Abilene Christian is quietly assembling a low-major dream team


They represent five basketball programs from five different D-I conferences, and they've all chosen to spend their final season of eligibility at a D-II school.

And while Abilene Christian last week officially announced its move to the Southland Conference and D-I play in all sports, they won't have any part of it since that move won't begin until the 2013-2014 season.

Meet Eric Lawton (Arkansas-Little Rock), Elliott Lloyd (Northern Colorado), Steven Werner (Sam Houston State), Jonathan King (Stephen F. Austin) and Charles White (Hartford). They're just part of first-year head coach and former UALR assistant Joe Golding's 11-man recruiting class for Abilene Christian's final season of D-II competition. Collectively they've started 92 games at the highest level of college basketball over a combined nine seasons.

How did they all end up at ACU? A variety of frustrations combined with ACU connections that seem to stretch nationwide.

Lawton, once a three-star recruit ranked the No. 28 guard of his class, was recruited and signed by San Diego State for their 2009-2010 season but was ruled ineligible by the NCAA for transcript problems. He played two seasons of JUCO ball before Golding recruited him at UALR. His big shot at D-I success didn't pan out, however, with Lawton's former JUCO teammate, D'Andre Williams, winning the Trojans' starting PG gig, relegating Lawton to the bench.

White practiced alongside current ACU assistant Jaret von Rosenberg while a redshirt freshman at Hartford. He started 14 games at point in his first playing season, but was immediately relegated to the reserves when Dan Leibovitz left Hartford to become an assistant at Penn and John Gallagher took over and changed the Hawks entire offensive scheme.

Lloyd too was highly recruited out of high school, and was the starting point guard for the UNC's' 2010-2011 21-win season. He also led them to an NCAA Tournament berth that ended in a loss to San Diego State before PG Paul Garnica came along and took his job in Lloyd's junior year. He's a Houston native that probably won't mind being close to home again.

Werner, an athletic 6-8 post, wasn't highly recruited out of high school, but the JUCO transfer was very impressive in his lone season at Sam Houston State. He ranked among the top 100 in the nation in defensive rebounding rate last season (22.2 percent) in his 16 starts and 27 games, and left the Southland as one of the conference's best frontcourt players. With nothing public, it must have been eligibility issues that left Werner in the cold.

King (6-5) started 21 of 31 games last season on a perenially quality Stephen F. Austin squad that won 20 games. He ranked 38th in the nation in offensive rebounding rate (13.9 percent).

These guys are no D-I slouches. They're just either frustrated where they are or were forced to leave. They bring with them a wealth of talent and experience that are going to make the Wildcats (which I might add play Baylor this upcoming season in an exhibition game) look good as they make the transition to the Southland Conference.