ven though Tony Barbee is no longer an assistant basketball coach at the University of Massachusetts, he is still helping the Minutemen's recruiting efforts.
With a little help from Barbee, the Minutemen received a letter-of-intent from Willie Jenkins, a 6-foot-6, 200-pound swingman from Memphis.
Jenkins drew attention from a lot of Southeastern Conference schools last summer. He was named the MVP of the Memphis Summer Shootout, outplaying blue-chipper Darius Rice. But coaches began backing off when it appeared that Jenkins wouldn't have the necessary standardized test score to be eligible. Jenkins surprised his doubters, however, by recently obtaining the necessary ACT score to be eligible next year as a freshman.
"People had him ticketed for junior college," said Keith Easterwood, a respected recruiting analyst for Mid-SouthHoops.com. "People were surprised when he got the score."
Trying to reopen his recruiting at this late date, Jenkins contacted Barbee, now a Memphis assistant under former UMass coach John Calipari.
The Tigers had already signed a small forward, but Barbee put Jenkins in contact with the Minutemen who pounced at the opportunity.
Easterwood thinks the Minutemen got themselves a steal.
"He has a very big upside. I think he's going to go up there and have a great career," Easterwood said. "He's very fundamentally sound. He's a good shooter and a good ball-handler. He's a great kid from a great family with a good work ethic."
Jenkins averaged 22 points and 10 rebounds per game, at Fairley High School under longtime coach Sylvester Ford.
"Willie is a good outside shooter who handles the ball very well," said Ford. "He also has the ability to rebound the basketball, and played the majority of his time in high school as a power forward. He is a very hard worker who can come in and help the team at UMass."
Jenkins becomes the sixth member of the incoming recruiting class, joining guards Anthony Anderson and Jameel Pugh, swingman Jarrett Kearse, and forwards Raheim Lamb and Jackie Rogers.
"With the addition of Willie Jenkins, we have an overall recruiting class that should really raise the talent level of our squad," said UMass coach Bruiser Flint in the release announcing Jenkins' signing. "They all have the ability to contribute to the success of the team, and we hope they come in, work hard, and help us get back to the NCAA Tournament."
The Minutemen have five scholarships to offer and have signed six players, signaling that the UMass coaching staff believes that either Anderson or Lamb will not qualify academically. Non-qualifiers wdo not count against the team's scholarship total.