HOUSTON, Texas - Rice University head men's basketball coach Mike Rhoades announced the signing of Connor Cashaw (Lincolnshire, Ill./Stevenson HS), Marcus Evans (Chesapeake, Va./Cape Henry Collegiate) and Marquez Letcher-Ellis (Houston, Texas/Montverde Academy [Fla.]) to National Letters of Intent on Wednesday, the first day of the early signing period. The trio will enroll at Rice next fall.
Rhoades said, "All three of these guys are excited to be a part of the Rice community. They are excited about what we want to do with our program moving forward and all three of them will have immediate impacts in what we do. They're all very versatile team players and are guys that can come in and give our program a boost."
"All three of these players were high targets for us as well as other schools. For them to give us a commitment and sign to get an education and play basketball at Rice University says a lot about what we're trying to do with this program and how we're moving forward. I think the greatest thing about all three of these guys committing early is that they really wanted to come to Rice. Even though we recruited them very hard, they were very excited to become a part of our basketball family. They hit it off with our players and they know that they have a chance to make an immediate impact on our program and we're very excited about that. These guys will be leaders down the road - not just within our program but also on campus."
Cashaw, a 6-5, 195-pound guard, helped his Stevenson High School team to a third-place finish in the Illinois 4A playoffs last season with a 31-2 record and earned second team all-state honors by the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association. He averaged 17.8 points per game and led the Patriots with 6.7 rebounds per game to accompany 2.4 assists last season for head coach Pat Ambrose. He was also named first team All-North Shore Conference. Over the summer he played AAU for Mac Irvin Fire, and heading into his senior season his Stevenson team is ranked 10th nationally by MaxPreps.com. Illinois Preps ranked Cashaw as the No. 7 prospect in the state for the 2015 class. His uncle, Terrence Cashaw, played for the Owls from 1983-86.
"Connor Cashaw is a multi-talented player who can play various positions and will make an immediate impact in scoring the basketball and making plays. He has great size and ability and he is somebody that we're looking forward to having step in right away and push us forward. Connor has the ability to fill it up for us, make a lot of three-pointers and really grow with our style of play. He was recruited by a lot of schools but he really loved our combination of academics, basketball and family approach, and we're really looking forward to having him on campus next year."
Evans, a 6-2, 190-pound guard, earned second team all-state honors at Cape Henry Collegiate School in Virginia last season. After leading his squad to Tidewater Conference regular season and tournament championships, he garnered a place on the TCIS all-Tournament Team. His squad then advanced to the Division I title game of the Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association (VISAA) state tournament. On the season, he averaged 12.6 points, five assists and four steals per game for head coach Mark Hall. Evans was named the 2013 Virginia AAA State Player of the Year and played for Boo Williams AAU over the summer. His Cape Henry team is ranked 15th nationally heading into the 2014-15 season by MaxPreps.com.
"Marcus Evans is somebody that I've known for a long time and I've built a relationship with him and his family over the years. We're really excited to have him in our program and he will make major contributions in our backcourt right away. He is a tenacious defender and will add to our style of play. He's comfortable playing fast and pushing the basketball and is an excellent defensive player in the full court. He's somebody that we targeted from Day One and him giving us an early commitment and sticking to it shows that he wants to be a big part of our program."
Letcher-Ellis, a 6-7, 205-pound forward, is attending Montverde Academy in Florida after spending the 2013-14 season at Genesis Academy (Va.) and his freshmen and sophomore seasons at Houston's Yates High School. Last season at Genesis, he averaged 14.5 points, 11.8 rebounds, 3.8 blocks and 2.8 steals per contest. Under head coach Kevin Boyle, Montverde has been ranked No. 1 in the nation for the upcoming season by MaxPreps.com. Letcher-Ellis played for DC Premier AAU over the summer.
"Marquez Letcher-Ellis is a very versatile player who can play multiple positions. His length and athleticism, together with his skill, is a great combination for us and we are adding a highly-talented player to our program. Having a Houston kid, Marquez gives us recognition in our hometown. He's excited to come back to Houston and be a part of our basketball program's rise. We are thrilled to have him and his family join our Rice Basketball family."
"I think one of the best attributes of all three of these young men is that they play in winning high school programs. All three of their teams are ranked in the preseason top 25 in the national high school poll. They will play great competition and will be coached at a high level. That gives them a chance to come in here and get off to a great start. We're excited to follow them throughout their senior years as they transition to becoming Rice Owls."
All three players were ranked as three-star recruits by Rivals.com.
What the Experts are Saying:
On Connor Cashaw:
Jim Hicks, Director of RcsSports.com: "Cashaw is a 'Cave-Man Strong' wing who can also nail perimeter shots with consistency. He uses his body to create space and can finish through contact."
Cavan Walsh, Recruiting Analyst, ChicagoHoops.com: "Connor Cashaw is one the best guards in the entire state of Illinois, hands down. At 6-5 with his combination of size, versatility, and athleticism he presents matchup problems on both ends of the floor. Make no mistake, winning follows Connor both in high school and on the travel team circuit and I expect it to be no different at Rice."
On Marcus Evans:
Evan Daniels, Director of Basketball Recruiting, Scout.com: "With Marcus Evans, it's his speed and athleticism at the point guard position that stands out. He likes to play fast and is a pesky ball hawk on defense."
Jim Hicks, Director of RcsSports.com: "Evans brings size which will enable him to keep taller guards in check while seeing the entire floor offensively."
On Marquez Letcher-Ellis:
Evan Daniels, Director of Basketball Recruiting, Scout.com: "Letcher-Ellis is a perfect fit for how Mike Rhoades wants to play. At 6-7, he's long, a terrific athlete and excels in transition. He also has a lot of potential as a defender."
Jim Hicks, Director of RcsSports.com: "Letcher-Ellis brings plenty of length and his forte is defense, a trait that can make him a difference-maker at Rice."