Gazette: Basketball Notes On Esho, Scrimmage - UMass Athletics

Gazette: Basketball Notes On Esho, Scrimmage

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In the Daily Hampshire Gazette Matt Vautour has a story on how the basketball team hand-delivered season tickets on Monday night. The piece also has info on the team's Sunday scrimmage at Harvard, an update on Maxie Esho and more.

UMass hoop coach, players make special delivery

Photo: Team members treat season ticket holders
UMass center Sean Carter, second from left, hand delivers season tickets to Amherst resident Mike Sullivan with teammate Daryl Traynham, left, and head coach Derek Kellogg, holding his son, Max, 2, Monday night.

AMHERST - The doorbell ringer Monday evening wasn't a late trick-or-treater. The guy on the doorstep dressed like Derek Kellogg, was in fact Derek Kellogg.

On Tuesday night, the University of Massachusetts coaching staff and players split up into seven small groups and drove around the Pioneer Valley for a few hours, personally delivering tickets to unsuspecting season ticket holders in hopes of making their fans feel more connected to the program.

Kellogg, his 2-year-old son Max, junior big man Sean Carter and freshman point guard Daryl Traynham, did a route through Amherst and Pelham, exchanging tickets and posters for a lot of surprised expressions.

"My granddaughter's husband told me the coach was here," said Mike Sullivan, a 73-year-old former controller and director of finance at UMass who estimated he'd had season tickets for over 40 years. "I thought he was joking. ... It was very nice."

The next stop was the home of former team physician James Ralph, whose wife Edie was wearing a UMass T-shirt and invited the group inside.

"It was totally unexpected. We've had season tickets since 1963. Nobody has ever done that," Edie Ralph said. "It was wonderful. It makes you feel kind of special."

James Ralph has been retired since 1997, but is still a regular in the stands at quite a few UMass sports.

"It was kind of a shocker," said James Ralph, who was actually reading a newspaper article on UMass when the doorbell rang. "I think it's wonderful. I was very pleased to see and hear that they were going to all those places."

At one house a fan thought the delivery was the result of his call to the ticket office wondering why his tickets hadn't arrived yet. At another, the players opted to stay in Kellogg's SUV with the Basketball Hall of Fame plates when they saw the "Beware of Dog" sign threatening visitors.

"A couple houses were in secluded wooded areas," Kellogg said. "I think they thought there were burglars coming in."

But at most places, they found fans that were happily amused the coach and players were taking the time to reach out. Kellogg said the credit for the idea went to Andy Allison, UMass' director of basketball operations.

"It was a great idea," Kellogg said. "It was a great thing to see. I think everybody realizes that we're making an effort to reach out to the community. We're try to do everything possible to have a connection with the fans and people we want to become fans. We're trying to make it as much of a family atmosphere as we can. I, and my team, really appreciate the people that come to the game. For them to buy season tickets that takes a dedicated fan. We need fans in the Mullins Center and we appreciate it when they come."

It was Kellogg's second straight night of ringing doorbells after bringing Max, dressed at Toy Story's Buzz Lightyear, trick-or-treating the night before. Even then the coach was reaching out to potential fans.

"When they gave us candy we gave them schedules," he said laughing.

Kellogg said they picked who to visit largely by location, trying to get as many as they could in close proximity to each other. He wasn't sure how many houses the seven mini-groups had visited. He planned to hit a few more on Tuesday.

"I still have a few more I plan to deliver to houses myself," Kellogg said. "We had to stop because Max was getting a little cranky."

CLOSED SCRIMMAGE - NCAA rules prohibit teams from revealing statistics about closed scrimmages, so Kellogg could offer only a general assessment of his team's Sunday meeting with Harvard.

"I thought it went OK. It was a good starting point. In spurts the guys competed and at times they did the things I'm coaching and teaching," he said. "But there's a lot to work on. We didn't rebound the ball particularly well. The attention to detail definitely needs some work."

Kellogg said he hadn't made any decisions yet on starters and didn't expect to until after Thursday's exhibition game against Brandeis.

"After Thursday I'll have a pretty good indication of who's going to start, but that doesn't necessarily mean that's who is going to finish," Kellogg said. "We have a lot of guys who haven't really separated themselves. I want them to earn their playing time and earn their starting positions."

ESHO PROGRESSING - After missing the fall workouts while the NCAA determined his eligibility, freshman Maxie Esho has been a little behind his teammates.

"It's hurt him a little bit," Kellogg said. "He brings effort every day. He's been a good kid on the floor. I'm going to use him in spots where he doesn't have to think that much. He has some good natural instincts on defense, but at times offensively he looks a little lost out there."

Kellogg said Esho has been playing mostly inside at 6-foot-8 despite his slight 200-pound frame.

"I think he can create some matchup problems against a bigger guy and I think he's long enough and quick enough to cover a perimeter player," Kellogg said. "I envision our team having two or three guys on the floor that can create some matchup problems at both ends of the floor."

Kellogg had been considering redshirting Esho, but expects to play him this year.

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