BIRMINGHAM — Yaxel Lendeborg and Marquis Hargrove found a new home before boarding a plane back to their previous home on Sunday.
The Arizona Western College basketball teammates took an official visit to UAB this past weekend. Before returning to Arizona to finish the semester, they signed scholarship papers to join Andy Kennedy's UAB program.
"Weekend was great," Lendeborg said. "It really felt like home, the coaches were very welcoming. The players made us feel like family already. It was a great fit."
Lendeborg is a 6-foot-9, 230-pound forward from Pennsauken, New Jersey. Hargrove is a 6-foot-3, 180-pound guard from Sacramento, California. They were the leaders of a team that finished 26-7 overall and lost to Salt Lake Community College in the NJCCA West District Championship game. Alejandro Vasquez, the top player for Salt Lake CC, will join Lendeborg and Hargrove at UAB next season. In that game, Vasquez had 16 points and two rebounds, while Lendeborg had 30 points and 14 rebounds, and Hargrove had 11 points and three rebounds.
It's not a stretch to think that Lendeborg's best days are ahead. Lendeborg was cut three years in succession during middle school, and academic issues cost him most of his time in high school. He didn't play until the final part of his senior year. Somehow, he found his way to Yuma, Arizona.
"(Arizona Western) meant the world to me," said Lendeborg, who was 5-foot-8 when he started high school and 6-foot-5 as a senior. "They were the only school to take a chance on me. In high school, I didn't have anybody recruiting me. They gave me the chance. They pretty much believed in me when I didn't believe in myself, pretty much. They gave me that role as the man on the team. It ended up working out for me."
Lendborg played in 14 games in a 2020-21 season, shortened because of Covid-19, followed by two full seasons. During his first full season, he averaged 12 points, 11 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game while shooting 60.7% from the field. This past season, he averaged 17.2 points, a national-best 13 rebounds, and 2.6 assists per game while shooting 72.7% from the field. In one game this season, he had 28 points and 31 rebounds.
He was the conference player of the year and third-team All-America selection in 2021-22. He followed that up by being named conference defensive player of the year and second-team All-America selection this past season.
Lendeborg, who was getting recruiting attention from Memphis, Houston, Cincinnati, Xavier and others before his final junior college season, originally signed with Mike Anderson at St. John's. When Anderson was fired, he went looking for a new home.
UAB became the clear leader rather early.
"We had a Zoom call that we did, the coaching staff, my family and an assistant coach that helps me," Lendeborg said. "(The UAB coaches) pretty much pushed the whole idea of me being an NBA prospect. I started to see that vision as Coach Kennedy was pushing it toward me. He was basically telling me his plans for me. After he told me, I was on board with it and 100% believe in Coach Kennedy."
It got even better when UAB also offered Hargrove.
"This is a dream, to be honest, to be able to play with somebody I feel so close with, like a brother," Lendeborg said. "It's really cool. We definitely have visions of helping UAB to March Madness and playing our butts off, trying to win a championship together."
Hargrove's college basketball journey also began at Arizona Western.
"I graduated Covid year, that kind of slowed a lot of the recruiting down for me," Hargrove said. "I had a few schools calling me, but after the Covid thing went down, I ended up having to go to Arizona Western."
Like Lendeborg, Hargrove was in Yuma for three years. He played in 13 games in 2020-21 and averaged 7.2 points and four rebounds per game. In 2021-22, he averaged 9.4 points with 41 3-pointers. Last season, he averaged 14.5 points per game with 47 3-pointers.
Hargrove said he received recruiting interest from Division I and Division II teams but locked onto UAB once Kennedy and his staff reached out. He said coming across country won't be a shock because he has family in Mississippi. He also played in an AAU Tournament in Hoover while in high school.
"It actually is, just being able to know I have a home now and somewhere to go," Hargrove said. "I'm looking forward to getting back out here as soon as possible."
The addition of the Arizona Western duo brings UAB's number of signees to seven. Other members of this class are Vasquez, Christian Coleman of South Plains (Texas) Community College, transfer portal additions James White of Ole Miss and Daniel Ortiz of UNA and high school point guard KJ Satterfield. Coleman (No. 2), Vasquez (No. 6) and Lendeborg (No. 9) were part of the junior top 100 recruits compiled by JUCORecruiting.com.
UAB still has at least two spots available. The Blazers could have three openings if point guard Eric Gaines stays in the NBA Draft pool. Gaines has until May 21 to take his name out of the draft and retain college eligibility.
Arkansas transfer Barry Dunning Jr. was at UAB for a visit on Sunday. The former McGill-Toolen Catholic High standout was a two-time Gatorade Player of the Year in Alabama. The 6-foot-6, 195-pound guard averaged 25.3 points and 12.9 rebounds as a senior and 21.5 points and 11.3 rebounds as a junior. This past season, as a true freshman at Arkansas, he played in 16 games with limited minutes.
Don't miss out! Subscribe to our newsletter and get our top stories every weekday morning.