Jags’ McDonnell to play hoops at UMass-Lowell


Jimmy McDonnell, whose combination of height, 6-9, and deft outside-shooting touch for the Jackson Memorial High School basketball team made him a college hoops prospect, has decided to attend and play basketball at the University of Massachusetts Lowell.

McDonnell made his decision after recently visiting the NCAA Division II school and spending time on campus with coach Greg Herenda.

Herenda is a former standout player at St. Peter’s Prep in Jersey City and at Lowell who went on to a series of assistant college coaching jobs, including stops at Seton Hall, Yale and East Carolina, and a head coaching job at Cabrini.

UMass-Lowell went 20-12 in 2009-10 in Herenda’s second season, defeating Adelphi, 73-58, for the Northeast-10 Conference Tournament championship.

McDonnell, who is an aspiring engineering major, considered Stevens Tech, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Rochester Tech and narrowed his choices to Lowell and Stevens, according to Jackson Memorial boys basketball coach Joe Fagan.

Although McDonnell acknowledged that the other colleges might have more acclaimed engineering programs, he said Lowell has an accredited engineering major and an appealing atmosphere on and around campus.

“It’s playing at [an NCAA] Division II level, and I always wanted to compete at the highest level and to compete to the best of my ability,” he said.

Lowell plays in the Northeast-10 Conference against schools such as Stonehill, Merrimack, Bentley, Pace and St. Michael’s.

McDonnell has a three-year athletic scholarship and a partial academic scholarship for his freshman year.

He hopes to earn playing time right away and is sharpening his skills by playing AAU ball, where he first drew the attention of Herenda while playing for the New Jersey Shore Shots in the Providence, R.I., Jamfest in April in front of recruiters from NCAA Division II and Division III colleges.

Fagan said the Rhode Island showcase also drew McDonnell’s attention to Dartmouth, Brown and Wagner, but he would have missed some filing deadlines for paperwork for admission.

“I think it’s a great fit,” Fagan said of McDonnell’s plan to attend UMass-Lowell. “Academically, he’s been taking Advanced Placement courses and is looking for a great engineering program, and he got into the honors program for engineering there.”

In 2009-10, McDonnell was one of two senior starters for Jackson Memorial, which ended a 16-8 season with first-round losses in the NJSIAA and Shore Conference tournaments. The Jaguars won the WOBM Classic early in the season. McDonnell averaged 13.9 points, 12 rebounds and 4.5 blocks per game.

“It’s definitely a big help,” McDonnell said of his shooting range. “I need to improve my all-around game and to develop some low-post moves.”

McDonnell’s next step, however, does not involve only improving his skills.

“I’m trying to gain weight and more muscle for the low post,” he said. “By November, I want to be 20 pounds heavier.”

For now, McDonnell also is working on agility and flexibility drills and is preparing for an active summer of playing in showcase tournaments in West Virginia, Las Vegas and other locations, as well as working out with the Jaguars’ varsity team. Senior Andrew Papin also is graduating, but McDonnell’s younger brother. Brandon, a 6-6 sophomore, leads the returnees, and Fagan expects he will make a big impact next season.

“The work ethic and standards they set made everybody better and put the program on a whole different level,” Fagan said.