Minutemen look to fill holes in offseasonThe Massachusetts men’s basketball team has some holes to fill after losing its top scorer Ricky Harris to graduation.
“In losing Ricky, we lost 20 points a game and a guy who’s been here and scored the ball his own career,” UMass coach Derek Kellogg said. “It’s going to be hard to replace.”
Stepping up for the Minutemen will likely be guard Anthony Gurley, who averaged 13.6 points a game last season including a career-high 24 points against Richmond in the Atlantic 10 Quarterfinals.
Despite having an experienced scorer waiting in the wings, Kellogg is looking to put “men” on the court.
“When I say a man, a man is a guy who never quits,” Kellogg said. “He never gives in, he fights from the second he walks in the gym until the second he leaves. It’s a constant effort, constant toughness.”
Planning for the season is still in the early stages for Kellogg and company, as the former Memphis coach has yet to establish a starting lineup, basically because he expects the players to show him that they deserve to be a Minuteman.
“When I say ‘men’ I mean we’ve got to become tougher, we’ve got to become better defensively, we’ve got to rebound the basketball better.” Kellogg said. “It means if I have five of them, I’ll play five. If it means I have six, I’ll play six. If I have seven, whatever the number is of the players I consider men, that’s how many guys I’m going to play. I’m letting these guys figure it out right now.”
Rebuilding ‘Big City’
Hashim ‘Big City’ Bailey is doing whatever it takes to be a dominant force on the UMass basketball squad.
Last season, Bailey struggled with conditioning and weight issues that had Kellogg fuming at times during practice and at games. This year though, it’s a whole different story after a summer of hard work.
“Over the summer, I was eating right,” Bailey said. “Running a lot, like jogging around campus. This summer was really awesome to lose weight, because coach was telling me ‘if you lose 40 pounds or so, you’re going to be a monster out there, ‘City’ and that’s what I did, that was my goal. Anything to help my team to win, lose this weight, get it down and that’s what I did.”
Kellogg showed much appreciation for Bailey after training in the summer.
“It’s nice to see that he lost some weight. Somebody came in and really didn’t recognize him,” Kellogg said. “He’s one of the few guys we have with some mass and some beef. So if he gets everything in the right order, I think he can help us this year.”
Like every other player on his roster, Kellogg still believes there is much for Bailey to work on to help him improve on his game.
“He’s still got a little ways to go, his conditioning is not where it needs to be quite yet,” Kellogg said. “I’m just holding everybody to a certain standard and when you reach that that’s when you’re going to be productive for this team. And he’s doing a good job of trying to get there, but he’s got a little ways to go still.”
It’s been more than just a change in size for Bailey however, as the New Jersey native has been improving as much off the court as he has on the court.
“I’m trying to change a lot, I’m listening to the coaches,” Bailey said. “I’m listening to the coaches when they’re telling me to do a task. They told me lose weight, I did it. They told me to do better in school, I did. Get my grades up, I did.”
Aside from academic and physical growth, Bailey said he has been developing as a person as well.
“I’m maturing as a man,” Bailey said. “[Kellogg] knows what’s the best for me. He’s seen where I’ve come from and what I could do and what I could become. It’s all love, me and DK is love.”
Bailey will look to wedge his way into the starting lineup after starting in one game of the 27 he played in last year.
Establishing a Brand
Super Sunday and Midnight Madness are gone.
Kellogg’s attempt at bringing more fans to UMass games this year? Mission 1,000.
Mission 1,000 is only a piece of a larger puzzle for Kellogg and his plans for the Maroon and White. The three-year coach looks to establish UMass as the premier basketball team for the state of Massachusetts.
Part of establishing the Minutemen as a brand for the state comes from playing a schedule where all the games are within 90 miles of Amherst.
“I just think that we’ve got to conquer New England first and be the Massachusetts team,” Kellogg said. “Like let’s play games where students and people that graduated from UMass can get to. Going to road games and some of those other places, I don’t think is conducive to building a program because they’re not coming here.”
Kellogg played sang a similar tune last season when the Minutemen traveled to play Central Florida, where basketball legend Michael Jordan’s son plays his collegiate basketball.
While establishing a state-wide appreciation for UMass is part of Kellogg’s goals for the team, he is also looking into developing excitement around campus in likes of the way the football team has in recent weeks.
“I think if we can get some excitement around here and play some games more competitive and compete to a high level, I think the fans [will get excited],” Kellogg said. “You build the excitement one, first, by winning and playing the right way. And as you mature a little bit, that’s when you step on the gas and try to play some nationally-ranked teams both home and away.”
Herb Scribner can be reached at email@example.com.