MHERST - After what the team perceived to be a successful recruiting period in the fall, the University of Massachusetts men's basketball team hopes to add two former West Virginia Mountaineers to its roster when the spring signing period begins in April.
Jackie Rogers, a native of Syracuse, has been an impressive force offensively for Barton County Community College, averaging 19.8 points per game to go along with a solid 6.5 rebounds.
Barton County is considered one of the top junior college programs in the country, losing in the Division 1 championship game last spring. It is ranked No. 1 in the latest national junior college poll.
Rogers left Morgantown apparently frustrated at his lack of playing time, as he averaged just under eight minutes per game in his only season at West Virginia.
Playing time likely wasn't the problem with Jarett Kearse at West Virginia. As a sophomore, the 6-foot-5 point guard led the team with 4.43 assists per game, starting 27 of 28 games. He was the Mountaineers' third leading scorer with 12.7 points per game. In one game against Providence, he scored 31 points, including the last 8 to send the game to overtime.
Kearse's departure is still a mystery to many in Morgantown. After last year's Big East tournament, Kearse left school without telling anyone on the basketball staff and to this day, no real reason has ever been presented.
Kearse, a Philadelphia native, is currently attending classes at a community college in his home city to make up for the classes he didn't complete in the spring.
UMass recruited Kearse out of high school and is interested in pursuing him again. Minuteman coach Bruiser Flint is also a Philadelphia native, a fact that could help him in the recruiting process.
UMass currently has two scholarships to offer to interested players, but a third is likely to open.
JoVann Johnson, the junior college guard UMass signed last spring, appears to be finished as a Minuteman. Due to a death in the family, Johnson headed home to Tennessee and missed the Dec. 30 game against Providence. He hasn't returned.
Flint said he and some of the players have tried to contact Johnson, without success. Johnson played sparingly in six of the Minutemen's 14 games.
UMass is still in the running for J.C. Mathis who seemingly has listed every school in the nation with the exception of Smith and Mount Holyoke at one time or another. Mathis, a native of New York City, isn't expected to make a decision until spring.
The buzz among recruiting experts is that Lynn native Anthony Anderson isn't expected to qualify academically. But the point guard's ability and local status likely would prompt UMass to take him as a Proposition 48 student.
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BIG-TIME DUNKER: Any recruits added by UMass would join small forward Raheim Lamb and high-flying shooting guard Jameel Pugh in the Minuteman incoming class.
Pugh's legend continues to grow and is becoming national. "Slam" magazine, the increasingly popular basketball monthly, features the teaser "The Best Dunker in the World" across the top of the issue on newsstands now. Inside is an article on Pugh that puts him in the same upper echelon of dunkers with the likes of Michael Jordan, Vince Carter and ex-UMass star Julius Erving.
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AROUND THE A-10: How much has Duquesne improved in the past year?
Consider that last year George Washington pounded the Dukes, 109-57, as coach Darelle Porter's club was in the midst of a 5-23 season that included a 1-15 record in the conference.
Just 345 days after the beating at the hands of GW, Duquesne arrived in the hard-to-win-at Smith Center and beat the Colonials, 94-89 to start the conference slate 2-0.
The Dukes aren't the only team to start stronger than normal. Jim Baron's St. Bonaventure team is 10-2 for the first time since the 1969-70 season when the Bonnies featured Bob Lanier and went to the Final Four.
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The A-10 is finally starting to get healthy as some of its wounded are back in action.
La Salle's Donnie Carr is playing again after a severe case of pneumonia that caused him to lose 20 pounds and have his lungs drained.
Temple's Pepe Sanchez and Mark Karcher both returned the same night recently, much to the chagrin of Rhode Island, which suffered a 88-45 hammering as a result.
Take away scoring and Sanchez may be the nation's best player. Temple coach John Chaney's Owls made do without him, but Chaney's glad to have his floor general back in uniform.
"Like my mother used to say when she was cooking. If you don't have steak, we had beans and rice or hamburger," Chaney said. "We know his value and don't need him to score. Leadership, doing things to help this team win, is what we need."
Never one to miss a chance for a comic moment, Chaney added, "There are two Pepes. Pepe Sanchez and Pepe LePew. One of them stinks and one of them is a good boy."
Material from various recruiting publications and Web sites was used in this report.