UMass men’s basketball has unforgettable Washington D.C. experience

Game was cancelled hours before tip-off

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Parker Peters/Daily Collegian

By Joey Aliberti, Assistant Sports Editor

On the morning of Wednesday, Jan. 6 Massachusetts men’s basketball head coach Matt McCall looked out his window for a nearby coffee shop.

In the process of finding one, he also noticed the start of something that was much bigger than his team’s scheduled game for later that day. Crowds started to gather around Washington D.C. and at the hotel that UMass basketball was staying at, getting prepared to protest at the Capitol Building.

Around noontime, McCall thought that it was getting to the point where his team may need a police escort to its 6 p.m. game against George Washington.

The game was cancelled only a few hours later.

In the hours leading up to tip-off, events were only escalating in D.C.

“It just became evident that we needed to get out of that area,” McCall said. “We were so close to where all this was going on.”

As the Minutemen were getting off their bus the night before, there was a group of people at an indoor/outdoor bar that were screaming pro-Trump chants, along with yelling directly at the players about how the new administration would have a negative impact on their college careers.

“The character that came out from our guys was second to none,” McCall said. “It’s not easy just to sit there and not say anything back and not respond and not retaliate. Our guys grabbed their bags and went straight into the hotel. I couldn’t have been prouder of any win we’ve ever had, or any basket being scored.”

Once the game was cancelled on Wednesday, the next step for UMass was to find the safest way to leave the hotel, since the front door was occupied with protestors returning from the Capitol Building.

In about a 15-minute timeframe the entire team and staff had met on the second floor of the hotel, where they went down a back staircase that brought the team out to an alley.

From there, the Minutemen walked down the alley to where the bus was waiting to pick them up to drive to the airport.

“If we’d gone left [instead of right], we would’ve went right to the Capitol Building,” McCall said.

“It was kind of a whirlwind,” said UMass captain Carl Pierre. “It all just happened so fast. We just tried getting out of there and to get back to safety.”

Conversations amongst the players and team staff ensued following their short-lived D.C. trip. Whether it be about how the individuals felt, the implications of the situations in the future or how the team would respond to this in the next game and going forward.

“We plan on taking a knee before tip-off,” sophomore center Tre Mitchell said. “We spoke about doing it during the national anthem but being that the anthem isn’t broadcasted people wouldn’t see the statement we’re trying to make… I believe we’re wearing our Black Lives Matter warmups also.”

Saturday’s game will be the first game in 10 days for the Minutemen. It will also be the first game since their trip to Washington D.C.

After a day such as Wednesday, it’s impossible to not take a step back and look at the grand scale of what happened.

“It’s always going to be bigger than basketball,” Pierre said. “I think it really just highlights the different treatment of people based on skin color.”

Moments such as these require teams to come together and have the necessary conversations in order to move forward and attack the moments the right way. The moment that happened on Wednesday will be one that the UMass men’s basketball team will never forget.

“We’re talking about something that hasn’t happened since the 1800’s and we were a mile and a half away from it,” McCall said.

Joey Aliberti can be reached via email at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @JosephAliberti1