For those who follow the Georgia Southern men's basketball program closely, this year's freshmen look eerily familiar.
For example, David Viti is a 6-foot-5 sharpshooter who made 249 career 3-pointers in high school, and the 6-foot-5 Jake Allsmiller just graduated after canning the second-most 3-pointers in Georgia Southern history.
Coincidence? Not hardly.
Now in his sixth season, head coach Mark Byington and his staff have built a program at Georgia Southern. Definitive signs exist in the numbers: logging 20 wins twice in the last four seasons, notching double-digit conference wins in each of the last four years – one of three Sun Belt teams to do so - and they are also visible in the recruiting scene.
Byington is able to recruit to his system, replacing classes with student-athletes with a similar skill set and an even higher upside. That is how you go from being a one-hit wonder to a yearly title contender.
Byington credits his first full recruiting class that graduated last year.
"The seniors who graduated committed to play basketball at Georgia southern without seeing the success that we've had," he said. "They helped build a culture and I think every year, we have taken it higher in our recruiting in getting talented guys. This senior class is really talented, but if you look at our freshmen class this year, they look like they can all really play right away and we haven't sacrificed character with who we are bringing in the program. Hopefully we continue that, to keep getting high character guys, getting more talented every year and continue to raise the program."
Will Dillard, Elijah McCadden and Calvin Wishart join Viti in the freshmen class, and all four are expected to be contributors this year.
A 6-foot-2 guard, Dillard is a consensus three-star recruit and was ranked 179th in his class and 12th in North Carolina by 247Sports.com. He was considered one of the best defenders in the state but had his senior season at Greensboro Day cut short due to injuries.
"We're just starting to see him be able to go 100 percent, and he might be the best defensive player on the team already has a freshman," said Byington. "He can handle the ball and play different positions, and he's very cerebral and makes intelligent plays. He has elite athleticism, and his skill is catching up to that. He is going to make an impact because of his defensive ability and his toughness."
McCadden is a long, athletic, versatile wing who averaged 17.6 points, 8.8 rebounds and 6.1 assists as a senior at Greenfield School in Rocky Mount, N.C.
"Elijah is a prototypical player that we like to have here - 6-foot-5 with a long wingspan and he can play the 1 through the 4," said Byington. "He's understanding the aggressiveness that I like our guys to play with. He'll play multiple positions for us, and his versatility allows us to play him in combination with a bunch of different guys."
Viti averaged 15 points and seven rebounds as a senior and shot 42 percent from long distance for his career at Buford High School.
"David is our best shooter, he is athletic, and he's learning the pace of the game," said Byington. "He's already figured out ways to get shots in our offense and how to be a threat. He just has to learn how fast the game goes and how to adjust, but he's shown already that he can make shots all over the floor."
Wishart was a Minnesota Mr. Basketball finalist as a senior at Delano High School in Minnesota. The 6-foot-1 point guard averaged 31.9 points, 9.6 rebounds, 8.1 assists and 3.6 steals while leading the Tigers to the first state title in school history.
"Calvin has a great presence about him and a confidence that helps him play at a high level even as a freshman," said Byington. "I have been impressed with his overall game. His passing and his scoring I knew were good, but what has impressed me is his toughness and defense. He has proven that he can play so we're going to find ways to get him on the court whether he's playing point guard or not."
Byington's system features position-less basketball in which all five guys on the court can do a little bit of everything. The Eagle freshmen certainly fit the mold.
"I think it's a fun way to play, and guys on our team like playing that way," said Byington. "Everybody on the team has to be a point guard, everybody has to be a shooting guard and we try to take advantage of match-ups and have good spacing. My staff has done a good job of helping recruit even more so to the style that we want and the fit that we want. That's the type of game I like to watch, it fits us and it's how the game should be played here at Georgia Southern."