Lappas has eyes for 3's
By Ron Chimelis, The Springfield Union-News, 4/15/2001

AMHERST - Steve Lappas looks at the area beyond the 3-point arc as a land of opportunity, and he promises that the University of Massachusetts men's basketball team will take advantage of it.

To do so, though, Lappas knows the roster may need some reshaping.

"The 3-point shot has always been a big part of my philosophy," Lappas said. "I feel that by September, we'll have people here that can shoot 3's."

He's not ruling out 3-point opportunities for the returning players, but he also knows that of the 486 shots the Minutemen took from 3-point range last year, Monty Mack tried 261 and Jonathan DePina launched 83, and both are gone.

"We have three scholarships open, though," Lappas said in an interview Friday. Those openings occurred after Bruiser Flint's three recruits lost interest in attending UMass after Flint was forced to resign March 12.

But Flint did not recruit many 3-point shooters, and Lappas does. That may be the most dramatic change as UMass basketball enters a new era.

Neither Flint nor John Calipari emphasized 3-point shooting, and Flint often referred to the 3-point shot as "fool's gold" which tempted offenses to become lazy. Lappas' teams have reflected a different approach, and soon the UMass offense will, too.

"Our point guard, shooting guard and small forward have to be able to make some 3's," Lappas said. "If our power forward can step out and do it, that's good, too."

UMass has already filled one open spot with the anticipated addition of 6-foot-1 point guard Kyle Wilson of White Rock Christian Academy in Vancouver, British Columbia. Wilson told the Vancouver Sun last week that he'll be visiting UMass soon with plans to enroll.

Wilson, who averaged 25 points and 9.5 assists per game last season, had verbally committed to Villanova while Lappas was the Wildcats' coach.

Lappas is also recruiting post players, but he does not intend to go into the 2001-02 season without perimeter shooting.

That may require new personnel. Last year, Shannon Crooks hit 18 of 74 3-pointers. Freshmen Willie Jenkins (3 for 14) and Jameel Pugh (2 for 13) were severely limited by Flint's structured offense and playing rotation, but they might develop with more chances.

Ronell Blizzard (5 for 17 in 2000-01), Eric Williams (2 for 8) and Raheim Lamb are also largely untested. Lamb sat out his freshman year for academics.

Flint last season said the 6-8 Williams possessed a nice 3-point touch, even though it was rarely employed. Micah Brand, a skilled 6-11 post player, also might get an occasional outside look in the new offense.

The biggest question mark is freshman point guard Anthony Anderson, who says he's been practicing his outside shooting on his own. Because of academics, Anderson cannot play or practice with the team until fall. "He'll be a total mystery," said Lappas, who recruited Anderson at Lynn Classical High School. "It's one thing to watch a player work out, and another to watch him work with four other players out there."

Under Lappas, Villanova was generally among the better 3-point shooting teams in the Big East. Last year, with 6-11 Michael Bradley as the focal point, the Wildcats were fifth in 3-point attempts (587), but 12th in 3-point percentage at 31.9.

UMass shot 32.9 percent from 3-point range, seventh in the Atlantic 10 and slightly better than Villanova. But without Mack, the Minutemen's perimeter attack would have been almost invisible, and even with him, they tried 101 fewer 3-pointers than the Wildcats. Lappas' motion offense might please UMass fans who felt the team's grinding style had become too predictable.

"The 3-point shot is probably the biggest change in the game in the past 30 or 40 years," Lappas said. "I don't know if we have enough 3-point shooters now, but I think that by September, we will."


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