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Gurley leading despite recent struggles

7Going into the 2009-10 basketball season, Massachusetts basketball coach Derek Kellogg knew that with a young and inexperienced team, he would need his older players to step up and set the tone for the Minutemen to have success.

With Ricky Harris, the team’s only senior and captain, there was no question that he was to fill the shoes left by Tony Gaffney.

But over winter term, while the Minutemen (7-9, 1-2 Atlantic 10) won just two of their past six games, junior forward Anthony Gurley has begun to help UMass develop its young players by being a leader on the court with Harris.

Harris leads the team with 17.4 points per game, while Gurley is second with 16.9 points per game and sixth in the A-10, third on the team in rebounds (5.0 per game) and third in the conference in free-throw percentage (82.9).

Gurley has played in all 14 games, starting the last nine, while coming off the bench during the team’s first five games.

“I’ve just been trying to do whatever is necessary for the team to win, whether it’s defending, rebounding or scoring,” Gurley said. “I’m just trying to give it my all.”

On Dec. 19, the Minutemen upset Memphis, 73-72, the biggest win for the program so far this season. Playing in his hometown of Boston, Gurley had 14 points, going 5-for-8 from the field and 4-of-5 from the free-throw line while adding four rebounds.

Four days later, against Boston College, Gurley scored 23 points and grabbed a career-high 10 rebounds, his first career double-double. However, the Minutemen could not hold off the Eagles for the win, falling 79-67.

Though Kellogg feels that Gurley has been key in helping younger players transition to the college game, the coach has not been impressed by the way his leader – who is averaging 7.7 three point attempts per game – has been taking shots from beyond the arc lately.

After strong performances in a tough defeat against Davidson and a victory against Fordham, Gurley struggled in a loss to La Salle on Jan. 10, going just 3-of-13 from the field and 0-for-4 from 3-point range. He was also non existent against Richmond, being held scoreless in 17 minutes of play.

Gurley went 0-for-4 from the field and 0-for-1 from the 3-point line against the Spiders, as UMass fell in overtime.

“[Gurley] has been great,” Kellogg said. “He hasn’t shot the ball fantastically from [the] 3[-point line] as of late. He’s working on it, [but] I don’t think he’s totally there yet.”

While Kellogg thinks of Gurley as a leader of the Minutemen, he feels that during the toughest stretch of UMass’ season, Harris or Gurley must be vocal on the court in order for his team to be successful.

“The tough thing is that he’s just not a vocal player, and in order to be a 100 percent leading, you have to be vocal out there,” Kellogg said. “We actually have a very quiet team on the floor, which means as a coach, I sort of have to take on a leadership role until somebody is able to take that over.”

With strong opponents coming up on their schedule against Baylor and conference games against Charlotte and Xavier, Gurley wants to continue to lead the Minutemen so that his team can be successful in A-10 play.

Gurley transferred to UMass from Wake Forest, and sat out the 2007-2008 season. Last season, he started 23 of 30 games, averaging 11.2 points per game and 3.1 rebounds per game.

Players like guard Freddie Riley and forwards Terrell Vinson and Sampson Carter have started to come into their own as players, and have benefited from Gurley’s experience.

“I try to be a leader out there with so many guys,” Gurley said. “I’m trying to help them out in any way that I can, so I try to give them advice on certain things since I’ve been in college for a couple of years. I think they’ve responded very well and they’re all great kids.”

David Brinch can be reached at dbrinch@student.umass.edu.

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