BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Deion Lavender is taking his basketball skills to the Texas-based Conference USA.
The 6-foot-2 freshman guard announced via Instagram Tuesday that he gave a verbal commitment to Alabama-Birmingham, a NCAA Division I school and member of CUSA. He will be eligible to play for the Blazers during the 2016-17 season after transferring from SIUC.
Lavender, a standout performer at Marquette Catholic High and the Advantage News’ Prep Player of the Year in 2014, will have three years of eligibility at UAB. He will have to sit out the upcoming season since he transferred.
The Blazers went 20-16 last year, claimed the conference tournament championship and went on to upset Iowa State, 60-59, in a first-round game of the NCAA tournament. They were the youngest team in the field, so the Blazers have high hopes for a bright future.
UAB began rebuilding its program in 2013 and the job continues, head coach Jerod Haase said.
“The mixture of talent and characters of these players is exciting,” Haase said. “It’s a class that believes in what we are doing and together, we believe big things can happen. I do believe that we have built a foundation that’s extremely strong.”
He averaged 6.6 points and 2.5 rebounds per game last season for the 11-21 Salukis. Lavender started 13 of SIUC’s 32 games and scored in double figures in seven of his last 10 games.
However, he wasn’t content in Carbondale and joined an exodus of players. Jordan Caroline (Nevada), Chaz Glotta (Northern Colorado), Jalen Pendelton (Minnesota State) and K.C. Goodwin (Union, Tenn.) also have transferred. Caroline, a 6-7 freshman, was the team’s top rebounder and second-best scorer.
“Deion’s reasoning (for leaving) was just that he was unhappy in Carbondale,” Salukis’ coach Barry Hinson said. “I go back once again, we tried to do everything we could do to paint the picture for each and every one of these individuals to show them what we thought about their future at SIU. We tried to do that in as honest and transparent a way we can. Obviously, these guys made their own decisions.”
During Lavender’s senior season at Marquette, he averaged 25.3 ppg on a team that went 22-7 and captured the Class 3A Triad Regional title.
The state of Alabama is increasing its basketball connections to the Greater Alton area. Civic Memorial High grad Katie Broadway, now an assistant women’s basketball coach at McKendree in Lebanon, served the past two seasons as an administrative assistant at UAB. And Alton High grad JaQuail Townser will be a senior at Jacksonville State in 2015-16.