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UTEP Signs 7-Foot-1 Center

Matt Willms, a 7-foot-1, 210-pound center, has signed a national letter of intent with the UTEP Miners.

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.

Willms shot 62 percent from the field and 73 percent from the line while starting more than half of the Pilots’ games. He led Findlay Prep in blocked shots with 46 – the second-highest single season total in school history.

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,” Findlay Prep head coach Mike Peck in a news release. “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,” UTEP coach Tim Floyd said in a news release. “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.”

UTEP assistant coach Greg Foster was one of the university’s last two 7-foot or taller centers. The last was Kareem Cooper during the 2008-09 season.

“It has been a long time since UTEP has had a seven footer,” Foster said in a news release. “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.”

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