UTEP Signs 7 Footer


POSTED: Monday, May 14, 2012 - 6:10pm

UPDATED: Monday, May 14, 2012 - 10:42pm

UTEP picked up a big addition to its 2012 recruiting class both literally and figuratively on Monday, as Matt Willms signed a national letter of intent with the Miners.

The 7-1, 210-pound Willms played last season at Findlay Prep, which won its third ESPN NHSI championship in four years. He averaged 8.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.5 blocks for a 32-1 team that already has players signed with Arizona, Ohio State and UNLV for next season.

Willms shot 62 percent from the field and 73 percent from the line while starting more than half of the Pilots’ games. He posted season-highs of 29 points and 15 rebounds versus ABCD Academy on Feb. 15.

He led Findlay Prep in blocked shots with the second-highest single season total (46) in school history. Willms was second on the team in field goal percentage and third in offensive rebounds.

Originally from Leamington, Ontario, Canada, Willms played the previous year at Consortium High School in Detroit.

“We loved the opportunity to work with Matt for a year,” said Findlay Prep head coach Mike Peck. “He has unbelievable upside. He’s very coachable. He has unbelievable hands and he can run the floor like a guard. He has a very high skill set. With 20 to 25 pounds of muscle, I think he’s a pro.”

Peck said Willms was “capable of scoring more for us,” but didn’t need to on a loaded squad. The Pilots averaged 93.8 points per game and won all but two games by double-digit margins.

“We weren’t going to sign a player unless we felt he had a chance to be a first team all-league guy,” said UTEP coach Tim Floyd. “Matt has the tools to become that at some point in his career. He can really run, he has great hands and a great touch. As he gets stronger his impact on the game could become significant. He’s only been playing organized basketball the last two years, but he has the tools to excel at UTEP.”

“It has been a long time since UTEP has had a seven footer,” said UTEP assistant coach Greg Foster. “He has a great skill set all the way around. He has soft hands and he can run the floor. He can score the ball with his back to the basket as well as shoot it out on the floor. But probably his biggest asset is going to be his ability to block and change shots, since that has become fashionable in the college game again. He’s a great kid and seemed to get along great with everybody when he was here on his recruiting trip. It’s an honor for me to help guide this kid’s future.”

The last two UTEP players 7-0 or taller to see action were Foster during the 1989-90 season, and Kareem Cooper during the 2008-09 campaign.

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