Vinson providing experience, versatility for Minutemen

By Stephen Sellner

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Jeff Bernstein/Collegian

Jeff Bernstein/Collegian

After any given game, some people may go straight to the stat sheet to try and make an assessment on who played well and who didn’t bring their best game to the floor.

In some cases, it’s an effective and simple method. However if it’s the Massachusetts men’s basketball team, people might overlook a very important piece to the puzzle.

Junior Terrell Vinson has been an unsung hero for UMass (17-6, 6-3 Atlantic 10) throughout its strong 2011-12 campaign. The Baltimore, Md. native has taken on crucial defensive assignments, oftentimes locking on the opposition’s top post player. That, coupled with his ability to knock down shots from 3-point range and unquestionable toughness in the paint, is apparent to those watching the game as opposed to those limited to just the box score.

UMass coach Derek Kellogg believes Vinson’s willingness to do the dirty work and accept roles that don’t appear into the spotlight is a testament to the type of person he is.

“To have a junior who’s willing to give up his own accolades … and really give up some of his game for the team or to do what the coach and the team needs him to do is a testament to the type of player he is, the type of person he is,” said Kellogg. “He’s not always the leading scorer, he’s not always the best offensive player, but he’s been a guy that is very well rounded as a player.”

That’s not to say he doesn’t have the ability to light up the floor. Vinson, or “TV” as he is known around the team, had a career-high 21 points on 8-of-11 shooting on Saturday night, paving the way for UMass en route to the team’s best shooting performance of the season in its latest victory at George Washington.

For much of the season, however, Vinson has taken a backseat on the offensive end to sophomores Chaz Williams and Raphiael Putney, the team’s two leading scorers. His 161 shot attempts this season rank fifth on the squad and is 126 fewer than Williams. Despite his reluctance to create his own shot at times, Vinson’s 9.5 points per contest is third on the team, trailing only the sophomore tandem mentioned above.

Where the junior really makes his presence known is on the defensive end, however. Vinson has been counted on to handle any test thrown his way, from matching up with forwards on the perimeter to antagonizing post players in the paint.

In the Minutemen’s Nov. 30 win over Towson, forward Robert Nwankwo was giving UMass fits in the first half, dropping in 15 points and hauling in 8 offensive rebounds. Kellogg made the decision to put Vinson on Nwankwo to try and neutralize the Tiger. Vinson took the challenge and did more than his coach could have asked for, holding the potent scorer to four points and limiting him to just one offensive rebound in the second half to catapult the Minutemen to an 86-56 rout.

Not only has Kellogg been impressed with Vinson’s play on the floor, but has found it comforting to have a player with experience out on the court that the team often lacks, with a slate of underclassmen playing considerable minutes.

“It is nice to have an upperclassman who’s been seasoned not only when he came to college,” said Kellogg, “but before that at a lot of the AAU tournaments and the camps that he went to that he does bring some stability to our team and lets some of the younger guys play their game because of his stability.”

Kellogg won’t allow Vinson to be content with his production thus far. In fact, the coach feels No. 33 can continue to work harder on the glass, get sharper in his spot at the back-end of the press and become a more shutdown defender.

Vinson and the rest of the squad return home tonight to host St. Bonaventure at 7:30 p.m. at the Mullins Center.

Stephen Sellner can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @MDC_Sellner.