Gazette: Optimism High Men's Hoops Opens - UMass Athletics

Gazette: Optimism High Men's Hoops Opens

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In the Daily Hampshire Gazette, Matt Vautour has an outlook on the 2010-11 men's basketball season.

Anthony Gurley thinks the University of Massachusetts men's basketball team is going to be good this year. After finishing 12-20 last year, the senior guard is excited about that possibility.

But as the Minutemen get set to open the 2010-11 season tonight against Rider at 7:30 p.m. at the Mullins Center, Gurley is wise enough to know that his optimism doesn't make him any different than almost every other Division I basketball player on the eve of the start of the season.

"Everybody thinks they're good at this time of year. Everyone feels like they can do something," he said. "We're anxious to get in a real game and see where we stand."

Optimism high as UMass men's hoop opens at home

Photo: Optimism high as UMass opens at home vs. Rider
JERREY ROBERTS
Anthony Gurley, center, of the University of Massachusetts shoots during an exhibition game against Brandeis at the Mullins Center on Nov. 4. The Minutemen play their first regular-season game at 7:30 tonight against Rider at the Mullins Center.

AMHERST - Anthony Gurley thinks the University of Massachusetts men's basketball team is going to be good this year. After finishing 12-20 last year, the senior guard is excited about that possibility.

But as the Minutemen get set to open the 2010-11 season tonight against Rider at 7:30 p.m. at the Mullins Center, Gurley is wise enough to know that his optimism doesn't make him any different than almost every other Division I basketball player on the eve of the start of the season.

"Everybody thinks they're good at this time of year. Everyone feels like they can do something," he said. "We're anxious to get in a real game and see where we stand."

•  Related column: Good start critical for Minutemen

Fellow senior Gary Correia shared his optimism and curiosity.

"I feel like we have something special going on. I have a good gut feeling. My gut could be wrong, but I have a good feeling and I'm anxious for it to start," Correia said. "In practice you play against the same people every day. It's a little misleading at times. Until you actually get on the floor and understand situations, you don't know how good you're going to be. We're ready for the ball to be thrown up so we can see what happens."

Challenge No. 1 is Rider, which was 17-16 a year ago (9-9 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference). Like the Minutemen, Rider only lost one senior, but it was a significant one as point guard Ryan Thompson averaged 17.2 points, 5.0 rebounds and 2.8 assists.

Senior combo guard Justin Robinson takes over at point after averaging 13.3 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.8 assists last year.

A pair of 6-foot-7 forwards lead the Broncos' front line. Power forward Mike Ringgold (11.2 points and 7.2 rebounds per game) is an inside presence, while Novar Gadson (11.2 ppg, 7.5 rpg) figures to be a handful as well.

UMass dropped its first two games last year and four of its first six en route to a 6-7 nonconference record. In 2008-09 the Minutemen were 1-6 out of the gates.

Junior big man Sean Carter was hoping to reverse that trend.

"It's always good to start off with a win at the beginning of the season. It gets your confidence up. When you lose at the beginning of the season it makes you wonder a little bit," he said.

Gurley agreed.

"I think starting strong would be huge for us and our confidence. These past couple years we haven't gotten off to the greatest starts," Gurley said. "It's hard going into conference play not with a winning record, trying to claw back."

UMass coach Derek Kellogg expects his team to face adversity at some point, but he'd prefer it be later rather than sooner and he thought a confidence-building strong start might help the team be ready to face that adversity when it arrives.

"Getting off to a good start would be huge," he said. "For the mental morale for some kids who have been through some good and bad times. We're going to have to face adversity at some point through the season. How we respond to that is really what makes up the complexion of your team."

A year ago, the Minutemen relied heavily on four freshman and two transfers. With that group more seasoned, Kellogg said everyone's focus has been better placed on winning.

"Everyone on the team really wants to win," he said. "They're willing to sacrifice ... maybe it's minutes, maybe it's shots, maybe it's their bodies, whatever it takes to win."

Tonight's game is the second half of a doubleheader following the women's team's 5 p.m. opener against George Mason. The men's game marks the debut for three UMass freshmen - point guard Daryl Traynham, wing Raphiael Putney and big man Maxie Esho.

Gurley was anxious to try to prove his optimism right.

"I'm excited. It's been a good preseason. I'm anxious to get going on Friday," he said. "I've definitely seen the progress and the growth that we've taken. We've taken small steps. I think we're ready to go."

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