Denver Men’s Hoops adds three more signees

Photo courtesy Trend Basket Big Man Alperen Kurnaz is one of five signed basketball recruits for 2018-2019

We already told you about the signing of hot shooting guard Jase Townsend and 6’8″ power forward Javonni Bickham – DU’s first two signed basketball recruits for the 2018-2019 season. With a mid-week bye this week for Pioneer basketball now is the perfect time to review Denver’s most recent three additional signees along with some comments about each recruit from head coach Rodney Billups.

Taelyr Gatlin – Brighton H.S., PG, 6’3″, 170 lbs., Atoka, TN

Taelyr Gatlin had a strong junior season racking up 5 different MVP honors, 13-AAA League MVP, 13-AAA District Tourney MVP, Hotbed Classic MVP, the Larry Ransom Classic MVP and the Brighton High MVP honor. He earned back to back honors as the Commercial Appeal’s Player of the week. He also made the 1,000 point club his junior season after only playing in 6 games his freshman year due to injury. He also led his team to the (Sweet 16) West TN State Sectional game, the farthest Brighton High School has ever been in school history. His Junior season he averaged 17.8 PPG. 5.5 APG, 4.3 RPG, and 3.6 SPG.

Billups likes the on-court toughness and determination of this pass-first point guard. Taelyr takes great pride in his defensive skills and will be a team-first player who can deliver on both ends of the floor for the Pioneers. His game is trending upward which made him a ‘can’t pass up’ early signee who was a favorite of assistant coach Ricardo Patton.


Joseph Lanzi – Hillcrest Prep., SG, 6’5″, 180 lbs., Chelsea, AL

Shooting guard Joseph Lanzi can make the 3-point shot, shoot off the dribble, distribute the ball and score from all three levels. Not as athletic as some of Denver’s other recruits, Lanzi uses a high motor, vision, and a high basketball IQ to lock-down opponents on the defensive end and create on the offensive end. Joseph maintains a 4.1 GPA and holds the record of the winningest varsity basketball player in Chelsea High School history. Prior to Denver, he held preferred walk-on offers from both UAB and Alabama. Lanzi is a 6-foot-5, Lanzi averages 20 PPG, 6 RPG. and 3 SPG per game.

Billups calls Lanzi “Jake Pemberton 2.0”. Lanzi is seen as a player who can stretch teams with his defense and hit the 3-point shot on the offensive end. He is a “true 6’5″‘ guard who can play effectively on the wing. Billups loves his intelligence and team-first attitude.


Alperen Kurnaz – St. Mary’s Ryken High School, PF, 6’8″, 220 lbs. (Hillcrest Prep.)

Alperen Kurnaz came from Istanbul, Turkey to the US to compete for a position on an NCAA squad. According to Prep Hoops, Kurnaz can battle in the low post for rebounds or take a kick-out pass for a smooth three-point shot. “I think I’m an all-around player… [I] can pass, shoot, and take it to the rim,” Kurnaz said. “I think my game and height is close to Tobias Harris and Chandler Parsons, and their type of play is close to mine.” So, Kurnaz does not lack for both talent and confidence. Karnaz will be 20 years old when he enters DU and should have maturity beyond a typical freshman.

Rodney Billups sees Alperen as a stretch-four player who can play multiple positions on the court. He is seen as tough and skilled with the ability to score from all three levels – a huge plus for a player his size and typical of many skilled European players. Ideally, he can replace some of the scoring load when Daniel Amigo graduates at the end of this season.

Billups continues to build a squad focused on hard-nosed players who have a high-level court-IQ. JaVonni Bickham and Alperen Kurnaz will add size and athleticism up-front. Gatlin and Lanzi will add perimeter size and play-making at the guard position while Jase Towsend adds quickness and offensive explosion. And clearly, all the pieces fit together to support DU’s up-tempo style of play going forward.

Daniel Amigo, Jake Pemberton, and Christian Mackey graduate at the conclusion of this season.