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UMass to sign Connecticut recruit
By Matt Vautour, The Daily Hampshire Gazette Staff Writer, 3/20/2002

For the final recruit in the 2002 incoming class, the University of Massachusetts didn't have to look far away.

Jeff Viggiano, a 6-foot, 6-inch swingman from nearby Suffield, Conn. verbally committed to the Minutemen Sunday and plans to sign a National Letter of Intent during the spring signing period which runs from April 10 through May 15.

"I just figured that with the distance from home and the high level of basketball that this was a good situation," Viggiano said. "My family and friends will be able to come up and watch me."

Viggiano averaged 28 points, seven rebounds and four assists last year. He chose UMass over Iona and prep school.

"He's a slasher and a shooter," Suffield coach Fran Aniello said. "He plays bigger than 6-6. He has long arms and can really jump. He's really a complete player."

The addition of Viggiano marks the shortest distance UMass has had to go for a recruit since signing Springfield Central's Edgar Padilla.

Viggiano was glad to have the decision behind him.

"It took a lot off of me," he said. "I didn't even realize how much I was thinking about it. But once I decided, I felt more relaxed."

Viggiano has the necessary grade point average and standardized test scores to be eligible as a freshman.

Aniello praised his player off the court.

"He made the honor roll last six marking periods," Aniello said. "He's a great kid. He's very well liked. He's not a showboat. He's just a real nice kid."

NCAA rules prohibit any member of the UMass coaching staff from commenting on Viggiano until he has officially signed.

Viggiano will be one of seven players on the Minuteman roster next year that weren't there this year, joining a roster that has only four players that averaged more than 12 minutes per game a year ago.

Micah Brand is the only returning inside player as Jackie Rogers returns from his redshirt year. Gabriel Lee, who sat out last year due to academics will make his debut as will freshmen Stephen Briggs and Alassane Kouyate.

In the backcourt, UConn transfer Marcus Cox will be eligible, joining returnees Anthony Anderson and Kyle Wilson and freshman combo guard Mike Lasme.

At small forward, Viggiano will compete for playing time with Raheim Lamb and Brennan Martin. Sophomore Willie Jenkins, whose minutes dropped off considerably at the end of the year, is reportedly considering transferring.

"I know there is a lot of new kids coming in so we'll be a pretty young team," Viggiano said. "It'll be good to have people to relate to. Hopefully we'll all be here four years and can have a lot of success together."

UMass also signed Rashaun Freeman, a 6-foot-8 forward who will be an academic non-qualifier next year. Even if Jenkins were to transfer, the Minutemen couldn't sign another player because the NCAA doesn't allow teams to sign more than five players.

The incoming freshmen are eligible to enroll in UMass for the second summer session.

"I'm going to go up in July to get a couple classes out of the way," Viggiano said.

Local notebook
Viggiano To UMass
From The Hartford Courant staff reports, 3/20/2002

All-Courant guard/forward Jeff Viggiano, Suffield's all-time leading scorer, will attend UMass next year.

Viggiano, 6 feet 5, 205 pounds , will sign a letter of intent today at Suffield High School. Viggiano will play for the Class S/M East team in the Connecticut High School Coaches Association Senior All-Star Game tonight at 6 at Maloney-Meriden.

"UMass presents a good opportunity for me to go and play right away, and it's close enough to home so that my family and friends can see me play," said Viggiano, who finished with 1,534 career points.

Viggiano averaged 28 points, eight rebounds and three blocks for the Wildcats, who finished 23-3 after losing in the Class M quarterfinals.

In three seasons as a starter, Viggiano led Suffield to a 61-14 record, two NCCC titles, a conference tournament championship this season and a state title his sophomore year.

"Jeff's a shooter. The UMass offense is geared to his style of play, someone who can come off the screen and hit from anywhere," Suffield coach Fran Aniello said. "UMass was looking for a shooter and Jeff fits the bill. [The UMass staff] came to see Jeff play quite a few times and felt he could make an impact."

Viggiano had considered attending prep school, but instead chose UMass over Iona, George Washington, Boston College and Clemson.

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