Putting the pieces in place
By Matt Vautour, The Daily Hampshire Gazette Staff Writer, 4/6/2001

New University of Massachusetts coach Steve Lappas has two assistants in place and a first choice for a third.

Lappas has hired Chris Walker, who was an assistant coach under Lappas at Villanova, and Andrew Theokas, who was an administrative assistant on the same staff. He hopes to add former Manhattan coach John Leonard as the third assistant.

As an assistant coach, Lappas recruited Walker to Villanova for the 1988-89 season, but never coached him there, because Lappas left to become the head coach at Manhattan. When he returned to become the Wildcats' head coach in 1992-93, Walker had graduated.

On Thursday, Lappas praised Walker's ability to recruit.

"He did a great job for us," he said.

Prior to working for Lappas last year at Villanova, Theokas was an assistant at Rider for two years. He had previously been the head coach at Ocean County Community College.

Walker and Theokas will join Lappas on the recruiting trail immediately.

As expected, none of the three recruits who signed with UMass in the fall will come to Amherst, according to Lappas.

Eddie Basden, Jeremiah King and Maurecio Branwell all will play their college careers elsewhere. All three have asked for and will be granted releases from their respective letters of intent.

Lappas wasn't discouraged, since he'll get a chance to recruit players who fit better into his style of play.

"We're looking for guys that can shoot," he said. "We'd like to get a big kid and two perimeter guys. We have a list of guys we're going to go after."

Lappas, who is not allowed to comment on unsigned players, said there could be a transfer student in the mix. At the moment, he isn't recruiting any junior college players.

"I've never recruited junior college players or Prop. 48s in the past," said Lappas, who coached at Villanova and Manhattan, two schools that didn't accept either type of player. "I'm not saying I never will, but we're not looking at any right now. If I have to I will."

Lappas said his new players have been regular visitors to the office as he gets to know them. Despite some uncertainty before his hiring, all of the players plan to return, he said.

"They feel like they have a program again," he said.

Potential recruiting targets?: With the coaching change, national recruiting services appear unclear on which high school seniors are currently interested in the Minutemen. Following is a list of players who had been considering Villanova and who Lappas might make a run at.

The Wildcats received verbal commitments from three players: Marcus Austin, a 6-foot-9 power forward from Elizabeth, N.J., Brennan Martin, a 6-6 shooting guard from Chatham, Va., and Kyle Wilson, a 6-1 point guard from British Columbia. According to Insider's Report, a recruiting Web site, none of the three has signed a letter of intent, and could head elsewhere if dissatisfied with the coaching change.

Lappas has stated his desire to add shooters, and Clark Williams certainly would qualify. The 6-5 shooting guard from Lilburn, Ga., is a pure shooter who had Villanova on a list of several schools he was considering.

Dyke, Va., native Kaleaf Watson (6-2 shooting guard) and Brooklyn product Ted Munford (6-1 point guard) also are possibilities for the UMass backcourt.

The Wildcats also were recruiting small forwards Cortez Davis (6-6, from Fort Washington, Md.) and Dario Scott (6-5, from Lynchburg, Va.).

Milford, Conn., resident Deng Gai (6-10 power forward/center), who is originally from the Sudan, was considering both UMass and Villanova. He's considered one of the top unsigned big men, but he may return to prep school to improve his academic standing.

Lyde declares: Temple's 2001-02 squad took a significant hit when all-league junior center Kevin Lyde entered the NBA draft Thursday.

"Playing in the NBA has always been my dream and I'll work hard for it," Lyde told the Associated Press. He averaged 12.8 points and 8.9 rebounds this year. "I believe honestly I can play at the next level. It's not anything in particular, I just feel like I'm ready."

Temple coach John Chaney wished him well.

"I've never had a player of Kevin's magnitude and I am very proud of him," Chaney said. "He has the best hands I've ever seen. (The team that selects him) won't have to worry about his rebounding ability. He's the best we've ever had. And if he's in good health, he can block shots, too."

Information from the Associated Press was used in this article.

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