Previewing the Panthers: '19 New Arrivals

By Brady Weiler and David Salmon

In just a few short months, Georgia State head coach Rob Lanier has assembled a staff and has been hot on the recruiting trail bringing in players to his first ever signing class. One scholarship remains up for grabs in this class, but as the semester draws nearer and players are officially becoming Panthers, here’s a recap of the class to date:

The Freshmen:

F Joe Jones (C/F, 6’10, 225) – Orangeville Prep, Mono, Ontario, by way of Buffalo, New York

In what will soon be clear is a theme for this signing class, Joe Jones is a force in the post.

He’s quick for his size, runs the floor well and has a decent offensive game with a lot of potential for growth. Speaking of the size, it’s fair to say he’s got the size to compete in the paint in Sun Belt basketball already. A college strength program is going to help him continue to bulk up, but we don’t think he’ll be out of place as far as size and length from the get-go.

His blocking ability and general interior relentlessness is really what jumps as far as what he brings right now. He’s not going to have the kind of size disadvantages he had in prep school in college, but he works hard down low and that’s a good indicator of future success. He rebounds well and has the size and ability to affect shots inside the paint. Not to mention, he’s related to college basketball frontcourt royalty. Greg Oden, the former #1 NBA pick and Ohio State standout, is his brother.

There are spots up for grabs in the Georgia State frontcourt for the 2019/2020 season, perhaps making it no surprise that the frontcourt has been such an emphasis for Rob Lanier in his first year’s signing class. Joe is listed as a center on the team’s roster, so it seems like he could be playing a lot of 5 but with the flexibility to play the 4 at times. Jones brings a lot of what Coach Lanier is looking for, and for this reason it would be surprising to see him getting minutes from day 1.

Jalen Thomas (F, 6’10, 220) – University of Detroit Jesuit, Detroit, Michigan

Jalen Thomas does exactly what you would expect someone of his height to do, and that’s dominate smaller opponents. Physically he looks to be a force on the block, using his long arms to block shots and he can extend longer than most defenders around him. While he still has room to grow as far as footwork is concerned, he puts himself in great position to receive the basketball, and is an adept finisher at the rack. He also showcased more than one post move, which is very impressive for a high school center. It will be interesting to see how he fares against tougher, more physical competition at the collegiate level.

As with Joe Jones, the main takeaway with Jalen is size, size, size. And at 6’10”, he projects as an on-the-block forward. With his size, he might end up doing some serious damage to both rims and fellow Sun Belt players that dare test his ability to dunk a basketball.

The Transfers:

JoJo Toppin (G, 6’6, 190) – University of Georgia [Norcross HS, Norcross, Georgia]

The first transfer of the Coach Lanier era comes by way of the University of Georgia. Viewing any tape on JoJo Toppin, it becomes very apparent he makes a living getting to the basket. Toppin is very aggressive, can finish using both hands, and doesn’t mind attempting shots with multiple defenders around him. While he is by no means a spot up shooter, his ability to create space on the perimeter and shoot jumpers will force defenses to at least honor him from out there. Defenders will have a tough decision switching onto the 6’ 6” guard due to his speed and athleticism which should allow him to blow past bigger guys, and create space to shoot over smaller guards.

JoJo’s game-high in minutes for the Bulldogs was 15, so he hasn’t really had the time to show what he can do at the college level – he will sit out the 2019-2020 season and have 3 years of eligibility to do just that. In the new taller Panthers lineup, look for him to occupy a defensive spot on the wing, but he should be able to move around on offense, creating movement and space, while attacking the basket when he gets the ball down the lane.

Eliel Nsoseme (C/F, 6’8, 195) – University of Cincinnati [RISE Centre Academy, Ontario, by way of Kinshasa, Congo]

Eliel Nsoseme, like JoJo Toppin above, is a transfer from a major program – in Eliel’s case, Cincinnati. He is going to redshirt this season and be able to play two more seasons for Georgia State.

Eliel never developed a full offensive game in his time under Mike Cronin at Cinncinati, but he’s going to have a year to sit and hone in on that. He transferred (ostensibly) to earn more playing time and create a bigger role for himself, and his offense is where he needs to make a jump to get the playing time he wants at Georgia State. But, with the energy he brings – especially in the rebounding game – his floor is being a solid role player for this team. He’s a hard worker, making it easy to understand why a coach like Mick Cronin wanted him to be a part of his program. That work ethic translates to the court, where he’s shown the ability to use his length to defend anywhere on the floor. He was a prolific blocker in his limited minutes during the 2018 season and every indication is that Coach Lanier wants his big men to be enforcers in the paint.

The last thing Eliel brings is something the very promising big men in this class don’t have yet – D1 experience. It’s true – by the time he’s eligible to play in the 2020/21 season, the freshmen bigs will have a season under their belt. But given the fact that no significant contributor from GSU’s frontcourt is returning, Nsoseme’s experience could be invaluable to a budding rotation of bigs in 2019/20. He may know the right thing to say and can show the young players the right way to practice and put in work outside of gametime, because he’s walked the walk before. There’s a lot to like about Eliel’s game for when he can play in 2020, but he still has a lot to offer for this season.

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