When Massachusetts men’s basketball coach Derek Kellogg blew the whistle to start practice, the Minutemen darted to center court. Kellogg and the rest of the squad started clapping and cheering, embracing in high fives as if they’d just won their first game of the season.
It’s safe to say UMass is ready for the season to start.
The Minutemen had their first practice open to the public on Friday evening at the Curry Hicks Cage as the squad enters a season filled with expectations and a greater sense of excitement and anticipation after the program’s resurrection last year. UMass went from a .500 season in 2010 to a 25-12 mark last year and a trip to the National Invitation Tournament Final Four.
“I’m ready to get started for the basketball stuff to see how far we can go with this team and how much they’ve improved,” Kellogg said before practice.
Health will be an important determiner of the Minutemen’s potential this season. Forward Sampson Carter, center Cady Lalanne and guard Jesse Morgan are all coming off injuries but all participated fully in practice.
Carter is coming off a hip injury that sidelined him in late November. He said he feels good and Kellogg says Carter is “about as full strength as he can be.”
Lalanne returns from a foot injury that cost him the final three months of the season and Morgan broke his right wrist – on his shooting hand – in July. Kellogg says both are at full strength. Morgan’s stroke did not appear hindered in practice and Lalanne looked explosive jumping off his foot.
Kellogg says he’s going to rely on the players to let him know if they need a break or need to rest their injuries.
“They’re saying they’re 100 percent so if they’re 100 percent, then I guess I can push them as hard as they can go,” Kellogg said. “I’m gonna leave it up to them and say, ‘If you need a break or you’re not feeling well or you feel like something’s not right, then let me know.’”
Kellogg said there are no updates on filling the opening in UMass’ schedule.
Stephen Sellner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter @Stephen_Sellner.