Subscribe for 33¢ / day

The record will show that Jaume Sorolla was the first player to commit to the Valparaiso men's basketball team during the Matt Lottich Era, but Sorolla was already on Valparaiso's radar long before Bryce Drew departed for Vanderbilt. 

Lottich's first true recruit committed to Valparaiso over the weekend as Utah State transfer John Middleton confirmed on Monday that he'll be arriving on campus later this summer. The 6-foot-4, 215-pound sophomore will sit out the 2016-17 season before having three remaining seasons of eligibility. 

"Valpo's coaching staff is great," Middleton said. "I was looking for a home, a place where I fit in and can win a championship."

Middleton has had an interesting road to Valparaiso. The Atlantic City native originally committed to Coastal Carolina last spring, but he never officially signed with the Chanticleers. Middleton then signed with Utah State in late August where he planned to redshirt during the 2015-16 season. Bombarded by injuries, Utah State coach Tim Duryea decided to burn Middleton's redshirt 18 games into the season. Middleton played sparingly down the stretch of the year, logging just 49 minutes over eight games and scoring 14 points during his freshman season. 

Sources close to the Utah State men's basketball program remember Middleton as a quiet player who was more of a slasher than a 3-point shooter. Middleton struggled to fit into the perimeter offense run by the Aggies and one source said he wasn't surprised when Middleton decided to transfer. 

When asked to explain his strengths and weaknesses on Monday, Middleton talked highly of his court-vision and ability to get to the basket and finish above the rim. He made a point to say he needs to improve his 3-point shooting and defensive ability. 

Middleton averaged 17.8 points and 7.4 assists in high school and he said he can play either guard position or small forward. 

It won't be surprising if Valparaiso kicks the tires on trying to regain Middleton's lost year of eligibility at some point. The Crusaders were able to gain another year for Vashil Fernandez, but have been unsuccessful as of now at procuring an additional year for Keith Carter. As it stands, Middleton will have to sit out this season and will spend his first two years of college playing just 49 minutes of basketball. 

Valparaiso still has two scholarships remaining for next season. The Crusaders are likely to hold one for Carter until their final appeal has been heard. Lottich doesn't want to get into a situation that Drew got into last year when Fernandez was given an additional year and Valparaiso needed to release Daniel Relvao from his commitment because the team was at the scholarship limit.

The Crusaders lost one potential recruit on Monday when VCU transfer Michael Gilmore picked Miami (Fla.) over Valparaiso. 


Paul Oren has been a correspondent reporter for The Times since 2005. A member of the United States Basketball Writers Association, Paul has spent more than 15 years covering Valparaiso basketball.