Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Rashaan Holloway, Malik Hines ready to be thrusted in to answer UMass’ front court questions

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(Judith Gibson-Okunieff/Daily Collegian)

(Judith Gibson-Okunieff/Daily Collegian)

When Cady Lalanne and Maxie Esho graduated last season, it left the Massachusetts men’s basketball team with a massive hole to fill in its front court, the size of 23 combined points per game and 16 rebounds.

After it was announced that Texas A&M transfer Antwan Space would take an indefinite leave from the team for a “personal matter” Monday, just five days before the start of the 2015-16 season, that void became alarmingly bigger.

Enter freshmen Malik Hines and Rashaan Holloway.

The pair of big men – Holloway is listed at 6-foot-11, 335 pounds while Hines is 6-foot-10, 240 pounds – were never cleared to play by the NCAA last season despite being in Amherst all year. Now, rather than being eased into UMass’ rotation, they will be thrusted in on the fly as the Minutemen’s only two centers with senior Tyler Bergantino starting the year with a shin injury.

“They’re about as good of bookends we’ve had here at a young age,” UMass coach Derek Kellogg said at the team’s media day. “Now can they follow the same path that Cady and Maxie followed in a four-year period?”

Questions surrounding the pair and the immediate impact they can make will be tested early on with no real other option behind them at the five-position. But according to Hines and Holloway, they see this season as an opportunity to contribute and a chance to finally jumpstart their collegiate careers.

“I’m too excited. Last year was the longest I’ve ever sat out of organized basketball and I’m just ready,” Hines said. “My heart is beating faster and faster as we get closer. I’m more than ready.”

Kellogg said Holloway still struggles at times with the speed of the game but has a “great growth curve.” He said Holloway’s pure size in the paint is also an asset along with his good hands.

(Graphic by Kelley Dillon)

(Graphic by Kelley Dillon)

“He’s bigger than Cady, I don’t know if he has the perimeter game that Cady had,” Kellogg said. “But he’s a true center, and in college basketball if you can find a true center, that can be effective.”

After undergoing knee surgery this past offseason, Holloway said getting in better game shape has been a main focus heading into this season. Utilizing the brand new John F. Kennedy Champions Center adjacent to the Mullins Center, Holloway said he’s trained every morning at 7 a.m. and made an effort to eat right.

With a lingering knee problem and academic ineligibility last season, Holloway said sitting out was tough to handle at first but ultimately proved beneficial for him moving forward in 2015-16.

Throughout the process, he said he made an effort to observe the work of Lalanne in practice and game situations.

“It made me learn from Cady, I learned so much from him. Just how to be a person off the court and on the court, maintain grades and obviously basketball skills,” Holloway said. “The person ahead of you, you always learn what not to do and what to do. I’ve seen Cady do a lot of amazing things and I just can’t wait to be a part of it too.”

In particular, Holloway said he was impressed with Lalanne’s mix of strength and speed in the post as well as his awareness of what he was going to do once he got the ball. These are factors he hopes to add to his own game to go along with his role as a rebounder down low.

“My role on the court is to rebound, block up space as much as I can and create opportunities for the point guards like Jabarie (Hinds) and Trey (Davis),” Holloway said. “I’m just trying to do everything I can to make the other guys better.”

Not quite as big as Holloway, Kellogg said Hines has the potential to step into the four-position down the road with his greater athleticism.

(Graphic by Kelley Dillon)

(Graphic by Kelley Dillon)

This athleticism has been tested in the preseason, as Kellogg said Hines has shown fatigue at times as he acclimates to the daily grind at the college level.

“His knees are bothering him, he’s tired, which is great to see,” Kellogg said. “I love when the young guys are fatigued to see how they respond and play through.”

“College basketball, or any sport you play in college, is always 10 times harder than high school. It’s all mental,” Hines said. “You can’t take any days off because there’s always someone else in the gym.”

Kellogg said one of the biggest concerns with the pair is staying out of foul trouble in order to provide quality minutes on a consistent basis. He added that if it becomes a problem, he’s comfortable with playing a smaller lineup that would consist of juniors Seth Berger (6-foot-8) and Zach Coleman (6-foot-7) at power forward or center.

But both Holloway and Hines dispelled the notion that they aren’t ready to take on large roles within the Minutemen’s lineup this season.

“We’re young but that doesn’t mean anything,” Hines said. “We both have experience, we can both play inside and out. We might be young, but we’re ready.”

Anthony Chiusano can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @a_chiusano24.

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