Men's Basketball

Forbes Named Team MVP As Minutemen Hold Annual Banquet

Dante Milligan was named winner of the Jack Leaman Defensive Award.

Dante Milligan was named winner of the Jack Leaman Defensive Award.

April 10, 2008

AMHERST, Mass. - Following the announcement that Travis Ford would remain as the head coach at UMass, the Minutemen and Ford handed out their annual team awards for 2007-08. Senior Gary Forbes was named the Trigger Burke Team MVP along with the team's Julius Erving Scoring Award and Lou Roe Rebounding Award.

MILT COLE AWARD - Each year the Court Club, along with Nancy Cole, presents the Milt Cole Award - named for the longtime sports editor of the Daily Hampshire Gazette. The award honors someone who has made a major contribution to the UMass Basketball Program....this year's award winner is equipment manager Tim Musante. With more than 20 years at UMass, Musante is a hard-working, dedicated member of the athletic program, who works with many teams as the equipment manager including the men's basketball team.

JIM MCCOY MOST IMPROVED AWARD - is named for UMass' all time leading scorer with 2,374 points...He was Coach John Calipari's first recruit and was instrumental in UMass' rise in the 90's. This year's recipient was the most improved from the start of the season until the end of the season. He played in 33 of the 36 games this year and played a key role off the bench. He could be counted upon to hit a big 3, making 38 percent from outside the arc, or grabbing a much needed rebound. His best game came against St. Bonaventure, when he hit 4-of-6 from three for a career high 14. The winner of the Most Improved Award went to Matt Glass.

JOHN MURPHY MOST INSPIRATIONAL AWARD - is named for John Murphy, who averaged 15 points a game and is one of UMass' 1,000 point scorers...This year's most inspirational players really wanted to be a part of this team. He is one of those teammates that is a great role model off the court and on the bench and court is one of the most enthusiastic and energetic teammate. Returning to play as a graduate student, the Most Inspirational Award went to Matt Pennie.



ALEX ELDRIDGE COACHES AWARD - is named for a 1,000 point scorer, who was a mainstay for Jack Leaman's teams from '74-'78....this year's recipient led the team with 18 charges taken. He also had a nice touch from outside, nailing 35 percent of his threes and averaged almost a block a game. He had a great run in the NIT, getting six or more rebounds against Syracuse, Florida, and Ohio State. And he singlehandedly kept the Minutemen in the game in the first half at Syracuse. He finished with a career high 13 points, making 6-of-7 shots, as well as tying a career high with seven rebounds. The Coaches Award went to Luke Bonner.

SKIP CONNORS ACADEMIC AWARD - Is named for Skip Connors, who lettered in both 1983 and 84...and Goes to the top student athlete on the team. This year's winner is in his first year on the team and has won the award with arguably the toughest major on the team. A first year student, majoring in Engineering, he turned in a 3.9 grade point average in the fall semester. As a player, he was a shot blocking specialist off the bench, erasing 25 shots in 22 games. His best game came in a win over Houston, playing 14 minutes, he scored 2 points and grabbing 3 rebounds, as well as blocking 3 shots. The winner of the Academic Award was Papa Lo.

RAFER GILES SIXTH MAN AWARD - is named after Rafer Giles, who scored over 1,000 points in his career...He got to the 1,000 mark while only starting 49 of 115 games in his career, which spanned from '87-'91. This year we have two winners - one from the frontcourt and the other from the backcourt...and both recipients were in their first years playing with the team.

In the frontcourt, our winner averaged 3.2 points and 4.5 rebounds. He also was second on the team and fourth in the A-10 with 1.7 blocks per game. A terror on the boards, he had five or more rebounds 19 times and five or more blocks four times. Statistically his best game of the season came at Duquesne, where he scored seven points, grabbed a career high 12 rebounds, and blocked a career high 6 shots. Injuring his knee against Akron, he had to sit out the Syracuse win, but came back to play in Madison Square Garden against both Florida and Ohio State and gave the team much needed energy off the bench. The frontcourt sixth man was Tony Gaffney.

In the backcourt, our winner was the only freshman to play in every game this season. He finished the season with 42 assists and just 17 turnovers. In the last 17 games, he was especially efficient as the backup point guard, turning the ball over twice. But what I will remember most is his coming off the bench to be a defensive stopper against Dayton's leading scorer, Brian Roberts. The backcourt sixth man was Gary Correia.

LOU ROE REBOUNDING AWARD - Is named for UMass' all-time leading rebounder Lou Roe, who finished his career with 1,070, and was a first team All-American in 1995. The recipient finished fifth in the Atlantic 10 with 7.5 rebounds a game and third in defensive rebounds at 5.9 per game. He had 10 or more rebounds in nine games, including a season high 16 against St. Bonaventure. The winner of the Rebounding is not here tonight, he is in Portsmouth, Virginia, at the NBA showcase...he played last night, scoring 26 points, making 10-of-18 with four three pointers to go with 7 rebounds and 6 assists. The winner was Gary Forbes.

JIM LAUGHNANE FREE THROW AWARD - Is named for Jim Laughnane, who lettered as a player in the early 60's...and was the team's athletic trainer for many years...And the recipient was the person you would most want at the line, making better than 75 percent for the season. He also tied the school record for made three's in a year with 104. His 656 points ranks him fourth all-time in single season scoring at UMass. Averaging, 18.2 points and making 37 percent of his three's, he was in double figures in 33 of the 36 games and scored better than 20 in half of UMass' games. The Atlantic 10 named him the conference's most improved player and the NIT named him to its All Tournament team. The Jim Laughnane Award went to Ricky Harris.

RICK PITINO ASSIST AWARD - Is named after UMass alum and the current Louisville coach, a team the Minutemen beat this year. He played for UMass from 1971-74 and averaged 5.2 Assists which is the third best career average in school history.

This year's winner zoomed by Pitino this year in career assists - all the way to fourth place with 485 career assists. His 214 assists during the year was the third best in school history. He really improved his scoring, raising it from 7 to 12 points a game. His best individual came, as he recorded the school's sixth triple-double with his 14 point-14 assist-10 rebound game against La Salle. The Assist Award went to Chris Lowe.

JULIUS ERVING SCORING AWARD - Is named for one of the best basketball players of all-time...Erving played two season at UMass, averaging 26.3 fact his two seasons are the top two scoring averages, too. The leading scorer on the season joined Julius Erving as the only player to score 1,000 points in his UMass career while only playing two years. The 698 points he scored this season, places him second only to Julius Erving's 727. He ended the regular season a top the A-10 in scoring, and closed the year averaging 19.4 points a game. The winner of the Scoring Award was Gary Forbes.

DERRICK CLAIBORNE MR. HUSTLE AWARD. - is named for Derrick Claiborne who played from '74-'78 and finished his career as a 1,000 point scorer...goes to a player who brought the greatest amount of energy to every game. The winner of this year was labeled the Junkyard Dog by my broadcast partner, Tim Kenney. He was a player that did all of the little things...rebound, pass, block shots, set screens, dive on loose balls, steal balls from the opponent and make an occasional basket. The Mr. Hustle Award went to Tony Gaffney.

JACK LEAMAN DEFENSIVE AWARD - is named for the winningest coach in UMass Basketball history...Jack won 217 games in 13 years as head coach and loved defense. His teams won eight Yankee Conference titles in an 8-year span...and also was the color commentator for 10 seasons - five of those years with me on the radio broadcasts. This year's winner not only started his career at another school, but at another position. But when Coach Ford took over he moved inside and it really paid off. He was among the conferences leaders in block shots, swatting 69, which placed him third in the A-10 at 1.9 per game. He averaged 9 points and 5.4 rebounds a game. During the regular season, he was in double figures 10 times, but would save his best for last, scoring in double figures in four of five NIT games. He scored a career high 24 in the first round against Stephen F. Austin, making 11 of 14 shots. His back-to-back double-doubles against Syracuse and Florida, as well as a 14 point, 9 rebound performance against Ohio State, placed him on the NIT's All-Tournament team. The winner of the Jack Leaman Defensive Award was Dante Milligan.

MARK DONOGHUE MOST PRODUCTIVE AWARD - is named for Mark Donoghue who graduated in 1977. He was player who had numbers in every category. Averaging 14 points, 8 rebounds, while shooting 52 percent from the floor. This winner was healthy and boy did that make a difference. In 36 games, he averaged 12.7 points and 6.9 rebounds...but he did so much more. He finished with 58 assists, 48 blocks, and 26 steals. He shot 46 percent from the floor and 43 percent from three, which ranked him fifth in the A-10. He had so many great games, but the one I will remember most was his performance in leading UMass to win at Rhode Island. He made 8-of-10 shots, including 5-of-7 from three. He also had 8 rebounds and 3 steals, including the one that sealed the game. The Most Productive Award went to Etienne Brower.

GEORGE "TRIGGER" BURKE MOST VALUABLE PLAYER - is named for George Burke, who led the Minutemen in scoring in the '54-'55 season with 17.6 points...Burke's career best 34 against Rhode Island in '55 still stands in the top 20 in single game points. The winner of this award was honored by the Atlantic 10 as the conference's Player of the Year. It really has been a big year, starting it over the summer by playing for Panama in the FIBA Americas Championship. In just two seasons with the Minutemen, he scored 1,128 points and had 463 rebounds. He scored in double figures in 35 of 36 games and more than 20, in exactly half of the game, 18. When I think of Gary, I normally think of taking that long three from out front or slashing to basket...but the one I will always remember is one of them that iced the Florida win...where he gave the Florida defender a fake and then hit a fall away to give him 19 for the game. The Most Valuable Player went to Gary Forbes.


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