MHERST - The University of Massachusetts has released sophomore Jonathan DePina from his scholarship, but that doesn't mean that the 5-foot-9 point guard's career as a Minuteman is over just yet.
According to UMass coach Bruiser Flint, who didn't want to comment further, DePina is free to explore his options for transferring, but could return to UMass if he chooses.
DePina's interest in transferring has been rumored since the midway point of last season, and among his potential new schools are Northeastern or Boston University.
After the season's final game DePina brushed off the rumors.
"I haven't heard about them yet," DePina said of the rumors. "I'm happy here. I'm going to work hard for next season."
If DePina does leave, UMass would be left with just two guards - Monty Mack and Shannon Crooks - on scholarship for next season after fellow sophomore Rafael Cruz announced his intentions to transfer last week. Unless the Minutemen add a backcourt recruit, which they are attempting to do, they could be very vulnerable if either guard gets injured.
DePina averaged 1.8 points and 1.3 assists in 10.4 minutes last season, before losing minutes to Cruz down the stretch.
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Barton County (Kan.) Community College's DeMarcus Minor appears to be UMass' first choice to add to the backcourt.
At 6-foot-5 he can play either backcourt spot as well as small forward, but considers himself a point guard.
Minor, who is also considering Minnesota, Baylor and New Mexico, plans to make a decision next week. He recently participated in a Internet chat on the Insider's Report, a recruiting web site.
"I can do a bunch of things pretty good, handle the ball, pass, shoot the three," he said. "I can post up smaller guards and push them around inside."
Minor said he enjoyed his official visit to UMass last weekend and will visit Minnesota this weekend.
Darren Kelly, a 6-3 shooting guard at Brown Mackie Junior College in Salina, Kan. also is considering the Minutemen.
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Shon Coleman, a 6-foot-7 power forward from Indian Hills Community College in Iowa, also made an official visit to UMass and was scheduled to visit Kentucky this weekend, but decided to cancel the trip.
According to Insider's Report, Coleman's decision not to go to Lexington was made because he wants to wait until Kentucky junior Jamaal Magloire decides whether or not he will turn pro.
Coleman implied that if Magloire leaves, the Wildcats would be his first choice.
"I think that would be the best situation for me, because they get a lot of exposure. They are going to get to the NCAA Tournament and they have a good coach in Tubby Smith," he said. "That's the kind of things players want in a program. I will sit down with my coach and weigh my options. I am not going to jump in it. If it is the right decision, then I will more likely take it."
There is no guarantee that the Wildcats would take Coleman. Kentucky is recruiting several other inside players as well and could choose one of them instead of Coleman.
Coleman originally committed to Wake Forest, but didn't qualify academically, so he enrolled at Indian Hills, where he helped the school win two JUCO national titles.
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According to UMass Assistant Athletic Director for Media Relations Mike Hardisky, the proposed home-and-home series of games between UMass and Michigan has been canceled.
niversity of Massachusetts basketball coach Bruiser Flint announced yesterday that sophomore point guard Jonathan DePina plans to transfer at the end of the spring semester, and has been released from his scholarship by the athletic department.
After a season in which both his points and minutes significantly declined, DePina will reportedly look to play closer to his South Boston roots. Boston College and Northeastern are thought to be among his transfer choices.
DePina was not available for comment.
The 5-foot-9-inch guard played in 26 games last season, averaging 1.8 points, 1.4 assists, and just over 10 minutes per contest. As a freshman in 1997-98, he averaged 3.3 points and 2.9 assists.
With the graduation of Charlton Clarke, the Minutemen were expected to give DePina increased playing time this season.
Should DePina pursue BC, it would be a familiar scenario. Following his senior season at South Boston, DePina was first accepted, then rejected by BC admissions despite passing NCAA eligibility requirements.
Mass coach Bruiser Flint confirmed last night that guard Jonathan DePina is staying in Amherst and will begin his junior season with the Minutemen in October.
``Jonathan decided he'd rather stay here, and I'm happy to have him,'' said Flint. ``He's a nice kid.''
After rumors of his potential transfer circulated last month, it was believed that DePina, a former Herald Dream Teamer at South Boston High School, was interested in moving closer to home. Boston College, Boston University and Northeastern were all interested in his services, and the Huskies thought they had the inside track.
``He was here on campus and walking around with his parents, but he's not coming,'' said NU coach Rudy Keeling.
DePina averaged 1.9 points and 1.4 assists in a diminished role last season. He averaged 10.3 minutes per game as a sophomore, down from 17.6 the previous season.
Efforts to reach DePina last night were unsuccessful.
Minor slight for UMass
DeMarco Minor, a talented junior college guard UMass had been pursuing, decided to attend Baylor. The 6-foot-5 Minor would have given the Minutemen a versatile perimeter player capable of filling three positions.
They are still in the running for Shon Coleman, a power forward from Indian Hills JC in Iowa. Coleman is deciding between UMass and Kentucky.
MHERST - Jonathan DePina looked over the fence, decided that the grass was, in fact, greener on his side of it and opted not to turn in his maroon and white just yet.
Ajmal Basit, who was dismissed by the University of Massachusetts men's basketball team late last season, also has made a decision. He will attend the University of Delaware.
Earlier this month DePina, a reserve sophomore guard for UMass, had contemplated transferring in hopes of gaining more playing time. The Minutemen gave him the opportunity to explore his options, or to stay.
After examining several New England America East conference schools, DePina notified the UMass coaching staff that he was accepting its offer to stay.
Basit looked at several schools before deciding on the Blue Hens. Basit will have to sit out a year due to NCAA transfer regulations and will have one year of eligibility left. The Brooklyn native said he thinks Delaware offers him the best opportunity to showcase his skills for a career after college.
"I believe I have the talent to play (professionally)," Basit said. "At Delaware, whatever I want to do I'll be able to do. I just want to make myself as marketable as possible."
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Fellow outgoing Minuteman Rafael Cruz is still hunting for the best situation. He already has visited Youngstown State and is examining offers from Old Dominion and Manhattan, among others.
"I'm not going to rush," he said. "I'm looking around to see who offers me the best package."
The 6-foot-2 shooting guard said leaving UMass was a difficult choice.
"I didn't really want to leave, but I want to play a lot," Cruz said. "I want to keep playing after college. The (UMass) coaches have been real helpful to me looking for schools. I'll be back to visit because I'll miss the guys a lot."
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If DePina had decided to leave, UMass would have been in a difficult predicament in the backcourt, with just two scholarship guards.
UMass is expected to start senior Monty Mack and sophomore Shannon Crooks at shooting and point guard, respectively, with DePina coming off the bench.
The Minutemen hope to add one more guard. Darren Kelly, a shooting guard from Brown Mackie Community College, made an official visit to UMass last weekend.
Brown Mackie coach Francis Flax said he expects the 6-3 Kelly to make an impact at the Division I level.
"He's a multi-dimensional player," Flax said. "He can shoot, he can pass and he can defend."
According to Flax, Kelly will make his decision Monday and is still also considering Texas, Texas A&M, Rutgers and American.
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The Minutemen's main recruiting priority, 6-7 forward Shon Coleman, will visit Georgia this weekend and likely will make his decision some time next week.
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Another Massachusetts native has decided to transfer. Mike Bradley plans to leave Kentucky. It is unknown whether UMass is among his choices. The Worcester native, who played AAU ball for the Boston Amateur Basketball Club with Mack, Crooks and DePina, hasn't released any potential schools that interest him.