AMHERST --  Anthony Gurley knows what the UMass men's basketball team has ahead of it this season. 

"It's not going to be an easy season," the redshirt senior said. "We know what we have to work on. We've definitely got to continue to get better on the defensive end, rebounding the basketball, and just fine-tuning everything. 

"We've just got to keep our confidence and make sure we play as hard as we can every single time we step on the floor." 

After going 12-20 last season (5-11 in the Atlantic 10), the Minutemen, whose roster is loaded with freshmen and sophomores, were picked to finish 11th in the 14-team league's preseason poll. 

UMass' regular season tips off with a home game at 7 p.m. Friday against Rider. 

After UMass defeated Division 3 Brandeis, 80-48, in a preseason scrimmage Nov. 4, coach Derek Kellogg agreed with Gurley's assessment about the team's defense. 

"It's average. That's something we've worked on every day in practice. It's much better than it has been since I've been here," the third-year coach said. "The guys looked like they knew where they were supposed to be. They're putting forth the effort. But it's nowhere where it needs to be to play championship-level basketball." 

The team will look to Gurley to provide senior experience. After averaging 13.6 points per game last season, Gurley tested the waters of the NBA draft during the offseason but decided to return to UMass. 

It will be up to him, as well as fellow seniors Hashim "Big City" Bailey and Gary Correia and junior Sean Carter to provide leadership for their younger teammates. 

"Gurley has come in with a better attitude every day," Kellogg said. "He's never had a bad attitude. When I say a better attitude, I mean he's working, he's trying to figure out what I want out of him as a coach, which is to be a complete basketball player -- share the basketball, score with the basketball, play great defense, rebound and be an overall team leader. He's done a nice job 90 percent of the time right now, up from less than that. I'm trying to get it to 100 percent." 

Offensively, UMass will try to replace Ricky Harris, which won't be easy. Not only was he the team's third all-time leading scorer, but he was also pressed into point guard duty for much of last season. 

The Minutemen are hoping freshman Daryl Traynham grows into the point guard role, but Kellogg has stressed the importance of everyone passing the ball. 

Gurley, who'll be asked to contribute to the scoring effort, also responded with seven assists against Brandeis after averaging slightly more than one assist per game last year. 

Sophomores Sampson Carter, Javorn Farrell, Freddie Riley and Terrell Vinson all saw significant playing time as freshmen and their roles will grow this season. Along with Gurley, Vinson and Riley could shoulder some of the scoring load. Farrell, who suffered a high ankle sprain in practice, will probably miss the beginning of the season. 

"I definitely see the strides they took. They all got a lot stronger and a lot more confident," Gurley said. "We're going to need them to step up this season and play a major role on this team." 

In addition, Kellogg is hoping Traynham and redshirt freshman Raphiael Putney can contribute quickly. Putney is a lanky, but athletic, 6-foot-8 forward, while Traynham is a fast but vertically challenged guard who is listed as 5-9. Traynham was the star of the Brandeis scrimmage, scoring 15 points in 22 minutes of play. 

"Daryl's fast and quick with the ball. He has a flair for the dramatic at times, which gets him into trouble, but he does have a good feel for the game," Kellogg said. "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. 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. 

"I'm not sure if they totally know how to play the game at the college level yet, but they're enjoyable to watch. They'll be fun guys to see for the next four years." 

UMASS MEN'S BASKETBALL AT A GLANCE

Coach: Derek Kellogg (3rd season, 24-38). 

2009-10 record: 12-20 (5-11 Atlantic-10). 

Top returning players: Sr. G Anthony Gurley (13.6 points per game), Sr. F/C Hashim "Big City" Bailey, Sr. G Gary Correia (2.65-1 assist-to-turnover ratio), Jr. F/C Sean Carter (7.1 rebounds per game), So. F Sampson Carter, So. G/F Javorn Farrell, So. G Freddie Riley, So. F Terrell Vinson. 

Promising newcomers: Fr. PG Daryl Traynham, Fr. F Raphiael Putney. 

Key player lost: G Ricky Harris. 

Season outlook: Offensively, UMass will try to replace Ricky Harris, which won't be easy. Not only was he the team's third all-time leading scorer, but he was also pressed into point guard duty for much of last season. The Minutemen are hoping freshman Daryl Traynham grows into the point guard role, but coach Derek Kellogg has stressed the importance of everyone passing the ball. Anthony Gurley will be asked to contribute to the scoring effort.