MORGANTOWN — There are 347 Division 1 basketball teams in the NCAA, and each team is allowed, 13 scholarship players.
That means there are about 4,511 Division 1 college basketball players this year. You’d think, with as many resources as they put into recruiting, with as many recruiting services as there, with as much attention local media across the country give to high school basketball, no one could slip through the net.
Don’t tell that to Tajzmel Sherman, who may just wind up being the link basketball coach Bob Huggins missed last year at WVU, for he comes to them after two years at Collin College with campuses in Plano and McKinley, Texas.
This is not a tiny JC hidden away in some barren area of Texas. This is a school with three campuses not far from Dallas and it educates 55,000 full and part-time students, according to Wikipedia.
But it is not a four-year school and it is not Division 1 and Sherman was hardly a secret in high school. So what happened?
First off, he wasn’t forced there because of academics. He was fully qualified to go to a D-1 school out of Thurgood Marshall High School in Missouri City, Texas, which is in the Houston Metro Complex.
The team went to the state finals, but Sherman was not the star that shined. John Walker III landed at Texas A&M off that team. Jabari Rice went to New Mexico State.
Despite leading the team into the finals with 25 points and 5 steals in the semifinal, he was overlooked by recruiters.
“We all averaged about 18 or 19 a game; we were really good,” Sherman said.
The other two got offers. Then there was Sherman, not even getting a Division II or III offer.
OK, that happens from time to time in a big city and big state, a player is missed by the recruiters.
“Everything happens for a reason,” Sherman said.
But if they’re good, they are discovered after a year at JC, and Sherman was good. Both as a player and student.
He averaged 15.2 points a game, shot 47% from the field, 38.8% from 3, 80% from the free-throw line.
He got some minor offers but turned them down to stay another year.
“Texas State offered me,” Sherman said. “I went to a junior college all-American camp and then some others came in like UTEP and UTSA.”
He was looking for more and he felt some loyalty to Coach Jim Sigona, the man who gave him a chance and, interestingly, a former John Beilein assistant way back at Lemoyne College.
So he returned and now, if you saw him, you couldn’t take your eyes off of him as a recruiter.
“I had to push forward and realize that I knew what type of player I am and I knew that I could get to this type of level. I was pushing myself to get here,” Sherman said.
He was blossoming into a big-time player, averaging 25.9 points a game, shooting 49% from the floor, 87.5% from the free-throw line (think Huggins couldn’t use that}, and 39.3% from 3.
When you consider that the WVU team shot 31.6% from 3 last year, you understand how precious a commodity this is to the Mountaineers. This is even truer this year than last, as they need to keep the inside open for Oscar Tshiebwe, Derek Culver and Logan Routt to operate down low.
Sherman became a scoring machine.
He had four games of more than 40 points, topped of 47 in one game in which he made 16 of 18 shots. Now we can’t vouch for the quality of an opponent listed on the schedule as East Texas Baptist JV, but we can vouch you can’t watch guys in warmups make 16 of 18 shots very often ... if at all.
“My main thing was staying humble,” Sherman said. “That’s a big thing for me. I’ve always been a humble person. Being underrated to not being underrated was definitely a big jump, but it was something that I strived for.”
It’s highly possible, in this era of “me first” players who strut and pound their chests and do all they can to draw attention to themselves, the humbleness he displayed well may have worked against him when it came to winning a scholarship.
Huggins, however, liked everything he saw.
“He can score. He’s very versatile. At his junior college, they had guys who could shoot, so they’d spread you and he’s very good in the post,” Huggins said. “He’s been a very consistent jump shooter with range to this point and he bounces it. He’s very athletic, so he can get it to the rim.” He also isn’t being taken aback by Huggins’ insistence on defense first, something you don’t see often in junior college or among scorers.
“I feel like I can adjust here faster because defense has always been a big part of my game,” Sherman said.
Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter at @bhertzel.