Lappas in final push for big man
By Matt Vautour, The Daily Hampshire Gazette Staff Writer, 9/19/2001

With big man Stephen Briggs and guard Mike Lasme already committed, the University of Massachusetts men's basketball team appears to be focusing its final recruiting push on signing one more big man.

Coaches all over the country are making home visits to players, where they make a presentation to the player, his family, and any other influential parties. UMass coach Steve Lappas has drawn praise from his former players for this aspect of recruiting in the past.

Lappas reportedly has home visits scheduled with several players and interest from several more.

The Minutemen are in the running for the following big men:

- Akin Akinbala, a 6-foot-8 power forward who goes to the Brunswick School in Greenwich, Conn. He's considered raw offensively, but is a strong rebounder and shot-blocker.

According to Alliance Sports, an Internet recruiting service, Lappas has a home visit scheduled with him at the end of the month.

- Keith Butler is 6-11 or exactly 7-0, depending on which recruiting service you believe. But the former North Cambridge Catholic star, who is prepping at Worcester Academy, is a legitimate star at either height.

The Minutemen are considered an outsider in this race, with some Atlantic Coast Conference heavy hitters in the running.

- UMass continues to tap into assistant coach Chris Walker's Texas connections in pursuit of Garland, Texas, native Ike Diogu.

While Diogu has been rumored to be leaning toward Arizona State, UMass had a home visit scheduled with him last week prior to the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington. It was expected to be rescheduled.

Seton Hall, Illinois, Alabama and Connecticut also are interested.

- Eric Davis, a 6-9 Camden, N.J., native who lives in Philadelphia, has drawn his share of attention from Big East and Atlantic 10 schools including UMass, as well as Charlotte. He is attending Bonner Prep in Raleigh, N.C., this year.

- Emmanual Messy is a well traveled 6-8, 210-pound big man. Originally from Cameroon, he has lived for several years in Ottawa before coming south to improve his basketball prospects. He'll play his final scholastic year at St. Benedict's Prep in Newark, N.J. said UMass will visit with Messy, who also reportedly is interested in Seton Hall, Michigan, Louisville and Wake Forest.

- Dave Mallon, a 6-9, 210-pound big man from East Aurora, N.Y., has narrowed his interest to Pittsburgh, St. Joseph's, Canisius, Rhode Island and UMass, according to the Buffalo News.

"They're all pretty equal right now," Mallon told the Buffalo News. He did say that other players' recent commitments to URI may have eliminated the Rams and brought UMass into the mix. "I'm looking forward to getting it over with and moving on with my senior year."

- Nana Mensuh Bonsu, a 6-8 player at St. Augustine Prep in New Jersey, is originally from England and has gotten considerable A-10 attention, with UMass, St. Joseph's and George Washington, as well as Virginia Tech, in pursuit.

- Originally from Senegal, Moulaye Niang is a 6-10 center who plays at El Cajon Christian in San Diego. He's mentioned UMass, but is mostly focusing on western schools.

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