WEST LIBERTY, W.Va. – West Liberty University head men’s basketball coach Ben Howlett has reloaded his 2021-22 roster with an impressive mix of high school talent and collegiate transfers as the Black and Gold set their sights on another deep post-season run.
Fresh off its sixth Atlantic Region title and NCAA Division II Elite Eight berth in the past decade, the Hilltoppers’ current streak of 12 consecutive NCAA Division II Tournament bids is the longest in the nation and Howlett can’t wait to see his six newcomers join the party.
“With three impressive freshmen and three more guys transferring in from other schools, this is a really deep and talented group,” Howlett said. “There’s always a transition period as guys adjust to playing our brand of basketball but when we get them up to speed and add them to the players we have coming back, we should be able to put a pretty talented team on the floor this season.”
The Hilltopper transfers are Quincy (Ill.) transfer Viktor Kovacevic, a 6-8 wing from Belgrade, Serbia; Walsh (Ohio) transfer Christian Montague, a 6-1 point guard from Dayton, Ohio and Charleston transfer Garrett Denbow, a 6-5 guard from Ashland, Ohio. All three are taking advantage of the NCAA’s 2020-21 COVID eligibility waiver. Kovacevic will be playing his final year of college ball while Montague and Denbow have three years left to play.
Joining the Black and Gold from the high school ranks are Aiden Satterfield, a 6-7 wing from Charleston, W.Va. and Charleston Catholic High School; Dante Spadafora, a 6-0 point guard from Coraopolis, Pa. and Our Lady of Sacred Heart High School; and Austin Webb, a 6-3 shooting guard from South Point, Ohio and South Point High School.
Following are brief capsules on each of the WLU additions along with insights from Coach Howlett:
VIKTOR KOVACEVIC was a two-year starter at Quincy after an impressive two seasons at Manhattan (N.Y.) CC. Kovacevic averaged 15.3 ppg. and 5.7 rpg. last season while shooting 56 percent from the floor and 49 percent from the 3-point arc. He poured in a career-high 34 points in an overtime loss at eventual regional champion and NCAA Division II Elite Eight qualifier Truman State (Mo.).
Howlett says: “Viktor has the ability to play on the perimeter and in the paint plus he has a great understanding of the game. He’s an excellent passer who can also put the ball on the floor and get to the rim, all of which makes him a great fit for our system.”
CHRISTIAN MONTAGUE was a two-year starter who earned All-G-MAC honors on the point for the Cavaliers. He scored more than 600 points with 83 3-pointers at Walsh while ranking among the G-MAC’s Top 10 in assists and steals per game. Montague averaged 12.9 ppg. over his last two years and had four games with 20 or more points during the abbreviated 2020-21 campaign.
Howlett says: “As an All-Conference player in the G-MAC, Christian has been successful at our level. He’s a calm, mature point guard who can score but also get others involved. In addition, he is an elite defender who will be a force in our pressure defense. Extremely happy to bring Christian on board.”
GARRETT DENBOW battled through injuries for much of his time at Charleston but showed plenty of promise as a true freshman when he shot 44 percent from the 3-point line with multiple double-figure scoring games, highlighted by a career-high 13 points in a win against Wheeling.
Howlett says: “We recruited Garrett out of high school. He’s a high-level perimeter shooter but he has the length and skills to put the ball on the floor and score inside. He has college experience and has played in big games. We can’t wait to get a chance to work with Garrett.”
AIDEN SATTERFIELD was a two-time All-Stater and 1,000-point scorer who averaged 21.4 points and 8.3 rebounds a night as a senior, setting school single-game records with 46 points and 10 3-point field goals. He led the Irish to the semifinals of the West Virginia Class AA state tournament and was MVP and Slam Dunk champion at the West Virginia North-South All-Star Game.
Howlett says: “We have been recruiting Aiden for several years so we’re thrilled to have him on the hilltop. He’s an extremely versatile player who competes at a high level on both ends of the floor. Aiden has a very high ceiling and we think he could be a standout player in our system.”
DANTE SPADAFORA was an electrifying four-time All-State point guard who helped lead Our Lady of Sacred Heart High School to an unbeaten WPIAL and Pennsylvania state championship season as a senior. A 1,700-point career scorer, Spadafora averaged nearly 20 points a game while stuffing the stat sheets with 5.7 assists, 4.8 rebounds and 4.7 steals a night.
Howlett says: “Dante is a winner who comes to us off a spectacular high school career. He has a great ability to play in the open court and get others involved in the offense plus he’s an ULTRA competitor. We’re really looking forward to seeing him on the floor with our guys.”
AUSTIN WEBB was a two-time All-Ohio Division III All-District and All-Conference shooting guard who battled through injuries during his senior year at South Point (Ohio). A 1,000-point scorer who led the Ohio Valley Conference in scoring (21.1 ppg.) as a junior, he also led the team in rebounding with 7.5 boards per game.
Howlett says: “Austin is a silky smooth southpaw shooter who has great range but can score at all three levels and guard multiple positions. He’s extremely easy to play with and with his skill set, he’s a great fit for our system.”