Changes coming into focus for UMass

  • UMass head coach Matt McCall applauds his team during their win against Farleigh Dickinson, Dec. 21 at the Mullins Center. The regular signing period for National Letters of Intent closes Wednesday, and with it a chance to assess the changes the Minutemen have undergone since the buzzer sounded on the overtime loss to George Washington. STAFF FILE PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

Staff Writer
Published: 5/13/2019 7:18:49 PM

AMHERST — Wednesday is the day many UMass fans have been waiting for since the end of the Atlantic 10 Tournament in March.

The regular signing period for National Letters of Intent closes Wednesday, and with it a chance to assess the changes the Minutemen have undergone since the buzzer sounded on the overtime loss to George Washington. At the time, coach Matt McCall said the program was set to be overhauled, but Wednesday is the last chance for McCall to make a splash.

Already, the coach has landed two prominent high school players in center Tre Mitchell and guard TJ Weeks, both out of Woodstock Academy in Connecticut. Weeks is the son of former Minuteman Tyrone Weeks. Those additions vaulted UMass to the top of the recruiting rankings among Atlantic 10 schools, according to 247Sports, at No. 45 overall.

Point guard Sean East also pledged his commitment to UMass two weeks ago, giving McCall another point guard to potentially run the offense. East joins November signee John Buggs III as freshmen point guards coming to UMass.

The Minutemen did lose one commitment over the past month as Jalen Thomas decided to ask for his release and re-open his recruitment. This was an expected move after McCall fired his coaching staff, including Thomas’ lead recruiter Rasheen Davis, in March.

The extra recruiting became a necessity after six players from last year’s team decided to transfer after the season in addition to losing senior Rashaan Holloway to graduation. Luwane Pipkins ended up at Providence, Jonathan Laurent is headed to Oklahoma State, Curtis Cobb went to Wagner and Tre Wood committed to former UMass coach Derek Kellogg at LIU-Brooklyn. Kieran Hayward elected to play at Vanguard University, an NAIA school in California, while Unique McLean has reportedly limited his choices to North Carolina A&T and Texas Southern.

That leaves just six scholarship players left on the UMass roster out of the maximum of 13 a Division I team can award. The Minutemen have signed five incoming freshmen already (guard Preston Santos also signed in November), leaving them with two open scholarships for McCall to use in the future.

On the coaching side, McCall hired Woodstock coach Tony Bergeron as an assistant, although the school has not officially announced the hiring while citing it must finalize paperwork. There are still two open assistant coach vacancies for McCall to fill, although those decisions don’t need to be made by Wednesday.

Wednesday is not technically a strict deadline because transfers can arrive later in the year and be eligible for next season. However, it is an important landmark in the freshmen recruiting, a core base around which McCall is hoping to rebuild the Minutemen in the near future.




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