Lancers reload from transfer portal

Published 8:56 am Thursday, April 15, 2021

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A three-year veteran of the Atlantic Coast Conference, the former Virginia Class 6 Player of the Year and a four-year starter for a three-time Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference champion have all become Lancers.

In the latest recruiting coup for Longwood head coach Griff Aldrich, the Lancers added 6-6, 225-pound James Madison forward and Virginia native Michael Christmas, 6-1, 190-pound N.C. Central point guard Jordan “Juice” Perkins, and 6-4, 220-pound Wake Forest guard Isaiah Wilkins as part of the program’s 2021 signing class.

In Christmas, Perkins and Wilson, the Lancers will add a combined nine years of Division I playing experience to Longwood’s 2021-22 roster. Wilkins spent his first three seasons in the ACC, playing his first two years at Virginia Tech and his most recent at Wake Forest. Christmas was a two-year contributor at James Madison after a standout prep career at Landstown High School in Virginia Beach. Perkins, meanwhile, started all four years for MEAC powerhouse N.C. Central and helped the Eagles capture league tournament titles in 2017-18 and 2018-19 and the regular-season title in 2019-20.

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That trio joins incoming 6-4 freshman guard and November signee Jaylani Darden to form a four-man class that will bolster a Longwood men’s basketball program that has achieved numerous milestones and firsts under Aldrich. During the first three seasons under his tutelage, the Lancers have twice set program records for Big South wins, received invitations to two College Basketball Invitational postseason tournaments, notched back-to-back top-five Big South finishes and amassed a home record of 26-16 inside Willett Hall.

Now the Lancers will enter the 2021-22 season with a roster made up entirely of players Aldrich and his staff recruited.

“The addition of Jordan, Isaiah and Michael is a momentous day for the Longwood basketball program,” Aldrich said. “These three young men, along with Jaylani Darden who committed in the fall, embody the athletic and character traits that we want our players to possess. 

“They are all athletic and skilled basketball players who also highly value the education they will receive at Longwood University. I am excited to welcome each of these young men to Longwood and cannot wait to see them excel in a Lancer uniform.”

Christmas comes to Longwood after two seasons at James Madison where he started 17 of 48 games for the Dukes and averaged 5.9 points and 4.1 rebounds in 17.7 minutes per game. A career 34.6% (44-of-127) shooter from 3-point range, he logged nine double-digit scoring games in his first two seasons in Harrisonburg. Among those was a breakout stretch his freshman year in which he shot a combined 15-of-24 from 3-point range in a four-game span against East Carolina, Radford, Charleston Southern and Fordham.

Christmas gives Longwood three Tidewater area products for 2021-22, joining his fellow Virginia coastline natives Darden and senior DeShaun Wade. Christmas played his high school ball at Landstown and led the team to its first-ever Virginia 6A State Championship in 2019 as well as the Class 6 Region Championships in 2017 and 2019. He was named the Virginia Class 6 State Player of the Year as a sophomore and a senior and finished his career as the program’s first 1,000-point scorer.

“Michael is a special player whom we have known for years and recruited out of high school from the Tidewater Area,” Aldrich said, who also hails from the Tidewater area and played his college basketball at neighboring Hampden-Sydney in Farmville. “Another versatile wing with size and outstanding shooting ability, Michael will fit our style of play extremely well. We are excited to watch him develop and know his best years of basketball are ahead of him as he is just beginning to tap into his tremendous potential.”

Jordan Perkins is the most senior member of Longwood’s newcomers and will also become one of the most veteran players on Longwood’s 2021-22 roster after spending the past four seasons as the starting point guard for perennial MEAC championship contender N.C. Central in Durham, N.C.

Perkins ranks among the top point guards to come through the N.C. Central program, ranking second in program history with 528 assists and among the top 10 in games played, games started and minutes. His 190 assists during the 2017-18 season are the fourth-most on the school’s single-season leaderboard, while he also set the school’s MEAC Tournament record with 23 assists during N.C. Central’s 2018 MEAC Championship run.

A native of Greensboro, North Carolina, and a product of Greensboro Day School, Perkins ranked among the MEAC’s top 10 in assists per game all four years and posted career averages of 6.3 points, 4.8 assists and 2.8 rebounds per game as well as a career assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.90.

But Perkins’ tenure at N.C. Central was defined by more than his individual production, as he directed the Eagles to three league titles, including MEAC Championship tournament wins and NCAA berths as a freshman in 2017-18 and a sophomore in 2018-19, as well as a MEAC Regular Season Championship in 2019-20. In total, the Eagles posted a four-year record of 60-54 overall, 35-21 in the MEAC, and 8-1 in MEAC postseason play.

“We are thrilled to welcome Jordan to Longwood and our basketball family,” Aldrich said. “Jordan is a pure point guard who brings a wealth of experience and leadership to our program. His charisma, leadership qualities and ability to help lead a team will be invaluable in the year ahead. I am excited to see Jordan further develop and blossom as a Lancer.”

Isaiah Wilkins comes to Longwood after a three-year stint in the powerhouse ACC where he played a combined 83 games at Virginia Tech and Wake Forest – including 34 of 35 games for Buzz Williams’ top-25 Hokie team in 2018-19, and all 32 games of Mike Young’s first-year Hokie team in 2019-20. A native of Winston-Salem, N.C., he transferred to Wake Forest as a junior and was once again a key contributor, averaging more than 10 minutes per game in his 17 outings.

Christmas, Darden, Perkins and Wilkins will join a Longwood squad that returns three starters and nine letter winners from this past season’s 10-10 Big South roster, including seniors DeShaun Wade and Zac Watson and sophomore Jesper Granlund. Big South All-Freshman Team point guard Justin Hill also returns to follow up his standout freshman campaign.