MANHATTAN, Kan. – Kansas State head coach Jerome Tang announced the signing of three highly-touted high school seniors – Darrin “Dai Dai” Ames (Chicago, Ill./Kenwood Academy), Robert “R.J.” Jones (Denton, Texas/Wasatch Academy [Utah]) and Macaleab “Buddy” Rich (East St. Louis, Mo./East Saint Louis [Ill.]) – to National Letters of Intent during the Fall National Signing Period on Friday afternoon (November 11).
“We are all super excited about this group of young men,” said Tang. “All three of them are high character kids who are very passionate about the game of basketball, and they are fun to be around. They’re the kind of guys you love having at your house and spending time with away the basketball court. They’re also great competitors. We couldn’t be more pleased with the way they’re going fit into the K-State family.”
The collective 3-man recruiting class is rated one of the best in the country, as evident by its No. 15 national ranking by 247Sports, No. 18 ranking by ESPN and Rivals and No. 33 by On3. Both Ames and Jones are consensus 4-star prospects by all four major recruiting services, while Rich is a top-150 prospect by both On3 and 247Sports.
Darrin “Dai Dai” Ames (6-1, 160, PG, Chicago, Ill./Kenwood Academy)
[Recruiting Ranking: #56 Rivals, #71 247Sports, #81 ESPN, #97 On3]
Ames enters his senior season at Kenwood Academy in Chicago, as a 4-star and consensus top-100 prospect by all four major recruiting services. As a junior in 2021-22, he led the Broncos to a 26-9 overall record, including an 8-1 mark in the difficult Chicago Public – Red South Conference, and their first-ever Sectional title. They lost to rival Whitney Young, 75-62, in the Illinois Class 4A Super Sectional despite 21 points from Ames.
Despite missing 10 games due to injury, Ames averaged 24 points on 58 percent (104-of-178), including 51 percent (43-of-84) from 3-point range, with 4.7 assists, 2.4 steals and 1.2 rebounds per game. He also made 65 percent of his field goals inside the 3-point arc and shot a stellar 83 percent (38-of-46) from the free throw line. He led the team in scoring and steals, while was second in assists.
Ames was named First Team Class 4A All-State by The Associated Press and City/Suburban Hoops Report, while was a Second Team pick by the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association. He was selected to both the Chicago Sun-Times All-Area as well as First Team All-City Teams.
Ames played with the prestigious Mac Irvin Fire during the 2022 summer grassroots season, where he averaged a team-best 18.2 points on 47.5 percent (84-of-117) shooting, including 34.6 percent (18-of-52) from 3-point range, to go with 4.5 assists, 2.1 rebounds and 1.8 steals in 28.8 minutes per game.
Head coach Jerome Tang
“Darren “Dai Dai” Ames, Jr., is a fiery, shifty high-level scoring guard from Chicago. I don’t want to put too much pressure on his shoulders, but he has the same type of ability and mindset as (and fellow Chicago native), K-State great Jacob Pullen. His teammates will enjoy playing with him. He’s been very well-coached at both Kenwood and Mac Irvin Fire by Mike Irvin. We are thankful to have him as part of the family.”
Signee Darrin “Dai Dai” Ames
On the decision to attend K-State…
“”I chose Kansas State because the coaches were honest with me, and I believe they are going to get me ready for the next level. I feel like I’m going to grow to love the school and that the school will grow to love me.”
On Coach Tang…
“I love the person Coach Tang is. He is not a bad person. He’s a great person. I love how he can coach, and I love everything about how he holds himself.”
Kenwood Academy/Mac Irvin Fire Head Coach Mike Irvin
On Ames signing with K-State…
“K-State is getting the best player in the state (of Illinois). Dai Dai is a special talent, and he has that Chicago Tuffness. K-State fans are going to love Dai Dai. He’s exciting to watch.”
Robert “R.J.” Jones (6-3, 175, SG, Denton, Texas/Wasatch Academy [Utah])
[Recruiting Ranking: #91 On3, #73 247Sports, #41 ESPN, #78 Rivals]
Jones will play his senior season at prep powerhouse Wasatch Academy in Mount Pleasant, Utah, as a 4-star and consensus top-100 prospect by all four major recruiting services. He transferred to Wasatch after guiding John Paul II High School in Plano, Texas to a 31-7 overall record and its second TAPPS Class 6A State Championship in three years as a junior in 2021-22. The Cardinals beat Concordia Lutheran, 66-56, in the state title game with Jones pouring in a team-high 19 points to end the year on a 10-game winning streak.
Jones averaged 19.7 points for John Paul II High School as a junior to go along with 4.1 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.6 steals per game. He had at least 12 games of at least 20 points, including a pair of 30-point efforts. He scored a career-high 33 points against Our Saviour Lutheran on Dec. 11, 2021, while he posted 32 points against rival Bishop Lynch on Feb. 8, 2022, knocking down 11-of-17 field goals, including 7-of-13 from 3-point range.
Jones was named to the TAPPS 6A All-Tournament team after averaging 20 points, 4 rebounds and 3 assists in the playoffs, which included a 23-point effort vs. Bishop Lynch in the semifinals.
For his efforts, Jones was named the 2022 TAPPS Class 6A Player of the Year, a First Team All-State and All-District selection and the MVP of District 6A-2, while he earned recognition to the Second Team All-Area Team by the Dallas Morning News. He was invited to the prestigious Pangos All-American Camp this summer, while he played with the JL3 Elite Basketball Team during the summer grassroots season, averaging 15 points at the Peach Jam.
Jones combined for more than 800 points as a freshman (2019-20) and sophomore (2020-21) at Braswell High School in Little Elm, Texas, including averaging 19 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.5 steals in 29 games played as a sophomore in 2020-21.
Head coach Jerome Tang
“R.J. Jones is an elite scorer. He has tremendous shooting ability with great range that’s going to allow us to space the floor. He is not just a scorer; he can do it all at the guard position. R.J. fell in love with the family environment we have at K-State. He has had great coaching both in both high school and with (AAU) JL3 with Coach (Anthony) Fobb. Coach (Paul) Peterson (at Wasatch Academy) is going to do a tremendous job of preparing him for what is going to face in college.”
Signee Robert “R.J.” Jones
On the decision to attend K-State:
“I honestly just loved everything about Kansas State. Coach (Jerome) Tang and Coach (Ulric) Mal and the rest of the staff are a group of very genuine men who are all about their players. They’re a family, and they’re just great basketball minds who know the game and help to develop players. I know I’ll grow there in a lot of ways.
Coach Tang has been recruiting me since he was at Baylor, and he’s a guy that everyone just loves. He’s really genuine, and he’s easy to connect with, and it’s the same with Coach Mal and the rest of the staff.
Coach Tang loves guards who can score the ball and can do a lot of different things on the court, so that really fit me. I have all the trust in the world in him, and that’s the main reason I committed there.
While I was on the visit, I knew that I was gonna commit there. I felt it really strong.
The No. 1 goal for me and the family there is to win, because our goal is to win a national championship.”
[Read his entire statement from Sports Illustrated]
Wasatch Academy Head Coach Paul Peterson
On Jones as a player…
“He’s definitely a dynamic scorer at every level. He’s a perfect combination of finesse and strength, but the thing that sets him apart is his maturity. He thinks at a mature level not just on the court but in life as well. Small things like his body, his friend group, his family, etc., which is rare from a kid that age.”
Macaleab “Buddy” Rich (6-7, 250, PF, East St. Louis, Mo./East Saint Louis [Ill.])
[Recruiting Ranking: #107 On3, #129 247Sports]
Rich heads into his senior season at East Saint Louis High School in East Saint Louis, Ill., as one of the top up-and-coming power forwards in the country. As a junior in 2021-22, he led the Flyers to a 27-6 overall record, including a perfect 10-0 mark in league play, and a berth in the Illinois Class 3A Super Sectionals. He averaged a double-double (points/rebounds) in 33 games played with team-bests in scoring (19.2 ppg.) and rebounding (10.9 rpg.) while connecting on 54.9 percent (268-of-488) from the field, including 57.5 percent (249-of-433) from inside the arc. He also averaged 2.1 assists, 1.4 steals and 2.6 blocks per game.
Rich registered a double-double in 21 games, including an impressive 21-point, 20-rebound effort against O’Fallon on Feb. 15, 2022. During the Class 3A state tournament, he averaged 20.2 points on 56.6 percent (43-of-76) shooting with 12 rebounds per game.
Rich was named First Team Class 3A All-State by the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association and was a First Team selection on the St. Louis American Fab Five All-Star Team. He was the only underclassmen selected to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch All-Metro First Team. He played with the Southwestern Illinois Jets during the 2022 summer grassroots season.
Head coach Jerome Tang
“We are excited to have Macaleab as part of the family. Buddy (Macaleab’s nickname) is just a physical specimen at 6-foot-7, 250-pounds and moves like he is 6-foot-2, 190 (pounds). He plays multiple positions and his best basketball is ahead of him. He’s going to be a mismatch nightmare in the Big 12. His teammates are going to enjoy playing with him. He has tremendous gifts. When he gets his hands on a rebound, nobody’s getting it from him. Just like Dai Dai and R.J., he is a winner. Coach (Mark) Chambers (at East Saint Louis) and Coach (Darius) Austin (at the SW Illinois Jets) have done a tremendous job coaching him. We’re thankful to have him a part of the family.”
Signee Macaleab Rich
On the decision to attend K-State:
“Everything about it. When I went on my official visit they showed love, it felt like a family on and off the court. I had a great bond with the coaches and all the players. The fans showed major love. That played a huge role in my decision.”
East Saint Louis Head Coach Mark Chambers
On Rich signing with K-State…
“What they’re building there with the new coach, the culture they’re building, I think that’s what he (Macaleab) fell in love with on the visit. He’s very, very excited about it.”
On Rich’s growth as a player…
“He’s worked harder than any player I’ve had thus far. Any of them. He’s worked harder, he’s put in more hours making that transition from back to the basket. He couldn’t handle really well. He was a pretty decent shooter when he came in, but he didn’t have confidence. He’s going to have a solid college career and beyond that.
“He has followed a process. We planned it out for him, and he’s worked the plan. He has worked his butt off to become this player. People don’t realize how good of a passer he is and that he led us in three-point shooting in two of the last three years.”