UMass men's basketball team picks up addition of graduate transfer Mark Gasperini

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What could be the final piece of the puzzle for the 2020-21 University of Massachusetts men's basketball team was placed on the table Wednesday, when graduate transfer Mark Gasperini announced he would spend his final year playing for the Minutemen.

Gasperini, a 6-foot-10 center from Brookline, Mass., via Moscow, Russia, will join the Minutemen after playing at, and graduating from American University. American plays in the Patriot League.

"It means a lot" to be spending the final season at UMass, Gasperini said in an interview with The Eagle on Wednesday. "It's amazing. I've been looking forward to especially coming back home for a while now. To be two hours away from Boston is going to be amazing. All the people I know from all over the state and New England can come to the games.

"I'm looking forward to it."

Gasperini played prep school basketball at Brimmer and May, a prep school in Newton. He played at American for Mike Brennan. Gasperini graduates this spring and will be immediately eligible.

Gasperini made the announcement on Twitter earlier in the week.

"I'm coming home," he announced on Twitter.

"Happy to announce that for my last year of eligibility I will be going back to my home state of Massachusetts and playing for Coach McCall and the UMass Amherst Minutemen!! During my time there I will also be working on a Masters in Accounting. Looking forward to this new chapter in my life!"

Gasperini wasn't the only one excited.

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"Welcome to the Family. Can't wait to work with you," UMass guard T.J. Weeks wrote on Twitter.

At American, Gasperini was thrown right into the fire. He played in 30 games as a freshman and started 29, averaging 11.7 points and 4.2 rebounds per contest. After being injured and sitting out his sophomore year, Gasperini came back strong. He ended up playing in 88 games over three seasons and starting 86 of them.

He scored at an 8.9 point per game clip and had a career-best 5.1 rebounds per game as a senior. The Eagles were 16-14 in 2019-20 and 12-6 in the Patriot League.

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The Eagles were the No. 2 seed in the Patriot League tournament, but were upset by seventh-seeded Bucknell 64-59 in the quarterfinals.

Gasperini will slide in as Tre Mitchell's backup at the five spot, filling a similar role that Djery Baptiste was in last year. Gasperini is described as legitimately 6-10 and is a big guy. He will provide UMass with some extra bulk to go with his height.

"They have a very young, good team. Obviously, Tre Mitchell is a very good player," Gasperini said. "I'm just excited to come into a place where I can come in and help or start with him at the same time. I'm looking forward to being able to make my role whatever it needs to be, adjust to what the team needs. Plus, I'll be happy to play with another 'big.' In my four years [at American], I was always the only big on the floor. Sometimes you need a little bit of help rebounding and whatnot. That definitely enticed me."

After entering the transfer portal, Gasperini said that he heard from some 30 schools at all three NCAA divisions.

"I had a lot of good options," he said, "but UMass seemed to be the best option."

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While Mark Gasperini arrives in Amherst for the fall, UMass small forward Samba Diallo is taking leave of the program.

The 6-foot-7 forward, who just completed his second season as a Minuteman, also took to Twitter, to let people know he had entered the transfer portal.

"Today, I am announcing my name will be on the transfer portal for the coming season," he wrote on March 30. "Yes, it is something that I would not have imagined a few months ago because I had 2 great years with UMass. I thank all the coaching staff, the athletic director, my teammates and the fans. I learned, I grew and I offered everything I could to allow the team to go as far as possible. Now I'm preparing for a new challenge. By leaving my country Senegal, nothing has been easy. I know the challenges that await me will be immense but I think I will be up to it. Thank you all."

Diallo came to UMass as a 3 or 4-star recruit from Pope John XXIII High School in New Jersey. He played in all 31 games for McCall's 14-17 Minutemen, starting 30. Only Mitchell and Carl Pierre started all 31 games. Diallo averaged 27.1 minutes per game, 6.7 points and 5.9 rebounds per contest.

Diallo is the fourth UMass player to enter the portal, joining Sean East II, Keon Clergeot and C.J. Jackson.

East II declared on Friday that he will be transferring to Bradley University.

Noah Fernandes, who transferred from Wichita State, will be joining the UMass program along with Gasperini. Guard Javohn Garcia and wing Cairo McCrory signed with UMass in the fall, while power forward Dyondre Dominguez has verballed to UMass, but has not yet signed his National Letter of Intent.

Howard Herman can be reached at hherman@berkshireeagle.com, at @howardherman on Twitter, or 413-496-6253.


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