Howard Herman | Designated Hitter: T.J Weeks continuing family legacy at UMass
AMHERST — There are seven freshmen on the University of Massachusetts basketball roster. But only one of them brings a history book of the glory days with him.Tyrone Weeks played on four NCAA Division I tournament teams at the University of Massachusetts, including a Final Four and an Elite Eight squad. His son T.J. is part of a recruiting class that Matt McCall said can help revitalize the program.
"I was really in awe. I couldn't believe this is real," T.J. Weeks said. "I still can't believe it now, seeing the Mullins for the first time with the new court, and looking up and seeing the banners and what they did here.
"It's just surreal for me."
The younger Weeks will begin his UMass career in two weeks, when the Minutemen host UMass Lowell on Nov. 5.
"I can't wait," Weeks said during last week's Media Day activities in the Mullins Center. "I'm so ready for the first game."
T.J. Weeks brings a nifty resume to Amherst. He graduated from Bishop Hendricken in Rhode Island and played a post-graduate season at Woodstock Academy in Connecticut. He played for current UMass assistant coach Tony Bergeron, and had Minuteman freshmen Tre Mitchell and Preston Santos as his wingmen.
He played for a 38-2 Woodstock team that was at one time the No. 2 prep school club in the nation. Weeks averaged 23 points and nearly 11 rebounds in his 2017-18 senior season at Bishop Hendricken.
Nice resume, eh?
Dad's resume was pretty good, too. In four years at UMass after playing high school ball in Philadelphia — and being recruited by John Calipari — Tyrone Weeks played in four NCAA Tournaments, reaching the Elite Eight in 1994-95, and the Final Four as a sophomore the next year. He then played two seasons for Bruiser Flint, and was on some darn good teams that included the late Lari Ketner, Monty Mack and Charlton Clarke.
This isn't like a second-generation high school player going to the same school as his or her parent, mainly because they might live in the same community. When you are a college prospect, you have the opportunity to pick your school — even if your parent's alma mater recruits you.
Was it a tough decision for Weeks to step into the same uniform that his father wore?
"That was difficult," he said, "but I wanted to come here. I wanted to prove myself. I want to prove that I can be better than he did. That's always going to be a chip on my [shoulder].
"I want the same chance to do what he did."
McCall said that Weeks has been one of the more pleasant surprises among the UMass newcomers, and among everyone on the floor.
"He's a sniper from behind the 3-point line, a lefty with a beautiful stroke," the UMass coach said. "His ability to be coached — he wants to be coached. You tell T.J. to do something one time, and he does it. It's not like you have to repeat yourself a bunch of different times. He picks things up right away."
It's the first part of what McCall said that differentiates T.J. Weeks from his father.
Tyrone was more like a bull in a china shop. He was a tough forward who, in his first two years, averaged as many rebounds as points. As a junior, he averaged 12.6 points and 8.8 rebounds, while pulling down 8.8 boards and averaging 10 points per game on that team with Ketner, Mack and Clarke — all of whom averaged 12 points or better.
T.J. Weeks said he has heard it all from his father.
"Oh, I've heard many stories from on the court, off the court, in the dorms," T.J. Weeks said. "Funny stories, serious stories."
How good does this new member of Matt McCall's army think the Minutemen can be this year?
"I think we've improved a lot from where we started. It's just all chemistry," he said. "We just got down and talked to each other more on the court. We're relying on each more. We believe in each other more. We're going to do this for the next person. That made us improve a lot."
The Weeks family lives in Rhode Island, barely a hop-skip-and-jump away from the Mullins Center. The newest Minuteman said everyone is looking forward to his first game in maroon and white.
"They're very excited," he said "My dad, he walked into the locker room. It was beautiful for him to walk in and see his son's name on the locker.
"It's really surreal for us."
Howard Herman can be reached at email@example.com, at @howardherman on Twitter, or 413-496-6253.
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