Recruiting Preview: UMass Basketball 2021 Class
Known Openings: 2 (Carl Pierre, Mark Gasperini)
Roster Needs: Big/2 Guard
There seems to be a crowded logjam on guards on the UMass roster currently, but I expect we see more clarity at the position once there’s a decision on Noah Fernandes’ waiver for this season, Javohn Garcia playing against college players, and John Buggs’ recovery from ACL surgery. UMass could go from needing to add another ball-handler in the 2021 class to not needing to address it for two or three years.
Bensley Joseph 6’1” - Putnam Science, Arlington, MA
A Massachusetts native attending prep school at Putnam Science this season after previously playing at Cushing Academy, he’s the top ranked player in Massachusetts for the class of 2021 by New England Recruiting Report as well number 68 in the ESPN 100.
With offers from the likes of Penn State, Marquette, Ohio State, and Providence, combined with UMass already having Noah Fernandes and Kolton Mitchell on the roster for two seasons beyond this 2020-2021, Joseph seems unlikely to join UMass. However, with the current college landscape filled with player movement and positionless basketball, it would make sense for UMass to make a hard push after the best player in the state.
Chances of Signing: Low, there seem to be bigger players involved in Joseph’s recruiting.
Jalen Weaver 6’4” - Smoky Hill, Aurora, CO
The Minutemen have been in early on Weaver and seem to have him as a priority target for their 2021 class. Ranked as a 4 star and the top player in Colorado, UMass will have their work cut out to have Weaver commit from across the country.
It’s worth noting Weaver has already visited UMass on October 21, 2019 and was Weaver’s first D1 offer. The competition for Weaver includes the likes of Tulsa and New Mexico, but it’s likely to grow. Weaver is also a part of the Billups Elite Gauntlet AAU squad that Ronnie Degray was also a member of. It’s possible that similarly to Degray, Weaver explores to take a prep year in New England to improve his college interest.
His 2020 highlight reel shows off a silky three point stroke, with an ability to cut through to the paint. His versatility and athleticism would be an instant fit for coach Matt McCall’s philosophy, and he could plug into the UMass rotation upon the departure of Carl Pierre.
Chances of Signing: Medium, UMass seems to be going hard and there seems to be a connection with Coach Bergeron. However, it’s always hard to get a player to come to a program across the country especially if programs like Colorado, Arizona, or UCLA come calling.
Prediction: UMass (2021)
The UMass style of play values wings that have the ability to guard the 1-4 positions. Look for UMass to continue to stockpile these types of players as long as they intend on pressing and playing 10-11 guys per night.
Sean Durugordon 6’6” - Putnam Science, Bronx, New York
Durugordon made the decision to transfer from Canterbury to Putnam Science for his senior season and the offers have been following ever since, including the likes of DePaul, Seton Hall, and Georgia. Being close to home and being in on Durugordon early may keep UMass in the running until the end.
It does not appear that UMass is prioritizing Durugordon as much as these six schools. However, things easily change, and UMass has recruited the Putnam Science program in the past (John Buggs).
Chances of Signing: Low, UMass doesn’t seem to be actively recruiting at this time and it may be difficult for them to catch other programs.
Tyriek Weeks 6’5” - Pilgrim High School, Warwick, RI
The UMass legacy and younger brother of current UMass sniper TJ Weeks seems destined to join the Minutemen. The biggest question that remains is whether Weeks is part of the 2021 class or reclassifies to 2022. A year of seasoning at the prep level may give Weeks a leg up as he continues to compete against clearly inferior competition playing for Pilgrim High School in Warwick, RI.
Tyriek enters his senior season at Pilgrim with a Towson offer, in addition to UMass. He seems to be a clear victim of the lack of a summer AAU program to boost his value from college coaches. The prep season could make up for this lost opportunity if he wants to go that route. If Tyiek were to reclass to 2022, he would still have the opportunity to play two seasons with his brother in 2023-24 and 2024-25 since TJ is likely to get an injury waiver for last year, and thus will be a freshman eligibility-wise this season
Chances of Signing: High, seems like a no-brainer on paper as UMass continue to stockpile talented and versatile wings alongside a chance to play with his brother
Prediction: UMass (2022) after a prep year at Woodstock Academy. Fill the scholarship of a graduating Dibaji Walker
Alexis Reyes 6’8” - Cushing Academy, Roxbury, MA
Growing four inches over the past year, Reyes has a guard’s skills in a forward’s body, making him an intriguing prospect to many. With talented guard Bensley Joseph transferring from Cushing Academy to Putnam Science, Reyes will have a lot more attention this season. In addition to UMass, Reyes is sporting offers from Illinois, URI, and St. John’s. I anticipate his offers will continue to pile up once open gyms startup in early fall.
Playing AAU ball for Expressions Elite will certainly intrigue UMass fans since Tre Mitchell and Preston Santos both played for that program. UMass will look to retain the 5th ranked prospect in Massachusetts, 9th in New England by New England Recruiting Report.
Chances of Signing: Mid-High, Seems like there’s an established connection and Reyes could stay home and play.
Prediction: UMass, 2021. UMass oversigns an extra guy for their 2021 class anticipating at least player transfers or turns professionally earlier than projected.
The most obvious need for UMass is a big man to replace Mark Gasperini and to develop into a starting position post-Tre Mitchell. There were two names that stood out largely for the same reason: they will be playing this year at Woodstock Academy.
Tairi Ketner 6’7”- Woodstock Academy, Randor, PA
Son of UMass star Lari Ketner, Tairi initially committed to Byrant before deciding to take a prep year at Woodstock Academy. Current UMass assistant coach Tyson Wheeler will likely serve as the point recruiter as Ketner and Wheeler battled against one another when Ketner was at UMass and Wheeler at URI in the late 90s.
A bit undersized to play the center position in the Atlantic 10, look for Ketner to bulk up, improve his athleticism, and refine his post footwork to earn UMass’ attention. He does not currently hold a UMass offer, but that situation can change in a moment's notice.
Chances of Signing: Medium, I think UMass would like to see his game reach a new level at Woodstock. The pedigree and potential is definitely something to keep an eye on.
Prediction: Bryant, I think this may be a Ronnie Degray-like scenario where Ketner returns to the place of his prior commitment after a prep year.
Shemani Fuller 6’9”- Woodstock Academy
Fuller is quite an intriguing prospect. UMass recruited him for their 2020 class before Mark Gasperini emerged as a grad transfer. I’d consider this year a great opportunity for Fuller to refine his game and get antiquated with a pressing style of play at Woodstock.
In addition to the Woodstock-to-UMass pipeline, Fuller played his AAU play from the NY Lightning, owned by former UMass player Dana Dingle. In addition to UMass, Fuller holds offers from Norfolk State, St. Bonaventure, and Robert Morris. These offers are expected to grow as Fuller recently decided he was going to reclassify to 2021.
Chances of Signing: High, he would have probably decided to go to UMass if Mark Gasperini didn’t decide to transfer. It’s a win-win for both UMass and Fuller to have Fuller go to the “official prep school of UMass” for the year.
Prediction: UMass, Fuller learns under Tre Mitchell for a year then steps into a starting position once Tre forgoes his senior year to declare for the draft.