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 Travis Ford and UMass open the regular-season on Nov. 18 against Hartford.
Here's your chance to ask Travis Ford about the men's basketball team and how they are performing in preseason training. You can also ask about the 2005-06 schedule which was released on Tuesday. So fire away with questions as Coach Ford will be here to answer them on Friday at 10 a.m.
Coach Ford: Hello fans its great to be here to answer your questions this morning. Fire away!

Mike From Natick: First of all, I love what you've done with the team and am looking forward to an exciting season. With all of the new players coming in, how does the scholarship situation look for next year? Will Umass have one available with the departure of Jeff or has that already been filled? Good Luck this year!
Coach Ford: Mike, As you can see with our roster we only have one senior on the team in Jeff Viggiano. So that is the only scholarship that will be opening up. Recruiting is a 365-day a year job. You never know when a player might leave for the NBA or a player will decide to transfer or for another reason you lose a player. So you never stop recruiting for the good of the program.

John (Northboro, MA): Coach Ford, With all of these recruits and transfers you have brought in, I have to say it is great to be a UMass alumni seeing all that is going for the team! I also want to ask, with all of these great athletes/ swing men, are you going to be playing a lot of up tempo, fastbreak, pressing offense and defense and not so much bringing guys down on the blocks?
Coach Ford: John, I am very excited about the players we have added. As you have noted several of these players are players who have transferred in. I really like the make-up of our team. We have lots of players between 6-4 and 6-6. The make-up of our team will lend itself too playing very up tempo and also when we can get some of these players eligible, we will be able to press more. But I have always enjoyed coaching players who are skilled at different positions. You look at guys like Gary Forbes, Etienne Brower, Brandon Thomas, Maurice Maxwell, all these guys can play two or three positions on our team.

Colin T. (Worcester, Mass.): Have you seen any advantage to the new NCAA rules which allow you to have preseason workouts with the whole team? Obviously individual workouts with less players is still beneficial but how have you used the new rules to your advantage?
Coach Ford: Colin, I believe this rule is a good rule. It has really benefited us here as we have been trying to implement a new system with a new team. I am a huge believer in individual instruction and that part we do not want to lose so we are trying to balance getting in team workouts without losing individual time. So far, we have been able to introduce the basics of our offense and the basics of our defense. This will allow us to be ready to go once Oct. 14 gets here.

Dan (Westfield): Coach Ford, being one of the last schools to release it's schedule, is it safe to say that there was some difficulty scheduling some opponents? For instance, bringing in Savannah State?
Coach Ford: Dan, We are very excited about, first being able to finally release the schedule and second, we are excited about the make-up of our schedule. Yes, the schedule was released a little later than usual, but what many fans do not relize is that there are 50-60 teams still without final schedules. Scheduling is an extremely tough process. Esepcially when you lose teams like Miami, which was a home game and when you lose a team like Gonzaga, late in the scheduling process. You can't just pick up the phone and call a team and say "let's play" we were in touch with many teams who just simply did not want to play us. You are at the mercy of the other schools. Its takes two of play not just one team.

If you look at our schedule, and study it closely, it is an extremely challenging schedule. You can compare it to any team in the Atlantic 10. Our non- conference schedule is going to be very difficult with road games at UConn, at Boston College, at Davidson, at Florida State and UAB along with being a part of the St. John's tournament at the Garden in New York. Then home games against an in-state school Boston University, Siena and Hartford, which are nearby and will send some fans this way. We added Savannah State last becuse we needed a game. They have a new coach and will be entertaining to watch. You look at the conference schedule and that says enough. The conference should get 5-6 teams in the NCAA Tournament. Our home schedule couldn't really be any better at home with Temple, St. Joe's, Xavier, Charlotte, Dayton ... I think we have put together a schedule our fans will be excited about and will look forward to.

Rob (Amherst): How come you are not playing George Washington at home this year?
Coach Ford: Rob, Great question... The way the conference has set up our scheduling is that you play everyone once except your partner teams which you play twice a year and you play them home-and-home. Our partner teams are Temple, Rhode Island and La Salle. So for instance, GW we only play them once at GW so next year in 06-07 they will come to the Mullins Center. If you are wondering why we are going there two years in a row ... but with the addition of Charlotte and Saint Louis they have started a new scheduling grid.

Jonathan (New Salem, MA): Where do you think Art Bowers will fit into your gameplan for this upcoming season?
Coach Ford: Jonathan, We are expirementlng with Artie at the point guard position. He has not had a lot of expereince at it but we are looking at him there.

Jim, Belchertown: Will Dante Milligan be eligible to play in the Holiday tourney? What role will Dante have this season, inside/outside?
Coach Ford: Jim, Dante is working very hard right now. Our biggest challenge is keeping him healthy and injury-free. Dante is someone we are excited to get him eligible because he will add depth to our post play. He will become eligible the first day the first semester if over. So he will be able to play the Siena game and then in New York, his hometown for the Holiday Festival.

John (Ashland, MA): coach ford, thanks for taking my question! I just want to let you know how great it is to see the energy you have for this team! My question is that do you envision the team learning the game plan this year and really becoming a top 25 team next year? Or is there no "rebuilding" in your eyes?
Coach Ford: John, We are building to an extent because UMass has dropped off the national scene for quite a few years. Our goal is to get back to National prominence. What is that? I think being in the Top 25 means you're a team on the national scene. Yes there is a lot of work to be done to do that. Anytime you take over a new basketball team it is process that takes place How quickly can the players pick up your system is always the biggest question or how long the process takes. I do believe we ca be a very good basketball team this year but also we are not building a team to be good for one year. Our best days are ahead us us our players are working hard to be better each day.

James (Oxford, Mass.): This year's team has a obviously lack of depth, which may be helped by Dante Milligan's return in January. How do you plan to make up for the lack of height and depth up front? Will Lawrence Carrier and Jeff Viggiano end up playing the 4 spot all the time? Also, how do you feel you can mix and match the front line overall with Stephane Lasme and Rashaun Freeman on top of these other three?
Coach Ford: James, In the first semester of our playing schedule, we will only have 9 scholarship players on the roster. So yes depth is a concern, I do believe those 9 players will be able to contribute in different ways. As you can see when you look at our roster we are not blessed with a lot of height, but we do have athleticism, which I like a lot. Our post play is going to be a little thin until Dante becomes eligible. Obviously guys in the post are Rashaun Freeman, Stephane Lasme, Jeff Viggiano will play a lot of four. Lawrence Carrier, who had some summer injuries -- if he can get back into shape (he came in 25 pounds overweight), if he can get into shape he will be able to help in the post some.

Link (Burlington, MA): Coach Ford, I was excited to see that UMass will be having many televised games nationally. Is there an excitement on campus for this new team and new look? I hope so, I plan on coming to a few games and hope to see a packed Mullins Center!
Coach Ford: I believe there is a great excitement and a buzz about the UMass basketball program on the campus. Everywhere I go people are asking me about the team about the season. Everyone seems to be excited about the re-birth of MIDNIGHT MADNESS at the Cage on Oct. 14. I think this will be a good kick-off to what will be an excitiving team. As I have said I have never predicted wins or losses, but I can promise this team will be very exciting to watch and be very prepared and working to build UMass basketball back to where we all want it to be.

James from Holyoke: Coach Ford, great job in getting fans excited about the program. Do you plan on holding practices for the public to see the team or a team meet and greets?
Coach Ford: James. One of my biggest goals since I have arrived at UMass is to try and bring some excitement about the basketball team and re-cconnect the fans to the team. I want to create buzz about the team to help the future of UMass basketball. I think it is very important to meet as many fans, alums and friends of UMass. I have spent a lot of time trying to do this. We do plan to open up select pratices to the public so they can see just how hard these players are working each day so they can get an up close look at UMass basketball.
Coach Ford: Thank you for all the questions. I look forward to meeting more of you in the near future. Thank you and Go UMass!

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