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Kowalczyk brings in two former players

By Zach Davis
On April 29, 2010

After visiting the University of Toledo campus last weekend, Wisconsin-Green Bay freshmen Rian Pearson and Matt Smith transferred to the Toledo basketball program on Monday. Both players played under new head coach Tod Kowalczyk last season and will sit out next year due to NCAA transfer rules.

"They recruited us," Kowalczyk said. "As soon as we left [Wisconsin-Green Bay] they wanted to come to Toledo, they wanted to follow our staff. I think they both will benefit from a redshirt year and will make this program a lot stronger instantly the following year.

"I'm very humbled by the fact that they wanted to come here. I think that just reinforces that we want to do things the right way and how we are coaching guys the right way."

Pearson made just two starts for the Phoenix, but averaged 6.4 points and 2.7 rebounds in 16.5 minutes. The 6-3, 190 pound forward from Raytown, Mo. was described by Green Bay Press Gazette writer Rob Demovsky as "the bigger loss" for UWGB.

"Rian has an unbelievable amount of energy," Kowalczyk said. "He plays extremely hard, he's very athletic, he finishes around the basket and has a good mid-range game. He has to expand his three-point range and ball handling on the perimeter."

Smith, a 6-7, 200 pound forward from Whitewright, Texas, started 34-of-35 games for the Phoenix last year and averaged 3.2 points and 2.1 rebounds in 11.9 minutes per game.

"Matt is very long, athletic and skilled around the basket," Kowalczyk said. "He's going to get bigger, stronger and play more physical. He will really benefit from the redshirt year."

Both players will redshirt this season and be sophomores when they first take the court in 2011. They join a 2011 class including Ryan Majerle and junior Iowa State transfer Dominique Buckley.

"I don't ever promise anybody that they will come in and start," Kowalczyk said. "They're certainly talented enough and good enough to start. They have to come out and earn it, but they are not your prototypical high school kids. They've been through a college regular season where they won 22 games. They know what it takes, they know how to win and they are impact players."

The signings came just two days after the signing of Reese Holliday, their lone recruit from the 2010 class. Holliday had previously committed to play for Kowalczyk at Wisconsin-Green Bay before the coaches departure and chose to follow him to Toledo. He chose the Rockets over Nebraska, Oral Roberts and Wright State.

"[Holliday's] a guy that has a lot of potential," Kowalczyk said. "Reese is just a very multi-dimensional guard. He's a power guard, he can do a great job finishing and rebounding or he can step out and shoot and score off the dribble. We've got to get him in better shape and get him ready to go because we're going to have to count on him to play a lot of minutes as a freshman."

Toledo has lost six players due to transfers this offseason including starters Jake Barnett, Larry Bastfield and Jordan Dressler, as well as reserves Josh Freelove, Ian Salter and Neil Watson. Despite losing so many players from a team that finished with the worst season in school history at 4-28, and adding just Holliday, Kowalczyk is confident that UT fans will not see a repeat of last season.

"We will be better than last year," Kowalczyk said.

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