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 honors seniors before final game of the season

The future remains unclear for entire senior class
Kayla Wong/Dail Collegian (2023)

Seniors T.J. Weeks, Noah Fernandes, Wildens Leveque, Isaac Kante and Brandon Martin were honored before Saturday’s 71-60 win against St. Bonaventure. The final game of the regular season could mark each of these players’ last games at the Mullins Center.

Weeks is the only one of the senior group who played every season for the Massachusetts men’s basketball team. He’s played with basically three different teams personnel-wise in his four years. He’s the son of UMass legend Tyrone Weeks, who met T.J.’s mother while at school. Many players came in and out of the program in the past few seasons, but that wasn’t really an option for Weeks.

“I feel like it’s my home here and I wanted to stay no matter what happened,” Weeks said Friday to media.

When I asked Weeks if he had one year of eligibility left, he laughed and corrected me, saying he has two years left.

“I want to continue basketball, but I don’t know what lies ahead for me,” Weeks said to media Thursday. “I need to figure that out soon.”

Fernandes is in his third season with the Minutemen (15-15, 6-12 Atlantic 10) after transferring from Wichita State following his freshman year. He went from UMass’ underrated point guard to its main source of offense when healthy the past two seasons.

When asked about Fernandes’ injury status and if he has a chance to return from his ankle injury this season, associate head coach Allen Edwards said, “I think Noah’s done.” His future is unclear, as he has another season of eligibility because of COVID-19, which granted all collegiate athletes an additional season.

Only Leveque spent his all four of his playing years under Minuteman coach Frank Martin. The two went 57-54 during the past four seasons together at UMass and South Carolina. Leveque is dealing with tendinitis in his knee, and after taking a few weeks off earlier in the season, has played through it. He had 11 points, five rebounds and three blocks against the Bonnies (14-17, 8-10 A-10).

“[Leveque] spends more time in the gym by himself shooting balls than anybody on our team,” Martin said. “He leads by example … Wildens is about winning, he’s about team, he’s about elevating everyone around him and he does it every single day. When he called me to say he was coming to UMass it kind of gave me hope that we can build this thing, because I got a guy right off the bat that understands what I want to demand and expect.”

Not many players have heard Martin yell at them as much as Leveque, who compared the tough love to his experience at home.

“I grew up with a single mother, Haitian… It’s almost the exact same,” Leveque said of Martin’s coaching style and his mother’s parenting. “Honestly I feel like it’s even harder at home because you have a mother that raves on you and when you get in trouble, the punishment is hard. It’s almost equivalent to the way Frank changed a lot of basketball players’ lives, I understand why. It’s almost like a tough love. You have to understand it, and trust in what he’s doing to allow yourself to grow.”

Leveque also has another year of NCAA eligibility because of the pandemic. “I’m definitely going to continue playing basketball, I love basketball,” Leveque said. “What I’m doing next year and my decision, I don’t know.”

Isaac Kante walked out for senior day with Minuteman assistant coach Derek Kellogg and his wife. Kante spent his past two seasons with Kellogg, both of them coming over from Long Island University this season. Kellogg is a major influence to Kante, saying that coming to UMass was in large part because he wanted to be around the former Minuteman head coach. Kante scored eight points, five rebounds and two assists on Saturday’s win.

Brandon Martin had the most unique situation of all the seniors. His father was his coach the past two seasons after he played three years at South Carolina Upstate. Frank didn’t want to coach Brandon because of their differing personalities, but Brandon had always wanted to play for his father.

“[Brandon] goes in the transfer portal and I think two schools called, but nobody really was blowing his phone up,” Frank said. “So I sat down with him and he said, ‘dad I always wanted to play for you.’ As a dad, what do you do when your son says that to you? He helped us win last year at South Carolina, he had a role on that team. He’s come in here and he’s helped with that day to day approach that I’m talking about.”

UMass ends its regular season as the 13 seed in the A-10. Its first conference tournament game is Tuesday at 11:30, with the opponent likely Davidson or Richmond.

Joey Aliberti can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @JosephAliberti1. 

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