"College hasn't always been easy for me,'' the 6-foot-3 guard said, his eyes trained on the Mullins Center floor before practice. "But everybody here is working hard, and I definitely see improvement. I just want to end my career on a good note.''
Anthony Gurley is hoping to make the most of his final UMass basketball season
Published: Monday, November 08, 2010, 11:21 AM Updated: Monday, November 08, 2010, 11:28 AM
AMHERST - Anthony Gurley is in his third year as an eligible University of Massachusetts men's basketball player, his fourth at the school, and his fifth in college altogether.
Somehow, it seems like longer.
"College hasn't always been easy for me,'' the 6-foot-3 guard said, his eyes trained on the Mullins Center floor before practice.
"But everybody here is working hard, and I definitely see improvement. I just want to end my career on a good note.''
Gurley's college career began in 2006, when the former Newton North high school star averaged 14 minutes and 6.4 points per game as a freshman for Wake Forest.
He switched to UMass in 2007, excited to play for Travis Ford's up-and-coming team. There was also anticipation in Amherst, where an Atlantic Coast Conference player was coming home to Massachusetts.
UMass reached the NIT final in 2007-08, the year Gurley sat out as a transfer. By the time he was eligible, Ford was gone for his own big-time job at Oklahoma State.
Derek Kellogg, who had known Gurley for years, came on. Kellogg has used Gurley as both starter and sixth man, and some of the player's best games have come as a scorer off the bench.
"Any time a player transfers, that's difficult. Playing for three different coaches is taxing, too,'' Kellogg said.
"Every coach has a different philosophy. He's had to deal with three different staffs.''
With 93 college games under his belt, Gurley is one of three seniors on a team loaded with youth. The Minutemen appear to have a bright future, but Gurley's future at the college level has to be now, starting with Friday's opener against Rider.
"I feel like I'm versatile. I've gained a knowledge of the game over the years, I'm more confident and I've worked on (expanding his game) over the summer,'' he said.
Never known as a playmaker, Gurley led UMass with seven assists last week against Brandeis. Preseason numbers cannot be taken too literally, but Kellogg sees more variety in Gurley's game.
"He's working on a lot, and trying to be a complete basketball player. He's playing smarter and figuring things out,'' the coach said.
"Anthony is a good kid, that's the thing. And senior year can be a wakeup call.''
Last spring, Gurley declared for the NBA Draft, a ploy that made sense once its motives were understood.
Rather than serve as an unrealistic attempt to turn pro early, it allowed Gurley to discuss with scouts how his game could improve. He even had a workout with the Boston Celtics, an experience that figures to help down the road.
Kellogg thinks Gurley can be a shut-down defender, which the player has been at times. And just as Gurley is expanding his game, his bread-and-butter attribute - scoring - is more needed than ever.
Last year, Gurley averaged 13.6 points per game, second on UMass to Ricky Harris, who has graduated. He has played his best in the Atlantic 10 tournament, and is the team's only returning double-digit scorer.
When a New Englander chooses Wake Forest, as Gurley did in 2006, he envisions glamorous ACC ball, TV time and NCAA tournament visits.
That has not been the path for Gurley, nor has it been easy at UMass, which is 24-38 in his two years.
But it's not over yet. Gurley, who turns 23 in January, knows there is still time to realize some of his dreams.
"A lot of different guys are fighting for playing time,'' he said.
"It's kind of too early to tell, but I think we're taking shape.''