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Raiders retool with local recruits

Brian McDermott is one thoroughbred away from hitting a recruiting trifecta.

The Southern Oregon University men's basketball coach will lose a couple of horses to graduation, but he's trying to restock his stable largely with players from the region.

On Thursday, McDermott signed Grants Pass post Jason Nunnemaker to a scholarship.

Two weeks ago, high-scoring Roseburg post Eric Thompson inked with the Raiders.

As recruiting enters the stretch run, only Hidden Valley guard Jordan Hayter is left to be reined in from southern Oregon.

— That's what we're hoping, said McDermott, who, in 10 seasons with the Raiders, has elevated the program to national prominence. He told us we're No. — right now.

The 6-foot-3 Hayter averaged 16.2 points as Hidden Valley won the Class 3A state championship with a 27-1 record, and he was named state player of the year.

McDermott was on the ground floor in recruiting Hayter and was cognizant of the Mustang star's athleticism ' Hayter was one of the state's top defenders and excels in the pole vault and hurdles in track. But the coach gained even more of an appreciation when Hayter played pick-up ball with the Raiders last week.

I knew he was good, said McDermott. I didn't know he was that good.

Hayter confirmed SOU is his top choice. He's comfortable with the coaches and players and is intrigued about playing with so many friends from southern Oregon. (The Raiders also have former Grants Pass player Matt Cowell and McDermott's son, Josh, who played at Ashland.)

Recruiting interest in Hayter escalated after the state tournament. He'll visit NCAA Division II University of Alaska Anchorage late next week and expects to make his decision upon returning.

In the meantime, he's visiting community colleges in the Albany and Portland areas this weekend to showcase his skills. playing junior-college ball, he could transfer to a four-year program without restriction.

His dream has been to play at the highest level, NCAA Division I.

I don't want to rush into anything, said Hayter, who also received late interest from Western Oregon.

McDermott feels good about SOU's chances, but, he said, in recruiting, until you have them, you don't have them.

Two other players, both from College of the Siskiyous, have signed with the Raiders: 6-4, 250-pound post Chris Rodriguez; and 6-0 off-guard Daveon Fleming.

McDermott hopes to sign three more players, including two point guards.

The Raiders, ranked No. — in the nation for part of last season, went 23-9 and lost in the first round of the national tournament.

Gone from that team are five seniors, including Shea Washington, the school's all-time leading scorer, and fellow post Jeff Williams, a strong rebounder.

McDermott acknowledged that Washington is incomparable, but he said SOU went a long way toward filling the post holes with Thompson and Nunnemaker.

I didn't think we'd ever get two high school post kids in the same class as good as the two we have coming in, said McDermott. That's just not going to happen in our situation.

The 6-7 Thompson was the state's second-leading scorer at 25.2 points per game. He began high school as a point guard, but a growth surge landed him in the paint.

We think he's as skilled a big man as you'll find, said McDermott, noting Thompson is comfortable with his back to the basket as well as facing it or taking the ball outside. I've seen him take a rebound, go the length of the floor and make the right play. We think he has a chance to be a special player at our level.

Thompson, who was shunned in all-state voting ' he didn't receive so much as honorable mention ' developed strong ties to the SOU coaches and really felt wanted.

When he saw the Raiders play and realized how strong they were, that made me want to go even more.

Nunnemaker, 6-7, averaged 15.5 points per game for Grants Pass and is expected to provide a strong post presence.

I can't fill Shea's shoes, said Nunnemaker, but I can sure try.

McDermott labeled him much more of a post guy.

The good thing about Jason is he's a very good post defender.

The idea of joining Thompson and possibly Hayter, with whom Nunnemaker was a teammate for years before Hayter transferred to Hidden Valley, is particularly appealing.

We know how each other works, said Nunnemaker, who has played on all-star teams with Thompson. As far as college, you usually don't have players coming in who have played together. It should be easy to come together.

That prospect has McDermott champing at the bit.

Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 776-4479, or e-mail Raiders retool with local recruits "ttrower@mailtribune.com.Thompson isn't ready to give up on his pitching

Eric Thompson of Roseburg has signed on to play basketball for Southern Oregon University, but baseball remains a part of his future.

The hard-throwing, 6-foot-7 right-hander is one reason the Indians are ranked No. — in the state. He's 3-0 and shut out Klamath Union on a four-hitter in his most recent outing.

SOU doesn't have a baseball program, and Thompson has been contacted by nearly every small-college coach in the state for baseball, he said, as well as scouts for the Los Angeles Dodgers and Cleveland Indians.

But, having just turned 18, he has two seasons left of summer American Legion ball. He could also find semipro opportunities.

Signing with Southern Oregon didn't totally eliminate baseball, said Thompson. I have a few options.

He'll be seen by a lot of scouts this spring, so pro ball is not out of the question. Thompson's fastball was clocked at 91 mph last season, he said, after beginning the year in the 86-87 range. He started out this year in the 89-90 range.

I'm not closed to that idea, he said of turning pro. I'm pretty open to it, but nothing's for sure, nothing's set in stone. It's out there.

First, he'd have to be drafted in June. Then, he'd have to get a really good offer.

I'm a really firm believer in going to college first and getting my education first, he said. It would have to be one of those deals where it's really hard to say no.

' Tim Trower