Kellogg recruits through building relationships
Sampson Carter always knew he wanted to play for Derek Kellogg. After all, it’s rare when a coach and player have a relationship that starts as early as grade school.
Kellogg worked at a summer basketball camp during his tenure at Memphis and met Carter when he was 10 years old. Their relationship became so close, that Kellogg would even babysit for Carter and worked with him one-on-one to improve his game.
- Video: The Future of UMass
When he started thinking about playing college basketball, Carter initially wanted to follow his long-time mentor to Memphis, even though he wasn’t sure if that was the best school for him.
As soon as he found out that Kellogg took the head coaching job at Massachusetts, Carter never hesitated scratching the Tigers off his list.
“I thought he was a great coach and how I always wanted to play for him so it was a perfect opportunity for me to come over and play for UMass,” Carter said.
“When Kellogg left, a big part of Memphis left too.”
Trying to recruit players as a first-year coach is never easy, but Kellogg’s ability to establish relationships made it easy for him to sign five freshmen, and set up the Atlantic 10’s top recruiting class.
All of them have a similar characteristic; they’re long and athletic, can play multiple positions and have good attitudes, according to Kellogg. Once he identified who those players were, he worked on catering his recruiting pitch to each recruit’s personality.
Freddie Riley, who is a native of Florida, was one of the first players Kellogg targeted. He took a year at Hargrave Military Academy to prepare for college basketball when he graduated high school.
During his senior year of high school, he got a call from Kellogg, who at that point was just settling into his new job with the Minutemen.
He told Riley that he planned on following him during the AAU season and would come to all of his games. Hearing that from Kellogg peaked the Florida native’s interest in UMass, and when he delivered on his promise, Riley knew that Amherst was the place for him.
“We developed a really good relationship because he came to all my games and my mom really liked him a lot so I was the most comfortable with him out of any of the coaches,” Riley said.
Another factor that played into his decision to come to UMass was the way Kellogg talked to him.
“He didn’t recruit me like all the other coaches,” Riley said. “I felt like they were just trying to get me because I played basketball, but he really cared about me.”
One of Kellogg’s selling points was explaining to the recruits how their game would fit into the dribble-drive motion offense. When Riley heard how he could benefit from that style of play, he knew that he would feel comfortable playing for the Minutemen.
In their first regular season game, Riley showed his comfort in the system when he scored 12 points in the loss to Central Florida.
Having an offense that felt comfortable was also a big factor for Javorn Farrell.
“That’s the way my AAU team and my high school team played so I thought I’d fit in pretty well,” Farrell said of the dribble-drive offense.
It also helped that one of his friends from home, Raphiael Putney, was also coming to UMass, although he didn’t realize it until senior year of high school.
On the day Putney was playing in a high school all-star game, Farrell decided on UMass and officially signed on Nov. 12 Putney nine days later.
“It’s good to have another player from where I’m from in the same area,” Farrell said.
The final signing, Terrell Vinson, was also the biggest signing.
He originally committed to Loyola Marymount before backing out of his commitment to join the Minutemen. Vinson, who Rivals.com ranked as the 90th best player in the nation, chose UMass because of Kellogg’s energetic and emotional coaching style.
Whatever the reasons were for the five freshmen playing for the Minutemen, they come with the understanding that because of the turnover from last year and the fact that there are so many makes it important for them to play well immediately.
Farrell played a major role in UMass squeaking out a victory against Dowling while Carter and Vinson started on Nov. 13 against UCF.
Kellogg recognizes that the freshmen class he has isn’t a five-star recruiting class and that he will need patience. But if the Minutemen are going to be successful, the freshmen will have to mature quickly.
“I need a lot of the [freshmen] to step up and maybe be better than they’re supposed to be early on,” Kellogg said.
Adam Miller can be reached at email@example.com.