UMass basketball: South Carolina transfer Wildens Leveque a bridge between new staff and teammates

  • Wildens Leveque, right, followed Frank Martin from South Carolina to UMass. He was the No. 1 player from Massachusetts his senior year of high school and is embracing the challenge of playing in his home state. CHRIS TUCCI/UMASS ATHLETICS

Staff Writer
Published: 10/28/2022 5:31:28 PM
Modified: 10/28/2022 5:31:14 PM

AMHERST – A realization hit Wildens Leveque laying in his probably too-small bed a few weeks ago.

The 6-foot-10, 255-pound Brockton native was in the midst of preparing for his first season as a UMass basketball player after three years at South Carolina. He followed his coach Frank Martin, sure, but he perhaps more importantly came home.

“It's a huge thing to me,” Leveque said. “I was just laying down on my bed just thinking like, dang, I'm really from here. I love Massachusetts. I just want to look back 10 years from now and be like, this is something that I've been a part of.”

Leveque was a three-star prospect and the No. 1 player from Massachusetts according to 247sports. ESPN ranked him No. 2 in the Commonwealth. UMass offered him in high school, but he chose South Carolina among 11 offers, including several Atlantic 10 programs and five major conference schools.

The Gamecocks were one of the last programs to offer Leveque a scholarship. Martin watched his growth from his sophomore to senior season at Gould Academy in Maine and saw what kind of player he could still become.

Martin’s staff pesters him about offering players earlier because that’s the norm in college basketball. He won’t be the crusty old man stuck in his ways left behind. But his patience paid off with Leveque.

“I'm real patient because Wildens, who he was the first time I saw him as a sophomore, to when I saw him the summer before his senior year, day and night,” Martin said. “I was like, that young man – and I know who his coaches were, and I know how they do things – and I said, that young man is getting better. You know what, when he comes to us, with the way we try to do things, he's going to continue to get better. That's exactly what's happened.”

Leveque went from averaging fewer than three points and three rebounds per game in 10 minutes as a freshman to starting 27 games as a junior putting up 6.8 and 4.7 rebounds per contest. He shot 60 percent from the field.

“He comes in every day and he works. He doesn't pout, he doesn't cry, he don't blame. He's honest,” Martin said. “I don't have to worry about him meandering into the world of BS. Then he's humble, man. He knows ‘I need you to help me. I don't have all the answers.’ It makes it fun to be around him.”

Martin clearly made just as much of an impact on Leveque. South Carolina fired him on March 14. Leveque entered the transfer portal two weeks later. 

When UMass hired Martin on March 25, Leveque joined him with several assistants.

“Being with Frank for about three years, he helped me a lot with becoming a better basketball player and becoming a better man,” Leveque said. “As a native from Brockton, Massachusetts, I saw it as an opportunity to build something, start something with some people that I know around here and just have fun.”

Leveque has served as a bridge between the staff and players. He’s one of the only members of the team Martin has coached before and that knows his schemes and expectations.

“I can't coach Wildens here the same way I coached him his freshman year at South Carolina. He's grown as a human being, as a player. He's shown an unbelievable amount of loyalty of staying at South Carolina, and then coming here with me,” Martin said. “I’ve got to be at peace where he stands, and he's a much better player than he used to be. So I’ve got to give him more responsibilities. He’s done his part.”

His leadership style is rarely vocal. Leveque has been an example and a translator.

“I was just really excited. I just like seeing people and their characters grow throughout, like, it could be a month or a year span, a season span. They don't really know who he is,” Leveque said. “But once they start to figure it out themselves, a lot of character development happens, and it’s good to see.”

No one on the team knows Martin quite like Leveque. Not yet, at least.

“Frank’s a lot of things. He could be like a father figure, my coach, just a guy who’s out there to help,” Leveque said. “He helped me with a lot of things, not just basketball, but just life itself. It's a lot of things on the court kind of like, carries off the court.”

Kyle Grabowski can be reached at Folow him on Twitter @kylegrbwsk.
Sign up for our free email updates
Daily Hampshire Gazette Headlines
Daily Hampshire Gazette Contests & Promotions
Daily Hampshire Gazette Evening Top Reads
Daily Hampshire Gazette Breaking News
Daily Hampshire Gazette Obits
Daily Hampshire Gazette Sports
Daily Hampshire Gazette PM Updates
Daily Hampshire Gazette Weekly Top Stories
Valley Advocate Newsletter
Daily Hampshire Gazette Dining & Entertainment


Support Local Journalism

Subscribe to the Daily Hampshire Gazette, your leading source for news in the Pioneer Valley.

Daily Hampshire Gazette Office

23 Service Center Road
Northampton, MA 01060


Copyright © 2021 by H.S. Gere & Sons, Inc.
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy