Freshmen settling in for UMass basketball

Chatman, Wood, Diallo adjusting to collegiate game

Katherine+Mayo%2FCollegian

Katherine Mayo/Collegian

By Amin Touri, Sports Editor

While none of this year’s freshmen will be asked to do as much as guard Carl Pierre did last year for the Massachusetts men’s basketball team, the youngest Minutemen are starting to find their roles.

Tre Wood, Sy Chatman and Samba Diallo are UMass’ three rookies this season, and each saw minutes in a closed-door scrimmage against Siena over the weekend.

“All the new guys, they brought something different,” said UMass coach Matt McCall. “I thought Chatman was pretty good for his first college game being out there; I thought Tre Wood gave us a steadiness at the point guard spot, he’s really good. Samba, he can get stuff into the game just with his length and athleticism.”

It will be tough for Wood to earn significant minutes in a very crowded backcourt, but the freshman guard has already impressed coaches and teammates with his energy and speed.

“Tre is a super quick guard, super shifty, really crafty too,” Pierre said. “You wouldn’t think so but he’s very crafty. He gets into the lane and he’s always looking to pass. It encourages guys to get to their spots because they know the ball is coming when he’s on the floor. I think he’s willing to do anything for the team, and for the team’s success.”

Wood has been gleaning things from guards Keon Clergeot and Luwane Pipkins, both more natural point guards than Pierre or Curtis Cobb, and focusing on how Clergeot and Pipkins run the offense with the ball in their hands.

“I think I adjusted [to college basketball] well,” Wood said. “They’ve been giving me a lot of confidence on and off the court – just giving me pointers. Watching Pip, watching Keon, watching all the older guys and just soaking in all the information – that’ll be my job when I get in the games. So, I’m just soaking up as much information from them and adding my own little twist to it.”

“[Wood] reminds me of me when I was younger,” Clergeot said. “Just as much of a speed guy, bringing two people under and passing it. I like him. I really like him a lot.”

Chatman, a long, athletic frontcourt player, also impressed McCall over the weekend with his play at center. While Wood is soaking up information from Pipkins and Clergeot, Jonathan Laurent and Rashaan Holloway have taken Chatman under their tutelage, showing him the ropes on both ends of the floor.

“After a couple weeks of practice, getting used to like the speed, and all of the defensive principles, I think I’m picking it up pretty good right now, and I feel good playing in games,” Chatman said. “Right now, I know most of the stretch five plays so I’m more comfortable there, but once I learn the four plays, I’ll be comfortable there too.”

Chatman and Diallo are similar players, bringing top-end length and athleticism to the floor, and both will likely see minutes both at the four and five, whenever Holloway is not patrolling the paint.

Playing in a competitive environment in Saturday’s scrimmage, the freshmen seemed to enjoy themselves in their first outing in maroon.

“It was cool,” Wood said. “I felt comfortable out there. I had three good practices right before the scrimmage leading up to it, so I felt pretty confident going into it and just playing with the team and playing against somebody else.”

“It was fun,” Chatman added. “It was just fun going out there against some guys who are not on our team, and just being able to see all the progress that everyone made over the summer, against other people.”

Each of their roles are becoming clearer — Wood may get some chances to run the second unit, while Chatman and Diallo will share backup minutes in the front court behind Holloway and Laurent — but McCall remains unsure of their places in the grand scheme of things.

“I’ve been very, very pleased with all three of them, I really have,” McCall said. “How many minutes does that equate to in a year? I just think it’s too hard to tell right now, but I’ve been pleased with all of them. I think they’re all going to be terrific players, and I think they’re all going to help this year. Again, how much? I think the opponents will dictate that; scouting will dictate that.

“Right now, they just need to continue to learn our system and bring great energy every day, and I’m pleased with where they’re at. But again, it’s a big two weeks for them too.”

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