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    SFA Announces Early Signing Class
    Thomas Walkup is one of four players who signed with SFA during the early signing period (photo courtesy InsideDP.com)
    Thomas Walkup is one of four players who signed with SFA during the early signing period (photo courtesy InsideDP.com)

    Nov. 16, 2010

    NACOGDOCHES, Texas - The Stephen F. Austin Lumberjack basketball team announced Tuesday that four players signed letters of intent during the early signing period to attend SFA starting with the 2011-12 academic year. The early signing class consists of Taylor Smith, Jacob Parker, Thomas Walkup and Nick Cates.

    Parker, Walkup and Cates are all prep recruits, while Smith is a transfer sign from McLennan Community College. His addition marks the Lumberjacks' fifth McLennan signee in the last four years.

    "We think it's a very good group," head coach Danny Kaspar said. "I'm very pleased with it. It takes great focus and mental toughness to succeed at this level, and I think we got that with this group."

    Smith is a 6-6 forward who will come in as a junior after two seasons at McLennan. As a freshman last year, he played in all 32 contests averaging 10.6 points, 9.1 rebounds and 2.8 blocks per game. Smith was named the North Texas Junior College Athletic Conference Freshman of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year, making him the third McLennan signee to have won the league's defensive award before joining the Lumberjacks.

    A Schertz, Texas, native, Smith was an all-state honoree at Clemens High. He averaged 19 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks for his career, picking up two all-district honors and an all-region selection.

    "Taylor is a tremendous rebounder and shot-blocker," Kaspar said. "He has very long arms and plays bigger than his frame. He should make an immediate impact on our team next year."

    Parker is a 6-6 forward from Bixby, Okla. He averaged a team-best 19 points per game and pulled down 10 rebounds per contest last year when he was an honorable-mention all-state selection. Parker was also named to the All-Metro second team. He was voted team captain for the 2009-10 season and earned the team's MVP award as well.

    "Jacob is a power forward much in the mold of [former Lumberjack] Nick Shaw," Kaspar said. "He shoots, passes and handles the ball very well for a taller player. Fortunately, we stumbled across him during the summer evaluation period and immediately decided this was a young man we should try to recruit. We are extremely happy that he chose us over Air Force, Lafayette and Tulsa, among others."

    Walkup is a 6-4 shooting guard from Pasadena, Texas. Last year he averaged 10.1 points and 4.6 assists to help lead Deer Park High School to a 24-11 record and a win in the bi-district round of the playoffs. Walkup also averaged five blocks and 1.9 steals per contest on the way to all-district honors. Thomas' older brother, Nathan, plays basketball at Texas A&M.

    "Thomas does everything well," Kaspar said. "He shoots, passes, handles and defends well. He is a very hard-nosed and competitive player who exudes toughness. I see him as my type of player who will fit in very well here at SFA."

    Cates is a 6-9 center from Kennedale, Texas. He was a first-team all-district selection as a junior last year, also taking the team's defensive player of the year award. He set a school record with 14 blocked shots in a playoff game. Cates helped Kennedale set a team record last year by holding its opponents to an average of just 47 points per game.

    "We were very fortunate to discover Nick in that he did not play summer league ball," Kaspar said. "He has a lot of potential, much like [former Lumberjack] Matt Kingsley did. He will be a legitimate center prospect for us. He's very coachable and has great potential. He already wears a size 17 shoe and won't turn 18 until August, so I think he could still grow a little bit. We welcome his size and potential to our program."

    -- SFA --

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