Saint Leo basketball coach Mike Hanks already considered his 1999 two-man recruiting class a good one, with incoming freshman guard Michael Wisman and Division I sophomore transfer Matthew Hogarth.
However, a few more superlatives may be in order after the addition of two more late signees who Hanks thinks will have an instant impact.
James Turner will be a junior at Saint Leo this fall after transferring from Florida Atlantic, a Division I school in Boca Raton. Kanard Orange is a freshman from Orlando Edgewater, one of the state's top high school programs.
Both are 6-foot-3 guards whom Hanks will use at both guard positions. Both are expected to be in the playing rotation despite the Lions' (Saint Leo is changing its nickname from Monarchs to Lions this season) superb depth at the position.
Hanks unsuccessfully recruited Turner out of Miami Monsignor Pace two years ago. At Florida Atlantic, Turner had been a part-time starter and good scorer. As a freshman in 1997-98, he started 18 of 27 games, averaging 10.4 points, 2.6 rebounds and 2.4 assists. His sophomore year he started 10 of 26 games, averaging 7.5 points, 2.7 rebounds and 1.3 assists.
"He started a lot for FAU, and he just got caught up in a coaching change and decided to come here," Hanks said. "We need to get him the ball so he can get it in the basket. He's that kind of player."
Orange was high on Hanks' wish list for a long time.
"He's very hard-nosed," Hanks said of Orange. "He's got a great passion for the game and he comes from a great program."
While Turner would seem assured of starting, Orange might find it more difficult to crack the lineup. In addition to the highly regarded Wisman, a 6-2 point guard from Moroa Forsyth (Ill.), Saint Leo's starting guards from a year ago return: senior shooting guard Brett Slaughter, who has started every game in his college career, and junior point guard Daniel Palmer, a two-year starter.
"You don't want to tell Kanard that," Hanks said when asked if Orange could expect to come off the bench. "He thinks he'll start for us too."
Hogarth, a 6-6 native of England, could make things even more crowded in the backcourt. He averaged 3.9 points and 5.1 rebounds for Northeast Louisiana in seven games last season, and Hanks said he's capable of playing small forward and shooting guard.
It adds up to a small but potentially explosive lineup.
"I think we'll be real interesting to watch," Hanks said. "I think we'll have five people that can handle the ball, and we'll make some mismatches."
Saint Leo was 13-14 last year, and is 42-40 overall in Hanks' three years. But this could be his most talented team, even more so than the 1997-98 team that won 19 games. "We've strung together some good recruiting classes. I'm really anxious for the season," Hanks said.