Recruits eye future at UMass
By Ron Chimelis, The Springfield Union-News, 3/24/2000

AMHERST Jackie Rogers has been flattered by comparisons to Lou Roe. Raheim Lamb said comparisons to Chris Kirkland might underestimate him a bit.

They're two of the six new players who could be joining the University of Massachusetts men's basketball team next season. It's considered the best recruiting class yet under Bruiser Flint, who was given a fifth year next season partly on the promise of a deeper, more talented team.

Rogers' verbal commitment in the past week filled out the recruiting class, unless players transfer or are academically ineligible as freshmen.

Currently, UMass has reached its 13-scholarship limit with Jameel Pugh and Lamb as signed recruits, and three players Rogers and guards Jarrett Kearse and Anthony Anderson awaiting the April signing period to turn verbal commitments into signings.

A sixth new player, 6-foot-8 forward Eric Williams, sat out this season after transferring from Syracuse.

But all six newcomers, including Williams, who was able to practice with the team this year, may not provide immediate help. Lamb (Boston English High) and Anderson (Lynn English) are currently not academically eligible to play as freshmen.

That's one reason Flint continues to keep recruiting, even though he technically has no 2000-2001 scholarships left. An academically ineligible player does not count toward the scholarship limit until he becomes eligible as a sophomore.

Williams and Rogers, who is also 6-8 and who played a year at West Virginia, are considered much more natural at power forward than Kirkland, a 6-6 player who tried to make up in athleticism what he lacked in size.

Rogers played junior college ball in Kansas this year. He's being counted on to become Flint's first junior college recruiting success.

Flint's first two junior college picks were 6-10 Anthony Oates and 6-3 JoVann Johnson. Both were relatively late additions, and Oates played little while Johnson quit the team over Christmas break, impatient over a lack of playing time.

Rogers is not the only junior college recruit in this year's Minutemen crop, but he's the only one who played this season. Kearse, a 6-5 guard who can also play small forward, sat out while attending community college, saving a year of eligibility.

Given his averages of 13 points and five assists in his only season at West Virginia, he's expected to lend immediate backcourt help.

That would leave Flint with a choice of Shannon Crooks or Kearse at the point, though both will play in some manner. Anderson would enter the point guard picture, too, if he's eligible.

Even if he's not, Jonathan DePina returns with an uphill battle for playing time at the point.

With Rogers and Williams at power forward, and returnees Kitwana Rhymer and Micah Brand probably sharing the center spot, the only wide-open frontcourt position is at small forward.

Lamb becomes a possibility if he's eligible, though his performance in the state Division I final against St. John's of Shrewsbury (10 points on 5-for-13 shooting, and four rebounds) did not suggest he was ready.

At times in that game, Lamb seemed to allow himself to be forgotten in an offense where most of his teammates were looking to shoot as a first option. But Lamb also had some huge games this season, and the UMass coaches are convinced he'll blossom in a more systematic offense.

Pugh, a leaping 6-4 guard from Sacramento, Calif., might also get a look at small forward, though a three-guard lineup of Crooks, Kearse and returnee Monty Mack is also appealing. Pugh is considered one of the most potentially spectacular UMass recruits in years.

Small forward Winston Smith and forward Ronell Blizzard return, though Blizzard has two years left and has been the subject of transfer speculation.

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