As is tradition, the UMBR will give you a series of Player Previews to get geared up for another exciting season of UMass basketball. In the past we’ve done one post per player but due to extreme laziness and the fact that DK has a 15 man roster this year, we’ll be splitting them up. Today we’ll explore the group of five freshman that make up a top twenty-five recruiting class plus Luwane Pipkins (2015 recruit).
Luwane Pipkins – Guard
I’ll start with Luwane, Derek Kellogg’s prize of the 2015 recruiting class who could not qualify academically to play his first season. Fortunately he has been able to practice with the team and is ready to make a big impact this season. I expect the starting guards to be Donte Clark and CJ Anderson but Luwane could be the first guard off of the bench. He is an excellent ball handler and defender. I expect him to play a similar role to Trey Davis during his freshman year (when he came off of the bench behind Chaz Williams). Look for Luwane to provide a spark with some clutch shooting. Pipkins is 5’8″ and prides himself on being an energy guy, but whatever you do don’t compare him to Chaz.
DeJon Jarreau – Guard
DeJon was the glue that put this stellar recruiting class together. He signed as a package deal with high school teammate Brison Gresham but was also instrumental in convincing Chris Baldwin and Ty Flowers to come to Amherst as well. A four star recruit, he is by far the highest profile player to come to UMass in the Derek Kellogg era. It will be interesting to see how much playing time DK gives his freshmen but expect to see Jarreau coming off the bench for key minutes early this season.
Jarreau makes his money in the paint and loves driving to the basket. He will fit in perfectly with Kellogg’s fast paced offense and I imagine he and Donte Clark will play well together in the back court.
Brison Gresham – Forward/Center
Brison Gresham, who Wyoming Jeff likes to call BISON Gresham (sorry, I’ll see myself out), is the second piece of the Jarreau signing. A 6’9″ forward, Gresham is known for finishing at the rim. He will be an important piece in a front court that has been undersized since the days of Cady Lalanne. (Slim Phil Note: Just remember that size isn’t everything, as we saw with Cady. Mental and physical toughness and the consistent desire to want the ball are necessary traits as well. If Bison can crash the rim like his namesake animal thundering across the high plains of the West, then we’ll have something special here.)
Unique McLean – Guard
Unique was the first player of the 2016 class to sign with DK. He is a three star recruit and along with Chris Baldwin is local to Western Mass. He is a 6’2″ point guard but has enough athleticism to win dunk contests. His speed, quickness and ability to finish will work well in DK’s system. I don’t expect to see too much playing time for McLean this season but hopefully DK gets him enough minutes for fans to see what he is capable of.
Chris Baldwin – Forward
Local kid Chris Baldwin was the fourth freshman to join this recruiting class. He is from Springfield and naturally will get along well with Derek Kellogg. Baldwin is a 6’8″ forward who is known for his rebounding. He will provide much needed size and strength behind Rashaan Holloway, Zach Coleman and Malik Hines. What makes his arrival at UMass even sweeter is that he was recruited by UConn, BC and Rhody!
Tyrn Flowers – Forward
Last but not least is Ty Flowers. Ty is a forward but plays more like the “stretch forward” players that Derek Kellogg loves to recruit. He will fill the void that used to be held by guys like Raphiael Putney and Terrell Vinson. When Ty is on the floor, the Minutemen will be able to play with the spacing they need to allow the quicker guards like Donte Clark and Luwane Pipkins to drive the lane. Ty is from Connecticut, and once again it feels good to steal another one from right under UConn’s nose.
I’ve been quoted in the past as predicting a 2018 final four appearance, mostly based on the strength of these six guys. Whether or not they start winning early in their careers, this group of freshman is going to do big things for the UMass program.