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Class of 2020 recruit Ronnie DeGray III committed to UMass earlier this month amid the whirlwind that is the COVID-19 crisis.

Ronnie DeGray III Finds Home in UMass Amid COVID-19 Crisis

Last year, we met Colorado native and Woodstock Academy product Ronnie DeGray III, who comes from a basketball lineage and is following in his family’s footsteps.

The small forward reclassified from 2019 to 2020 since we last spoke with him, but he is now ready to make his college debut next season.

This year, and only earlier this month, DeGray made it known where he would play his college ball: UMass.

“What really sold me was how they’ve watched me for the past two years, even when I post grad-ed, they never stopped coming to games to watch,” DeGray explained. “They told me, ‘You got a spot, you just have to let us know.’”

Not only that, but DeGray said he has built legitimate relationships with everyone on the staff, from head coach Matt McCall to the Director of Basketball Operations to the strength and conditioning coach and more. He also already knows some players on the team, and his general familiarity helps push him toward becoming a Minuteman.

Plus, he believes he can make an impact early in his career in Amherst and play on a massive stage while doing it.

“They’ve always told me how much I’m appreciated, but how much I’m also needed there,” DeGray said. “I want to be a freshman who’s able to compete for minutes and playing time. I thought that was the best choice for me, playing in the A-10. This year, Dayton was No. 3 in the country, so be able to play against really good competition, that’s always been my dream. Also, it’s a three-bid league, so being able to go to the tournament and just getting an opportunity was really big for me.”

Unfortunately for DeGray and the rest of the Class of 2020, the COVID-19 situation has had an impact on recruiting. In-person school visits are out the window at the moment and have been for a few weeks, which limited DeGray’s ability to see other universities that were in on him. He had already visited UMass before the crisis hit, which can’t be said for other places he was considering, like North Carolina State, Vanderbilt and DePaul.

Plus, with the season being cancelled before the postseason, many coaches are staying in jobs that they might not have. This means that new regimes don’t have to scramble to find prospects and send offers to recruits, and recruiting boards stay much more intact. This doesn’t mean DeGray wouldn’t have still chosen UMass, as his priorities and indication suggest that he would, but all these factors helped push him that direction, he said.

It’s a developing situation that no one has seen before, and it’s been taking its tole on DeGray personally, too.

Woodstock Academy, located in Connecticut, closed its dorms earlier this month, and Ronnie DeGray III has come home to Parker, Colorado, to be with his family. He hasn’t been playing much basketball since the shutdowns took effect, and it’s made him notice just how much of his life has been dedicated to the game.

“I didn’t notice how much time basketball really took from my day every day,” he said. “I feel like I just have so much more free time, and I just don’t know what to do. I’m still able to go to the track and run, do some workouts, but no hoops or stuff. Parks are closed, so you can’t play outside.

“I’m just bored out of my mind, and I don’t know what to do with my time. I don’t know what to do with myself,” he continued. “I’m hanging with my family, getting quality time with them, but other than that, there’s a lot of free time with me watching TV and playing video games a lot of the days.”

Like the rest of the country and world at large, UMass doesn’t know when this will be over, and it doesn’t know when school will start so DeGray can come to campus. The summer sessions were supposed to be in May and July, but it’s unknown how much of that will remain. It’s very much a wait-and-see situation.

Although he is bored and restless, DeGray said the time he is getting with his family is special. When he went to Connecticut to play prep ball, he sacrificed a lot of time with them, and now this is an opportunity to get some of that back.

This is part of what he said he can learn from this whole experience.

“Cherish the time you can spend with your family. People don’t get to be with their families, don’t get to see them very often, so I think that’s a blessing in all of this,” Ronnie DeGray III explained. “But also, learning how the world can change at the snap of a second, how people act, how everyone was going crazy talking about toiletries. There are people in the world who don’t have food or anything, and at the same time, those people don’t act like that. You have to be blessed to be in the predicament where you have things. You don’t have to fight every day for the things you take for granted, like having a bed and having a home to stay.

“Even though we’re all stuck in this crisis, we’re still able to cherish all the lost time we’ve had with our families.”

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