Men's Hoops Signs Three Big Men for Next Season

Marty Wilson

Nov. 14, 2013

MALIBU, Calif. - Last year, Pepperdine men's basketball coach Marty Wilson went heavy into recruiting guards and wings to fortify the Waves' backcourt. Today, Wilson signed three promising young big men to national letters-of-intent to give the Waves their frontcourt of the future.

Wilson announced Thursday the signing of 6-foot-10 center Nate Gehring (Waukee, Iowa/Waukee HS), 6-foot-8 forward A.J. John (Santa Rosa, Calif./Maria Carrillo HS) and 6-foot-10 center Ryan Keenan (Woodbury, Minn./East Ridge HS). They will enter Pepperdine as freshmen in the fall of 2014.

"We are very pleased with this recruiting class," Wilson said. "These three young men will help us continue to improve our basketball program. Their impact will be felt on the court, on the Pepperdine campus and in the Malibu community. We knew we needed size in this class, and we worked hard to discover these three young men, who are the right fit for our program and the type of players that we want. Nate, A.J. and Ryan might not yet be well-known, but based on the level of improvement that each of them has shown over the last year or two, I expect that they will all have big senior years in high school, and then they are going to come to Pepperdine and become quality players in the West Coast Conference."

Following is capsule information and quotes on each of the Waves' signees:


Averaged 10.6 points, 6.7 rebounds and 2.0 blocks and shot 58% from the field as a junior last season at Waukee (Iowa) High School ... Named to the All-Central Iowa Conference second team, and was first-team All-Eastern Division ... Had career highs of 24 points and 12 rebounds against Southwest Polk High School ... Averaged 8.5 points per game as a sophomore, his first on the varsity ... gives him a grade of 75 and rates him as the fourth-best senior in the state of Iowa ... Plays club basketball with Kingdom Hoops.



Nate Gehring says: "I really like that I'll get to play in the WCC. It's a big-time conference and I'll get to play against big-time players. Pepperdine has great academics so I know I'm going to get a really good education. And you can't complain about the weather in Malibu, especially being from Iowa, so that's going to be great. As soon as I got off the plane for my visit I was welcomed by the coaches and they were really nice to me. The players made me feel like it's a family there. That was unlike any other visit that I took. It's a young team so I could relate to them. I'm really excited to get to work. I want to be a leader, even as a freshman."

Marty Wilson says: "Nate's overall size, skill, athleticism and ability to get up and down the court bring a lot of value for how we want to play. He has the ability to score inside and out and he will be a good rebounder as well."

Jake Sullivan, coach with Kingdom Hoops, says: "I love Nate. He's an incredible kid. He's going to be a great fit at Pepperdine. I've had the opportunity to coach him for four years and the thing I've been most excited about is how much he's improved. He went from being on our lowest team as an eighth-grader to our top team as a sophomore, and over the last year he got a lot of Division I offers. He has a great work ethic and a commitment to be successful. Nate's a big, low-post player who is very good with his left hand. Right now he's primarily a back-to-the-basket player, but he's working on developing his shot so he can be comfortable shooting from 12 to 15 feet. Pepperdine's getting an athletic kid who is an incredible competitor. He loves to win and loves to get better. If he keeps making the same strides, Pepperdine will have an all-conference player one day."

Justin Ohl, coach at Waukee High School, says: "I think Nate has a tremendous upside. He runs the court extremely well. I think his best basketball is ahead of him. He's got a lot of potential to be a very good player, especially when he's able to get into a year-round weight program and really pour himself into college basketball. He's a traditional post but he can also step out and he's getting better with his shot. He's a left-hander so he's unique in that regard. He's very athletic, and runs and jumps well."


Led Maria Carrillo High, located in Santa Rosa, Calif., in scoring, rebounding, blocks and steals as a junior ... Averaged 10 points and seven rebounds ... Named All-North Bay League honorable mention last year ... Will be in his third year on the varsity as a senior ... gives him a grade of 66 ... Plays club for the Oakland Soldiers.

A.J. John says: "I thought Pepperdine's team atmosphere was the best of all the schools that I was able to go to. Nothing against the other schools, I just really liked Pepperdine's atmosphere and how well they got along together. There were no cliques, it was just a solid group. First and foremost I want to get a good education and get a degree. I want to help the team keep improving and get a shot at a WCC title and to go the NCAA Tournament."

Marty Wilson says: "A.J. is an athletic and skilled forward who can score in a variety of ways. His ability to shoot the three, handle the ball, pass the ball and make good decisions will create matchup problems."

Carl Foster, John's mentor and the co-executive director emeritus of the Oakland Soldiers, says: "A.J. is a very unique kid who truly embraces what a student-athlete is supposed to be. He's committed to the classroom. He has a very old-school approach to sports. His biggest desire is to learn and develop. I met him in seventh grade and trained him for three years. He was always seeking more information, trying to figure out what else he could do to improve. I've seen him grow from a 5-foot-11 eighth grader to a 6-foot-8 young man. He's probably the most reverential kid I've ever seen. I couldn't be more proud of how he has developed as a person. He'll be a tremendous asset to the university, let alone what he'll do on the basketball court. It wouldn't surprise me if A.J. is one day the governor of California."

Ray Thomas, coach with the Oakland Soldiers, says: "A.J. is a great kid, a smart kid, a very caring kid. He's an extremely hard worker and a gym rat. He's going to do whatever it takes to get better. He's a team player, it's all about the team with him. You would want your daughter to bring home a kid like this. His potential is unlimited. He could have easily been a high-major player, but he's a late-bloomer who really came into his own this past summer. He can shoot the ball, he's a very good passer, he can put the ball on the floor and he's very athletic. He has a chance to be pretty special at Pepperdine. That's a good choice for him because he'll have a chance to play early and really develop, and lead the program in a couple of years. He was a double-figure point scorer for us and he held his own against some of the top players on the West Coast. He did a good job of going against those guys, competing against them and making them work."

Will Parker, coach at Maria Carrillo High School, says: "A.J. is an integral part of our team. His leadership has been fantastic and it gets better and better every day. He's a pure shooter who can elevate well and has great touch. It's pretty to watch. He can see the floor and help direct the offense, and can get our guys in the right spot. He's a solid offensive rebounder who anticipates well and finishes well. He's still got a learning curve, but he has the capability to get quicker and stronger. He will be a good addition at Pepperdine and will be very effective as a three or a four."


Joined the varsity at East Ridge High, located in Woodbury, Minn., as a junior ... Played in 26 of 27 games as a backup center, with highs of eight points and six rebounds ... Played on the freshman and "B" teams his first two years ... Baseball was originally his top sport before putting all his focus on basketball in the last year ... His father, Dane Keenan, is the head coach at Harding High School in St. Paul, Minn. ... Plays club basketball with Minnesota Select.

Ryan Keenan says: "I loved the fit and compatibility I had with the coaching staff, the players, the academics and the location at Pepperdine. It's a beautiful campus and view is breathtaking. It's my dream to play in the NCAA Tournament and playing for Marty Wilson gives me a shot to do that. He's recruiting high-quality players and I wanted to be a part of that."

Marty Wilson says: "Ryan is a big, physical and active big man who will be a presence at both ends. His size, toughness and ability to run along with his developing offensive skills will give us much-needed depth in the post."

Mitch Ohnstad, coach with Minnesota Select, says: "Ryan is a great kid. He's a late bloomer with a lot of potential. He will continue to get a lot better. He's big, but at his size he can run the floor well. He has good hands and is a good defender and rebounder. His offensive game is still developing but he's a true 5, a low-post player. His best basketball is ahead of him. He played baseball for a while but is now focused on basketball. Our program has had a number of guys who have signed D-I and he's at their level."

Paul Virgin, head coach at East Ridge High School, says: "The biggest thing over the past year for Ryan is that he's really grown into his body and he's comfortable with his size and strength. From January to now his growth has been remarkable. It's why he's gone from a bit of an unknown to a Division I athlete. He's put in a great deal of work over the summer and it shows. He's an excellent inside presence. He has great touch around the hoop. He's a good shot-blocker and rebounder. He has a great basketball IQ."

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