The University of Toledo's two new basketball coaches seem to be forming a local connection, specifically with the City League and more specifically with Start High School.
Rocket men's coach Gene Cross has landed a verbal commitment from Devin Russell, an 18-year-old, 6-foot-9, 210-pound power forward who will be a senior this coming school year at Start.
Russell's Spartan classmate, 6-1 post player Yolanda Richardson, was the first recruit secured by new UT women's coach Tricia Cullop a few months back.
"It's a nice college and [Cross] is turning the program around," Russell said of his primary reason for committing to UT. "I think it'll be a nice fit for me staying close to home.
"Coach Cross starting talking to me when I was in
Pittsburgh for an AAU tournament, and ever since then we've been in touch."
Russell averaged 9.5 points and three blocked shots per game for the Spartans as a junior, and led the City League in rebounding at 12.6 a contest.
At UT he will join CL opponent and Clay senior Zac Taylor, a 6-9 forward who was recruited and signed during the tenure of former Rocket men's coach Stan Joplin.
Cross, a former assistant at Notre Dame, recently landed former Scott, Maumee and Libbey player Chris Poellnitz, currently a junior college sophomore, for the 2009-10 season.
"Coach Cross was just all about academics first," Russell said, "and also making me a better person and a basketball player. He was very energetic about building the program, and he seemed like the type of guy I'd like to play for."
Russell is a member of the Ohio Gators AAU program, which includes Start teammate Anthony Henderson, St. John's Jesuit players Michael Taylor and Tim Simmons and Ottawa Hills standout Phillip Beans.
"He's worked very hard and gotten a lot better," Start boys coach Gil Guerrero said of Russell. "He has improved all of his skills. Coach Cross is looking for big kids, and Devin has been playing real well in the summer."
- Steve Junga