MHERST, Mass. - University of Massachusetts basketball head coach Travis Ford announced the signing of shooting guard Ricky Harris (Baltimore, Md.) to a National Letter of Intent on Wednesday, as he will join the Minuteman program for the 2006-07 season. Harris (6-2, 175 pounds) comes to UMass after playing a prep season at The Winchendon School in Winchendon, Mass. He graduated from powerhouse Calvert Hall College High School in Baltimore, Maryland in 2005.
Harris scored 23ppg at Calvert Hall HS in Baltimore.
Harris feels he made the right decision in coming to UMass. "I feel very confident in my decision in choosing UMass. They have had a connection with Baltimore area players in the past including Donta Bright (who played on three A-10 title teams and the 1996 Final Four team). When I met with Coach Ford he was straight up and forthright with me from the start. He showed me that he cared about me and my family as individuals, which was important to me. I also felt comfortable with Assistant Coach Adam Ginsburg since he also had Baltimore connections having coached at Towson University."
Harris has had a standout season at Winchendon in 2005-06, averaging 17.0 points while shooting 43 percent from 3-point range and 81 percent from the foul line. He helped the Green Wave to the NEPSAC Championship game on the way to a 19-14 record under head coach Mike Byrnes, who played basketball for the Minutemen in the late 1980s. Harris' scored a season-high 33 points against Philadelphia Lutheran at the Prep Showcase in November 2005.
"Ricky is a high energy player," said Byrnes. "We plays with great effort and passion. He can really score the ball and fill it up, which is what UMass needed help with last season. He will be a great asset to their team."
Harris starred in the National Prep School Invitational in February of 2006 earning the top ranking of all players at that event held in Rhode Island. HoopScoop.com ranked him as the 27th-best fifth-year player in the nation. He was ranked as the fourth-best shooting guard available in the late signing period by HoopScoop.com.
Harris was a high school star at Calvert Hall where he earned Baltimore Catholic League Co-Player of the Year honors in 2005 playing for head coach Mark Amatucci. He was honored as All-Baltimore Metro and All-Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) as a junior and senior. He was named to the Baltimore's Sun's All-Metro Second Team as senior. Harris averaged 23.0 points, 6.0 rebounds and 2.0 steals as a senior and 19.0 points per game, 4.0 rebounds and 3.0 steals per game in his junior year with the Cardinals. He finished as Calvert Hall's third all-time leading scorer behind 2002 Maryland All-American and current Portland Trailblazer Juan Dixon and Reggie Bryant who starred at Villanova and Saint Louis.
Harris played for the Baltimore Select AAU team. He was named the Eastern Invitational's Most Outstanding Player after his senior season. He also played in the Charm City Challenge in Baltimore, the adidas Memorial Day Classic in Maryland, the Kingwood Classic in Houston, the BET Pro-Am and Top 20 All-Star Game in 2005.
Ricky Dontae Harris was born on August 12, 1987 in Baltimore, Maryland. He is son of Donna Evette Harris and Ricky Lee Harris, and is the brother of Derrick and Riquelle Harris.
he University of Massachusetts men's basketball team not only signed a guard Wednesday, but may have opened a recruiting pipeline that could be fruitful for years to come.
As expected, 6-foot-2 guard Ricky Harris signed his national letter of intent to become a Minuteman next year on the first day of the April signing period.
Harris is the first product of prep school coach Mike Byrnes, a UMass alumnus, to sign with the Minutemen since 1993-94.
Byrnes was at Hargrave Military Academy in Chatham, Va., during the 1993-94 season when the Minutemen signed Inus Norville and Andre Burks. Byrnes has since moved on to The Winchendon School where he regularly turns out Division I players. But until now, none had played for UMass.
Both Byrnes and UMass coach Travis Ford sounded optimistic about the Minutemen's continued pursuit of Winchendon players.
''I know Ricky will be prepared to come to us because of Mike Byrnes. He really gets players prepared for Division I basketball,'' Ford said. ''It is important for us to establish that relationship. He's an alumnus and can really tell the players what it's like here at UMass. But put the UMass connection aside, he's a very good basketball coach. Very demanding. Very tough. He's got a great track record. His kids will be prepared for anything I can put them through.''
Byrnes said he is glad to have one of his Winchendon players heading to UMass.
''We haven't had one since Inus Norville and Andre Burks, so when they got involved with Ricky, it was exciting for me,'' Byrnes said. ''We took the team down there for a game. I saw some guys I either played with or got to know over the years. We're excited to merge a relationship with the UMass staff. It's exciting to have a kid go to my alma mater... I'll always have kids that are Atlantic 10-level players.''
Ford said Harris is a good player for UMass regardless of where he went to school.
''He grew up in a very tough league in the Catholic League in Baltimore and performed very well there. Then he went to prep school and did extremely well again,'' Ford said. ''He gives us something we don't have. He's a guard who can create his own shot. He's really quick and can defend.''
Ford said Harris would be valuable as a rookie, and would grow during his time in Amherst.
''Right away he'll be a spark plug,'' Ford said. ''He plays with a lot of energy on both ends of the court. He'll be surrounded by a lot of veteran players who will push him and make him better. But he'll play with such great energy that he's going to push them every day.
''I think this year he'll generate some quick excitement when he comes into a game and eventually I think he'll develop into a go-to type player,'' Ford added. ''I think he can be that type scorer eventually.''
Byrnes echoed Ford's assessment.
''He has the ability to really score baskets in a hurry,'' Byrnes said. ''He's a phenomenal 3-point shooter. He can put the ball on the floor and slash to the basket. He's a high-energy type of kid who loves the game and plays with a lot of passion and a lot of heart.
''The way coach Ford wants to play, pressing, getting up and down the floor and shooting 3s, Ricky fits into that style phenomenally.''
Harris, a Baltimore native who starred at basketball power Calvert Hall, averaged 17 points and shot 43 percent from 3-point range in his postgraduate year at Winchendon. He's played both guard positions, but will likely play mostly on the wing at UMass, which already has two point guards.
The addition of Harris likely completes the Minutemen's scholarship players for the 2006-07 season.
Catholic Memorial standout Chris Donald and former South Hadley star Andy Covington are both expected to join the team as walk-ons, who do not sign letters of intent.
The three new players could give the Minutemen a particularly full bench. In addition to the 12 scholarship players, UMass will have five walk-ons for a total of 17 players on the roster.
UMass has one more scholarship to offer, but Ford appears to be leaning toward using it for a transfer or saving it until next season.
''If everybody is there and healthy, I like our team and I don't see a huge need to go out and sign somebody - other than maybe outside shooting - but I think we have enough guys that we can make up for our lack of shooting, so I'm not panicked to sign somebody,'' Ford said. ''If we do, it'll be the best player available at any position. It could be anybody. Maybe another transfer. You hear a lot of rumors this time of year and we have our ears open.''
Matt Vautour can be reached at email@example.com. For more UMass coverage, including a frequently updated UMass sports blog, go to www.dailyhampshiregazette.com/umsports.