UTEP filled its final scholarship Monday evening, getting the signed letter-of-intent from 7-foot-1, 210-pound center Matt Willms.
As you can tell by the weight, he will be a project. But UTEP coach Tim Floyd said they would not sign anyone unless they were a potential all-conference player somewhere down the line. Willms, who is from Ontario in Canada, played for Findley Prep last year, a team that went 32-1. He averaged 8.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, shot 62 percent from the field and 73 percent from the free throw line.
The high percentage from the field and the respectable free throw percentage tell us he probably has soft hands, some touch and feel with the basketball.
Another interesting stat is his 46 blocks. That was the second highest single season total ever at Findley Prep, always a powerhouse. As you know, being tall does not make one a shot blocker. It is a timing gift and not every big man has it.
Look at UTEP's shot block records. The Miners have had several players between 6-foot-10 and 7-feet tall over the years. But the school's all-time shot block leader is David Van Dyke, who at 6-11 dominates the records in this category. Van Dyke has the top three single season marks — 116 in that 1992 Sweet 16 season, 90 in 1989 and 82 in 1991.
George Banks, at 6-8, has the fourth and fifth best single season totals of 65 and 57. Van Dyke holds the career mark with 336, way more than twice the total of second place Dave Feitl at 137 — a 7-footer who was talented enough to spend a long career in the NBA.
Perhaps, one day, Willms can be one of those lane-clogging shot blockers ... a tremendously valuable commodity. Willms will also be fortunate to have one of UTEP's all-time best big men, Greg Foster, working with him on a daily basis.
Here is what Foster had to say:
“It has been a long time since UTEP has had a seven footer. 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.”
Floyd seems to have added another very good piece to this puzzle.