Hanna: UMass freshmen looking to make an early impact this season

Javohn Garcia and Dyondre Dominguez headline the freshmen this year

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Mehroz Kapadia/Daily Collegian

By Frederick Hanna III, Collegian Staff

The press and media will come for the flashy plays of Tre Mitchell, the three-point scoring of TJ Weeks and the consistency of Carl Pierre this year, and rightfully so, but this year’s freshman class is one of Massachusetts basketball’s better classes in recent years. There are two main focal players to this year’s team that will go unmoved, and they are Tre Mitchell and Carl Pierre. Aside from those two, the freshman class will add depth around them, scoring off the bench and bringing physicality to the UMass men’s basketball team.

Javohn Garcia, Ronnie DeGray III, Dyondre Dominguez, Ryan Marcus and Cairo McCrory feature in this year’s freshman class at UMass. TJ Weeks enters the season as a redshirt freshman after missing the majority of last season, but certainly showcased his skills early in the season last year.

It is undeniable that this team carries depth heading into the season. It will be a matter of how far they can contend with this current squad. A lot of it will depend on if players will make certain leaps in year two, flow together as a team and make the right adjustments from last year. The lineup we see on day one, whether it is against Sienna at the Bubbleville in Mohegan Sun or days later, may be one that looks extremely different towards the end of the season. One player who could be contending for a starting nod on opening day is freshman Javohn Garcia.

Garcia is an under the radar type of talent to say the least. He comes from Brewster Academy, which hails as one of the best preparatory schools in the country. Garcia enters UMass as a gifted scorer who can finish with both hands at the rim and has the court vision to find the open man.

Defensively, he is tenacious on the ball and can stretch and deflect shots in his reach. His game suits UMass, but it also fits the way UMass coach Matt McCall may play this year with his squad. With Tre Mitchell coming off of an unbelievable year, the key to repeating his success will be to give him the ball down low in the post. Garcia can be a facilitator to Tre Mitchell down low and can be a three-point threat.

UMass likes to shoot the three ball, but the problem is whether they can be efficient from beyond the arc. The key for the Minutemen from beyond the arc is consistency and good shots. Tre Mitchell has shown that he can pop out from down low to knock down the occasional three-point shot, while Weeks and Pierre are known threats from deep.

UMass has to find additional scorers to help all around. Garcia will compete with Kolton Mitchell for the starting spot. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Kolton Mitchell starting on opening day but come a couple weeks later the two-point guards, along with incoming transfer sophomore Noah Fernandes, could very well be competing for the starting spot.

Aside from Weeks, who very well could end up complimenting Pierre at the two and three spots, the freshman class may end up competing for starting minutes or filling out important bench roles as the season moves on. DeGray, Dominguez and McCrory all find themselves in positions with a lot of depth. All three hail from Woodstock Academy, showcasing the pipeline of talent that Woodstock has been able to create and a relationship that they have molded with UMass.

The Minutemen head into the season desperately needing valuable rebounders and physicality. With the losses of Djery Baptiste and Keon Clergeot and transfer of Samba Diallo, the Minutemen head into the season searching for dominant rebounders and aggressive forwards down low. DeGray can serve that role, bringing a dominant force to the glass. Likely, DeGray will come off the bench to start the season but he very well could morph into a role at the four or three. At the guard spot, Pierre has solidified himself at the two spot and Weeks has the potential to get the nod at either the two or three position. It will depend on whether Weeks has the same impact as he did last year.

Dominguez and McCrory both have starter potential, it will all be a matter of whether they can adjust to the Atlantic 10. Dominguez comes in from Woodstock as a talented scorer and passer. He has length which will add to him rebounding off the glass along with his passing. The bench minutes will certainly be competitive, with Dibaji Walker and Preston Santos both making a key impact on the team last year.

Santos was aggressive on the ball last year, played tight defense and could have an impact off the bench with scoring. That is something similar to the nature of McCrory’s game. He has an energy level that is similar to Santos, is a physical rebounder and can change the swing of momentum in a game with a powerful dunk. Both players will be competing for starter minutes but expect them to have an early impact off the bench if given the chance.

The lineup combinations are endless for McCall. He has the depth to play a small lineup with talented scorers but can also play a bigger lineup with rebounders if he needs a big stop down the stretch in a game. The excitement is definitely there for the Minutemen and it will be interesting to see who gets the nod come their opening contest. UMass is scheduled to take on Sienna at Mohegan Sun Nov. 26th at 4 p.m.

Frederick Hanna III can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @FrederickHIII.