Colonel men's basketball team adds five signees to the 2020 class

The Eastern Kentucky University men's basketball bench and head coach A.W. Hamilton cheer on the Colonels during a game last season in Richmond.  

The Colonel men’s basketball team is welcoming a new recruiting class with the goal of heading back to Evansville for the Ohio Valley Conference tournament next season.

Head coach A.W. Hamilton announced five new additions to the program last week.

The five signees are Devontae Blanton, Matt Cromer, Cheikh Faye, Brandon Knapper and Cooper Robb.

Blanton comes to EKU from St. Edward High School in Lakewood, Ohio. While at St. Edward, Blanton scored 1,000 career points, started all four years and helped the Eagles reach two state final fours. St. Edward had won 19 consecutive games and was ranked No. 1 in Ohio and No. 18 in the country by MaxPreps before this season was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Blanton was voted second team all-state as a senior after averaging 18.3 points and 6.5 rebounds-per-game, while shooting 43 percent from behind the arc.

He also picked up many accolades during his high school career. Blanton was named to all-tournament teams for the Cleveland Scholastic Play-by-Play Classic and the Flying to the HoopBasketball Invitational.

As a junior, Blanton led St. Edward in scoring, rebounding and assists.

“Devontae checks all the boxes when it comes to recruiting,” Hamilton said in a press release. “He comes from a basketball family, a winning program at St. Edward, and he loves to compete. We’re very excited to get a well-rounded, well-coached player with a tremendous basketball IQ. Devontae’s versatility fits our style perfectly and will be a huge asset for our team.”

The next signee for Eastern, Cromer, is a local player out of South Laurel High School in London, KY. He has accepted a preferred walk-on spot with the Colonels. 

Cromer was voted the 13th Region Player of the Year and first team all-state after averaging 24.7 points and 8.5 rebounds-per-game this season. He was also selected to play in the Kentucky/Ohio Senior All-Star Game before it was canceled due to COVID-19 concerns.

Cromer scored more than 2,000 points in his South Laurel career. 

“Matt is a very talented player who had a tremendous senior season at South Laurel,” Hamilton said. “He’s been well coached and has a high basketball IQ. We are thrilled to welcome another decorated Kentucky high school player into our program.”

Faye is the next Colonel to join the men’s basketball program. Faye comes to EKU from Chipola junior college in Marianna, Florida where he averaged 12.4 points and 3.9 rebounds-per-game while shooting 38 percent from three-point range and 82 percent from the free throw line this season as a sophomore. 

Faye was voted second team All-Panhandle Conference both years at Chipola.

Faye is originally from Fatick, Senegal. He was a member of The NBA Academy Africa’s inaugural class in May 2017. He competed for The NBA Academy Africa in the 2017 NBA Academy Games in Canberra, Australia, where his team finished as the tournament champions. In December 2017, Faye and The NBA Academy competed against top international prospects at the Get Better Academy Invitational in Prague, Czech Republic.

Before joining The NBA Academy Africa, Faye participated in the Basketball Without Borders Global camp in New Orleans during the 2017 NBA All-Star Weekend.

“Cheikh has a great basketball pedigree, as he comes from a line of tradition-rich, winning programs,” Hamilton said. “Starting out at SEED Academy, with stops at NBA Africa and Chipola College, we are getting a student-athlete who exudes winning habits, both on and off the floor. Basketball-wise, Cheikh fits perfectly into our culture and system. He was a two-time all-conference selection in one of the best junior college leagues in the country. He’s skilled, versatile, 6’7” and can really make shots. The most intriguing thing about Cheikh is he has not even scratched the surface of his full potential.”

Robb committed to EKU on March 27 and has officially signed his National Letter of Intent. 

Less than a week since he announced that he would be transferring from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Robb made the decision to join the EKU men’s basketball team.

This move will reunite two former Scott County teammates. EKU freshman forward Michael Moreno played with Robb at Scott County. Robb and Moreno combined for more than 3,500 points and two KHSAA Sweet 16 tournament appearances together, including a trip to the 2018 state championship game against Covington Catholic.

In their final season together at Scott County, Robb and Moreno led the Cardinals to a 37-2 record.

EKU is coached by a former Scott County standout. Hamilton is entering his third season leading the Colonels.

“It’s always a great day when a local hero comes home,” Hamilton said. “I’m excited to welcome Cooper Robb back to Kentucky, and I know he is going to be special for us in our biggest games. Cooper had a tremendous high school career playing for legendary coach Billy Hicks at Scott County.” 

Hamilton said that Colonel fans will enjoy watching Cooper on the hardwood next season. 

“Our fans will absolutely love Cooper’s toughness and ability to make winning plays. He has proven himself at the collegiate level coming from Charlotte. He brings so many intangibles while having the ability to create shots, pass and handle the ball,” Hamilton said.

The last to sign their National Letter of Intent is a transfer guard from West Virginia University, Knapper. Knapper committed to EKU on April 10.  

The 6’0 guard was named to the Academic All-Big 12 men’s basketball second team and played in 27 games last season. He averaged 2.6 points per game for the Mountaineers.

Knapper’s highest scoring game last season was in a win over No. 22 Texas Tech when he scored 10 points and grabbed four rebounds. 

Before heading to Morgantown to play for WVU, Knapper played for coach Hamilton at Hargrave Academy. Hargrave won 43 games in 2016-17 and advanced to the National Final Four. During his time at Hargrave, Knapper averaged 18 points and 3.1 assists per game. As a team, Hargrave averaged a whopping 114 points per game.

Hamilton and the EKU men’s basketball program signed guard Wendell Green Jr. from Detroit and La Lumiere School last fall. 

The six signees in the 2020 recruiting class will be joining a team that made it to the semifinals of the OVC tournament and finished the season with a 16-17 record and 12-6 conference mark.

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