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May 14, 2017

Ricky Harris still affected by ankle injury

mhoopAOne of the questions surrounding the Massachusetts men’s basketball team this season was going to be who could step up if captain Ricky Harris wasn’t having a good game or was injured.

Since Harris’s ankle injury before the game against Grambling State, the Minutemen (7-10, 1-3 Atlantic 10) have needed an answer to that question. While he’s been healthy enough to play in games, he had his second- and third-lowest scoring games of the season against Boston College (12) and Memphis (13).

In those two games, he finished a combined 7-for-27 from the field.

Since the loss to BC, Harris improved his scoring with two 21-point games and a 17-point effort against La Salle. However, his shot is still not as good as it was prior to the injury, specifically from 3-point range.

After missing the game against Grambling, Harris is 5-for-35 from beyond the arc. UMass coach Derek Kellogg believes the health of his team’s leader is between 95 and 100 percent, but is battling issues with his lift and confidence.

Before the Minutemen headed to Richmond, Harris said his inability to jump as high as he usually does is a big reason why his shot is a little flatter.

“My shot hasn’t been falling as I’d like, but I just have got to focus and continue to play hard,” Harris said.

As much as the injury may have plagued Harris during the first part of winter break, Kellogg believes that Harris’s low 3-point percentage may be due to a lack of confidence rather than lingering ankle pain.

“I’m not saying [his injury] is totally why he hasn’t shot the ball well, but I think mentally, it may have had some affect,” Kellogg said. “I have the utmost confidence that when he raises up, [the ball] is going in, and I want him to feel the same way.”

While Harris is trying to get his shot back, some of the Minutemen’s younger players have stepped up. In their win against the Tigers at the TD Garden in Boston, freshman Terrell Vinson finished with 21 points.

Guard Freddie Riley is also starting to pick up some of the production after returning from knee surgery. The freshman is averaging 14 points per game in the last four games. In the games against La Salle (22 points) and Richmond (20 points), he was the team’s leading scorer.

While UMass is 2-5 over winter break, Kellogg is still impressed with the way his freshmen are playing because of how competitive the team’s schedule is.

“You’re talking about five high-level games against very good teams and I think we’ve performed well, which maybe hasn’t shown up in the final score,” Kellogg said. “To have such a young team and play such a tough non-conference schedule, compiled with the way the league’s going, I think it is a little bit of a task for us.”

As Kellogg tries to find other players to take on the scoring load, Harris continues to work during practice in order to regain his confidence back.

Adam Miller can be reached at amiller@dailycollegian.com.

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