Billups Signs Three for 2018-19 Season
Townsend, Bickham and Gatlin set to join Denver next year
Nov. 9, 2017
DENVER - University of Denver men's basketball head coach Rodney Billups announced the signing of three student-athletes on Wednesday. Jase Townsend, JaVonni Bickham and Taelyr Gatlin all will continue their academic and athletic careers with the Pioneers beginning in 2018.
“In order for us to play fast, we have to recruit the right guys,” Billups said of the group. “We have to recruit the right players that have extremely high character. If you look at our roster the past few years, we have averaged a 3.0 GPA or higher as a team. We graduate all of our kids. The guys that we have as seniors this year Jake Pemberton, Daniel Amigo, Christian Mackey and Emil Knighton all are very good students and we bring in three guys that have to compete in the classroom and on the court as well, and we did exactly that with these three.
“Jase Townsend and Taelyr Gatlin are very dynamic guards offensively. They also come in with a chip on their shoulder. They want to come in right away and play and be great defenders. JaVonni with his size at 6-foot-7 and 225 pounds as an incoming freshman; his will to play and will to win, along with his feel for the game to get guys involved, we definitely feel like we got better on signing day.”
Townsend, a Dallas native, comes to the Crimson and Gold from Skyline High School. As a junior, the 6-foot-3 guard averaged 18.4 points per game to go with 4.2 rebounds and 3.2 assists. The sweet-shooting Skyline standout posted a 53 percent field-goal percentage, 85 percent free-throw percent and a 44 percentage from beyond the arc.
“Truly excited for Jase Townsend,” Billups said. “A Dallas, Texas kid, he brings a wealth of experience at the highest level. He played for the Dallas Mustangs, a very good organization and program with good coaches. He also played for a former head coach at the Division I level in Paul Graham, a good friend of mine and of Ricardo Patton, our assistant coach.
“Jase is going to bring in a very talented offensive game. He’s a very dynamic shooter from long range that will help us continue to play fast and put pressure on the defense. I am extremely excited about Jase as well as he is excited about being a Pioneer.”
Hailing from Minneapolis, Minn., Bickham brings some size and athleticism to the front court for Denver in the coming years. The 6-foot-7 forward has starred over the past few seasons at the Minnehaha Academy. While there, he was the youngest member in school history to be part of the 1,000-point club. He was also a four-time all-conference selection as well as being named conference most valuable player while helping his squad capture the 2016-17 state championship.
Bickham posted averages of 18.0 points, 9.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 2.0 blocks as a junior. He is already the school’s all-time leading scorer.
“JaVonni is a big kid who in the summertime kind of wowed us in the sense of his offensive ability,” Billups said. “He is kind of a point-forward with a big body. He is going to do some very good things with what he brings to the table in his athleticism and his passing ability. He can also score around the rim with his back to the basket or facing up. I am extremely excited about the addition of JaVonni”
Gatlin brings a unique blend of size, speed and athleticism for a point guard to the Pioneers in 2018-19. The Akota, Tenn. native has been a star at Brighton High School these last few years, leading the team in scoring for three straight seasons. The 6-foot-3 guard averaged team highs in points (17.8), rebounds (4.3), assists (5.5) and steals (3.6) as a junior. Gatlin was also named team MVP, district MVP and district tournament MVP.
The athletic guard is also a member of the 1,000-point club at his school, as well as holds the school record for most assists in a game with 13. He was also named to the all-region team during the 2016-17 year.
“Taelyr is a really tough kid from the Memphis area,” Billups said. “I’m really excited about his athleticism, his speed, his ability to pass and get guys open with his dribble penetration. He will be a huge addition to the way we play, how fast we can pick up the tempo. He is going to walk on campus and arguably be our best defender so I am really excited about him.”
DU opens the season on Nov. 12 against UC Irvine in Magness Arena. Tip-off is set for 4 p.m. MT as part of a doubleheader with the women’s team.
For more information, check out denverpioneers.com.
Tickets for upcoming games can be purchased right HERE.
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