he University of Massachusetts men's basketball team got its second commitment of the Steve Lappas era from Gabriel Lee, a 6-foot-9 big man from Northfield Mount Hermon School.
Lee is recovering from a severely separated shoulder and will redshirt next year. Because of the injury, NMH coach Bill Batty, who confirmed that Lee is UMass-bound, wasn't sure on Friday about Lee's scholarship status. The Minuteman coaching staff can't comment on any recruits until all paperwork is signed.
If Lee returns to health, he could be a steal for the Minutemen. At Mitchell-Baker High School in Georgia, Lee was the best player on a team that won three straight state titles. He went to Northfield Mount Hermon to get his academics in order. Before his injury he was being recruited by North Carolina, UConn and Cincinnati, according to Batty.
Even after he injured his shoulder falling at an NMH carnival, he still played basketball.
"He was playing at about 75 percent and still scoring 28 points per game," Batty said. "But his shoulder popped out a couple times and we had to shut him down. He may be the best player I've ever had here. If not he's pretty close."
Batty thinks that Lee and UMass will be a good fit.
"They're committing to him after a lot of people backed off. I think that's great," Batty said. "He's a great kid. It's a great match for both parties."
* * *
Kyle Wilson's commitment to the UMass men's basketball program became official on Friday, when his letter-of-intent paperwork officially went through.
Wilson, a point guard who went to White Rock Christian outside Vancouver, B.C., is listed at 6-foot-2. He originally committed to Lappas at Villanova.
"We're very excited that Kyle has decided to sign with us," Lappas said in a statement released by UMass. "He will really strengthen our backcourt. He's a very good 3-point shooter too. I believe he will be able to help us next year."
"I liked him," Wilson said of Lappas by phone last week. "I thought he was really real. I felt like I could trust him and I thought I fit into his style. I liked that he believed in me."
Wilson averaged 24 points and 9.5 assists per game at White Rock. He shot 42 percent from behind the 3-point line as a senior.
* * *
Bust out the "Hello my name is" stickers for Atlantic 10 summer coaches meetings. Yet another school is making a change.
George Washington coach Tom Penders resigned Friday in the midst of an NCAA rules violation investigation. Four Colonial players are accused of making $1,400 worth of long distance calls using the access number of assistant coach Tom Penders Jr.
George Washington joins UMass, La Salle, Duquesne, St. Bonaventure and Rhode Island as A-10 schools with new coaches. Also, Xavier coach Skip Prosser and Richmond coach John Beilein are candidates for the vacancy at Wake Forest.
MHERST — Northfield Mount Hermon men's basketball coach Bill Batty says the University of Massachusetts men's basketball team has found a promising player in 6-foot-10 Gabriel Lee, even though the forward from Camilla, Ga. is currently recovering from a shoulder injury and may miss all of next season.
"I see him going more to a 3 (small forward) than a 4 (power forward)," Batty said. "He's tremendously athletic and runs the floor very well. He's a great kid, too."
Lee is not under scholarship, but has given a verbal commitment to UMass. After undergoing surgery on his right shoulder, he's looking at several months of rehabilitation that will probably extend into next season.
"I'd be surprised if he played for a full year," Batty said. The long-term prognosis is better, however, for a player who led Mitchell Baker High School to three Georgia state championships.
Lee injured his shoulder soon after coming to Northfield Mount Hermon. According to Batty, he was still averaging 28 points and 14 rebounds in the early stages, but repeated injuries to the shoulder finally caught up with him.
Lee also blocked nearly five shots a game, and while his athleticism makes him more than a post player, size doesn't hurt for the future. UMass seems covered in the paint for now, as the Minutemen expect to have 6-10 Kitwana Rhymer back for one more season, an eligibility question based on Rhymer's ability to graduate on time this spring.
UMass coach Steve Lappas said that while he was still at Villanova and watched UMass on TV, Rhymer caught his attention as an improved and perhaps underrated player. Similarly, Batty thought Lee was a somewhat unsung talent when he came out of high school.
In addition to Rhymer, Micah Brand, Jackie Rogers and Eric Williams will also be back to lend size for UMass in the paint. But the three signed recruits are all guards or swingmen - Kyle Wilson (6-1), Brennan Martin (6-6), and Marcus Cox, a 6-4 combination guard whose transfer from Connecticut became official last week.
Cox will have to sit out next season in accordance with NCAA rules on transfers.
Details are still being worked out on the Aug. 12-22 UMass trip to Greece, the first overseas excursion by the Minutemen since Christmas week of 1994 when they visited Strasbourg, France.
That year, UMass played in the Buckler Challenge, an in-season tournament that included European pro teams. The Minutemen went 0-3 in the tournament, but the games didn't count in an NCAA season that ended with a 29-5 record and a trip to the East Regional final, where UMass lost to Oklahoma State.
The Steve Lappas Basketball School at UMass will run this summer. Dates include June 8-10 for the father-son camp, June 24-28 for the overnight camp, June 29-July 1 for team camp, and July 9-13 for day camp.
For more information, call 1-800-811-0807.
UMass guard Monty Mack, the second player in school history to surpass 2,000 career points, participated in the NBA pre-draft camp in Phoenix, Ariz. in late April. Mack is hoping to become the first UMass player taken in the NBA Draft since Marcus Camby was the second overall pick (behind Allen Iverson) in 1996. [UMassHoops.com correction: Actually, Lari Ketner was drafted in 1999.] If he's not drafted, he could still land a free-agent tryout . . . Lappas must still fill one administrative assistant's spot on his staff.