There’s a big addition to the Charlotte 49ers’ men’s basketball – a very big addition.
He’s 6-foot-10, 260 pounds, and loves the role of intimidator. And the 49ers say he will make a world of difference.
Jailan Haslem is the biggest of several front-court players recruited in the offseason by 49ers’ coach Mark Price, to address a problem that kept his team out of postseason play a year ago.
The 2016-17 Charlotte team had elite-level guards and excellent wings, but nobody to fill the job of rim protector.
Enter Haslem, a junior transfer from Gordon (Ga.) State College.
“We put a real emphasis on recruiting big players, and we landed four guys who are 6-8 or bigger,” says Price, whose team finished 13-17 last season, often using guards in the front court. “We feel much better about our matchups this year.
“Jailan is a guy who can make a difference for us.”
Three other front-court newcomers are freshmen – 6-8 Milos Supica, who is Serbian-born but played last year at Fayetteville’s Freedom Christian Academy; and a pair of South Mecklenburg High products, 6-8 Bryant Thomas and 6-7 Bo Blight.
Price says the front-court additions will free his guards and shooting forwards to do what they do best – score, drive a fast-paced offense, and play aggressive defense.
“My role is fairly simple – a lot of rebounding and physical play,” Haslem says. “I’m accustomed to that. In junior college, my coach wanted me to have the same role.”
All of this is good news to 49er players like 6-3 junior guard Jon Davis, who spent part of the summer at camps with the nation’s top collegiate players.
“We had 6-2 players trying to set screens last year,” Davis says. “We did what we could. Having the big guys like Jailan means there will be a lot more screens this season.”
“And it means our guys can play their natural positions,” he adds.
Last season, 6-7 senior Hudson Price, the coach’s son, often played at power forward. His normal position is wing. The same was true of 6-7 junior Najee Garvin.
Price, in his third season as the 49ers’ coach, says the restocked roster will enable the team to play the style of basketball he prefers.
“We want to get up and down the floor, to play a fast tempo,” he says. “The problem last year was that it’s hard to do that when you’re taking the ball out of the net.”
As Davis says, “There’s a lot more athleticism on this team. It should be a lot of fun to watch.”
Haslem and Supica even have a bit of an outside touch. Full-scale practice begins Sunday, but Haslem and a few other players spent time Wednesday afternoon shooting at Halton Arena. During one stretch of 20 shots from near the 3-point line, Haslem made 12 attempts.
But Price says, “We’ll still be a guard-oriented team. I feel Jon is one of the best point guards in the country. In those summer camps, he went toe-to-toe with the best guys in the country. He came back with a bit of swagger.”
Also back is 6-3 guard Andrien White, the other part of the back-court tandem.
“I have a good vibe about this team,” Price says.
Steve Lyttle on Twitter: @slyttle