoming season. Last season, the Colonels graduated five players but since have reloaded with the addition of nine new members to the team. Eastern’s recruiting class ranks among the top 30 in the nation.

“This recruiting class will be great for publicity in the future,” coach Travis Ford said. “We spent a lot of time recruiting.”

Zach Ingles (6-2, 190), one of Eastern’s junior college recruits, credits the coaching staff for his decision.

“Assistant coach Tim Maloney was the main reason for my decision,” Ingles said. “Any assistant with that kind of fire and determination makes me want to be around. I also just needed a change of scenery.”

Ingles spent the past two seasons at Pasco-Hernando Junior College in New Port Richey, Fla.

Jason McLeish (6-0, 165) is another recruit from the junior college ranks. A native of Queens, N.Y., he played two seasons at Westchester Junior College and earned Mid-Hudson Conference player of the year.

Ryan Wiersma (6-6, 220) attended Hargrave Military Academy in Chatam, Va., and was listed as the 105th best prep school standout in the country.

Wiersma is originally from Newark, Ohio. He chose Eastern over Cleveland State, Toledo, Winthrop and Wright State.

Darnell Dials (6-8, 200) attended Lafayette High School in Lexington. Dialls was named First Team All-State among other awards his senior year. He came to Eastern after considering Southern Illinois, Austin Peay, and Appalachian State.

“These players are very exciting,” Ford said. “We have an interesting mix of players on the floor this season.”

Recruiting became more important with the injury to guard Ben Rushing.

“Rushing will return,” Ford said. “I’d say he’ll play a majority of this season.”

This recruiting class will definitely give Eastern the firepower necessary to handle the adversity of any untimely injury. The recruits along with the returning players give the Colonels depth they haven’t seen in some time.

“Returning players are the key element,” Ford said. “They bring experience to the court.”

Another Eastern recruit is guard Stephen Gabbard (6-4, 185). Gabbard played his high school ball at Jackson County High School and is a native of Annville, Ky.

The third and final junior college recruit is forward Alonzo Hird. Hird (6-2, 205) is a native of Deland, Fla. He played two seasons at Santa Fe Junior College.

Forward Brandin Bivins adds some size inside for the Colonels. The native of McDonough, Ga., and graduate of Union Grove High School is 6-7 and 175 pounds.

Also adding to the Colonel roster are freshman Bubba Long and Brendan Heaney.

Long is from Owensboro, Ky. and Heaney is from Clayton, Ohio.

Individual workouts begin Aug. 30 and team practices begin Oct. 16. The Colonel’s first game of the season is Nov. 20 at the University of Dayton, and the first home game is Nov. 23 when they face Webster University.

The Colonels will also be on the road this season taking on teams such as Western Kentucky University, the University of Louisville and the University of Florida.

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