Eastern Kentucky University men's basketball coach A.W. Hamilton announced the final scholarship player in the 2019 signing class on Monday.
Tariq Balogun, a 6-foot-10 forward from London, England, will join guards Ty Taylor (Kansas City, Mo. -- UNC-Wilmington), Curt Lewis (Louisville), Russhard Cruickshank (Milwaukee, Wis. -- Garden City Community College) and Michael Moreno (Georgetown) this season as the newest Colonels.
Hamilton said the team will also be adding two new walk-on players, who will be announced later this month.
Balogun, whose name roughly translates to Warlord, caught the eye of Hamilton during the coach's time in Virginia.
The big man has played the last two seasons at Miller School of Albemarle, a prep school located in Charlottesville, Va.
He was voted first-team all-state and first-team all-conference this past season.
Last season, Balogun averaged a team-high 12 points and pulled down seven rebounds a game for the Mavericks, who posted a 22-8 record and lost to rival Blue Ridge School in the state championship game.
In 2017-18, Balogun earned second-team all-conference honors while helping lead Miller School to a Division II state title.
Miller School went 50-12 in Balogun's two seasons with the program. He averaged 14.0 points and 7.0 rebounds-per-game, while shooting 61 percent from the field and 48 percent from three-point range during his prep career.
"Miller School is a fabulous school and I was familiar with their program. They won a state title in Tariq's junior year and made a decent run again this past season. Tariq is an exceptional talent with tremendous upside. He runs the floor extremely well and has the ability to change shots on the defensive end with his length and athleticism. He brings a lot to our program," Hamilton said.
Balogun also held offers from Old Dominion, North Texas and Morgan State
The coach said the addition of Balogun, along with Moreno and Lewis, will give EKU a trio of talented freshmen.
"I'm so proud that we were able to get two in-state kids on our team," Hamilton said. "I think the fans will really enjoy watching Moreno and Lewis grow this season."
Hamilton said he hopes to repeat the success of last season's freshman recruiting class.
"Last year, when we got here we signed three freshman -- Jomaru Brown, Houston King and Tre King -- and they all played a very pivotal role in the success we had last season. Even if you look back at last season, we were asking a lot of our younger players and I am very excited about the experience they gained. We watched Jomaru grow as the season went along and he became one of our team's leading scorers. Houston King started most of the second half of the season for us and Tre King really helped us in tight situations last season," Hamilton explained.
The coach said he is excited about his recruiting class and the future for the Colonels as the team looks to fill the void left by Nick Mayo.
"Obviously, there is no way that you could ever replace Nick Mayo. However, with the experience a lot of our young guys had last year, I think we will have a very balanced team this season. I think we will have a better shooting team. We've added a lot of depth," Hamilton explained.
Speaking of balance, Hamilton said the younger players will get a lot of help from experienced players -- graduate transfer Tyrone Taylor and junior college guard Russhard Cruickshank.
"Ty is a proven scorer and Russhard can really stretch the floor and make shots and just run the show. They have a lot of experience, which our younger guys can lean on," Hamilton explained.
"We are very excited about this recruiting class and the direction we are going. I love the dynamics (of this class.)These five young men will help us build on our brand of basketball which is uptempo and pressing. The size, athleticism, ability to make plays and shots will give us much more depth on our basketball team. We are just going to continue our efforts to grow and get better and I think we have some good pieces of the puzzle to do that," Hamilton said.
The coach said he is also excited about the potential 6-foot-8 forward Darius Hicks will bring to this season.
Hicks sat out last year after transferring from North Carolina State, but will be eligible to play this season.
"He was a huge pickup for us last year. We expect big things out of Darius. I'm excited for our fans to see him. (He) will bring a lot of toughness to our group. He had a wonderful spring and a great start this summer. He will play a major role for us this season," Hamilton said.
In addition to players, Hamilton will also be adding a new face to his staff this summer.
With the exit of Assistant Coach Reece Gaines, Hamilton said the team has been looking to fill the vacant spot.
Gaines was an assistant coach for four seasons with the Colonels and stayed on staff when Hamilton took over the program in March 2018.
"I wish Reece the absolute best. I am very grateful for the help he gave me when I first arrived at EKU and for his help last season," Hamilton said of Gaines.
The coach said his next hire will likely be announced next month.
Hamilton said fans can look forward to the continued intensity and up-tempo style of play they saw the Colonels employ last season.
"We are going to continue to build on that. We will be a young team this season with a lot of potential. We haven't had a winning season the past four seasons and we are going to keep making strides to get us back to a winning program. The one thing I will promise is we won't lack effort."