WEST LIBERTY - After coming up just a few minutes short of his first NCAA Division II national championship last winter, West Liberty University men's basketball coach Jim Crutchfield is reloading again.
Having already landed a deep and talented high school recruiting class after last season's run to the national championship game, the veteran coach has bolstered the roster of his four-time defending Atlantic Region titlists even further with a trio of collegiate transfers for the 2014-15 season.
Sophomores Indiana Faithfull and Zac Grossenbacher come to the hilltop from NCAA Division I Wofford (S.C.) while junior guard Joe Lococo was the leading scorer at NCAA Division II Shippensburg (Pa.) last season.
"We haven't had a lot of transfers during my time here but we've had some very successful ones," said Crutchfield, whose career winning percentage (272-49, .847) ranks No. 1 all-time among coaches with 10 or more seasons at NCAA schools. "These three guys all have the skill sets we look for in our system and they're very good fits, academically and athletically, for our program and our university."
Lococo, a 6-foot-3 junior guard from Easton, Pa., was a two-year starter at Shippensburg and earned All-PSAC second-team honors last season when he averaged just over 20 points a game to become the Raiders' first 20-point scorer in more than two decades. He also set school single-season records for free throws made (189) and attempted (249), ranking among the top five nationally in both categories.
Ranked among the top 10 3-point shooters in the PSAC (48-of-128, .375), Lococo also ranked No. 3 in the PSAC with 52 steals. He reached double-figures in 23 of his 25 games with 11 20-point nights and had three games of 30 or more points. In his two seasons at Shippensburg, Lococo scored 783 points and drained 87 3-pointers.
"Joe's a very versatile type of player," Crutchfield said. "He's a 6-3 'big' guard who can get to the rim or shoot the '3' and he can guard big or small. He puts a lot of pressure on the defense and gets to the foul line a lot, which is something I really like."
Faithfull, a 6-4 sophomore point guard from Sydney, Australia who played his high school basketball in Maine, missed last season at Wofford when he had to return home but played in all 32 games with 21 starts as a freshman during the 2012-13 campaign. He led the Terriers with 112 assists while averaging more than 26 minutes a night and showed a knack for stuffing the stat sheet. He had a career-high 9 assists to go along with 8 points and 6 rebounds against Davidson and had 9 points and 8 assists in a win against Chattanooga.
Honored as Maine's "Mr. Basketball" following his senior season at Cheverus High School in Portland, Faithfull helped lead St. Thomas More (Conn.) to the national prep school championship before signing with Wofford.
"Indy's a very gifted playmaker who sees the game so well that he lifts everybody else's game when he's on the court," Crutchfield said. "We're hoping he'll be able to step right into that role when we start practicing in October."
Grossenbacher, a 6-8 sophomore post from Parkersburg, W.Va., saw limited action in 17 games for Wofford's Southern Conference champions last year during his first varsity season. He had a career-high 7 points and 2 blocked shots in a 90-48 rout of Johnson & Wales and finished the season shooting 39 percent (11-of-28) from the floor and 38 percent (8-of-21) from the 3-point arc.
The rangy frontliner was a teammate of returning WLU sophomore Devin Hoehn at Parkersburg High School during his sophomore and junior years, averaging 14.8 ppg., 8.3 rpg. and 2.7 blocks per game. A 2-time All-Conference and All-State selection, Grossenbacher played his final high school season at Massanutten (Va.) Military Academy. He averaged 14.2 ppg. and 6.3 rpg. to help lead the team to a 28-8 record, a No. 8 national ranking and a berth in the National Prep School Championship Tournament.
"We've known Zac since junior high when he started coming to our Hilltopper basketball camps," Crutchfield said. "He's a big guy who can shoot from the perimeter but I think the key to Zac's success will be how well he's able to establish himself as a physical presence defensively and on the boards."
The Hilltoppers are scheduled to tip off the 2014-15 season at home on Nov. 15 when they take on St. Augustine's (N.C.) in the first round of the MEC/CIAA Challenge.