Will 2013-2014 be the season that brings about the return of UMass to the NCAA tournament? I hope that the answer is yes. Derek Kellogg’s team is back; fully loaded with both front court and back court talent.
The cornerstone of this years team is Chaz Williams. Chaz returns for his senior season after turning down a tempting offer to leave school and play professionally in Turkey. Rumor has it that he was offered $150,000, an apartment and a new car. I say Chaz made a good investment turning down the money, because in thirty years he can pull a Curt Schilling and auction off his 2014 NCAA championship ring. Plus, if I ever run into him I’m buying him a beer, which I’m sure factored into his decision to stay.
Also in the back court is Western Kentucky transfer Derrick Gordon. He is apparently the real deal and will replace Jesse Morgan, who was mysteriously kicked off the team following his ACL tear last season. Rumor has it, Jesse was causing trouble around campus and we all know that DK likes his team to be straight laced.
Center Cady Lalanne should have a standout season this year. He is said to be the only UMass player with true NBA talent. He certainly has the size and strength to compete with the best big men in the Atlantic 10. What remains to be seen is whether he can stay healthy and out of foul trouble.
Sampson Carter, Maxie Esho and Raphael Putney are three experienced front court players who need to show up for the Minutemen to succeed. These three guys can play in multiple positions and give DK flexibility in his lineup. Last season Sampson spent a lot of time at the five spot and I assume DK will rotate him in there again to keep Lalanne out of foul trouble.
The minutemen usually only play an eight or nine man rotation, so a few of the younger guys will have to step up. Last season, Trey Davis saw considerable minutes as a freshman backing up Chaz. Hopefully he has matured enough to take some pressure off of Chaz and Derrick Gordon. I don’t have high hopes for the sophomore forward Tyler Bergatino, who looked incredibly uncomfortable on the floor last season. Maybe he will prove me wrong, though. Finally, DK brought in three freshman: Demetrius Dyson, Seth Berger, and Zach Coleman. I don’t know anything about these guys but I’m pretty sure I went to Hebrew school with Seth and Zach; those guys could ball.