Hashim Bailey working his way a significant role with UMass
WORCESTER, Mass. — One of the bigger questions that surrounded center Hashim Bailey’s effectiveness was how long he can play without getting tired.
At Memphis, he never averaged more than three minutes per game and was well over 300 pounds. He was still out of shape when he transferred to Massachusetts to play for the men’s basketball team, but worked with the coaching staff to get into playing shape and lose weight.
After a year of redshirting for UMass (4-4), Bailey trimmed down to 275 and now averages 15.4 minutes per game, but coach Derek Kellogg still has concerns over his fatigue and some rust that might have come from sitting out last season.
Even with the increase of playing time, production didn’t necessarily follow. Bailey gave the Minutemen some size in the paint early on, but got in foul trouble quickly and lacked the stamina to play more than 10 minutes.
To make matters worse, Bailey battled a groin pull that slowed his progress over the season. Despite not feeling anywhere close to 100 percent, the redshirt junior played through his injury, which paid off in the short term.
When UMass played Michigan State, Bailey was one of the few bright spots in its 106-68 loss. He played 25 minutes and finished with seven rebounds.
Kellogg said Bailey got his first start at center against the Spartans simply because of the experience he adds. The usual starting center, Sean Carter, moved to power forward in place of Sampson Carter.
“Our best lineup is usually when you have more mature guys out there,” Kellogg said.
However, playing the most minutes in his collegiate career against MSU had a cost. Bailey aggravated his injury and sat out Dec. 2 against Quinnipiac.
Sitting out of the game turned out to be all Bailey needed to have an impressive performance against Holy Cross.
After having a successful practice on Friday, Bailey said that he felt good enough to play.
“He basically said he can go, and when he started going, I didn’t stop him,” Kellogg said.
Kellogg said that he saw Bailey’s conditioning improve against the Crusaders (2-7) and that he is now producing for the Minutemen. Bailey finished with a game-high eight rebounds and three blocks in 16 minutes.
“Having another big guy in there really helped us,” Kellogg said. “He looked like the man in the paint.”
Although Bailey felt good enough to play almost 20 minutes, he doesn’t feel completely recovered. He hopes that as he improves his conditioning over the season, he’ll play an even bigger role with the team.
The Memphis transfer is steadily getting more playing time and is starting to prove that he might reach Kellogg’s goal of 20 minutes if he can stay healthy.
“I feel really good,” Bailey said. “I just have to get healthier, stronger, and better.”
Overall, Bailey feels encouraged by his progress at the beginning of the season and feels that he can be one of the best players on the floor representing the Minutemen.
UMass to face Seton Hall
If Kellogg and Co. aren’t well acquainted with competitive Big East teams, they will by Monday night.
The Minutemen will face their second team from the conference in three weeks as they face undefeated Seton Hall.
After a 12th place finish and a 7-11 conference record during the 2008-09 season, the Pirates (6-0) are having one of the most successful seasons against non-conference opponents compared to other Big East teams.
Seton Hall is one of five teams in the conference with an undefeated record and has blown out opponents in its last three games with an average margin of 34 points. Its last win came against Hartford at home in an 89-56 win.
The Pirates also beat Cornell by 10 points on Nov. 20, shortly after the Big Red defeated the Minutemen at the Mullins Center.
UMass hopes that Seton Hall’s victory over Cornell isn’t indicative of its fate when it becomes Pirates’ fourth straight visitor.
On paper, Kellogg knows that trying to hand Seton Hall its first loss of the season is going to be a challenge because of its experience, so he wants to make sure his team is well-rested for Monday.
“I would say Seton Hall is an NCAA Tournament team,” Kellogg said. “[It is] probably a good Big East team that has older, more mature guys. If you look at the age of the guys, there is probably a pretty good point differential, which is good for our guys to go and see how they stack up.”
The Pirates are led by shooting guard Jeremy Hazell, who averages 19.7 points per game, and someone who Kellogg describes as a potential NBA first-round draft pick.
He also praised forward Herb Pope’s (13.3 points, 11.2 rebounds) talent. Popo, who transferred from New Mexico State, is shooting at least 50 percent in field goals and 3-pointers.
As much as Kellogg feels inexperience will be a problem against the Pirates, he feels that the Minutemen are much more prepared than they were the last time they went to New Jersey against a Big East team.
“I’m excited [to play Seton Hall] because they’re playing well,” Kellogg said. “They’re sharing the ball and competing.”
The last team to play UMass from that conference is Rutgers, who took control for much of the game until the new point guard, Ricky Harris, scored 20 second-half points to help cut the lead to four.
During that game, Kellogg believes the reason why his team never pulled ahead was because it didn’t play with a sense of urgency, but expects that won’t be a problem on Monday night.
Adam Miller can be reached at email@example.com.