Sharpshooting 6-foot-10 forward Keelan Cairns committed to Penn yesterday from the United Kingdom. Born in Belfast, Ireland and currently playing at Barking Abbey in Essex, England, Cairns tweeted around 11 p.m. British time that he had committed to play from Penn. Watch his highlights here.
Cairns' teammate, Simeon Esprit, a 6-foot-6 guard, committed to the Quakers today, a source close to the situation told a Daily Pennsylvanian Sports reporter. He played for England's U-16 men's basketball team. Watch his highlights here.
The two reportedly visited campus last week. They are the 4th and 5th recruits to join Penn coach Jerome Allen's first official recruiting class.
"Our high school in Ireland has connections with Penn through the Penn relays and Keelan was also part of a school tour to Philly & New England a few years ago, that's probably where he was first seen," the source said.
Senior Staff Writer Noah Rosenstein contributed reporting to this story.
UPDATE (10 AM): Lloyd Gardner, Cairns and Esprit's coach at Barking Abbey, responded to an email from a few days ago after waiting for the two to commit to Penn.
According to Gardner, Esprit was recruited by Maine, Valparaiso, Hartford and Davidson, while Cairns was recruited by Florida International, Hartford and Tennessee Tech.
Though Gardner provided no time frame, he said their interest began when they were contacted by assistant coach Mike Martin, so they sent him game tapes and then Martin spoke with the players and their families. Head coach Jerome Allen took a visit to London to see them both play, and invited them to the visit that took place March 21-22 with Martin and Allen.
Gardner wrote, "Both players fell in love with Penn during their visit. They loved the college setting and the chance to receive such a high quality education. They spent time with the players on the team and thought that Penn was an ideal fit for them. They have both now canceled visits with other Universities as they are completely sure that Penn offers them the ideal environment to succeed as student athletes. They both stressed to me how welcoming the players and staff were to them during their visit."
Allen's European playing experience proved to be another key, as Gardner called it a "vital factor in both of them committing to play for Penn." Both would like to play professionally following their college careers, and saw Allen as a great person to work with in order to accomplish that. Gardner explained that Allen has a "tremendous reputation" in Europe both "on and off the court" as a player and a coach, and he thinks all European players would be interested in playing for him.
As far as their immediate impact goes, Gardner said the Penn coaches are expecting both to "compete right away," but both need to add strength before next season. Barking Abbey plays in a league that includes three former Ivy League players - Nico Scott and Kevin Bulger from Columbia and Paul Nelson from Yale - and Cairns and Esprit have "matched up well against them." Here is Gardner's breakdown of the strengths of their games:
"Keelan is a 6'11 forward who's biggest strength is his ability to shoot the ball from the perimeter, he is very much a European style big man and possess a high skill set. He has an excellent basketball IQ and is able to pass and handle the ball well for a player of his position and size. He creates big match up problems for the opposition as he drags opposing big men away from the basket."
"Simeon is a 6'6 left handed small forward who is a good athlete. He is long and finishes well at the basket and is one of the top three point shooters in our league. He is an excellent competitor who is able to play well in any system and always plays under control."
This summer, Esprit will play for the England U18 Junior National Team in the European Championships, while Cairns is currently deciding whether to make himself eligible for the Great Britain U20 National Team after previously playing in Ireland.
- Brian Kotloff
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