Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass basketball returns with Mullins Madness

Fans get a first look at the 2022-23 teams
Thom Kendall / UMass Athletics(2022)

The Massachusetts men’s and women’s basketball teams came together to host Mullins Madness on Thursday night. The event highlighted the programs with both upcoming seasons on the horizon.

The fan-driven event introduced the new rosters and coaching staffs, who participated in games and activities with students and showcased the players in a 3-point contest and a pair of scrimmages.

As the lights dimmed in the Mullins Center, every big screen in the arena showed a special announcement, a montage of peak-era UMass basketball clips. Memorable moments in the Curry Hicks Cage and later the John Calipari tenure previewed an official renaming of the Mullins Center student section: “The Cage.”

When it was time to introduce the rosters, the smoke machines worked harder than everyone. Mullins roared as the Atlantic 10 champions and A-10 Player of the Year Sam Breen made their way in one by one, followed by the coaching staff and head coach Tory Verdi.

Thom Kendall / UMass Athletics (2022)

UMass men’s basketball’s new era under head coach Frank Martin is officially underway. For the first time the fans got a real look at a roster comprised of five returners and 11 newcomers, as the players entered the arena tossing t-shirts to the stands, with Martin the last to walk in.

The 3-point shooting contest opened a series of events. Returning guard T.J. Weeks dominated from beyond the arc. Weeks knocked down 12 threes in a row while beating Louisville transfer Matt Cross in the first round.  Rahsool Diggins beat big man Wildens Leveque on the other side of the bracket. Weeks then defeated Diggins to advance to the final round against Breen, who came out of the women’s bracket.

Breen’s swishes won the crowd over until the end. She beat sophomore transfer Kristin Williams in the first round and the Minutewomen’s top 3-point threat Sydney Taylor in a tight second round, after Taylor made it past Ber’Nyah Mayo.

Both Breen and Weeks were scorching hot going into the championship round, but it was Weeks who put up the best performance of the night, knocking down 21 threes in one minute.

Students got involved with the players in the next two challenges. First, a musical chairs game which freshman guard Keon Thompson conquered. And second, a game of knockout won by forward Brandon Martin, coach Martin’s son, over star guard Destiney Philoxy.

Scrimmages by the women’s and men’s teams were the main event of the night. They resembled short pick-up games more than anything, but it was the first time the public got to see the teams on the court.

Verdi’s group went first, and Mayo quickly stole the show. Disappointed with her performance in the 3-point contest, she put up a spectacle in the scrimmage while hitting several threes in the process. She finished the scrimmage with five.

With Martin’s group, it didn’t take long for the game to turn into a dunk contest. Fans got to see the springs of Thompson, Isaac Kante, Dyondre Dominguez and more, as well as Weeks making multiple 3-pointers from half court.

After the scrimmages, the head coaches got on the mic to give a message to the fans and build on the excitement for the season.

“We’re out there working extremely hard on a daily basis to create an identity of how we’re going to play,” Martin said. “And as you all hopefully come out and support us, because, in order to be great, you have to have a great home court advantage and that starts with you, the fans, the students that can come out and support us.”

“We’re going to play a fast, aggressive style of basketball, and I can tell you that every time you come up to support our guys one thing we can promise you is that you will not be cheated. We will lay it on the line to represent this uniform and give you something to be proud of.”

Mullins Madness featured smiles from start to finish, as fans got to claim different raffle prizes at the start of the event and two students were gifted five thousand-dollar scholarships at the end. The event also featured an autograph-signing session by both programs for whoever wanted to stay afterward.

This event marks an official start to UMass basketball in the 2022-23 season, and tells the fans something exciting might be brewing in Amherst.

UMass will host a double-header on Monday, Nov. 7th with both teams taking on Central Connecticut State. Tip-off is scheduled for 5 p.m. for the Minutewomen and 7:30 p.m. for the Minutemen.

Pedro Gray Soares can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @P_GraySoares.

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