Fresno, Calif. – The Fresno Pacific men's basketball program took a major step forward in keeping the program nationally relevant as it heads into NCAA Division II and the Pacific West Conference this fall, as head coach Chris Wright announced the signings of National Junior College Player of the Year John Taylor and NCAA Division I transfer Malcolm Griffin.
Taylor, a 6'1" guard, joins the Sunbirds from Mott Community College in Michigan where he was the National Division II Junior College Player of the Year while averaging 24.9 points per game and leading his team to a 35-1 record and a JUCO national title.
Griffin, a 6'4" guard/forward, comes to FPU from NCAA Division I Toledo, where he led the team in scoring, assists and steals as a sophomore before transferring following a coaching change.
FPU beat out virtually every top NCAA Division II and NAIA program in the country to land Taylor, who scored 40 or more points three times this season and was the #6-ranked overall prospect in the talent-rich state of Illinois coming out of high school.
"John is a special talent that has won big everywhere he has been," said Wright. "He has unbelievable tools that make him a legitimate NBA prospect. He possesses unlimited shooting range, great quickness and ball handling ability, and can get to the rim and finish with ease. As good of a player as he is, I think the thing that makes him special is desire to win. He has all of the intangibles and ability to play at the highest of levels."
Griffin, meanwhile, started 28 games for Toledo in 2010-11 and led the team in scoring, assists and steals. He had a season-high 31 points against Northern Illinois and scored in double figures against two ranked opponents, #13 Illinois and #22 Temple. He also started as a freshman, averaging 7.1 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game.
"Malcolm is a very talented and versatile player that can play the 1, 2, 3 and 4 positions," said Wright. "His ability to make plays coupled with his outstanding basketball IQ make him a truly special player at our level. The thing I like most about him is that he is extremely unselfish and is a winner. You will also not find a more likeable and pleasant person to be around on a daily basis."
Wright applauded the work of his coaching staff, including newly hired assistant coach/recruiting coordinator Dexter Young, who joins the Sunbirds from NCAA Division I Chicago State. Young, a former player of previous FPU head coach Jim Saia, coached Griffin when he was in high school.
"Coach Young is a big-time recruiter that has extensive ties to the Chicago area and the entire Midwest," said Wright. "His hire will pay great dividends in helping our program compete nationally at the NCAA Division II level. We are extremely fortunate to get a person of his caliber. He is a man of integrity and great character; someone that will have a positive impact on the young men in our program."
Taylor and Griffin will look to take the Sunbirds back to where they've become accustomed to, at the top of the league standings. Last season the team entered the year with lofty expectations before suffering through the most injury-riddled season in school history to finish with a 15-16 record and the program's first losing record in five years.
The team's full recruiting class will be announced later this summer.
John Taylor – 6-1 Junior, Guard – Chicago, Ill.
Mott Community College (Mich.) / North Lawndale High School
*NJCAA Division II National Player of the Year
*Led Mott to a 35-1 record and NJCAA National Championship
*Named NJCAA Tournament MVP and First Team All-American
* Ranked 7th in the nation in scoring. Finished the season with an average of 24.9 points, 4.2 assists, 3.6 rebounds and 2.2 steals per game
*Scored 40 or more points on three occasions last season: 40 points vs. Jackson CC (11/11), 40 points vs. Lansing CC (State Title Game, 3/3/12), 41 points vs. Oakland CC (3/10/12)
*Led all scorers with 26 points at the National JUCO All-Star Game in Las Vegas.
*Had received numerous offers from high-major programs in the Big 10 and other major conferences and had offers from several top NCAA Division II and NAIA teams.
*Led North Lawndale High School to the Illinois 2A state title in 2008 and the Chicago City League Championship in 2009.
*Two-time First Team All-State selection
*#6 ranked prospect in the state of Illinois out of high school in 2009 (chicagohoops.com)
Malcolm Griffin – 6-4 Junior, Guard/Forward – Chicago, Ill.
University of Toledo / Hyde Park High School
*Started 28 games for Toledo in 2010-11, leading the team in scoring, assists and steals.
*Averaged 12.0 points, 4.0 assists, 2.6 rebounds and 1.4 steals per game. Shot 46.6% from the field and 38.4% from three-point range.
*Scored a season-high 31 points vs. Northern Illinois (1/15/11).
*Scored 25 points in back-to-back games vs. Ball State (1/22/11) and Bowling Green (1/25/11).
*Finished in double figures (11 points) against ranked opponents on the road, #13 Illinois (11/10/10) and #22 Temple (11/14/10).
*Started 21 games as a freshman for Toledo averaging 7.1 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game.
*Led Hyde Park High School to a 27-5 mark and appearances in the Illinois Class 4A supersectionals and Chicago Public League's championship game
*Averaged 17 points, seven assists and five rebounds per game during his junior and senior seasons.
*Earned South MVP honors by scoring 28 points in just 13 minutes of action in Chicago Classic All-Star Game.