CULLOWHEE, N.C. - Western Carolina men's basketball head coach Larry Hunter announced the addition of a pair student-athletes for the 2017-18 incoming class. Mike Amius (Lake Worth, Fla./North Platte CC) and Desmond Johnson (Memphis, Tenn./Kirby) will join Matt Halvorsen (Kingsport, Tenn./Christ School (N.C.)) and Marcus Thomas (Mint Hill, N.C./Moravian Prep) who inked National Letters of Intent with Western Carolina during the early signing period.
"We are very excited to announce the addition of two players to our 2017 recruiting class," said Hunter. "During the spring signing period, we have signed what we feel are two outstanding additions to our team that fill needs we have in our program with recent roster changes. Mike Amius and Desmond Johnson join our two fall signees Matt Halvorsen and Marcus Thomas to complete what we feel is a recruiting class that our Catamount fans will get very excited about as they watch them play and develop."
"I want to compliment my coaching staff on a recruiting job well done. They have been grinding hard to find the quality of person and player we needed during the spring signing period. Once we identified Mike and Desmond as key recruits, my staff was relentless in communicating the many positives of Western Carolina University and our basketball program."
Mike Amius, a 6-7 forward from Lake Worth, Fla., will join the Catamounts as a junior after completing two years at North Platte Community College in North Platte, Neb. As a freshman at NPCC, he competed in 27 games including five starts. He averaged 4.9 points and 2.4 rebounds per game, but shot 62.7 percent from the field. He had a season-high 19 points at Trinidad State Junior College where he was 8-of-9 from the field and 3-of-3 at the free throw line. As a sophomore, he played in 30 games with 28 starts while averaging 11.8 points and 6.0 rebounds per game. He shot 70.1 percent from the field and averaged just over a block a game. His shooting percentage was sixth in the nation among National Junior College Athletic Association Division I players. His field goal percentage of 68.0 percent for his two-year career with the Knights broke the career field goal percentage mark set by Bill Kuhl from 1988-1990. He had a career-high 25 points in the season opener against Doane College where he was 11-12 from the field and 3-3 at the free throw line. His lone miss came from 3-point range. He had 18 double-digit performance on the year including three 20-plus point games.
Amius was named second team All-Nebraska Community College Athletic Conference following his sophomore campaign and was also given an Honorable Mention on the 2016-17 All-Nebraska Two-Year College Basketball teams.
Prior to NPCC, Amius was a prep star at Santaluces Community High School where he was named a 2015 Palm Beach County All-Star and averaged 12 points and five rebounds as a senior.
"Mike (Amius) gives us several things as a player that we do not have on our team," said Hunter. "He combines good size with good length, quickness, strength, and explosive athleticism. He has very good hands and feet, and loves to aggressively attack the basket. He will lead our team in dunks. He does play above the rim at times. Mike plays with energy and passion and will fit in well with our relentless approach to competing. He is a very mature and humble individual who has two years of college playing experience. He is a versatile player who will compete at the four and five positions."
Desmond Johnson, a 5-11 point guard from Memphis, Tenn., recently completed his senior season at Kirby High School where he was coached by Cheyenne Gibson. As a senior, he averaged 16.3 points, 7.0 rebounds, 8.3 assists and 4.0 steals per game. He was a four-year "Best of Preps" All-City selection and was a three-time first team all-league recipient. He was also named to the All-District Tournament team three times. During his junior campaign, where he averaged 14.0 points, 5.3 rebounds, 6.5 assists and 3.0 steals per game, he was named a Player of the Game at the Atlanta versus Memphis Roundball Classic. As a senior, he earned a spot in the 2017 Basketball Coaches of Tennessee/Tennessee Athletic Coaches Association East versus West All-Star game.
Throughout his high school career, Johnson averaged over 11 points per game for all four years and averaged over 6.0 assists per game his sophomore, junior and senior seasons.
"Desmond is an exceptionally talented and athletic point guard," said Hunter. "He is a tremendous athlete for his size. He has the necessary ball handling, vision, and passing skills for the point guard position. What makes him special is his poised demeanor combined with his team first approach to playing and winning. He has a high basketball IQ and should adjust to the college game and our system quickly. Dez has been a several year starter in high school and an impact player on both his high school and AAU teams. He is a terrific competitor who loves to play hard at both ends of the court. He is a very effective scorer at all three levels."
All four Catamount recruits will join the Western Carolina men's basketball team for the 2017-18 campaign.