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Howard lands point guard from top high school program

Senior at No. 4 St. Anthony gives verbal commitment to Bison

Howard University has landed the point guard from one of the nation’s top high school programs, a potentially significant development for a program that’s trying to claw its way back into relevance.

R.J. Cole, a 6-foot-1, 170-pound senior at St. Anthony High School (Jersey City, New Jersey), made the announcement Monday night through his school’s Twitter account. He helped lead the storied Friars program to its first state title in four years last spring and its 28th state championship overall under its longtime coach Bob Hurley Sr. The Friars finished the season 32-0 and ranked fourth in the final USA Today Super 25 basketball rankings.

Cole, listed as a three-star player under ESPN’s ranking of the nation’s top prep stars, is Howard’s most prominent signing since college senior James Daniel III, who led the nation in scoring last season. Cole told The Undefeated he chose the Bison over Boston University and Monmouth. He had also received interest from Bucknell, Penn, St. Francis (Pennsylvania), Brown, Virginia and Georgetown.

“The reason I chose Howard is because I want to be different and I want to make a difference,” Cole told The Undefeated. “Howard is an up-and-coming program, and I looked at it as a place to get a good education. There’s a lot of history there and, with all that’s going on in the world today, it seems like the place to be.”

Cole said he was impressed by how Daniel has emerged as a high-scoring point guard at Howard.

“The showcasing of the guard play [at Howard] played a big factor,” Cole said. “I want to be able to come in and make an immediate impact, showcasing my talent freely.”

According to NCAA recruiting rules, neither Howard University men’s coach Kevin Nickelberry nor athletic department officials are allowed to comment on Cole until he officially signs with the school in November.

But privately, school officials say the verbal commitment by Cole qualifies as a significant moment in Nickelberry’s effort to build the Bison into a mid-major power. When he left Hampton and took over Howard in 2010, the Bison were ranked 351st out of 352 Division I teams. Last year, the team finished 12-20. This season, Howard, with Daniel returning, is picked by some outlets to win the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. Its last MEAC title was 1992.

Cole was St. Anthony’s second-leading scorer last season behind Jagan Mosely, a Georgetown signee.

Liner Notes

The Undefeated will be embedded with the Howard University basketball team this season, providing weekly coverage of the Bison as the team looks to win its first MEAC title since 1992.

Mike Wise is a former senior writer and columnist at The Undefeated. Barack Obama once got to meet him.

Jerry Bembry is a senior writer at Andscape. His bucket list items include being serenaded by Lizz Wright and watching the Knicks play a MEANINGFUL NBA game in June.