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

Daniel Hankins-Sanford secures Minutemen win over Davidson

Sophomore finishes with 10 points, six offensive rebounds
Kalina Kornacki
Daily Collegian (2024)

For the Massachusetts men’s basketball team, Saturday’s game against Davidson was a highlight in a season of great performances on the glass. It’s what allowed UMass (19-10, 10-7 Atlantic 10) to secure its 19th win of the season on the road against a feisty opponent, 69-67.

The Wildcats (15-14, 5-11 A-10) entered Saturday ranking 51st nationally in allowed offensive rebounding percentage. When Davidson forced misses, only 25.6 percent of rebounds went to its opponents for second-chance opportunities.

51st nationally is a good number, but on this day, it was no match for a UMass team that gathered offensive boards on 36.6 percent of its misses. The 17th-ranked offensive rebounding unit that the Minutemen boast feasted on the Wildcats, gathering 20 offensive boards off 31 missed shots.

The catalyst to UMass’ success on the offensive glass wasn’t one of Matt Cross or Josh Cohen, the team’s two incumbent starters in the front court. Rather, it was Daniel Hankins-Sanford, the sophomore South Carolina transfer who’s often called a freshman by head coach Frank Martin due to limited playing time at his first stop.

Playing just 25 miles from his hometown of Charlotte, it was as close to a hometown game as a player can get, and Hankins-Sanford gave his supporters a performance to be proud of. The sophomore recorded just the second double-double of his career, finishing with 10 points and 12 rebounds. More impressively, half of Hankins-Sanford’s boards came with the Minutemen on offense.

The most important of those six offensive rebounds came with just under three minutes to play. Rahsool Diggins, UMass’ top backcourt scorer on Saturday, attempted a floater that missed everything and landed a foot short of the basket. Hankins-Sanford grabbed the miss and followed his board with a layup that gave the Minutemen a crucial three-point lead.

“I’m really happy for him,” Martin said. “Where he was at back in June when he got to us, he was searching for confidence.”

That search may have stemmed from a quiet freshman season in Columbia, South Carolina. After committing to the Gamecocks while Martin still headed the program, Hankins-Sanford kept his commitment through a coaching change. The sophomore appeared in 22 games for South Carolina in his debut collegiate season but averaged just eight minutes per contest. When the offseason arrived and Hankins-Sanford entered the portal, reuniting with the coach he originally committed to was too enticing to pass up.

“His teammates, our support staff on campus, have been great with him,” Martin said. “And he has continued to battle and battle and battle to regain that confidence that I saw [in] him in high school.”

Since his first minutes in a UMass jersey, Hankins-Sanford has been reliable on both ends for a team that needs him to be. When one of Cohen and Cross have an off night, there’s little frontcourt depth to support the two, so the expectations of contributing down low fall on the sophomore’s shoulders.

Against Davidson, both of the Minutemen’s frontcourt starters had their struggles. For Cross, a 26-point output was tainted with foul trouble. Hitting 30 points for just the second time in his career was in reach, but four second-half fouls led to the senior playing roughly half of the final period. For Cohen, Martin proclaimed postgame that the team got “nothing out of [him]” in the second half. He would finish with just eight points on 2-of-9 shooting.

In response, Hankins-Sanford stepped up. The sophomore has a knack for getting himself in perfect positioning to grab rebounds, and if he’s not where the ball lands at first, his six-foot-eight-inch, 233-pound frame can change that in a moment’s notice. Hankins-Sanford’s shot is still developing, but he’s shown spurts of success, mostly from 12-15 feet out.

A majority of the sophomore’s points Saturday were rewards from outworking the Wildcats on the glass. Despite playing just under 19 minutes per game, Hankins-Sanford is UMass’ third-leading rebounder.

“Seeing him play with that spirit again, that joy, that’s the stuff that gets me,” Martin said. “Does it mean I’m going to be nice to him when he does stuff that he’s not supposed to? No. But he’s starting to regain that joy that he has for life, for the game, for people and he’s got a chance to become a really, really good player.”

Dean Wendel can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @DeanWende1.

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    Jim WendelMar 3, 2024 at 6:47 am

    A really great story.