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Walk-ons show promise, potential

Take a look at the two walk-ons on the Massachusetts men’s basketball team this year and you’ll notice they couldn’t be any more different on the surface.

Freshmen Andrew McCarthy and Jordan Couture, however, will try to bring a lot of the same qualities to the team this season.

If you try to find McCarthy, a 7-foot-1, 240-pound center, he’s fairly easy to spot.

“Walking around campus, everyone knows I’m on the team,” McCarthy said. “I stand out a little bit.”

The Scituate, Mass. native is just the third 7-footer in program history along with Jeff Meyer (7-2), a backup center in the 1990s, and Luke Bonner (7-1), who graduated in 2009.

Couture, on the other hand, is a 6-foot-3 guard who will try to bring more than his ability to play basketball to the Minutemen.

“Just bring spirit, emotion and help my teammates out,” Couture said. “Kind of be more of a cerebral player, almost in the same way like a coach.”

Couture, however, already has a relation to UMass head coach Derek Kellogg: he’s Kellogg’s godson. Couture even played at Kellogg’s alma mater, Cathedral High School, where he averaged 17.1 points per game as a senior. Similar to his godfather back in his playing days, the West Springfield, Mass., native is a shooting threat.

“I’m told by the team that I shoot a little bit like him,” Couture said with a smile.

Kellogg himself has been impressed by both walk-ons and likes what they’ve added to the team.

“They’ve brought two great kids, guys that have done well academically and have been great on campus,” Kellogg said. “One that I know personally and one that I’ve gotten to know personally.”

Though neither saw action in UMass’ season-opening win against Rider, they both got on the floor in the exhibition matchup with Brandeis.

Couture played four minutes and recorded a steal, but misfired on his only field goal attempt from long range. McCarthy was more limited and saw two minutes of action.

Nevertheless, Kellogg sees the potential in McCarthy with his ability to add length and depth to the frontcourt. If he is available to play this year, the freshman could be used at times when the Minutemen need size.

“I wouldn’t say redshirting is out of the question either, because I think with time, he could end up being a decent player for us,” Kellogg said. “He’s 7-foot, you never know how fast or how slow those kids take to mature and become players. I think it’s something where we have to give him an opportunity to be successful.”

McCarthy played at Scituate High School and was a double-double machine, averaging 10 points and 15 rebounds per game as a senior in 2009. After graduating, he did a post-graduate year at Loomis Chaffee in Windsor, Conn, where he was a member of the basketball team.

Though that year helped McCarthy walk-on to UMass, it didn’t prepare him for the conditioning needed at the collegiate level.

“I did a year at a prep school and we honestly didn’t do any conditioning, so it’s like coming back after taking a year off,” McCarthy said. “Back in high school we did a lot of running, but in the year in between, we did nothing, so it was really tough.”

McCarthy’s journey to the Minutemen began with a simple email to Kellogg, which asked if he could try out for the team. While he was in summer school, McCarthy was able to come to campus and practice with the other players.

After officially earning a spot on UMass, he wanted to tell his brother, Sean, who plays basketball at the New Jersey Institute of Technology as a scholarship player.

“He was pretty excited,” McCarthy said. “It’s funny because UMass is a better team. He has a scholarship and he throws that in my face, but I’m on the better team, playing against better competition.”

While many Division I walk-ons have high aspirations, they often lose sight of what made them an asset to the team in the first place. McCarthy doesn’t want to be one of those players.

“I want to bring a good attitude and hard work,” McCarthy said.

Jay Asser can be reached at jasser@student.umass.edu.

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