Ray Bethea (above) emerged this offseason as a coveted mid-major wing guard. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Ray Dunne (@RayDunneBTB)
After dazzling college coaches and scouts alike in the three July live periods, Ray Bethea settled on his future school last week. The guard from Atlantic City High School will take the court as a member of Howard University’s basketball squad in the fall of 2018.
During July, Bethea picked up offers from the likes of Niagara, Robert Morris, and Quinnipiac to go along with standing offers from Stony Brook and Howard. Even with the added interest, Howard always felt right to Bethea.
“I feel it (Howard) was the best situation, I felt the most comfortable, and my sister went there so it was like, that made me feel a lot more comfortable too because I saw how it’s going to be,” Bethea said. “The coaching staff, I love it. Coach (Kevin Nickelberry) speaks highly of me and believed that I could do a lot of great things there.”
Bethea’s sister, Natasha, graduated from Howard in 2011 and while Bethea never visited her, he was able to go on an unofficial visit to the campus in June. Earlier in August, he attended Nickelberry’s camp prior to his commitment. In those two trips, he’s found a lot to like about his future home.
“I like the players, I like the coach,” Bethea said. “I didn’t really pay any mind to (their record), it’s just that I feel that they going to give me a fair opportunity.”
The verbal commitment is the first for Howard in terms of the class of 2018. In the fall of 2018, he will join family friend RJ Cole and fellow then-rising sophomores Tyler Williams, Kevin Foster, and Zion Cousins in a young nucleus that’s trying to help Nickelberry continue to resurrect a program that hasn’t seen a NCAA tournament berth since 1992.
The Bison finished 10-24 last season with a 5-11 record in the Mid-Eastern Atlantic Conference (MEAC). With the aforementioned freshman class coming for this season as well as three red shirts getting a chance to take the floor, Bethea may be joining the program as it begins to climb to the top of the conference.
One of the biggest perks of coming to Howard for Bethea is his desire to be a leader as he tries to reverse the recent history for the program.
“When I get to Howard, my number one goal is going to be to take them to the tournament,” Bethea said. “Just try to be a top player in my league, my conference, and just try to put Howard back up there, back on the map.”
The challenge of putting Howard back on top of the league will be a departure from the traditional successes he’s been a part of during his high school career. Playing at Atlantic City High School, Bethea has spent the last three seasons under the guidance of head coach Gene Allen. Allen has built a very successful program from the start, going 311-96 in his 14 seasons and 68-18 since Bethea’s freshman year.
In Bethea’s sophomore season, he guided Atlantic City to a South Jersey Group IV title and a state title game appearance. Last season, he averaged 18 points and 6.3 rebounds on a team that came very close to ending St. Augustine's three year run atop of the Cape Atlantic League.
As for his most recent basketball endeavors, Bethea spent his summer as a member of Jersey Force. His commitment tops a very productive summer for the guard with the July live periods locking him into a mid-major level prospect.
Even though he still has his senior year of high school ahead of him, Bethea is looking ahead to his career at Howard with high expectations. Ultimately, his goal as a member of the Bison boils down to one overarching theme.
“I want to make history,” he said. “I want to get them back (to the tournament) because it’s been a while since they’ve been there. I believe when I come, if I make that happen, a lot of things are going to open up.”