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UMass gets commitment from Mississippi big man

By MATT VAUTOUR @GazetteUMass
Thursday, July 3, 2014
(Published in print: Friday, July 4, 2014)

UMass continues to find success recruiting in the south.

Malik Hines, a 6-foot-9, 215-pound forward from Jackson, Mississippi, who played the 2013-14 season at Life Center Academy in New Jersey committed to the Minutemen, Thursday according to TheRecruitScoop.com.

Hines had an offer from LSU and interest from Louisville, Ohio State and, early on, Kentucky. His Life Center stats aren’t available, but he averaged 15 points and 9 rebounds as a junior at Murrah High School in Mississippi.

Life Center is the same high school that produced former Minuteman guard Mike Lasme. Life Center is coached by former NBA big man Pervis Ellison.

UMass’ roster now has three players from Texas, two from Tennessee, two from Florida and one from Mississippi.

Hines’ academic eligibility for the 2014-15 season is in question and SEC and Big Ten schools, like those that had been recruiting him, don’t accept partial or nonqualifiers.

The Minutemen have had success over the past 20 years turning nonqualifiers into college graduates as the Atlantic 10 does allow players who haven’t reached the required combination of core course grades and standardized test to enroll in their programs.

If he’s not eligible, Hines would pay his own way for his first season and wouldn’t count against UMass’ scholarship total. If he is eligible, the Minutemen would need a returning player to transfer (not likely) or be ineligible, or for an incoming freshman not to reach minimum academic standards to be eligible as a freshman.

Hines joins a freshman class that features incoming wing C.J. Anderson, big man Rashaan Holloway and Donte Clark and Zach Coleman, who sat out 2013-14.

NO THARPE — Naadir Tharpe, the former Kansas point guard, who is transferring to be closer to his daughter in Worcester, is no longer looking at UMass, according to sources with knowledge of the situation.

Because UMass doesn’t currently have a scholarship to offer, Tharpe would have had to pay his own way for his final season of college eligibility. Plus, the Minutemen already have two point guards — Trey Davis and Jabarie Hinds — on the roster.

Tharpe, who was also considering Providence, is now reportedly considering turning pro and playing overseas.

PROMOTING FROM WITHIN — The paperwork still needs to be finalized, but director of basketball operations Andy Allison, who was with UMass coach Kellogg at both Youngstown State and Memphis in administrative roles, is expected to be promoted to an assistant coaching position to replace Marlon “Smoke” Williamson, who was hired by Pittsburgh last month.

Allison, a 37-year-old graduate of Youngstown State, was an assistant coach at Division III Mount Union College in 2000-01 and the head coach of that school’s junior varsity team.

Long time staff assistants Matt Vogel and Lou Roe are both expected to see their administrative duties increase.

“We’re not going out of the organization to hire anybody else,” Kellogg said. “There was a succession plan in place. If somebody left, we planned to move everybody up.”

GORDON FOCUSED — Since becoming the first openly gay men’s Division I basketball player, there have been considerable demands on Derrick Gordon’s time. Kellogg has been pleased with how Gordon, who’ll be a junior in 2014-15, has balanced it.

“He hasn’t missed anything. He’s been focused and motivated. He’s 100 percent committed. I’ve been pleased with him. His leadership has been good and he seems happy,” Kellogg said. “If he plays the way he’s been, we’ll be in great shape.”

SCHEDULE ADDITION — Add Iona to the UMass 2014-15 men’s basketball schedule. The Minutemen and Gaels will play Dec. 30 at the Mullins Center as part of a one-game contract.

With Iona on the calendar, UMass needs two more games to fill the slate. It’s hoping for home games. The Minutemen are reportedly looking at a home-and-home series with Florida Gulf Coast for one of the two. The Minutemen will likely look for a game that would be attractive to both television and/or the season ticket package for the final game, although that could be hard to find at this late date.

Iona was 22-11 in 2013-14 and won the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference regular season title at 17-3. The Gaels were upset by Manhattan, whom UMass also plays in 2014-15, in the MAAC Tournament in Springfield. In all, UMass plays three MAAC teams, Iona, Manhattan and Siena.

The game will give UMass an up close look at David Laury, a 6-foot-9 big man, who once committed to the Minutemen, but never enrolled. He averaged 14.0 points and 8.3 rebounds last year.

UMass’ non-conference schedule so far shapes as follows:

November: 14 vs. Siena, 7 p.m.; 16 vs. Boston College at TD Garden, TBA; 18 vs. Manhattan, 11 a.m.; 22 vs. Notre Dame at Mohegan Sun, TBA; 23 vs. Florida State at Mohegan Sun, TBA; 26 vs. Northeastern, 7 p.m.; Nov. 29 at Harvard, TBA

December: 2 at LSU, 7 p.m.; 20 at Providence, TBA; 23 at BYU, TBA; 30 vs. Iona, 7.

The Atlantic 10 schedule is usually released at the end of the summer.

Matt Vautour can be reached at mvautour@gazettenet.com. Get UMass coverage delivered in your Facebook news feed at www.facebook.com/GazetteUMassCoverage