It nearly caused Correia to leave, before he changed his mind about transferring to Boston University, just before the paperwork went through. As the 2010-11 men's basketball season beckons, Correia is a senior leader on a young team, and for now at least, finally a starter.
Now more than ever, the ball at UMass is in Gary Correia's court
Published: Tuesday, October 19, 2010, 6:33 PM Updated: Tuesday, October 19, 2010, 6:40 PM
AMHERST - In Gary Correia's first three years at the University of Massachusetts, point guards have come and gone, often passing him on the depth chart along the way.
It nearly caused Correia to leave, before he changed his mind about transferring to Boston University, just before the paperwork went through.
As the 2010-11 men's basketball season beckons, Correia is a senior leader on a young team, and for now at least, finally a starter.
"He came back in the best shape he's been since I've been here,'' third-year UMass coach Derek Kellogg said.
"That gives him the athleticism to compete. So far, he's doing what I need and want him to do, and he's taken some ownership of the team as a senior, which I also like.''
Kellogg stops short of promising Correia the starting job at point guard. But for the first time, that outcome depends less on what others do than on how the former Northfield Mount Hermon prep player measures up.
"I did a lot of running this summer to get in shape. I don't think any basketball player really likes to run, but you have to do it,'' the 6-foot-1, 180-pound Correia said.
"It's like (UMass assistant coach Vance Walberg) said, running is harder when you have to do it, and easier when you want to do it.''
A native of Rhode Island, Correia is one of Travis Ford's last recruits at UMass.
In three years, he has backed up Chris Lowe and Ricky Harris at point guard, as well as David Gibbs, who was designated as the starter entering last season.
With Gibbs and Connecticut transfer Doug Wiggins pushing him down the depth chart, Correia nearly transferred to BU in the middle of his career.
He considers it the best move he didn't make.
"I just thought I was promised something and it wasn't true,'' said Correia, who otherwise avoids elaborating on the details.
"It worked out, though. I love my teammates, and I love what we're trying to do here.''
Beset by off-court problems, Wiggins left UMass before playing a game. Gibbs never mastered the UMass offense, then broke his foot last season and transferred after the academic year.
Correia remains. He could help answer the biggest of several questions facing this UMass team - point guard.
The options are Correia, Javorn Farrell and Daryl Traynham. Farrell, a sophomore who is not a natural point guard, has been sidelined by a toe infection.
Kellogg plans to go slowly with Traynham, a freshman.
"I think I gave too much autonomy to the freshmen last year. Playing time at UMass has to be earned,'' the coach said.
That leaves an inside track for Correia, who has averaged 1.8 points, 1.5 assists and 13.6 minutes in 97 UMass games that include five starts.
Correia is neither exceptionally strong nor weak in any single aspect of the game. One trait that has never been questioned is his aptitude.
He is hoping his improved conditioning allows his body to execute what his basketball smarts tell him to do.
"Coach Kellogg wanted me to come back to campus in the best shape of my life,'' Correia said.
"Once I get the respect of my teammates (as a senior leader), it's easier to lead. And as our guys get older and their roles are more clearly defined, I think this team will get it together sooner rather than later.''