Men’s College Basketball: Russell uses local and national pipelines to get recruits

Aitkin's Mannie Ukutegbe and Pequot Lakes' Sam Rysavy go after a rebound Friday, March 5, at Pequot Lakes this season. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

Two local players and four players from Indianapolis Metropolitan High School makeup the early 2020 recruiting class for Central Lakes College head coach Jim Russell.

The coach of Indianapolis Metropolitan is Lee Jackson who played football and basketball at CLC and graduated in 1996.

Jackson didn’t play for Russell, who started coaching at CLC in 1998, but the two of them have built a relationship and this isn’t the first time Jackson has had one of his players go to CLC.

“It’s a good experience for the guys,” Jackson said. “They get to go to college and do what they love to do. I had a good time in my two years there. I’ve sent a few guys up there.”

Jackson thinks Russell runs a good program and coaches for the right reasons.


“I’ve learned a lot from coach (Russell) and we talk basketball all the time,” Jackson said. “He’s trying to help kids extend their career just as well as I am. Coach Russell is a really good guy.”

Russell loves the relationship he has with the CLC graduate and that Jackson recommends his players come to CLC.

“One of my biggest recruiting things is that I love taking kids that I know someone gave me advice or a reference on,” Russell said. “It’s an awesome thing to have someone recommend a kid here. It means they think highly of this place.”

Being a CLC grad, Jackson knows the value of junior college athletics.

“Getting the chance to go that JUCO route and get college-level classes and being able to extend your career; I think it’s a good opportunity for a lot of kids and most kids get to leave after that and go to a bigger university,” Jackson said.

After his time at CLC, Jackson served in the Navy and coached high school basketball in Myrtle Beach, Va., before returning to his hometown in Indianapolis.

Antiono Belton, William Keno, Charles Hunter and Javon Hill are all Indianapolis Metropolitan grads attending CLC and playing basketball next year.

Keno highlights the group with a 21.7 points-per-game average his senior year and earning all-state in Indiana.


“He led us in scoring and can light it up,” Jackson said. “He has unlimited range. I’ve seen him have 35 points in one half and 20 points in one quarter. He can score the ball.”

Hunter stands 6-foot and averaged 10 points, six rebounds and four assists as a senior.

“Great kid and great attitude,” Jackson said. “He’ll get after you defensively.”

Belton is 6-5 and averaged 10 rebounds and eight points a game his senior year.

“He’s a hard-working kid,” Jackson said. “He’s learning how to be a young man and has good grades. He jumps out of the gym and has a really good attitude.”

Hill was the starting point for four years at Indianapolis Metropolitan.

“He was our second-leading scorer and can lead a team,” Jackson said. “His GPA is also very high. So (Russell) is getting four high character kids that can play basketball.”

Russell mentioned Jackson runs a lot of the same actions he does, so the adjustment period on the court shouldn’t take too long.


“These kids are going to work hard and they know it’s a team effort,” Russell said. “With that being said, they will fit right in here.”

Russell is also excited about the two Minnesota commits he has in Josh Parrow of Onamia and Manni Ukutegbe of Aitkin. He said both are high character student-athletes.

Ukutegbe scored 17 points and grabbed 13 rebounds a game for Aitkin. He was Mid-State Conference Player of the Year and earned a spot on the Dispatch All-Area Team.

“He has huge upside,” Russell said of Ukutegbe. “He has a good work ethic and has great leadership qualities.”

The recruiting process for Russell has been a little more challenging this spring with COVID-19 shutting down spring AAU ball.

It doesn’t mean he stopped recruiting.

“It’s what we do,” Russell said. “Constant phone, constant texting, now it’s zoom meetings. It’s difficult, but we just do it.”

No AAU basketball is a big recruiting loss for Russell.


“Most of our schools don’t have big recruiting budgets,” Russell said. “So AAU allows us to see more kids in one place. So we aren’t traveling all over the place. I also don’t mind the idea of being at home.”

What To Read Next
Get Local


Must Reads