NCAA grants UMass forward Sam Breen extra year of eligibility

  • Sam Breen, right, of UMass, shoots after getting past Kyla Whitehead, of Dayton, Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2020 at the Mullins Center. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

Published: 9/14/2020 6:10:53 PM

UMass women’s basketball forward Sam Breen has been granted an additional year of eligibility when the NCAA approved a waiver, the program announced on Monday.

Breen enters the 2020-21 season with two seasons remaining as part of the Minutewomen program.

“It has been quite the college basketball journey for Sam Breen,” head coach Tory Verdi said in a statement. “I’ve been so excited to coach Sam from the day she committed to UMass two years ago. We knew what type of player we were getting then and she has grown tremendously as a member of our team. We are excited to see what these next two years hold for Sam, and are grateful for the efforts of our compliance staff, administration and the NCAA throughout the waiver process.”

After sitting out the fall semester due to NCAA transfer rules, Breen appeared in 20 games last season and was named Atlantic 10 All-Conference Second Team. She averaged a team-high 16.9 points and 9.2 rebounds over 32.7 minutes per game, and ranked second in the A-10 with eight double-doubles. The Gibsonia, Pennsylvania, native scored double figures in 16 games, including all 11 starts.

“I’ve never been around a team that cares so much about each other and plays so much for each other,” Breen said in a statement. “I think it just makes it that much more special. Coming to UMass has been one of the best decisions I’ve made and has helped me grow confidence and my love of basketball. I look forward to the future and am thankful to all who have been supportive during the waiver process.”

Prior to UMass, Breen spent 2017-18 and part of 2018-19 at Penn State, where she appeared in 26 total contests. As a senior at North Catholic High School, Breen was tabbed the 2017 Pennsylvania Gatorade Player of the Year as well as the PIAA 4A Player of the Year. She was ranked No. 67 nationally in the Class of 2017 by the Dan Olson Collegiate Girls Basketball Report.

LEIDEL BECOMES A PRO — Former UMass standout Hailey Leidel signed a professional contract with Sparta Bartreng, a member of the Total League in Luxembourg, last month.

“All of us at UMass are incredibly excited and happy for Hailey as she heads to the Total League,” Verdi said in a statement. “She became an elite player over the last four years and led the charge as our team established a culture and grew in countless ways on and off the court. Her success has been impressive to watch. We wish Hailey well as she heads into professional basketball!”

A three-year captain, Leidel graduated as the second-leading scorer in program history with 1,841 points, ending her career just 17 points from tying Sue Peters’ (1976-80) program record of 1,858. Leidel also ranks in the top 10 in games played (first, 123), games started (first, 120), minutes (first, 4,311), 3-pointers made (first, 301), free-throw percentage (first, .819), field goals made (seventh, 581) and steals (seventh, 176).

Leidel averaged 15 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game as a Minutewoman, becoming the first player since 1986 to lead the team in scoring all four years. As a senior last season, the Atlantic 10 All-Conference selection had nine 20-point performances and became the first player in program history to record 1,800 career points, 600 rebounds and 200 assists.

The Minutewomen made forward strides during Leidel’s career, returning to the conversation among teams in the upper tier of the Atlantic 10 Conference. The 2017 A-10 Rookie of the Year helped the squad improve from nine wins during 2016-17 to tying a program-record with 20 victories in 2019-20, capping the season with an A-10 Tournament game at the Mullins Center and reaching the league quarterfinals for the second straight season. Together with classmate Vashnie Perry, the native of Brownstown, Michigan, guided UMass to more wins than any other four-year stretch since 2001.

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