Mavericks add height with group of basketball recruits

Big men are hard to find in Division II basketball.

“Everyone goes after it every year and sometimes they’re hard to get,” Mesa State College associate head coach Andy Shantz said Monday after releasing the roster of the next group of basketball players.

“Most D-I schools will take a chance on some post players because of their size.”

Shantz, the recruiting coordinator for the Mavericks, and head coach Jim Heaps saw first-hand how valuable big men are during the Central Region tournament this past season, and made a concerted effort to bring in more size.

They found it in the same family, brothers Chandler and Colton Burgon of Sandy, Utah.

The 6-foot-8 incoming sophomores aren’t twins — Chandler played at Dixie State in 2006-07 and has been out of school the past three years; Colton played at Hartnell (Calif.) Community College last season.

“Chandler is a shot blocker and a defensive presence,” Shantz said. “Colton is more slender, more of an offensive player.”

Colton Burgon averaged 16 points and nine rebounds a game at Hartnell, shooting 60 percent from the field and 42 percent from the 3-point line. He was a first-team All Coast-South Division selection as a freshman.

“Those guys add some size and some depth on our front line,” Shantz said. “We obviously lost so much on the perimeter, we’re going to go big on the post.”

If the Burgon brothers can man the post, it will allow Michael Bear, a 6-7 junior, and Lance Fite, a 6-7 senior, to step out into the forward spot more, giving the Mavs the offensive flexibility they like.

Blake Francom, a 6-5 junior transfer from Hartnell, is another Utah product (Santaquin).  He averaged 15 points, six rebounds and 2.5 assists at Hartnell.

“He provides some size at that position and he’s pretty versatile,” Shantz said. “He can post up and step out and shoot the 3. He passes the ball well and has a good basketball IQ.”

The Mavs lost their point guard tandem of Aaron Markham and Ryan Mathews, and with two redshirt freshmen in the wings, they landed a junior college point guard to give them some depth. Kalonji Paschal is a 6-foot junior from Eastern Arizona College.

“The question is whether he can come in and understand the position like Aaron and Ryan did so well. It’s always a transition with transfers, but he’s a great kid, a leader, real positive kid,” Shantz said.

Paschal, who is from Portland, Ore., had a 30-point, 12-rebound game against Pima Community College and went for 25 points and seven assists against Cochise this past season.

Three high school players also signed, all good-scoring perimeter players.

Dan Estes, a 5-11 point guard from Laramie, Wyo., was the Gatorade state player of the year, averaging 22 points, four rebounds, four assists and two steals per game.

“He had a heck of a scholastic career,” Shantz said. “Dan is just a really heady basketball player. I think he’s going to be a really good fit for us.”

Mike Melillo is a 6-foot-5 wing from Boulder Fairview who averaged 14 points and five rebounds a game. He shot 54 percent from the field, 43 percent from the 3-point line and made the Class 5A all-tournament team at the state tournament.

“He’s got a lot of potential, a high ceiling,” Shantz said. “He’s 6-5 and has long arms. Like most kids, he needs to put on some weight, but he was a late bloomer. When he came out and played with our guys, he had a good awareness on the court and passed it well.”

Landon Vermeer, a 6-2 guard, scored 16 points a game for Chatfield and was the Jeffco League MVP.

“He’s a gym rat and is really excited about playing college basketball,” Shantz said. “He wanted to be a Mesa State Maverick and that goes a long way with us.”

It’ll be a new look next year for the Mavericks, which has Shantz excited.

“I’m excited to bring a lot of new blood into the program; you get refreshed as a coach,” he said. “We’ll see what we do next year, how Coach Heaps wants to guard and play offense. It makes it fun.”


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