Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Jabarie Hinds returns to sixth man role in UMass’ win over La Salle

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Photo by Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian

Photo by Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian

PHILADELPHIA — The Massachusetts men’s basketball team has endured an up-and-down 2015 season and a number of integral players have struggled in terms of consistency.

Perhaps no player embodies the fluctuation more than Jabarie Hinds. The 5-foot-11 guard is in his first season with UMass after transferring from West Virginia and has already seen both his role and statistical output vary from game-to-game.

Hinds, who started 59 of his first 60 games at West Virginia before finishing the year on the bench and subsequently transferring, assumed the role of the first reserve off the bench for UMass coach Derek Kellogg through the first eight games of the season.

At times, he’s played heavy minutes (30 against Boston College, 35 in an overtime win over Manhattan) and played well, scoring a season-high 15 points against Florida State and following it with a 14-point game in UMass’ next game against Northeastern. But there were also struggles: He scored only five total points in crucial games against Notre Dame and Louisiana State.

Starting forward Seth Berger suffered a significant foot injury against LSU, which prompted Kellogg to add Hinds into the starting lineup as a third guard the following game against Florida Gulf Coast. The move was designed to boost a team which was struggling — UMass had lost two straight to Harvard and LSU — and give Hinds an opportunity in a coveted starting role.

UMass went 2-4 over the next six games, including losses to Florida Gulf Coast and St. Bonaventure, and Hinds, much like the rest of his teammates, was again up and down.

Prior to Wednesday’s 71-65 win over La Salle, Kellogg named freshman forward Donte Clark a starter and returned Hinds to his role as a sixth man.

The move paid immediate dividends as the Minutemen cycled through their bench more often and picked up both their first Atlantic 10 Conference victory and road win. Kellogg preached a return to up-tempo, transition basketball in the practices leading up to the win.

“Coach took me out of the lineup and said he wanted me to come off the bench again and give us a spark since we’re starting to run more,” Hinds said after the game. “That’s what I did. I just tried to push the ball and basically try to take over the game.”

Hinds is a gifted player offensively and thrives in isolation and transition situations. When UMass is playing at its best — and quickest — Hinds generally looks more comfortable. He scored nine points in 17 minutes against the Explorers Wednesday on 4-of-9 shooting while adding three assists to only one turnover.

But is there a discernible difference between Hinds the starter and Hinds the sixth man? The numbers are as follows.

Jabarie Hinds off the bench (9 games)
PPG: 8.5
APG: 1.8
TO/PG: 2
Mins per game: 21.3

Hinds as a starter (6 games)
PPG: 6.1
APG: 3.5
TO/PG: 2.8
Mins per game: 24

Hinds scores at a higher clip off the bench, but doesn’t facilitate with the same regularity. Some of that is the players around him — he’ll often play with other reserves to spell the starting unit — and he appears to have the freedom to score more in those situations.

Kellogg weighed in following the game.

“The reality of it is, I thought Jabarie coming off the bench was better for him,” Kellogg said. “He comes in with his speed and his energy and I think he can change tempo.”

“I think that’s my best game, when I’m at the fast pace making decisions and stuff like that,” Hinds said.

Hinds was a part of a second unit which received a significant dose of playing time. He looked comfortable, knocked down a 3-pointer and limited his mistakes. It’s the type of offensive performance UMass needs from someone off the bench on a nightly basis.

If Hinds provides it consistently and plays with his typical speed and flare, it’ll allow roles to become more defined. The Minutemen are now 15 games into the year and reaching a critical juncture of the schedule where consistency is key. Hinds facilitated the ball more in a starting role and takes on more of a scoring burden as a reserve.

Against La Salle, Hinds didn’t feel there was a significant difference. And based off Kellogg’s comments — he said he thinks he’ll stick with this lineup moving forward — Hinds may finally have a solidified role.

“Not really I guess,” Hinds said.

“Coming off (the bench) they feel that’s better for me. I can see the game before I get in and change the tempo with my speed. By the time I get in, the people out there are going to be a bit lackadaisical and tired and I can change the game. I think it’s good, we’ll see how it turns out.”

Mark Chiarelli can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @Mark_Chiarelli.

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