FEATURE: Anthony Gurley Better With Age
Dec. 3, 2010
Anthony Gurley Better With Age
AMHERST -- In UMass' 83-76 win over Holy Cross last Saturday, Anthony Gurley had the ball in a critical situation.
The Minutemen were clinging to a 76-72 lead after squandering most of a 24-point cushion. Seemingly powerless to stop the Crusaders' run, UMass needed a basket.
As the shot clock wound down, Gurley drove into the lane. He was cut off in the middle and spun to his left. In similar situations in previous seasons, Gurley likely would have attempted a difficult, off-balance shot.
No one could blame Gurley if he took the shot -- the shooting guard is averaging 21.3 points to lead UMass. But in a sign of his development, Gurley spotted sophomore Sampson Carter cutting along the baseline. Gurley simply dropped off a pass, which Carter converted for an easy layup.
"To watch him mature as a basketball player, as a coach it's fulfilling because it's hard to get guys to always play the way you want them to play," UMass coach Derek Kellogg said. "It was the biggest play of the game."
Gurley has a scorer's mentality, a focus that frequently resulted in individual play in his first two seasons at UMass. Now a senior, Gurley is scoring more than ever. But he's also become an all-around player, with career-highs in rebounds, steals, field-goal percentage and 3-point shooting. Most importantly, UMass is 7-0 entering tomorrow night's Boston Tip-Off Classic game against Boston College at the Garden.
"I think I've matured a lot," said Gurley, a Roxbury native and former Newton North star. "My game has expanded. I'm trying to play a more complete game, get my teammates involved more and just play to my strengths."
There were times during the past two years when Kellogg wondered if Gurley would put it all together like this.
Gurley, who transferred to UMass from Wake Forest after his freshman year, struggled as the Minutemen went a combined 24-38 in his first two seasons.
"It was pretty tough," Gurley said. "We were losing. It was just an adjustment period."
Gurley raised eyebrows when he declared for last year's NBA draft. Many assumed he was getting bad advice and was planning on leaving school early.
Instead, Gurley was taking advantage of the opportunity to work out for NBA teams and maintain his eligibility, as long as he withdrew by a deadline.
Gurley participated in a workout at the Celtics practice facility in Waltham against a trio of first-round picks, leaving with feedback -- he needed to improve his defense and ball-handling --and increased confidence.
"I got a lot out of the experience," Gurley said. "I was pretty much competing with them, going toe-to-toe with them so it really gave me a lot of confidence coming into this season that I can compete with anybody in the country."
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