Republican's Stories On Freddie Riley; Traynham Update - UMass Athletics

Republican's Stories On Freddie Riley; Traynham Update

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Ron Chimelis has three stories on the men's basketball team including a column on Freddie Riley and all of the personal adversity he has dealt with since Tuesday. The Republican also has an update on the Daryl Traynham suspension.

UMass guard Freddie Riley's heartache was a secret, even to his team

Published: Thursday, January 20, 2011, 8:13 PM     Updated: Thursday, January 20, 2011, 8:31 PM
Ron Chimelis, The Republican By Ron Chimelis, The Republican 
The University of Massachusetts Men's basketball team defeated Brandeis 83-60 at the Mullins CenterUniversity of Massachusetts guard Freddie Riley dedicated his 18-point game Wednesday night at Charlotte to Antonio "TJ'' Gordon, his friend who was shot and killed in Ocala, Fla., Tuesday.

AMHERST - Even his teammates and coaches did not know the burden he was bearing, but Freddie Riley was determined to honor the memory of a friend who had just been killed.

"I used it for inspiration,'' the University of Massachusetts sophomore guard said Thursday, one night after scoring 18 points in a 73-54 men's basketball victory at Charlotte. 
One of Riley's fiinest college games came less than 24 hours after learning his close friend, Antonio "T.J.'' Gordon, had been shot and killed in Ocala, Fla.

"I tried to block it out while I played, and keep my focus. But playing was good; had I just been sitting around, I would have been miserable,'' Riley said.

Gordon, 19, was killed during a scuffle that involved a crowd estimated at about 200 outside a bowling alley in Ocala, Riley's hometown. According to Florida media reports, a 17-year-old suspect has been arrested.

Riley received the news Tuesday night. UMass guard Javorn Farrell, his roommate, was also present.

Described by teammates as a friendly but private person, Riley did not share the news with the rest of the team. Even coach Derek Kellogg did not learn of the situation until after a game that Riley said he was determined to play.

"Freddie is not one to share things in his personal life. He was quiet, even when we were recruiting him, though he has opened up more and more,'' Kellogg said.

"He doesn't pour out his heart to everybody. I'm fortunate to be one of those he does,'' Farrell said.

"I knew he'd have a big game. I had a dream he would, and that we'd win by 20.

"Sometimes, people can't handle adversity well, but after a tragedy, sometimes a player can have his best game.''

Riley, 21, opened up after the game, sharing his feelings with media. It was a discussion he could have easily avoided, since details of the episode were still not widely known, even among team members.

On Thursday, Riley indicated that talking about the tragedy had a theraputic effect.

"It's not hard to talk about it. I think getting it out is a good thing,'' he said.

Riley scored 15 points in the first half Wednesday. Farrell said teammates noticed a heightened focus and determination in the 6-foot-5 guard, who had his highest output since scoring 28 in the season opener against Rider.

Teammates praised Riley's work ethic on the court. He is also considered a diligent student.

He is fifth on the team in minutes, averaging 21.8 per game, but second in scoring with 9.5 points per game, That number figures to rise if he can raise his 30.1-percent level from 3-point range.

He hit 4 of 8 three-pointers at Charlotte.

Riley described Gordon as a victim of terrible misfortune.

"He was not a bad person. Everyone who knew him, liked him,'' Riley said.

"He was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. That's the scariest, most horrible thing.

"It can make you never want to go out at night.''

Riley last spoke with Gordon when both were home in December. The real adjustment to losing his friend is yet to come, he indicated.

"That's the hardest part, knowing I won't get to see him or talk to him again,'' Riley said.


UMass guard Freddie Riley confronts what, to too many young players, is simply life's harsh reality

Published: Thursday, January 20, 2011, 7:10 PM     Updated: Thursday, January 20, 2011, 7:42 PM
Ron Chimelis, The Republican By Ron Chimelis, The Republican 
University of Massachusetts defeats Texas Christian University in men's basketball 67-48 in the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament at the MassMutual CenterUniversity of Massachusetts guard Freddie Riley played the night after learning his hometown friend had been shot and killed in Ocala, Fla.

We think we know these guys from how they play, or how they sound in an interview. But we do not.

On Tuesday night, the close friend of University of Massachusetts basketball guard Freddie Riley, Antonio (T.J.) Gordon, was shot and killed in his hometown of Ocala, Fla. On Wednesday at Charlotte, Riley scored 18 points in UMass' 73-54 victory. 

On Thursday, it was back to practice for a player who had to deal with what many of us have never experienced, but what, to so many young athletes, is the harsh reality of life. 

"Ocala is a small city (53,000), so people don't think of it as rough. But every city has its bad parts,'' Riley said.

Those of us nurtured in safe, middle-class environments look at Division I athletes and apply our life's experiences to theirs. We are wrong.

The sobering truth is that Riley's experience is anything but rare. Without elaborating, UMass guard Javorn Farrell said he's gone through similar situations.

Before playing at the Spalding HoopHall Classic, New York's Christ the King High heard gunshots last Friday in Brooklyn. Four nearby residents were shot, though none died.

In 2008, Central High basketball star Mario Hornsby was killed. If the story is local, we profess shock; if not, we have heard enough of them to become numbed, mistakenly so, to their impact.

Nor do we often consider the position college players are in. Even in good times, it can be a wrenching culture shock.

Yes, they receive a free education and get to play ball. But they are also transported away from home, surrounded by strange faces in a foreign setting.

"Most of us are from city environments. (Amherst) is a quiet town, it snows a lot, so yeah, it can get lonely sometimes,'' said Terrell Vinson, a sophomore forward from Baltimore, Md.

Riley was initially set to attend Florida Atlantic. When that school changed coaches, he changed his mind and prepped for a year at a military academy in Virginia.

Now he's at UMass, a thousand miles from home, taking college classes and trying to hit 3's. 

If one of your best friends were killed, would you report to work the next day? That's what Freddie did. He is 21 years old.

"This puts things in perspective. It shows you how fragile things are,'' coach Derek Kellogg said.

That's what we all say at such moments. But to many of us, whose worlds have been so different than theirs, it's easy to empathize but hard to relate.

I have watched Freddie Riley play basketball. I have spoken with him. I like him, but I don't know him.

All I can do is stand outside the window of his life, greatly admire how he handled all this, and wish these episodes were not the harsh realities of so many lives of his generation.


With basketball future in question, UMass' Daryl Traynham is not back on campus

Published: Thursday, January 20, 2011, 8:04 PM     Updated: Thursday, January 20, 2011, 8:13 PM
Ron Chimelis, The Republican By Ron Chimelis, The Republican 
UMass Men's Basketball vs BrandeisSuspended UMass guard Daryl Traynham is not back on campus after semester break, coach Derek Kellogg said.

University of Massachusetts men's basketball coach Derek Kellogg said freshman guard Daryl Traynham is not back on campus, but has not been dismissed from the team.

Traynham was suspended in December for an undisclosed violation of team rules. Classes resumed this week. According to university rules, Traynham need not be dropped until Jan. 31.

According to the terms of the indefinite suspension, Traynham was not allowed to participate in team-related activities. Kellogg has remained open-ended about the future of his player, who was averaging 4.7 points, 3.1 assists and 2.1 turnovers in 10 games that included three starts.

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