On the road again
By Bruiser Flint and Robin Deutsch, MassLive, 7/18/1999

"Hot town, summer in the city, back of my neck feeling dirty and gritty?" This classic summertime tune could be the theme song for University of Massachusetts head coach James "Bruiser" Flint and his staff. The coaching staff has been traveling throughout the country during the hectic, but important summer recruiting period. For the fourth year head coach, the recruiting trails have been hot and gritty. Here's why.

My schedule has been hectic. I've been to New York, then New Jersey, to Indianapolis, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, New York, Philadelphia, Augusta and Las Vegas. I am not done yet. I'll remain on the road until the first week in August.

What have I been doing on the road? Watching prospective players at camps and tournaments, primarily conducted by Nike and Adidas. I am not complaining, but they don't make travel easy. Nike conducts its player camps in Florida, Georgia and San Diego. Adidas holds its player camps in Los Angeles and Las Vegas. In the summer, this type of coast-to-coast travel is normal. I know you are wondering, "Are there any good prospects for the team?" The answer is yes. I am not naming names, but we are involved with good kids that we hope are interested in wearing our team colors in the near future.

Our recruiting, while seemingly national in the summer, does have a regional element. We are also involved with players from Massachusetts as well.

We are pleased to welcome two new additions to our program, one a familiar face and another a brand new addition to our team.

Tony Barbee, the fourth all-time scorer (1,643 points) in UMass history returns to our staff as an assistant coach. Tony was a volunteer assistant coach from 1996-98 and served as an assistant coach at Wymong, which made the National Invitation Tournament last year. I am glad to bring back a member of UMass "family." It's good when an opportunity presents itself to take care of a native son. At Wyoming, Tony got a chance to hit the road and learn the recruiting ropes. He diligently worked the phones and made a lot of good contacts. He is going to be an outstanding recruiter for our program, and from a coaching standpoint, brings a lot of intangibles to the team. He is a real people person and will develop great relationships with the players.

If you are wondering where the coaching vacancy came from, remember that associate coach John Robic got an outstanding opportunity to become head coach at Youngstown State. Geoff Arnold slid into John's slot, which opened up the vacancy for Tony.

Our second newcomer is junior college transfer JaVonn Johnson, a 6-foot-3 guard from Johnson City, Tennessee and Wabash Valley Junior College. JaVonn, who was a post player his first season at Wabash, will play guard-wing for us to make our team more athletic. He can score -- he averaged 18 points a game. He can take the ball to the basket and rebound -- he averaged seven boards a game. He can pass (he averaged four assists a game) and will make us a deeper team. He committed to the program in June, which by junior college standards, is "late." I think we are lucky to have him. In basketball terms, he is a "find."

Because I have been on the road so much I haven't had the opportunity to watch several of our players compete in the Greater Springfield Pro Am. The NCAA allows coaches to attend these types of leagues only during the recruiting period, which is now, but I am not sure my travel gets me back in town in time to watch any games. I think the league is great. It is great that local players -- just not UMass guys -- have a place to play in the summer that affords good competition. Normally, guys would have to travel to Boston -- or somewhere else -- to play. From what I have heard, everyone likes the league and the games have been fun to watch. Shannon Crooks and Anthony Oates in particular, are getting the chance to play against different players, and break up the monotony of playing against fellow teammates the entire summer.

It's funny how quickly the summer passes, but that's good. It means we're getting closer and closer to the start of a new school year and a promising new season. I hope you enjoy the summer. I'll be back with more news from the recruiting battles in August.

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