The Citadel is slated to return the top five scorers — and eight of the top nine — from the highest-scoring basketball team in Division I next season.
And on Friday, Bulldogs coach Duggar Baucom announced the signing of all-state players Kaiden Rice and Tariq Simmons, capping a five-man recruiting class that Baucom believes will help The Citadel take a step forward in the Southern Conference.
Rice, a 6-7 forward from Ridge View High School, and Simmons, a 6-2 guard from Keenan HS, join early signees Hayden Brown, a 6-5 wing from from Byrnes HS, and 6-8 forwards Rob Johnson and Derek Webster Jr., both from Florida.
“We are thrilled to have Kaiden and Tariq join our signing class,” said Baucom, whose team won three of its last four games in 2016-17 to finish at 12-21 overall and 4-14 in the SoCon. “They are both high-character kids who were well coached in very successful high school programs.
"This group collectively in their high school careers won four state high school championships and competed in two other state final appearances. They all bring a habit of hard work and a culture of winning to our young program."
Rice averaged 16 points and seven rebounds per game last season and was the player of the year in his region. He was picked for the S.C. North-South all-star game and was named Class AAAA all-state after leading Ridge View to the third round of the state playoffs.
Rice played AAU ball for Central Carolina Force and plans to major in mechanical engineering at The Citadel. He reportedly had offers from Army and Navy.
“Kaiden is a long, fluid athlete with an offensive skill set that is perfect for our up-tempo offense,” Baucom said. “He can shoot the 3 with deep range and is an excellent rebounder on the wing. His length allows him to be very disruptive on the defensive end. Kaiden possesses great leadership qualities, which will be beneficial on the court and within the Corps of Cadets.”
Simmons averaged double-digits in scoring in all four of his seasons at Keenan, leading his squad to a Class AA runner-up finish with a 22-6 record last year. As a senior, he averaged 18.9 points and 4.9 rebounds per game.
He was named all-region and all-state, played for the top-ranked Upward Stars SE team during the summer of 2016, and helped Keenan to a state title as a junior. Simmons is undecided on his major at The Citadel, and reportedly had offers from Charleston Southern, College of Charleston, James Madison, S.C. State, Stephen F. Austin, Georgia Southern and Wofford.
“Tariq is a quick, strong guard who can play both point and shooting guard,” Baucom said. “While his strength is his scoring ability, his quickness and court vision allow him to create for others. He has great anticipation skills, which will make him very valuable in our pressure defense. Tariq is a fierce competitor who brings a championship pedigree to our program.”
The Bulldogs are set to return SoCon freshman of the year Preston Parks, who averaged 18.1 points per game last season, along with top-five scorers Zane Najdawi, Kaelon Harris, Quayson Williams and Frankie Johnson. Contributors Ezekiel Balogun, Matt Frierson, Leandro Allende and Tyler Burgess also are due back from a team that averaged 89.8 points per game, tops in the nation.