By Kyle Daubs

Big things are happening in Lake Land. 

While the women are fresh off a national championship, the men’s team looks to keep pace. After 24 years of recruiting for the Lake Land men’s basketball team, Dave Earp is excited. You can hear it in his voice. 

Earp has seen some pretty great players go through the program and compete for GRAC titles in the past. According to Earp, these past two years have been the best classes he has helped bring to the Mattoon campus. 

“I think this is the best back-to-back class we have ever had,” said Earp. “These kids are similar to the kids we have had in the past that competed at a high level. These kids play with confidence. It’s probably the best recruiting class I have seen in 24 years.”

The freshman class starts with Anthony Neal, a 6-foot-7 power forward out of South Bend, Indiana. Neal was a member of the 2020 high school class, but he didn’t play last season due to the pandemic. His numbers showed his defensive ability as he averaged 3.2 blocks to go with 12.4 points and 7.3 rebounds on offense. 

According to Earp, Neal chose Lake Land over Vincennes and Northwest Florida. You can catch his highlight reel right here. 

Out of the Bronx, New York, Arnardo Camacho, a 6-foot-5 point guard, chose Lake Land over Indian Hills, the former college of Mattoon High School standout Drake Jeffries. 

Outside of being “really good,” Camacho was once being recruited by the likes of Delaware State, Morgan State, and Howard according to Prep Hoops. According to the scouting report, Camacho has a “great feel for the game” and can “break down defenders.” 

Joining the depth in the front court, Amar Kuljuhovic was a First-Team All-Metro selection out of Waterloo West in Iowa. Kuljuhovic averaged 16.7 points and 8.5 rebounds his senior year. The 6-foot-8, 240-pounder was a starter as a junior for a team that just missed the Class 4 state tournament. 

“He is one of the most dedicated players I have ever coached,” Wahawk head coach Cliff Berinobis told Jim Nelson of the Time Courier. “He puts so much time into it. He has a super work ethic and is super dedicated to being good underneath the basket.

Johnny Close is expected to provide some scoring at Lake Land. Last summer, Close committed to Rock Valley College after a standout season at Rockford Boylan. Close led Boylan to the NIC-10 Championship and led the league in scoring with 17.1 points per game. He was also the conference’s top 3-point shooter. 

Joining the class will be a 6-foot-6, 220-pound transfer from Spoon River in Daillis Cox, who hails from Louisville Kentucky. This is seen as a big time transfer for Laker Land after Cox was named First-Team All-Midwest Athletic Conference last year after averaging 12.6 points and 5.9 rebounds. 

Last year, Lake Land went 6-14 overall and 2-11 in the conference in Julian Larry’s first season as head coach.

“We have a lot of support from the college,” said Earp. “That helps a lot. Julian has done a great job with the kids, too. He interacts well with them. He holds them accountable and coaches them well.”