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Brison Gresham makes long awaited debut for UMass men’s basketball

(Robert Rigo/ Daily Collegian)

(Robert Rigo/ Daily Collegian)

Brison Gresham’s days of having to watch the Massachusetts men’s basketball team play from the bench are over. The freshman forward/center was cleared by NCAA before practice on Tuesday and found himself in uniform and on the court for the Minutemen’s home game against Wagner Wednesday night.

Having already missed UMass’ first five games, Gresham was not completely sure if he’d play at all this season.

“It was like 50/50,” Gresham said. “I was like on the edge a little bit. But in the back of my mind, my mom kept telling me to just keep praying so that’s all I was doing.”

Gresham admitted that he was nervous entering the game and it showed in the three minutes he played. The 6-foot-9 big man fumbled a pass in the paint resulting in a turnover and had to be reminded on a couple of occasions by a screaming Derek Kellogg that the press defense required him to stay up front on the opponent’s impound pass. Two missed free throws didn’t make anything better either.

Though his inexperience and nerves showed, Gresham still managed to smirk during the game and laugh after it.

Gresham believes his efforts in practice will translate into more productive and consistent performances.

“I definitely can do a lot of things in practice,” Gresham said. “Just rebounding everybody. I felt like the three minutes I did have I could have done a lot of stuff. I just was off a little bit, loopy, got the jitters in me.”

A New Orleans native and long-time teammate of freshman guard DeJon Jarreau, Gresham was the No. 7 ranked center in Louisiana according to ESPN.

Despite his accolades in high school, Gresham did not yet seem to be caught up with the pace of the game Wednesday night.

“Yea, like now I’m being in front of the press, so I’m used to everybody just getting back,” Gresham said. “Now I gotta stay up front so that’s something my body gotta get used to.”

“It’s a whole different ball game when you step on the floor,” Kellogg said. “You can’t really breathe when you’re out there for the first time. You’re trying to figure out what’s going on.”

Kellogg understands that Gresham, like the other freshman will be trying to earn minutes. Kellogg looks at this as a positive thing.

“(Gresham) is gonna be playing and trying to get him minutes, within the context of we’re trying to win basketball,” Kellogg said. “I’m trying to get Chris (Baldwin) more playing time. I’m trying to get Ty (Flowers) more playing time. I’m trying to get Brison in. I think those guys when the league play comes around can be helpful to us. If you go in and the score goes from up four to down two that’s tough for me to keep you in, so there’s a delicate balance. I’m continuously talking to the team about not everybody’s going to get everything they want playing-wise or shot wise, but if the team’s doing well, I think we all can deal with that.”

Philip Sanzo can be reached at psanzo@umass.edu and followed on Twitter @Philip_Sanzo.

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