Chaz Williams and UMass ready to take the next step

Chaz Williams led UMass a year ago in points per game (16.9), assists (6.2)and three-pointers made (62). (Courtesy of Massachusetts athletics)

By Paul Gotham

BROOKLYN, N.Y. — As a player, Derek Kellogg won plenty of basketball games. He helped the Massachusetts Minutemen to more than 100 victories during his four-year career. As a coach he has shown the ability to remain patient through a rebuilding process. That’s why when the fifth-year head man at UMass offers an optimistic view of the upcoming season, it’s worth noting.

“It feels like we have a program finally,” Kellogg said recently during the Atlantic 10 media day at the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn, New York. “Our structure of how we’re playing is finally in place. There’s not a lot of wavering on what we’re doing.”

After a pair of 12-win seasons followed by 15 victories in 2010-11, Kellogg’s Minutemen notched a 25-12 mark in 2011-12. Four starters return from that team along with four others who averaged double-digit minutes off the bench.

“If we stay healthy, and if the guys continue on the path, we have a chance to be good,” Kellogg continued. “Last year we made some good things happen that maybe don’t happen every year. We want to make sure we give ourselves that opportunity again.”

UMass advanced to the semi-finals of the A-10 tournament before falling to eventual conference champion St. Bonaventure, 84- 80 – a game which the Minutemen rallied from 16 down to pull within one in the closing seconds. From there UMass rattled off three straight wins including triumphs over Mississippi State and Seton Hall before bowing out in the NIT semi-finals.

“There’s an opportunity in front of us,” Kellogg continued. “But it’s not guaranteed.”

The potential of that opportunity will be realized through the play of Chaz Williams. Short in stature at just 5’9″, the Brooklyn, New York native casts a long shadow of influence on his teammates.

“He brings energy to practice everyday,” Kellogg said of his point guard. “He gets the other guys to play. He brings an edge to our team.”

After sitting out a season per the NCAA transfer rules, Williams wasted little time putting points on the board last season. He notched double figures in each of the first four games and scored 10 or more in all but three contests last year leading the Minutemen with 16.9 points per game. But it wasn’t until the latter stages of the season that his play-making showed its potential.

Williams notched back-to-back double-doubles in mid-February when he handed out 10 assists each against St. Joseph’s and La Salle. Williams totaled 20 helpers combined while committing just two turnovers in 69 minutes of play during those two contests.

“He did it at the end of last year,” Kellogg explained. “Now, if he can do it for the whole season, from day one of our real practices, then I’ll know what we have.”

Williams dished out nine dimes and scored 29 as the Minutemen beat Xavier, 80-73.  He followed that with 11 assists and 26 points in an overtime loss at Temple.

“In college basketball, the point guard position is the most important on the floor. Probably even more so for us,” Kellogg added. “I ran a lot of stuff through him.”

UMass got revenge 10 days later with a 77-71 victory over Temple in the A-10 quarter-finals as Williams handed out 11 assists and scored 26.
“He brought an identity to our program, our university and how we play.”
With Williams leading the way the Minutemen established a frenetic pace last year averaging nearly nine steals (7th in the NCAA) and 76.6 possessions (2nd in the nation) per game. At the same time, UMass connected on a school-record 288 three-pointers. The 8.1 three-point field goals per contest topped the A-10 and was good for 31st in the nation.
“All credit in this way goes to Derek Kellogg,” said St. Joseph’s head coach Phil Martelli. “In that the style that he’s adopted, that attacking style, fits this kid to a tee. The thing I enjoy most about him is you watch him, he enjoys playing.”
“There’s not another guy in the country I’d rather have for we play and how we do things,” Kellogg said. “For my program and how we play, I want Chaz Williams.”
Kellogg knows all too well the fortunes of competition in the Atlantic 10. Pegged 12th in last year’s conference pre-season poll, the Minutemen finished in a four-team log jam one win out of fourth. This year, UMass earned notoriety getting picked fifth in the league. With newcomers Butler and VCU, Kellogg understands how quickly a team can slip between the top and bottom of the conference.
“We’re a benchmark for how a team can respond if it doesn’t get respect in the pre-season.”
After four years of grinding it out, the future is now for Kellogg and the Minutemen. Williams is joined by fellow returning starters Jesse Morgan (9.9 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 2.6 apg), Raphiael Putney (10.1 ppg, 5.9 rpg) and Terrell Vinson (9.9 ppg, 5.5 rpg) along with Maxie Esho (5.1 ppg and 3.4 rpg), Javorn Farrell (6.3 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 2.4 apg) and Sampson Carter (8.6 ppg, 3.9 rpg).  The 2012-13 schedule is fit to prepare a team for the NCAA Tournament with anywhere from 12-14 opponents on the slate who earned post-season berths a year ago. The Minutemen open the Puerto Rico Tip Off against Providence with the potential of playing North Carolina State or Penn State in the next round.
“Let’s call it what it is,” Kellogg stated. “Every coach wants his team to be an NCAA Tournament-level team. You have to play a tough out-of-conference schedule. You have to to win those games and you have to go into the league and take care of business.”
Taking care of business for Derek Kellogg, Chaz Williams and the UMass Minutemen would consist of earning a spot in the NCAA Tournament. Something UMass hasn’t done since 1998.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.