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UMass recruits big man
By Matt Vautour, The Daily Hampshire Gazette Staff Writer, 8/4/2001

To fill an impending big man void, the University of Massachusetts men's basketball program got a recruit from the state where everything is bigger.

Stephen Briggs, a 6-foot-8, 220-pound power forward from Houston, Texas, announced that he gave the Minutemen a verbal commitment at a news conference Friday afternoon.

With Kitwana Rhymer, Jackie Rogers and Eric Williams all graduating after next season, big men were a recruiting priority for coach Steve Lappas and his new staff.

Jimmy Hicks, who has coached Briggs previously in AAU and runs the Houston-based Recruiting Cheat Sheet service, said Briggs was aware of UMass' need for big men.

"They're losing three big guys next year, so it's virtually impossible for him not to be able to come in and get his 15-20 minutes right away," Hicks said.

There were other factors that played into the decision as well.

"One of their assistant coaches, Chris Walker, is from this area, so if the kid gets homesick or whatever he'll have someone he can go to," Hicks said. "Plus Coach Lappas has put six players into the NBA in the past five years out of that motion offense, so this will be a good place for Stephen to showcase his skills."

Those skills led to Briggs being considered a top 100 prospect on most recruiting lists. He averaged 17 points, 10 rebounds, and five blocked shots at Houston's Westside High School.

"That 15- to 16-footer is his bread and butter," Hicks said. "Plus he has a bull mentality inside. He's excellent at blocking out and clamping out. He has the mentality (of) 'If you're in my way, I'm going to go through you.'"

According to RivalsHoops.com's Mike Sullivan, Briggs shined at the National AAU Tournament in Orlando, and had a growing number of schools expressing interest in him, including Georgia Tech, Wake Forest, Texas, Houston, and Kansas State.

"His upside is pretty big," Sullivan said on RivalsHoops.com. "Briggs is willing to play physical and challenge shots and his offensive game is still developing. He has a sweet touch from the outside and can explode off his feet."

Briggs has a 3.5 GPA and is hoping to major in engineering. He still needs to raise his standardized test score to be eligible.

"I will be taking the test in October," Briggs said. "I can do much better on my test."

Briggs can sign a letter of intent during the official signing period in November. With Briggs and New Jersey guard Mike Lasme in the fold, UMass has two more scholarships to offer.

Briggs would join a frontcourt that will feature Micah Brand, who will then be a senior, and Gabriel Lee, who is sitting out this year.


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