Even though Massachusetts basketball has recently struggled, Minutemen head coach Derek Kellogg is giving the people of Amherst hope for a brighter future.
Landing the Atlantic 10’s No.1 2016 recruiting class will do that.
The timing can’t be undersold.
UMass is coming off its first losing season (14-18) under Kellogg since the 2010-’11 campaign. The last two years have been a struggle. The Minutemen have compiled a 31-33 record in that period of time. This came after Kellogg took the Minutemen to postseason tournaments in the three prior years, including the NCAAs in 2014.
With UMass getting off track the last two years despite previous improvements, many have pegged Kellogg as a coach on the hot seat entering the 2016-’17 season.
If Kellogg can’t make substantial progress, his job will most definitely be on the line.
Not helping matters is the fact that Kellogg is losing two of his top three top scorers, Trey Davis (18.7 points per game) and Jabarie Hinds (14.5 points per game).
UMass could be a real sleeper this next season. That recruiting class could really take off for the Minutemen.
— A10Talk.com (@A10Talk) June 29, 2016
That’s why Kellogg’s 2016 recruiting class is so critical — not only to UMass’ long-term success, but Kellogg’s own job security. The class is ranked No. 34 in the country by 247Sports. Again, that’s tops among all Atlantic 10 teams.
The class is highlighted by a couple of high-profile New Orleans recruits, four-star combo guard DeJon Jarreau and three-star power forward Brison Gresham. Jarreau and Gresham both attended McDonogh 35 High School in New Orleans and come to UMass as a significant package deal.
The headliner here is Jarreau.
Jarreau is without a doubt the best recruit Kellogg has ever signed. The 6′-3, 160-pound combo guard is ranked by 247Sports as the No. 53 prospect in the 2016 class and the ninth-best combo guard in the country.
Jarreau is equally adept at distributing and playing off the ball. The slender yet extremely explosive and athletic guard can get to the rim at will. His game is very reminiscent of Xavier star guard Edmond Sumner.
Jarreau will be a crowd favorite in Amherst, because he can make the ordinary play look extraordinary.
Gresham is a fluid power forward with long arms and a large wingspan. The 6-9, 210-pound power forward is ranked as the No. 172 recruit in the 2016 class and the No. 41 power forward in the country.
While it may take Gresham a little time to adjust to Atlantic 10 basketball, his upside is immeasurable. His offense will come in time, but he can make an immediate impact on defense.
To give you some perspective on how big these two commitments are, Jarreau and Gresham chose UMass over a team with recent NCAA success, the Miami Hurricanes.
Kellogg rounded out his class by signing three-star power forward Chris Baldwin, three-star small forward Tyrn Flowers, and three-star shooting guard Unique McLean. None will likely be instant-impact recruits, but they will add depth for the time being.
It’s not as though Jarreau and company will have to do it all themselves, either: Donte Clark (16.8 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game) is coming back for his junior season. Clark’s ability to fill it up will reduce Jarreau’s burden.
UMass is also welcoming transfer Zach Lewi, who averaged 12.5 points per game in his last season at Canisius. He is best described as a volume scorer — he never shot more than 40 percent from the field with the Golden Griffins. If UMass gets an occasional scoring flurry from Lewis to win two games during the season, his presence will be valuable.
Kellogg has a lot going for him as he heads into next season. That said, after making it to just one NCAA Tournament in eight years at UMass, some Minutemen fans are becoming restless.
As a result, Kellogg may be facing a put-up or shut-up season.
With this exciting class coming in, he will at least go down swinging… if he goes down at all.