Gazette: Hoops Hoping For More From Putney - UMass Athletics

Gazette: Hoops Hoping For More From Putney

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Matt Vautour of the Daily Hampshire Gazette has a feature on redshirt freshman Raphiael Putney and the high hopes for him at UMass.

UMass fans have heard about Putney's athleticism since he arrived in Amherst, but because he redshirted last year in attempt to get stronger and put on weight, they've rarely had a chance to see it, until last Thursday.

"Putney, even though he's very skinny, is a world-class athlete who does some good things out there with his length and his athleticism," UMass coach Derek Kellogg said. "If we can put some weight on him, if we can get him to mature and become a grown man, I think he has a chance to be a special player at UMass."

UMass hoop hoping for more from Putney

Photo: UMass hoping for more from Putney
KEVIN GUTTING
UMass redshirt freshman forward Raphiael Putney pushes upcourt during a Minutemen practice at Curry Hicks Cage recently.

AMHERST - With 4 minutes and 39 seconds left in the first half of the University of Massachusetts men's basketball team's exhibition game with Brandeis, freshman point guard Daryl Traynham lofted the ball toward the net.

Along the baseline, redshirt freshman Raphiael Putney seemed to glide toward the basket as he soared well above the rim and easily finished the alley-opp to the delight of the small crowd at the Mullins Center.

UMass fans have heard about Putney's athleticism since he arrived in Amherst, but because he redshirted last year in attempt to get stronger and put on weight, they've rarely had a chance to see it, until Thursday.

"Putney, even though he's very skinny, is a world-class athlete who does some good things out there with his length and his athleticism," UMass coach Derek Kellogg said. "If we can put some weight on him, if we can get him to mature and become a grown man, I think he has a chance to be a special player at UMass."

Putting weight on hasn't been easy. Putney is officially listed at 6-foot-8. Kellogg refers to him as 6-foot-9 and Putney likes to proclaim himself 6-foot-10. Whatever his height, the 180-pound wing is not an inside player, at least not a traditional one. Not yet.

Kellogg called Putney a small forward, who will also play shooting guard. He'd be the tallest shooting guard the Minutemen have had in recent memory.

While he's still as slender as ever, Kellogg thinks the year off added maturity.

"He's not put on much weight at all, but he's more mature and has a better understanding of what I expect from him as a player," Kellogg said. "Putney's done a great job Mentally, he's a whole different kid on the floor. He's really growing up and maturing. Every day we spend with him he gets more mature."

While last season progressed, Putney didn't enjoy sitting out, but in hindsight he's glad he did.

"I'm a lot further along. I think the redshirt year really helped me a lot. It gave me experience," he said. "It was a good thing. I made it though. Now I'm ready to play."

Against Brandeis, Putney had nine points making all three of his shots from the floor and 3-of-6 free throws, but he said his main focus has been defense.

"My role right now is to just be a defensive stopper," he said. "Score when I can, but just be a defensive player. I guarded Ricky Harris a lot last year and he really helped me. Right now I feel like I can guard any position one through four, not really the five right now. I'm not strong enough, but I'm getting there. In a couple years I'll be able to guard one through five."

Kellogg liked Putney's priorities as the coach been dreaming up ways to best utilize Putney's combination of length and quickness. He's more of a perimeter guy who can get in there and deflect shots and rebound and use his size and length to get extra possessions. If we play any zone, he'd be a great guy to put at the top of a zone because of his length," Kellogg said. "He's quick enough to guard a two. If his energy level is high he can cover anybody on the floor except for maybe a big, strong post guy. When he's on his game defensively he maybe the toughest guy we have on our team to get around. He's given some guys all they can handle. It's helped Anthony (Gurley) and Terrell Vinson going against him because he gives them a different look."

Putney is anxious to start guarding opponents and was counting down days until Friday's 7:30 p.m. opener against Rider at the Mullins Center.

"The team is definitely going to need me this year," he said. "I'm hoping to contribute."

FARRELL TO PLAY - Kellogg said that sophomore wing Javorn Farrell, who missed the last two weeks of practice with an ankle sprain, is expected to be healthy enough to play Friday against Rider.

"We've missed him in practice because he's a guy that really takes practice to another level," Farrell said. "In a game he'll come up with loose balls and loose rebounds that I think are paramount to winning at the level I want to win at."

STARTERS - Kellogg said he expected to use the same starting lineup against Rider that he did against Brandeis, Sean Carter, Sampson Carter, Terrell Vinson, Anthony Gurley and Gary Correia.


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