Freshmen impress in UMass basketball’s exhibition win over Westfield State

Chatman, Wood, Diallo show flashes

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Freshmen impress in UMass basketball’s exhibition win over Westfield State

By Amin Touri, Sports Editor

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Donning real UMass jerseys for the first time, with a real crowd in the arena and the lights shining bright, the freshmen for the Massachusetts men’s basketball team made the most of their opportunity on Tuesday.

In a preseason exhibition against Westfield State, Sy Chatman, Tre Wood and Samba Diallo each impressed for UMass in their first public outing for the Minutemen.

Chatman started for UMass and played 23 minutes at center, while Diallo played a team-high 24 minutes and Wood got a chance to run the offense in his 20 minutes at the point.

“I was really impressed with our freshmen, more than anybody,” said UMass coach Matt McCall. “I was really pleased with our freshmen. For a first collegiate game, in front of fans, I thought all of them did something good.”

Logging the most court time, Diallo showed flashes of his exceptional length and athleticism, particularly defensively and on the glass. Diallo only finished with seven points, but they came on an efficient 3-of-4 from the floor to go along with six rebounds, a block and a steal.

“I thought [Diallo] was good on defense, he got his length, his athleticism into the game, he had some nice finishes there in and around the basket,” McCall said. “He ends up with six rebounds. He led us in rebounding.”

Chatman got the start with Rashaan Holloway resting and ran with it, bringing tremendous energy on the defensive side of the ball. While he only finished with four points, Chatman was shot-hunting on the other end all night, finishing with three blocks, including an emphatic rejection of Owl forward Jauch Green Jr.

“It felt great for me, it was just something I always looked forward to, just playing my first college game,” Chatman said. “My family came up to watch, so it was great.”

He added that his swatting of Green Jr. “was crazy, but that’s the type of stuff I live for, so that was great.”

Chatman was flying around all evening, perhaps even too much for McCall’s liking, who was pleased with his young center but feels the need to reign him in a touch going forward.

“I thought [Chatman] had some really good plays,” McCall said, “we got to teach him on when to try to block shots and when not, sometimes it’s okay to stay on the ground. He’s so athletic, and he’s had some volleyball plays in practice where he pinned it up against the glass, and I think he had one tonight, but he’s got to learn when to block and when not to block.”

Looking at the third-string point guard spot behind Luwane Pipkins and Keon Clergeot, Wood made his case for extra minutes on Tuesday, bringing similar energy and athleticism into the exhibition. Wood’s elite speed and quickness were apparent and as advertised, and he finished with 10 points and four assists.

“I thought [Wood] really got his speed into the game,” McCall said. “He had some really good finishes in and around the basket. He forced one in the first half, but other than that, I don’t think he took too many bad ones and he kept us in offense, and that’s what you want out of your guys coming off the bench.”

Wood’s passing vision was also on display, along with his court chemistry with Chatman — midway through the first half, Wood beat his man with a quick crossover, drew a help defender, and dished it to a wide-open Chatman for an easy dunk, perhaps a flash of the future.

“Ever since I got here, that’s just been my guy,” Chatman said of Wood. “We always just been hanging out, two freshmen, I guess we just click.”

Chatman hit the ground screaming with Wood, and the two slapped hands before excitedly running back on defense.

“[The freshmen] definitely brought some energy that we definitely needed at one point, especially [Chatman] and [Wood],” said redshirt junior Jonathan Laurent. “They’re connected by the arm, whatever you want to call it, by the leg, they’re always together. As soon as [Wood] passed it off to [Chatman] and he got the dunk I already knew, that’s the energy, and both of them just got all of us going. And [Diallo}, rebounding, scoring the ball, just bringing the extra effort plays that we needed.”

Tuesday was only a preseason exhibition, without a Division I opponent or real stakes, but the youngest Minutemen were impressive in their first outing, rookie jitters and all.

Amin Touri can be reached at [email protected], and followed on Twitter @Amin_Touri.