Forbes, Harris honored by A-10

By Eli Rosenswaike, Collegian Staff

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Gary Forbes was surprised that he won the Atlantic 10 Player of the Year award yesterday. The senior forward wasn’t even expecting to be named to the A-10 All-Conference first team.

But Forbes was downright shocked that his teammate, junior point guard Chris Lowe, wasn’t even honored with a third-team nomination yesterday when the A-10 announced its set of awards.

Lowe led the league in assists with 6.2 per game and shooting guard Ricky Harris finished sixth in the conference in scoring (18.1) but neither were named to any of the all-conference teams. Harris, however, did take home the Most Improved Player of the Year honor after his scoring average from last year (4.5) more than quadrupled.

“To me, C-Lowe is the best point guard in this league and probably one of the best point guards in the country,” Forbes said. “To have 174 assists and lead the league, and not make a team – the words I have to say probably can’t get into a newspaper.”

Forbes became the second straight Minuteman to capture the A-10 Player of the Year award; Stephane Lasme took down the honor last year. Heading into the Atlantic 10 Tournament, Forbes is tied for the conference-lead in scoring at 20.3 points per game. The senior swingman also leads UMass in rebounding at 7.9 per game (fourth in the conference).

“I still don’t really grasp the point that I was the Player of the Year,” Forbes said. “It’s tough with the league that we got; there are so many great players. It’s basically because of my teammates: the ways they gave the ball in certain positions to score. The guys push me every day to get better and I just thank my teammates as the reason why I gained the award.”

Forbes registered double-digits in scoring in all 30 games this season for the Minutemen (21-9, 10-6 A-10), and leads the conference with 18 performances of at least 20 points. The senior forward displayed his inside-outside versatility all season with 52 made 3-pointers, a league-leading 154 made free throws and a team-leading 7.9 rebounds per game.

“As I told him when I called to congratulate him, I think it is very impressive because of all the individual talent in this league,” UMass coach Travis Ford said about his senior captain.

“It was a great achievement by Gary, no question. People have to realize how much pressure we put on him. We require him to do just about everything and I got to stay on top of him because our team depends on him.”

A lot also depends on Lowe, the man most responsible for running one of the highest-scoring teams in the country. The junior floor general had a strong all-around season for the Minutemen, always getting his teammates involved and shouldering some of the scoring load when called upon.

Lowe turned it up when it mattered most, averaging 7.4 assists per game in conference play. His best game of the season came against La Salle, as he became just the third player in school history to record a triple-double with 14 points, 10 rebounds and 14 assists.

Despite setting such a high tempo on offense with his speed, Lowe took care of the basketball. He had only 46 turnovers compared to 111 assists in 16 conference games.

Much like Forbes, Lowe’s coach was also shocked at the fact that Lowe was not honored by the league in any way yesterday.

“I have great respect out of all players that made it; absolutely,” Ford said, referring to the 15 players named to the three all-conference teams. “Do I think [Lowe is] one of the top 15 players in the league? Easily. No question. That’s an opinion, but that’s a fact as well. He’s got something to prove.”

Lowe feels exactly the same way.

“It’s very motivating. I gotta prove it on the court now,” he said. “[If] coaches thought there were 15 better players in the conference than me, then that’s what they think. I’m going to go out there and show them that I’m the best point guard in the conference now, and in the country.”

Harris had a breakout season for UMass. After averaging 4.5 points per game last year with an average of 10.8 minutes per game, his numbers exploded. The sophomore finished sixth in the conference in both scoring and in 3-point field goals made with 82.

Harris was happy to be honored by the A-10, but had more important things on his mind.

“A lot of people were talking to me about it, but I didn’t think I was going to win it,” he said. “I’m happy I won, but we still gotta take care of business in the Atlantic 10 Tournament.”

Eli Rosenswaike can be reached at [email protected]

Click here to hear Eli Rosenswaike and Michael King talk about UMass basketball.