ST. BONAVENTURE — Justin Winston made an impression and Mark Schmidt must have done the same.
By the time the St. Bonaventure men’s basketball coach left Putnam, Conn., on Monday night, he’d nabbed yet another big-time recruit.
Winston, a 6-foot-7, 200-pound wing and rising senior for familiar Putnam Science Academy, made a verbal commitment to the Bonnies, he announced on his Twitter page Monday night.
The West Orange, N.J., native, who starred as an undergraduate at Montclair Immaculate Conception, is the latest, and perhaps most-credentialed, impressive pickup for Schmidt’s staff, another coup after the signings of 3-star guards Kyle Lofton and Dominick Welch and talented big man Osun Osunniyi in the spring.
Winston is a 4-star recruit, per ESPN.com – the first such commitment out of high school in the Schmidt era – and a 3-star player, according to both Rivals.com and 247sports.com. He chose Bona over offers from UConn, Minnesota, Pittsburgh, Penn State and fellow Atlantic 10 programs La Salle, UMass and Saint Joseph’s, among others, per Rivals. He’ll have four years with the Bonnies beginning in the fall of 2019.
“Dreams come true!” Winston tweeted in his announcement Monday. “This is for my family and friends, West Orange and New Jersey, I won’t let you guys down. My family and I have thought hard about this and I’m proud to announce for my next four years of college I will be attending St. Bonaventure University. Go Bonnies!”
Winston averaged 15 points as a junior at Immaculate Conception last winter. After making an official visit to Bona over the weekend, he returned to Putnam, where he further displayed his ability in front of Schmidt at one of the school’s open gyms.
At the end of the workout Monday, he made his pledge to the Bonnies.
Winston is the third player from Putnam to pick the Bonnies in the last two classes, joining Lofton and Osunniyi, who both signed with Bona after leading the Mustangs to the national prep school championship in March. That Schmidt was able to land a 4-star recruit in September – two months before the early signing period – is another indication of just how far the program has come from a prospect caliber and visibility standpoint under his watch.
“(Winston) is a 6-foot-7 runaway train on the wing with an aggressive mentality on the boards and WILL BE a perimeter threat by the time he gets to campus,” Mike Yagmin, a regional high school scout tweeted Monday. “The NJ Playaz (Winston’s AAU team) and Putnam hoops product will contribute immediately.”
Winston, already a physical, athletic specimen at 17, is considered a top 50 power forward prospect, according to Rivals. He’s listed as the No. 2-ranked Class of 2019 prospect in the state of Connecticut and the No. 28th-ranked power forward nationally by ESPN.com. Though he’s the first 4-star recruit to sign with Bona outright under Schmidt, he’s the second such player on its current roster alongside junior guard Jalen Poyser, who was the No. 1 recruit out of Canada in 2015 and played two years at UNLV before transferring.
As it stands, the Bonnies’ 2019-20 roster is set to feature a pair of 4-star recruits (Poyser and Winston), two 3-star recruits (Lofton and Welch), Osunniyi, who spurned Georgetown and Syracuse for Schmidt and Bona, 6-foot-8 Mt. St. Mary’s transfer Bobby Planutis and big center Amadi Ikpeze in his senior year.
Winston, the first member of the Bonnies’ 2019 recruiting class, can sign his National Letter of Intent during the early signing week in November. With the New Jersey native on board, Bona now has three remaining scholarships for the 2019-20 campaign, barring any transfers (it began with four – one that was left open this season and three via the departures of Courtney Stockard, LaDarien Griffin and Nelson Kaputo).
Those that have watched him closely believe he’s another “big get” for Bona.
“The 6-foot-7 wing has great touch in the lane, can handle the rock and is an explosive perimeter athlete,” Yagmin added of Winston, who’s also described as a capable shot blocker.
“(He’s) a highlight waiting to happen,” said the Slam Dunk to the Beach Twitter account, which had Winston as one of its dunk contest participants last summer.