Beschta reloads for 2017-18 with eight signees

SILOAM SPRINGS, Ark. -- John Brown University men's basketball coach Jason Beschta announced on Monday (July 24) the signing of eight student-athletes to letters of intent to continue their academic and athletic careers as Golden Eagles.

The eight newcomers include Braden Bayless (Tulsa, Okla. / Regent Prep), Densier Carnes III (Atlanta, Ga. / First Presbyterian Christian), Nathan Corder (Alma, Ark. / Alma), Rokas Grabliauskas (Kaunas, Lithuania / Providence Christian Academy), Mateo Habazin (Zagreb, Croatia / West Alabama), Kristijan Joksimovic (Zagreb, Croatia / Southeastern), Darrell Jones (Port Arthur, Texas / Nederland) and Jaylon Rucker (Frisco, Texas / Heritage).

JBU kicked off the 2016-17 with a 7-3 record, including notable wins over College of the Ozarks (Mo.) and Philander Smith (Ark.), however, once Sooner Athletic play began, winning streaks were difficult for any conference memeber to piece together. Finally, the Golden Eagles strung together three wins in a row, including a win at defending national champion Mid-America Christian (Okla.). Also in January, John Brown broke a seven-game losing skid against Southwestern A.G. (Texas) with an impressive 71-64 road win in Waxahachie. JBU would find itself matched up with the Lions for a third time in the SAC tournament quarterfinals, again in metro Dallas, but the Lions held on for a 76-66 victory, ending JBU's season at 15-15.

 

Braden Bayless
Densier Carnes III
Nathan Corder
Rokas Grabliauskas
 
 

 

With the eight additions, the Golden Eagles will look to replace losing three of its top four scorers, including All-Conference honoree Zach English(11.5 ppg).

"We are really excited about this year's recruiting class," admitted head coach Jason Beschta. "We are bringing in extremely talented players who all have the ability to compete for playing time right away. Not only are they talented on the court, but these young men are well-respected for their strong character."

 

Mateo Habazin
Kristijan Joksimovic
Darrell Jones
Jaylon Rucker
     

 

Braden Bayless comes to John Brown from Regent Preparatory, having previously played for four seasons under head coaches Sean Ramsay and Kerwin Dees. The 6-foot-6 forward captured the Rams' all-time program record in total points (1,037) and rebounds (800). Bayless led his squad to back-to-back OSSAA Class A state semifinal appearances in his juniora and senior seasons after helping the Rams capture consecutive Frontier Conference tournament titles. The Tulsa, Okla. native 13 points and eight boards a game as a seniorand landed a spot on the All-Conference first team in his final two campaigns.


"Braden is a long and athletic post who can really rebound and shoot the three. He will provide even more depth for us at the forward spot and has the potential to be a really special player at JBU. He has been developing at a high rate over the last couple of years, and with his strong work ethic, it will be exciting to see how far he can go."

Densier Carnes III makes his way to Siloam Springs after spending a year with the Link Year Prep program in southwest Missouri. Before his year with the Lions, Carnes III played for a quartet of seasons under head coaches Nathaniel Goolsbi and Shane Smith at First Presbyterian Christian Academy in Atlanta, Ga. There, the 6-foot-6 forward led the Highlanders to a regional championship as a senior after back-to-back conference titles as a freshman and sophomore. During his senior season, Carnes III averaged 33 points a game en route to an Georgia Independent School Association All-State selection. The three-sport athlete also earned consecutive All-Conference selections as a freshman and sophomore.


"Densier is a great addition for us, as he has the potential to impact the game at both ends of the floor. His game will fit our system well; he can score around the basket, drive to the hoop, or shoot the three. He is also a very strong rebounder and defender who can quietly have a double-double before you know it. He is the type of player a team needs on the floor because he just flat-out makes you better."

Nathan Corder, a 6-foot-2 incoming freshman from Alma, Ark., joins the Golden Eagles after a three-year career at Alma High School under head coach Stan Flenor. Corder helped the Airedales to an Arkansas Activities Association 6A-West title as a sophomore and was named All-Academic in back-to-back seasons. After landing on the 6A All-State Tournament team as a junior, he broke out in a senior campaign to average 19 points, three assists and four rebounds per game as a senior. His best performance came against Clarksville in Corder's final season, where the guard drained 39 points, including seven triples, in an 83-75 loss. He was later named a 5A-West All-Conference selection and a Southwest Times Record All-Area honoree.


"Nate can really score. He will be one of not only our best three-point shooters, but also one of the best in the conference. He can play on the ball or off, and his ability to move without the ball will fit perfectly within our system."

A teammate of Carnes III at Link Year Prep, Rokas Grabliauskas, a Kaunas, Lithuania native, previously spent two seasons at Providence Christian Academy under head coach Austin Bivens. There, the 6-foot-4 guard led the Patriots to back-to-back Ozark Christian School Athletic Association 3A titles.


"Rokas is a bigger guard who is capable of playing the point or wing. As a bigger guard, he has great court vision and can really facilitate the offense. He is a smart player who moves very well without the ball, and he can stroke it from deep. His versatility to be effective at multiple positions will make an instant impact for us."

The first of two transfers, Mateo Habazin, a 6-foot-8 forward, spent the last season at West Alabama and shot an impressive 51.5 percent from the field and scored a season-high 10 points against Spring Hill (Ala.). The Zagreb, Croatia native was named to the Dean's List this past academic year and transferrs to JBU after attending the Zagreb School of Economics and Management. At the age of 14, he played for the Cedevita Basketball Club where they placed fourth at the national tournament and he averaged 31 points per game. At 16, Habazin played for basketball club Zagreb, leading the squad to a second-place finish at the national tournament while averaging 23 points per game. Habazin still owns the single-game scoring record at the Croatian national tournament, when he netted 65 point and grabbed 24 rebounds in a single game.


"Mateo brings a size inside that we have lacked the last three years as a strong post who can defend and score around the basket. He will be an anchor in the middle for us defensively, as well as providing us with a consistent threat to score inside. He is also a tough rebounder who pursues every missed shot."

Kristijan Joksimovic reunites with fellow Croatian Habazin as the 6-foot-6 guard transfers from Southeastern (Fla.) to join the Golden Eagles. Before his year for the Fire, Joksimovic suited up for Ranger College in Ranger, Texas.


"Kristijan brings a lot of talent to our post position as he has the size and strength to defend inside as well as the ability to step out on the perimeter and guard smaller players. He possesses the athleticism and versatility of a bigger guard or stretch-four to be a matchup nightmare for other teams with his ability to really shoot the three and drive from the perimeter. Kristijan will provide a strong scoring threat for us in the half-court or the open floor."

Darrell Jones comes by way of Nederland High School, having just finished a three-year stint under head coach Brian English, coach of former JBU student-athlete Zach English, where the 6-foot-1 guard averaged 18 points, seven rebounds and three assists per game as a senior. The Port Arthur, Texas native landed an All-District first team selection as a junior as he helped lead the Bulldogs to its first of consecutive bi-district final appearances.


"Darrell has a strong, college-ready body. He comes from a trusted program in Nederland High School. He is effective with the ball in his hands leading a team or playing off the ball. He can shoot really shoot the three, create off the dribble, finish with contact and defend multiple positions."

Jaylon Rucker just capped off a three-year career under head coach Jibran Kelley at Heritage High School in Frisco, Texas, where he was named Team MVP in back-to-back seasons as a junior and senior. While securing consecutive All-District selections, Rucker piled up a career-best 28 points in a single game as a junior and set career highs in assists (12) and rebounds (10) as a senior.


"Jaylon is a jet-quick point guard and has a knack for scoring and an uncanny ability to make big plays for himself and his teammates. He possesses great court vision and has the personality to really lead a team. Jaylon is also a pesky defender who will make us better at both ends of the floor."

The Golden Eagles will open the 2017-18 campaign against Ecclesia (Ark.) on Nov. 4 at Bill George Arena. The annual Toilet Paper Game is scheduled for an 8 p.m. tip.