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Penguins lock up trio of ‘local’ recruits

YOUNGSTOWN — People are gravitating toward the Youngstown State University men’s basketball program.

Verbal committments are coming much sooner than in past years.

Luke Chicone (Mentor), Josh Irwin (Chesterland) and Michael Lucarotti (Erie, Pa.) made their intentions known almost a year ago.

On Wednesday, all three signed with the YSU men’s program, which went 18-15 last season.

“I have to give all the credit to my staff,” YSU coach Jerrod Calhoun said. “I think they did a tremendous job identifying three kids that met three needs that were on our team. All three kids are different positions.”

Chicone, a 5-foot-10 guard, scored 39 points in a Division I regional semifinal against Medina.

“He’s a point guard that has an unbelievable IQ. He’s had a tremendous, tremendous career so far,” Calhoun said.

Chicone, a Division I All-Ohio second-team selection in 2019-20, averaged 19.7 points, 5.6 assists, 4.8 rebounds and 2.3 steals per game for Mentor High School.

He comes from a great Mentor program coached by Bob Krizancic, a former YSU standout and graduate.

“He’s just an exceptional coach, one of the best we’ve seen in the state in the history of high school basketball,” Calhoun said. “He has a great program, runs it really well. They play a fast-paced style.

“Luke is going to be one of the best point guards in the state of Ohio this year on one of the best teams in the state. I think he’ll defintely be ready.”

Chicone comes from a basketball family. His father, Mark, was a the former Villa Angela-St. Joseph girls basketball coach.

His grandfather Mike Moran, is the former boys basketball coach at VA-SJ and former John Carroll University men’s coach, while his uncle, Pete Moran, is the current JCU coach.

“He’s got great bloodlines. Basketball was in his veins from the time he was born,” Calhoun said of Luke Chicone.

Also in the recruiting class is 6-7 Josh Irwin, who played the last three years at West Geauga High School. The second-team, all-Ohio selection averaged 22.7 points, 12.3 rebounds and made 62 3-pointers his junior year.

“He has left his mark at West Geauga. He’s a really versatile that could play inside, play on the perimeter,” Calhoun said.

Lucarotti, a 6-4 guard, who played the last three years at Erie Catheral Prep, averaged 15.1 points as a junior.

“He has tremendous upside, very athletic. He had three really good years at Erie Prep,” Calhoun said.

Both Irwin and Lucarotti are playing at International Sports Academy in Willoughby, playing on ISA’s prep team.

“They’re practicing together every day,” Calhoun said. “They’re building great chemistry that they’re able to use when they come to Youngstown. They’ve got multiple Division I players that are committed. Their practices are at a high level. That’s certainlly going to help their development, their readiness to be ready right away.”

Former YSU football coach and current university president Jim Tressel recruited most of his players within a few hours from campus. Calhoun said he and his staff follow the same theory.

“They’re all local,” Calhoun said. “That’s one things we tried to steal, really dating back to coach Tressel. When he was here, if you look at his bluerprint, he tried to go within a four-, five-, six-hour radius and really target some homegrown talent. We’ve tried to do that, getting (Lorain’s) Naz Bohannon. We’ve tried to continue that trend. I think recruting is getting earlier and earlier, getting these guys at a younger age. We’re able to get them on campus at some of our elite camps, some of our team shootouts.

“I think that helps in the recruiting of kids if they want to play close to home because their parents can see them play.”

All NCAA winter sports athletes receive a redshirt this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. YSU has six seniors — Bohannon, Michael Akuchie, Garrett Covington, Greyson Kelley, Jamir Thomas and Christian Bentley. Seniors have a chance to come back to the team for the 2021-22 season, but that won’t be known until after this season.

NCAA men’s teams have 13 scholarship players each season. For the 2021-22 season, teams can have more than the 13 scholarships available. That will be determined by how many seniors return for the 2021-22 season.

Calhoun is excited about this year’s recruiting class.

“We’re not done with this class by any means, but it’s a great start,” he said.

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