When Travis Steele got hired to be Miami University’s 28th head men’s basketball coach in March 2022, RedHawk fans were most excited about his recruiting chops. Steele recruited two national top-twenty classes in four years at his last head coaching job, just down the road at Xavier.
Already, Miami is reaping the benefits of having hired Steele. The incoming recruiting class for Miami basketball is the program’s best in many years. Already, people are calling these guys Miami’s own ‘fab five.’ Get to know each of the five below.
Mekhi Cooper — Bolingbrook High School, Bolingbrook, Illinois
Basketball has always been a big part of Mekhi Cooper’s life. He first started playing at 5 years old when he and his brother would compete against each other.
Cooper played for Bolingbrook High School outside Chicago, Illinois. During his time there, he was nominated for All-Conference and Player of the Year. In his junior year, his team made it to the state championship, which remains a highlight of his high school career.
When it was time to commit to a college, Cooper was impressed by the coaching staff at Miami University. Travis Steele and the rest of the basketball coaching staff showed genuine interest for Cooper, which pushed him to commit to Miami.
“The coaching staff was a big part of my decision,” Cooper said. “All the coaches are understanding. They’re good people off the basketball court too. They push me to be the best person I can be.”
After meeting the other incoming first-year players, Cooper’s expectations for the team were raised.
“It was good to meet the other guys,” Cooper said. “I knew Jackson Kotecki, so I was already cool with him. It was good to meet the guys and play with them. We all fit and got along.”
Cooper is hoping to bring his skills to Miami and make his mark. He feels that he and the other recruits can step up and prove that they belong on the team. Cooper is excited for the new experience and opportunities presented to him.
“I’m excited for it all, and I’m ready to go,” Cooper said. “I’ve been in Bolingbrook my whole life, so I’m ready for new experiences and opportunities. I’m excited to get on the court.”
Eian Elmer — Taft High School, Cincinnati, Ohio
Enjoy what you're reading?
Signup for our newsletter
Eian Elmer started playing basketball after his family moved from Texas to Kentucky when he was 4 years old. Throughout his career at Taft High School in Cincinnati, Elmer brought success to the basketball program. In 2022, Elmer and the Taft basketball team won the Division III state championship for the first time since 2011.
Elmer is very team-oriented. He believes that his play style is similar to that of LeBron James.
“LeBron likes to get his team involved,” Elmer said, “and I feel like that’s how I play. I affect the game in every way possible.”
When he was choosing where to play at the next level, Elmer found himself intrigued by Miami’s coaching staff and energetic athletic department.
“Miami was one of the first schools interested in me,” Elmer said, “and it’s the college I’ve been around the most. The energy there is better than any other place I’ve been to.”
For Elmer, the opportunity to play with an outstanding recruiting class is the most exciting aspect of playing at Miami. Before committing, Elmer already knew Reece Potter and Evan Ipsaro from Kentucky, where he used to play against them.
“I knew they were good,” Elmer said, “so it’s going to be good to finally play with them. I feel like we’re going to make a difference on the team.”
Evan Ipsaro — Covington Catholic High School, Covington, Kentucky
Evan Ipsaro’s first experience with basketball came after watching his older brother play in the second grade. From that moment on, Ipsaro fell in love with the sport.
In his first year of high school, Ipsaro and his older brother led the New Richmond High School basketball team to its first conference championship in school history. This experience taught Ipsaro how to be a leader for his team.
“We didn’t have a single senior on the team,” Ipsaro said. “The team looked to me to lead them.”
In his sophomore year, Ipsaro transferred to Covington Catholic High School in Park Hills, Kentucky. While playing basketball there, Ipsaro made his mark as a team-player.As a junior at Covington Catholic, Ipsaro and the basketball team made it to the Kentucky High School Athletic Association state semifinals, along with Mitchell Rylee, who played for the RedHawks last year.
In the middle of his sophomore year of high school, Ipsaro received a call from Steele, who was working at Xavier University at the time. That early connection impacted Ipsaro’s decision to commit to Miami last summer.
“Right off the bat, I had that connection with him,” Ipsaro said. “When he got the Miami job, he offered me a spot on his second day. That says a lot about the trust he has for me.”
Ipsaro is ecstatic about restoring Miami’s old history. He is ready to bring the basketball program back to where it once was.
“Miami hasn’t had a winning season in a long time,” Ipsaro said. “I’m excited to meet the team over the summer. Those are going to be my brothers for the next few years. I’m looking forward to meeting everybody and having a good experience with the team.”
Jackson Kotecki — Saint Ignatius College Prep, Chicago, Illinois
Jackson Kotecki’s love for basketball was instilled in him when he was 2 years old, playing on a mini hoop with his dad. He grew up watching Kevin Durant, who became his favorite player and made him want to start playing basketball.
At Saint Ignatius College Prep, Kotecki and the basketball team made it to the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) 3A state championship in 2022 for the first time since 2000. Though the team didn’t win the championship, just making it to the semi-finals was a memorable experience for Kotecki. They would make the state playoffs again the following year.
Kotecki believes that his versatility can be an aid to any team he plays for.
“I can stretch the floor and run,” Kotecki explained. “I like to think I’m pretty versatile. My height creates bigger mismatches for the opposing team because not many teams have 6’9” players that can guard another 6’9” player on the wing.”
In his junior year, Kotecki noticed many of his senior teammates committing to Miami, which led him to research the school for his own decision. When Kotecki visited campus, he said the coaching staff already had a plan for his development.
“Coach Steele and the other coaches have been mentoring me on how they want me to play, and it felt like they had a full plan before I even committed on how they were going to develop me,” Kotecki said. “No coach has ever done that for me. It was a no-brainer to come to Miami.”
Kotecki is looking to join the list of great basketball players that have graced Millett Hall. The basketball program has been suffering, but Kotecki wants to reinvigorate the team along with the other recruits.
“Recently, the program has been suffering, and our goal is to win the MAC again and compete at the highest level we can,” Kotecki said. “We want to show the country that we’re still Miami, and we can compete with these major programs and get the job done.”
Reece Potter — Lexington Catholic High School, Lexington, Kentucky
Standing at 7 feet tall, Reece Potter is an interesting prospect for the RedHawks. When he was young, Potter was unsure if he wanted to play basketball full time. He split his time between baseball and basketball. But when he hit a massive growth spurt during his sophomore year, he fell in love with basketball and chose to play the sport full time.
Throughout his career at Lexington Catholic High School, Potter has impacted the game on both offense and defense. Despite his numerous accomplishments, including making the Kentucky All-Stars team in 2023, Potter’s favorite memory was playing in front of the student section of his high school.
“We have a great student section that comes out to a lot of our games,” Potter said. “Playing in the region finals with all my friends in the crowd and playing with some of my best friends on the court was awesome.”
Along with Ipsaro, Potter was one of the 10 Kentucky players to make the All-Bluegrass Prep Team, which honors the state’s top players based on their versatility and contributions to their teams.
At first, Potter was going to commit to Xavier University for the opportunity to play under Steele. When Steele left Xavier for Miami, Potter was invited to visit and instantly knew he wanted to play for the Redhawks.
“The coaching staff is younger, which is really nice because you can relate to them more, and all of them have played some level of college basketball,” Potter said. “Coach Summers played the big man role, so he fits my play style.”
Above all else, Potter is excited to prove himself at Miami and restore the basketball program to its former glory.
“I’m excited to come in and do whatever I can to help the team get back to winning,” Potter said. “I’m looking to put Miami back on the basketball map.”