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Howlett Adds Four More to Hilltoppers’ Hoard of Talent

By Staff | Aug 7, 2019

West Liberty’s Ben Howlett is accustomed to cutting down nets, both previously as a player and now as the coach of the annually Nationally-ranked Hilltoppers. Recently, Howlett added four more players to his potent arsenal.

WEST LIBERTY, W.Va. – West Liberty University head basketball coach Ben Howlett has wrapped up his 2019-20 recruiting class, adding a pair of impressive collegiate transfers and two more recent high school graduates to the talented Hilltopper roster.

Patrick Robinson III is a 6-2 sophomore transfer from NCAA Division II Holy Family (Pa.) while 6-4 sophomore guard Malik McKinney comes to the hilltop from NCAA Division II Seton Hill (Pa.). Mason Shifflett, a 6-5 freshman guard from Shepherdsville, Ky., prepped at Teays Valley (W.Va.) Christian while Quinn Hiles is a 6-3 freshman guard from Norwayne (Ohio) High School.

The newest Hilltoppers join a trio of incoming freshman standouts from November’s early-signing period – Owen Hazelbaker, a 6-7 power forward from Johnstown-Monroe High School in Johnstown, Ohio; Bryce Butler, a 6-5 shooting guard from Greater Latrobe High School in Latrobe, Pa.; and Evan Conley, a 6-0 guard from Fairfield Union High School in Lancaster, Ohio – as the two-time defending Mountain East Conference champion Hilltoppers set their sights on a “three-peat.”

“I’m extremely excited about our incoming class as a whole,” said Howlett, whose Hilltoppers are coming off their eighth NCAA Division II “Sweet 16” run in past 10 years. “Every one of these guys have played a lot of basketball at a very high level. When we add them to the mix along with the players we have returning and the two guys who sat out redshirt seasons a year ago, we have a chance to put a pretty talented team on the floor this season.”

Robinson exploded onto the NCAA Division II scene as a true freshman last winter when he averaged 18.7 points, 5.9 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game to earn CACC Freshman of the Year honors at Holy Family.

The dynamic guard shot 55 percent from the floor with 26 double-figure scoring games, highlighted by a 28-point night against NCAA Division II Tournament qualifier West Chester (Pa.).

“Pat is a strong, shifty guard who can score in a variety of ways,” Howlett said. “He’s a high-level player who will be a great addition to our team for the next three seasons.”

McKinney also stepped right into the starting lineup as a true freshman at Seton Hill. The rangy 6-4 backcourter scored at an 11.2 ppg. clip with 17 double-figure scoring games. He shot 52 percent from the floor with a season-high 24 points against NCAA Division II Tournament qualifier Shippensburg (Pa.).

“Malik is a strong athletic guard whose length really plays well on both ends of the floor,” Howlett said. “He’s an outstanding defender with the ability to score and we’re very happy to have him here for the next three years.”

The 6-5 Shifflett is a Kentucky native who finished his high school career at nationally-ranked Teays Valley Christian Prep. A lethal perimeter shooter, Shifflett drained 249 3-pointers and scored 1,312 points during his high school career while shooting an eye-popping 46 percent from behind the arc.

“Mason is a great fit for our system with his length and skill set,” Howlett said. “He’s a great outside shooter but also has the size and versatility to play multiple positions. Mason is a young man with a very high ceiling whose best basketball is ahead of him.”

Hiles, a 6-3 shooting guard, earned All-Ohio Division III honors and was the WCAL Player of the Year as a senior at Norwayne High School. The three-year starter blew past the 1,000-point career mark in his final season when he led the Bobcats with a 15.7 ppg. scoring average.

“Quinn had an outstanding high school career and has the ability to get to the rim or score from the perimeter,” Howlett said. “He’s a quality young man with a terrific work ethic and I really look forward to coaching him.”

Howlett and the Hilltoppers tip off their 2019-20 season in Raleigh, N.C. on Nov. 9-10 when they participate in the Atlantic Region Crossover, hosted by Shaw University. West Liberty takes on Mansfield (Pa.) in the Nov. 9 opener before closing out the event against Shaw on Nov. 10.