UMass hoop schedule easier
By Matt Vautour, The Daily Hampshire Gazette Staff Writer, 5/30/2001

SPRINGFIELD - The University of Massachusetts men's basketball team has an agreement to play a home-and-home series with North Carolina State that will begin this year with a Dec. 1 game at the Entertainment and Sports Arena in Raleigh.

The Minutemen's non-conference slate is now nearly complete. UMass plays home games against Connecticut, Ohio State, Holy Cross, Marist and Maine at the Mullins Center and Oregon at the Springfield Civic Center.

In addition to NC State, the Minutemen will travel to Marshall and Boston College.

See the Schedule page for more.
The Minutemen were supposed to play Boston University to complete a home-and-home series that began last year at Walter Brown Arena. But there has been a problem finding a date that is workable for both schools.

"We're still going to try to get it worked out (with BU)," new UMass coach Steve Lappas said. "But we may still need a game."

With Marist, Maine and Central Connecticut added to the schedule, the Minutemen have eased the difficulty of their slate somewhat from last year.

Lappas defended the move.

"For the nine years I was at Villanova, we had the toughest ranked schedule in the Big East six times," Lappas said. "So we'll play people. But you have to be smart. You have to have a good balance. We have a lot of players who haven't played before. We could schedule UCLA, Kentucky, but if we get their heads banged in early, I don't think that would be good for building confidence."

Lappas said he'd prefer not to schedule Villanova down the road, but wouldn't rule out Memphis and former UMass coach John Calipari.

"I'm not playing him," Lappas joked and then added, "That could happen, as soon as (star Memphis recruit) DeJuan Wagner goes to the NBA."

Steve Lappas speaks with fans & media at the Hall of Fame. photo
Lappas was the featured attraction Tuesday night at a reception at the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield.

Lappas introduced his assistant coaches, gave a brief overview of what he knew about his team, and answered questions from the 30 or so attendees.

After praising his big men, he expressed concern about his perimeter players.

"I think they have talent, but I'm concerned about their experience," Lappas said. "When Shannon Crooks is taking a rest, we're going to have three kids out there that have really never played before."

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ACADEMICS IN ORDER: Lappas said senior center Kitwana Rhymer remains on track to complete his degree requirements by the end of the summer. That will allow him to earn back the year of eligibility he lost as a non-qualifying freshman.

He also said freshmen Anthony Anderson and Raheim Lamb, who were both academically ineligible to play as freshmen last year, are on track to be eligible next year as well.

Because Lamb was a partial qualifier, he was allowed to practice with the Minutemen last year and could participate in individual workouts with the coaching staff in the spring. Anderson, a non-qualifier, could not.

"Raheim has looked great in individual workouts, if that means anything," Lappas said. "Last time I checked, the game is still five-on-five. Anthony is the one guy I don't know anything about because we weren't able to work him out."

For Anderson, Lamb and Rhymer to be eligible to play on UMass' trip to Greece, Aug. 12-22, all three will need to be academically sound after the first summer school session, because they won't be able to take classes in the second session because of the trip.

Lappas said he expects all three to be eligible to go. UMass' incoming recruiting class is not allowed to make the trip.

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GREECE II: On the 10-day trip to Lappas' motherland, the Minutemen will play four games against professional club teams, with a fifth game possible.

"We're trying to set up a game with the Greek national team," Lappas said.

In addition to using the trip as a chance for his new players to grow together and get used to him, Lappas said it could have further-reaching benefits.

"Greek basketball is some of the best in Europe right now," Lappas said. "We might be able to establish some recruiting ties. The fact that I can read and write Greek will help."

* * *

LEE ON BOARD: Gabriel Lee, the 6-foot-9 power forward from Northfield Mount Hermon, is finally officially a Minuteman.

The national letter of intent paperwork from Lee, who verbally committed to UMass in late April, arrived in segments, but the coaching staff has it all now.

Lee, who is recovering from a severely separated shoulder, will be a Prop. 48 nonqualifier, using the year to rehab his shoulder and getting his academics in order.

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