hen the University of Massachusetts finally announces its list of men's basketball recruits, the Minutemen are expected to include Papa Ousmane Lo, a 6-foot-9 big man from Senegal who has flown under the radar until now.
Lo will play his first full season in the United States this year at the Winchendon School under former Minuteman Mike Byrnes, whose program regularly produces Division I talent.
Lo's letter of intent, which has to go back and forth to Africa for a parent to sign, is likely the one (or among more than one) delaying UMass from completing and announcing its recruiting class.
The school also is expected to announce the signings of New York guard Marcus Matthews, Springfield big man Trevon Wilcher, Vermont wing Matt Glass, Connecticut forward Matt Hill and Florida guard Max Groebe.
It appears that the Minutemen were not as interested in Andy Buechert as he was in them. The big man from Germany, who is playing junior college ball in Florida, verbally committed to UMass in October but the school did not send him a letter of intent.
Lo had planned to come to the United State in August 2005, but had visa problems and didn't arrive until late December.
He enrolled in Winchendon's English as a Second Language program and joined the team midseason.
He had never seen a college basketball game until Byrnes took the team to the Minutemen's 60-34 win over Temple Jan. 21 in the Mullins Center.
"He was in awe of the arena, the fans and the style of play," Byrnes said.
Byrnes said Lo was thin and raw when he arrived, but his potential on the court and in the classroom was obvious.
"He's long, athletic and really gets after it. He has very, very long arms," Byrnes said. "It's obvious how intelligent a kid he is. He's been on the high honor role since he got here. He wants to be an engineer."
UMass' engineering program, its style of play and the proximity to Winchendon made Lo's decision easy.
The presence of freshman Ricky Harris, who played with him at Winchendon, also helped.
"He could have looked at other schools, but he didn't," Byrnes said. "UMass seemed like a perfect fit. He's very raw right now and he needs to get a lot stronger. But he could be very good."
Scout.com's Jeff Goodman believes that Lo will be a good fit with the Minutemen.
"He's active. He really gets after it. He rebounds well. He scores a little bit, but that's not his biggest role," Goodman said. "He'll be great in transition. He's a little bit like (Stephane) Lasme, but not quite as athletic. I think he could help UMass. He's a little raw, but he's the type of guy Travis Ford likes."
Lo has visited campus several times, tagging along with fellow Winchendon student Gui Romaric Lasme, the 6-foot-7 younger brother of Stephane Lasme. Byrnes said the younger Lasme is raw, but has considerable potential as well. Byrnes also expects him to attend UMass.
"You won't find many kids as athletic as he is. He can put his elbow through the rim," Byrnes said. "But he's clueless right now as far as playing basketball in the U.S. But after another year with us, he could be very good. He came to us with the understanding that he wanted to follow his brother to UMass."
Matt Vautour can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.