By BRIAN LESTER
Although the University of Findlay men’s basketball team has just started its new season, the Oilers are already building for the future.
UF has signed three players during the early signing period, including two from Toledo in St. John’s standout Austin Gardner and Whitmer star Ricardo Smith.
The other signee is Tyler Stern out of Worthington Kilbourne.
“You don’t set out to sign three players early. I don’t think we’ve ever done that here,” UF head coach Charlie Ernst said. “But it worked out for us this time. We were able to address some needs and all three have very promising futures here.”
Gardner, a 6-foot-1, 175-pound point guard, was a second-team all-Three Rivers Athletic Conference selection. Prep Spotlight Magazine rated him as one of the top five point guards in the state in Division I basketball.
He led St. John’s in assists last season and was second in scoring and rebounding behind Ohio State recruit Marc Loving.
“Austin has been coming to our camp since the eighth grade and his stock really rose over the summer because he played so well,” Ernst said. “We were fortunate to get him.”
Smith, a 6-2, 180-pound wing, was a second-team all-TRAC pick as well last year. He was the team’s defensive MVP and helped lead Whitmer to a state title.
He averaged 10.4 points and 4 rebounds per game.
“Both players are on very good teams and both of them will have very good seasons,” Ernst said. “They are well-coached, they are from winning programs and they will be ready to play as freshmen at the college level.”
Stern, a 6-7, 195-pound forward, was a first-team all-Ohio Capital Conference pick last season after averaging 11 points and 8 rebounds per outing.
“Tyler has a tremendous upside,” Ernst said. “He is a very long and skilled athlete, a lot like (former center) Lee Roberts, and we will be a good fit for our program.”
The Oilers are currently 1-1 and will be back in action at 7:30 p.m. on Monday when they hostNotre Dame College at Croy Gymnasium.
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