UMass Basketball Opens With Exhibition Vs. AIC On Thursday
Oct. 29, 2007
AMHERST, Mass. -- Coming off the most successful season in more than a decade, the UMass basketball team will have a vastly different look in 2007-08. With the graduation of Atlantic 10 Player of the Year Stephane Lasme and three-time All-Conference First-Team honoree Rashaun Freeman, the Minutemen will no longer have the potent twin-tower combination.
In his third year in Amherst, head coach Travis Ford will turn to the up-tempo, high-paced transition basketball he is fond of. The Minutemen will look to run and have heavy perimeter play after two years of low-post domination.
Quickly rewinding to last season, the most successful since the 1996 Final Four season, Ford revived the UMass program and put it back on the college basketball map.
The Minutemen captured their first Atlantic 10 Regular-Season
Championship since 1996 with a 13-3 record in the league, tying with Xavier.
Overall, UMass went 24-9, marking the fifth-most wins in a season in program
history. It was also the most wins since that historic 1996 season, when
UMass went a record 35-2, reaching the promised land of college basketball.
UMass advanced to the postseason for the first time since 2000, as the Minutemen won their first postseason game since 1996. The Maroon & White pulled off an 89-87 thriller over SEC power Alabama in the NIT First Round. They were ousted in the second round by eventual NIT Champion West Virginia.
Individually, Lasme tied the all-time NCAA record for triple-doubles in a season with four (along with Michael Anderson at Drexel in 1986 and Jason Kidd at Cal in 1994). Lasme was named an Associated Press Honorable Mention All-American after finishing second in blocked shots. Additionally, Lasme joined NBA Overall No. 1 draft pick Greg Oden as the only two players to rank in the Top 25 in three major statistical categories. Lasme was drafted by the Golden State Warriors in the second round of the NBA Draft.
Freeman had a historic season as he concluded one of the best careers in UMass basketball lore. He finished fourth in career points with 1,744 and third in career rebounds with 998. Freeman has signed with a professional team in France. In addition to the departure of Lasme and Freeman, UMass also said goodbye to seniors James Life and Brandon Thomas.
Which leads us to 2007-08. The new Minutemen: featuring eight newcomers including seven freshmen.
UMass returns two starters in senior swingman Gary Forbes, a preseason Atlantic 10 Third-Team selection. Forbes is the leading returning scorer, averaging13.0 points per game in his first season with the Minutemen after transferring from Virginia. Forbes is UMass best all-around player as he averaged close to six rebounds and three assists. He ranked in the top three on last year¹s squad in every category.
The other returning starter is junior point guard Chris Lowe. One of the conference¹s top assistmen, Lowe, averaged 4.2 assist overall last year and 5.13 in A-10 games, second-best in the league. Lowe also scored 7.0 points per game with an improved shooting touch from the floor.
The frontcourt will be headed up by several of last season¹s reserves, who came on late in the season. Junior center Luke Bonner has a deft shooting touch for a 7-1 frame, adding to the perimeter game. Senior forward Danté Milligan came on late in the season as he averaged 5.4 points and 4.9 rebounds in his last nine games.
Sophomore Ricky Harris, who showed glimpses of greatness including 13 points at Kentucky, will be looked for high scoring numbers in his second college season.
The freshman class is large and talented. The class has been ranked among the nation¹s best by HoopScoop (21st) and CSTV (26th).
The group is highlighted by Max Groebe a 6-5 guard from Florida and Gary Correia, a 6-1 guard from Rhode Island. Others expected to contribute are Trey Lang, a 6-7 forward from Georgia, Matt Hill, a 6-7 forward from Connecticut and Vermont Player of the Year Matt Glass, who is also a 6-7 forward. The unknown with the biggest upside of Papa Lo, a 6-9 shot-blocker from Senegal, who could follow in the footsteps of Lasme. Lo came to the United States a year ago and went to prep school in Massachusetts where he averaged 12 rebounds and six blocks per game.
Here is a positional breakdown
Lowe earned national praise on several occasions last season for taking and making clutch shots. None was more prominent that his game-winning jumper to beat Alabama in the NIT First Round at the Mullins Center. Lowe¹s shot was the No. 3 Play of the Day on ESPN¹s SportsCenter.
Joining Lowe in the backcourt is combo guard Gary Correia, a freshman out of Providence, who starred at Northfield Mount Hermon. Correia will play both point guard and shooting guard, serving as a back-up to Lowe as the floor general. Last season, Correia teamed with fellow guard Matt Glass, to help his team to a school-record 23 wins. Correia averaged 16.2 points and 7.0 assists per game.
Sophomore Ricky Harris is expected to make a major impact in his second college season. Harris is a tremendous shooter, who had some big games late last season. He scored in double-figures five times with four coming in the second half of the season. He is a deadly 3-point shooter and showed marked improvement from the foul line.
Senior captain Gary Forbes leads the pack as he comes off a tremendous summer where he played for his native Team Panama in the FIBA Americas Championship in Las Vegas. Forbes averaged 17.8 points playing against many NBA players and professionals from around the world. Forbes has a sensational inside-outside game where he can shoot 3-pointers or drive to the hoop and dunk it.
Forbes showed his versatility last season playing small forward, shooting guard and even some point guard. He is UMass¹ leading returning scorer. He ranked in the top three on the team in every statistic including 5.8 rebounds and 2.5 assists to go with his 13.0 points per game.
Fellow senior captain Etienne Brower could also see time on the wing. A strong player with a tough inside-outside game, Brower battled injuries last season, his first on the court with the Minutemen after transferring from Boston University prior to 2005-06 season. With so many top shooters, Brower will likely see more time as a post player.
Several freshmen will make an impact on the wings. Max Groebe comes in with a 3-point trigger which allowed him to score 22.3 points as a senior at Dr. Michael Krop Senior High School in Miami. He set the school record for 3-pointers in a game with nine and is expected to make an immediate impact with the Minutemen. He was a McDonald¹s All-American nominee as he finished with more than 1,000 points in his high school career.
Vermonter Matt Glass comes to UMass after a prep year at Northfield Mount Hermon with Correia. Glass was a two-time Mr. Vermont Basketball in 2005 and 2006. As a 6-7 guard, Glass creates match-up problems for opponents. He averaged 22.8 points and 10.6 rebounds as senior.
Freshman walk-on Sedale Jones can fill up the basket, scoring close to 2,000 points in his high school career at Pittsfield. He spent last season at Notre Dame Prep. He could see time as a season progresses.
Sophomore Anthony Gurley will sit out the season after transferring back home to Massachusetts, after a season at Wake Forest in the ACC. Gurley is a dynamic 3-point shooter as well, setting several Wake Forest freshman record in 3-point categories. Gurley showed his prowess with a career-high 24 points vs. Georgia Tech last February. Gurley was a standout at Newton North High School in Boston earning conference MVP twice.
But now UMass will have depend on players like senior captain Danté Milligan, who has started just one college game in three seasons. Milligan came late last season and is one of the most improved players on the squad heading into his final college season. Milligan has added some muscle and weight while improving his shooting touch. Last season, he averaged 3.3 points and 2.5 rebounds, but late in the season he emerged with breakout games at Fordham (nine points, 11 rebounds), at Saint Joseph¹s (nine points, seven rebounds) and at West Virginia in the NIT (10 points).
Junior center Luke Bonner will be depended on as well for the first time in his college career. The 7-1 bigman has a deft shooting touch from 3-point range which again, makes UMass hard to defend. He came on late in the season, similar to Milligan, posting big games against St. Bonaventure (11 points) and La Salle (nine points).
Junior Tony Gaffney will make his UMass debut after a redshirt season as a transfer from Boston University. Gaffney is very agile and athletic. He is a tough to defend on the perimeter and can drive to hole.
Hill has been bit by the injury bug of late in his prep career, but could contribute. He was among the top prospects in New England playing at Cheshire Academy, averaging 18.0 points per game and grabbing 10.0 rebounds as a senior. He spent last season at the Tilton School in New Hampshire.
Lang is the son of 12-year NBA veteran Andrew Lang and brings a tough and physical presence to the Minutemen. Lang can also shoot the ball, averaging 10.0 points as a senior at Wheeler High School in Georgia, one of the top programs in the southeast. He has greatly benefited from preseason individual workouts and could be a factor in his first season.
Lo is the most intriguing player on the roster. He came to the United States in December of 2005 from Senegal. Lo is a shot blocker, who continues to learn the game. He will be compared to Lasme, but it is unfair to expect such achievement. The popular Lo emerged in his senior year at the Winchedon School in Massachusetts, where he played for UMass alum Mike Byrnes. Lo averaged 12.0 rebounds and 6.0 blocks per game.
So get ready for more excitement the the Mullins Center where UMass went 12-2 last season, playing to the largest crowds in eight years. The Minutemen tip-off the season with the BTI Classic at Northern Iowa before hosting Yale on Nov. 14 at the Mullins Center.
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