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Men's Basketball Tips Off 1999-2000 Campaign on Saturday Night at Iona
Minutemen seek revenge for last season's loss at the Mullins Center
From UMass Athletics, 11/18/1999

The UMass men’s basketball team will open its 1999-2000 season this Saturday night in New Rochelle, N.Y., when the Minutemen take on the Iona Gaels at 7:30 p.m.

UMass returns three of its five starters from last season’s team, led by senior power forward Chris Kirkland (Timmonsville, S.C.), who averaged 10.2 points and 6.7 rebounds per game a year ago. In the team’s two exhibition games thus far, Kirkland has averaged 24.5 points and 7.0 rebounds per contest. Junior center Kitwana Rhymer (St. Thomas, Virgin Islands) has also been strong for UMass in the preseason, averaging 12.5 points and 13.0 rebounds per game, including 17 boards in the final exhibition game against the Converse All-Stars just over a week ago at the Mullins Center. In the backcourt, the tandem of Shannon Crooks (Everett, Mass.) and Jonathan DePina (Boston, Mass.) has also been strong for the Minutemen in the preseason. Crooks averaged 20.5 points and DePina 15 points per game in the two exhibitions.

UMass leads the all-time series 7-4, but Iona won last year’s contest 77-58 on January 5, 1999, before a crowd of 5,579 at the Mullins Center. The game was the first meeting between the two teams in 23 years. UMass had won the seven previous contests in the series, the last coming on January 27, 1976, an 86-72 win at Curry Hicks Cage. The teams first met in 1962 in Trenton, N.J., with the Gaels winning 64-56.

After their game at Iona, the Minutemen will travel to Storrs, Conn., for a Monday night matchup with the UConn Huskies at Gampel Pavilion. Game time is set for 7:00 p.m., and the game will be broadcast live on ESPN2. The Minutemen will play their home-opener on Monday, September 29 at 6:45 p.m., when they host the Thundering Herd of Marshall. That game can be seen live on WGGB-TV (Channel 40, Springfield).

UMass Basketball Opens Season at Iona
From UMass Athletics, 11/19/1999

Amherst, Mass. - UMASS Basketball Game Notes Massachusetts (0-0) vs. Iona (0-0) 7:30 p.m. Sat., Nov. 20 - Mulcahy Center (3,200) - New Rochelle, N.Y.

Did You Know? It has been 22 years since the Minutemen have won a season-opener at an opponents home gym in a non-tournament situation. UMass beat Harvard in Cambridge 73-66 to open the 1977-78 season under the guiding light of head coach Jack Leaman. Since then, the Minutemen have lost seven times at an opponent’s gym with the last coming at Fresno State in 1997-98. UMass has started the season on the road with victories with a win over Kentucky in the Great Eight Tournament (Auburn Hills, Mich.) in 1995-96 and over Chaminade in the Maui Invitational (Maui, Hawaii) in 1996-97 but none of them have come in a non-tournament situation since Harvard fell twenty two years ago.

Run & Gun Again, we are talking about the exhibition season and a pair of high scoring affairs against the California and Converse All-Stars does not make a season, but....WOW! For the first time in Mullins Center history the Minutemen rang up a triple digit figure on the home side with 103 points against the California All-Stars. Five players have scored in double figures in both games and this is with a team that did not have its leading scorer from a year ago, Monty Mack, and without starting small forward Mike Babul. The new up and down style produced 24.5 fastbreak points per game over the exhibition season. The 103 points was the most by UMass since they rang up 103 at Duquesne in 1995. It also marked the most points by a Bruiser Flint led team. In the exhibition season, the Minutemen have averaged 100.0 points and 52.0 rebounds per contest.

vs. IONA This will be the 12th meeting between UMass and Iona with the Minutemen winning seven of the last eight contests. Last year the Minutemen renewed the rivalry after 23 years since the last meeting. The layoff was not good for UMass as Iona thumped the Minutemen at the Mullins Center, 58-77. Senior Gael Kashif Hameed scored the first 14 points for Iona on his way to 27 for the game (SEE BOX). UMass lost the first three games of the series in the early sixties playing in Trenton and at Madison Square Garden. The two teams began a home-home series in 1969 and the Minutemen went undefeated for seven straight years against the Gaels. The largest margin of victory for the Minutemen was 41 (99-58) in 1973 and the largest margin of defeat was nine in 1964 until last year’s 19-point debacle.

Bruiser Flint vs. Iona: 0-1

Last Meeting: Iona, (77-58) on 1/5/99 at the MC

Last Five Meetings: UMass, 4-1

Most UMass Points: 99, (99-58) on 12/15/73 at Mulcahy

Most Iona Points: 82, (82-86) on 1/24/70 at Mulcahy

Fewest UMass Points: 54, (54-61) on 2/14/63 at Madison Square

Fewest Iona Points: 51, (51-92) on 2/4/71 at Curry Hicks

Largest UMass Margin: 41, twice

Largest Iona Margin: 19, (77-58) on 1/5/99 at the Mullins Center

In Overtime: n/a

Season Openers Entering into its 90th season of men’s basketball, UMass is 57-32 in season-openers. For coach Flint this will be the second time he has opened the season at an opponent’s home as the Minutemen’s head coach. He is 2-1 overall in season openers as the head coach with a win last year against Niagara in the Preseason Chase NIT Tournament at the Mullins Center. Previously, Flint lost at Fresno State two years ago and picked up a win in Hawaii against Chaminade in his first game as the head guy.

At Mullins Center 1-0

Under coach Flint 2-1

In the 90’s 6-3

In the last 10 years 6-4

Season openers in November 16-10

In the last 25 years 15-10

On Campus 44-10

Away 13-22

Overall 57-32

Captain(s) of the Ship Senior leadership has always played an important part of UMass basketball and this year should be a banner year in that department. Senior Mike Babul and Chris Kirkland were named co-captains this year not only because of their improved play but because of their leadership skills and poise under fire.

Debut Four UMass players will have the opportunity to make their collegiate debut as a Minuteman in a regular season game this evening...Senior Dwayne Early, junior JoVann Johnson, sophomore Shannon Crooks and freshman Micah Brand will be dressed and ready for their first game in the maroon & white...Crooks will start tonight after sitting out a year last season after transferring from St. John’s University...Johnson is a junior college transfer from Wabash Valley College in Mt. Carmel, Ill. who should be the first one off the bench...Early is a senior walk-on guard from local high school Springfield Central....Brand is the only freshman on the squad...he graduated from Milford Academy last season as No. 1 in his class while on the hardwood he averaged 16.0 points, 8.0 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 3.0 rebounds per game.

Center(s) of Attention It is still very early and it was the California All-Stars who didn’t know what a zone defense was BUT, the UMass big men did look good in their 1999-2000 debut. In fact, senior Anthony Oates, junior Kitwana Rhymer and freshman Micah Brand combined for a total of 40 minutes of playing time. In that span they scored 28 points, grabbed 18 rebounds and blocked a pair of shots. Brand received the most attention with his 10 for 10 showing at the free throw line to go along with eight boards and 16 total points in his UMass debut, but Rhymer may have ahd perhaps the best showing. In only 16 minutes of play big Kit grabbed nine rebounds, five on the offensive end, while dishing out an assist, picking off a steal and swatting away a pair of blocked shots.

Welcome to the Team Senior Dwayne Early is the latest addition to the UMass basketball family. Early is a 6-4, 205-pound walk-on guard from Springfield Central High School. Early will be wearing No. 24 this season. Joining him is C.W. Post transfer, Dale Menendez. Menendez is 5-8, 180 pound point guard who will not be eligible to play this season due to NCAA transfer rules. At Westhampton Beach high school, Menendez led his team to the New York State Class B Championship after posting a perfect 28-0 record. He pulled double duty for Westhampton scoring 1,000 points while also rushing for 1,000 yards in his career as a tailback.

Television Update UMass basketball has been a popular television show in the ‘90s and continues to be a prominant TV player as the new millenium beckons. Three more games have been added to the television slate, giving the Minutemen 20 televised games during the regular season. In Detroit against the Titans, Fox-Detroit is producing the now 3:05 tipoff (previously 4:05), and the game will be aired locally by Fox-New England. The New England Sports Network (NESN) has also announced that it will be televising the Commonwealth Classic pitting UMass against Boston College at Conte Forum, and the UMass-Providence tilt on December 30 at the Providence Civic Center.

Any Time, Any Place, Any Team This season, UMass will have 10 teams on their schedule which appeared in the 1999 NCAA Tournament and two teams that competed in last year’s NIT. This schedule includes a game against defending national champion UConn, and games against perennial national powers Texas and Villanova, 1999 NCAA Tourney participants Detroit, Rhode Island, Temple and George Washington, and NIT participants, Xavier and Providence. The Minutemen will appear on television at least 20 times this year, including seven national telecasts.

Time Out A new timeout policy has been installed by the NCAA and will be in effect this season. The Atlantic 10 has adopted this policy for all games. Media will be guaranteed protection fro 105 seconds during nine (9) timeouts per game. Each “Full media timeout” shall last one minute, 45 seconds from the time the game official signals the timeout. All team-called timeouts, except for the first one, shall last 30 seconds from the time the game official signals the timeout. Nine “full media timeouts” shall be permitted per game. Those include four each half at the first non-shooting dead-ball situation after the game clock has passed 16:00, 12:00, 8:00 and 4:00 minutes remaining. The other “full media timeout” will be the first team-called timeout, whenever it occurs. That timeout does not replace one of the scheduled “full media timeouts.” All other team-called timeouts will be 30 seconds including any timeouts taken during any overtime period. Each team is entitle to five 30-second timeouts and may carry-over four of those timeouts to the second half. Each team is entitled to one additional 30-second timeout during each extra period. Unused 30-second timeouts from the second half may be used at any time.

Exhibition Season The Minutemen wrapped up a challenging exhibition season with an overtime victory, downing the Converse All-Stars 97-88 at the Mullins Center. Senior forward Chris Kirkland (Timmonsville, S.C.) led the Minutemen with 23 points and eight rebounds, while junior center Kitwana Rhymer (St. Thomas, Virgin Islands) added 15 points and 17 rebounds. UMass trailed by as many as 15 points in the first half before cutting the defecit to seven at the half. The Minutemen registered their first lead with 3:59 left in regulation when junior JoVann Johnson (Johnson City, Tenn.) hit both of his free throws to put UMass up 71-70. After 40 minutes of play the game was knotted at 78 a piece. In overtime UMass jumped out to an early lead but fell behind by two after five consecutive points by Converse. The Minutemen put the game away with a 12-2 run in the final 2:16 of play for the nine point victory. Junior Jonathan DePina (Boston, Mass.) posted one of the best games of his UMass career with 17 points, seven rebounds and four assists. Also scoring in double figures was sophomore Shannon Crooks (Everett, Mass.) with 17 points while Johnson added 15 points and seven rebounds. UMass opened the exhibition season with an impressive offensive showing, downing the California All-Stars 103-97 at the Mullins Center. Crooks led the Minutemen with 24 points and seven assists, while Kirkland added 26 points and six rebounds. UMass opened the game with a 17-8 run and never trailed in the contest, behind its potent fast-break offense. The Minutemen saw their lead grow as large as 14 points with just under five minutes remaining in the game, before a late spurt by the All-Stars made the final score look close. UMass scored 30 fast break points on the evening, while also totaling 72 points in the paint. Freshman forward Micah Brand (Middletown, N.Y.), playing his first game in a UMass uniform, totaled 16 points and eight rebounds, including an impressive 10 for 10 performance at the free throw line. DePina had 13 points and six assists, while Rhymer added 10 points and nine boards.

The Recruiting Wars Lamb Signs with UMass Basketball — Raheim Lamb is a 6-5, 190 pound forward ranked among the top 150 seniors in the country by most of the recruiting services. “At first I wanted to leave Massachusetts and see what was out there but after travelling this summer I found that I wanted to stay close to home so that I could be close to my family,” said Lamb. “I can’t wait to get up there because I’m going into a good conference and I like everything about the school. I just can’t wait to get up there.” “He’s going to be a wonderful addition to your program,” said Boston English head coach Barry Robinson. “Bruiser Flint is going to bring out the best in Raheim Lamb. Right now Raheim can play at that level. He’s a phenomenal athlete who has a good perimeter game. I’m just going to be ecstatic to come up there and watch this kid develop under Bruiser and the coaching staff.” As a junior last season at Boston English, Lamb averaged 21.0 points, 12.0 rebounds and 3.0 blocked shots per game. He is listed as a high honorable mention and All-Metro team selection for the Boston area in Street & Smith and is the 16th ranked small forward by Hoop Showcase. “Raheim is another big piece for our team’s future success,” UMass head coach Bruiser Flint said. “He’s the best player in the Boston area and we want the best of Massachusetts to stay in the state because we are the State University. We’ve done a good job in the past in keeping the state’s best home grown talent here in Amherst and Raheim is another in that category.” Pugh Signs with UMass Basketball — Jameel Pugh is a 6-4, 200-pound shooting guard ranked among the top 75 seniors in the country by most of the recruiting services. As a junior last season at Grant Union High School in Sacramento, Calif., Pugh averaged 16.0 points, eight rebounds and three assists per game. He is listed as the no. 2 shooting guard on the West Coast by Pac-West Hoops, the 78th ranked senior in the country by Bob Gibbons All-Star Report and is the 71st ranked senior by Basketball News. “Jameel is a talented shooting guard who is extremely athletic,” UMass head coach Bruiser Flint said. “He is a great get for us because he is coming in from the West Coast, an area we haven’t had a lot of success with in recruiting. He’s a good fit because of his athleticism and the fact that we are trying to get to a more athletic style of play.”

UMass: Minutemen tip off
By Ron Chimelis, The Springfield Union-News, 11/20/1999

AMHERST — Monty Mack says he's ready. So does Mike Babul. Tonight at Iona, their team will try to prove it's ready, too.

The 1999-2000 University of Massachusetts men's basketball season opens against a team that smacked UMass 77-58 at the Mullins Center last year. But the way the Minutemen are looking at it, that was in the old days of bad team chemistry and grinding half-court play.

Tonight presents the first official test for the up-tempo style that UMass is employing this year, and even after missing almost all of the preseason with a stress fracture in his left foot, Mack wants to be part of it from the start.

"I feel all right," the 6-foot-3 senior guard said on the eve of tonight's 7:30 opener at the 3,200-seat Mulcahy Campus Center in New Rochelle, N.Y. "The bottoms of both my feet feel a little sore, because I'm not used to running. But I'll be fine."

Asked how many minutes he could be expected to contribute against Iona, Mack was succinct.

"Whatever it takes," said last year's team scoring leader (18.1 points per game).

UMass will try to erase the bad taste of last year's 14-16 season with a new style, several new faces and a coach who believes in his team, which averaged 100 points over two preseason exhibition victories.

"We had 57 points at halftime in our first exhibition, and one guy told me he almost got up to leave, because that's usually what we had in a full game last year," coach Bruiser Flint said. "Our motto last year was that if we could score 60, we could win."

"But I feel good about the people we'll have out on the floor," Flint said. "It's a tough first game, though, because Iona likes to run up and down the court, too."

The Minutemen expect to open the season with a full contingent. Mack has been practicing in earnest this week, and so has Babul, a 6-6 senior forward who was sidelined with a muscle strain in his back.

Like Mack, Babul is expected to fit into the up-tempo style, and he says he's available tonight.

"Thursday was the best day of practice yet for me, by far," Babul said. "I didn't even have to take a break. The two days before this, I tried to go full speed but couldn't do it."

Neither is listed in the projected starting lineup, but they both figure to receive plenty of minutes, as long as they're physically up to it. But even though both players are veterans, the lost time means they have some catching up to do.

"You see what's happening from the sidelines, but it's different when you get in," said Mack, the team's only proven perimeter scoring threat and its best backcourt defender. "There are some things you have to learn, in the press and on offense, too."

Iona does not present an easy opening test. In the first season under the coaching guise of former Iona and NBA star Jeff Ruland, the Gaels recovered from a 4-7 start to finish 16-14 last year.

The revival was sparked by the win over UMass — a game that as much as any other, left a message that the Minutemen would not be able to turn their fortunes around with a big January run, as they had in Flint's first two seasons.

Iona returns every starter from that game except forward Kashif Hameed, who dazzled UMass with 27 points, including the first 14 for Iona. The returnees include 6-6 forward Tariq Kirksay, an All-Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference first-team pick, 6-9 center Nakiea Miller and guards Phil Grant and Jason Young.

For UMass, a strong start is essential if for no other reason that the fact that this test will be followed by Monday night's game at Connecticut. Flint insists this UMass team will be better than the skeptics think.

At least, he says UMass will be able to say it gave its best effort every night, something that did not seem to be the case last year.

"I've been very encouraged by what I've seen so far," he said. "We have some versatility, and we can do some things we haven't been able to do in the past. And I think that when people see us, they'll know we'll be getting into it."

UMass seeks to avenge Iona loss
By Matt Vautour, The Daily Hampshire Gazette Staff Writer, 11/20/1999

AMHERST - Any discussion about which was the worst loss of the 1998-99 University of Massachusetts men's basketball season would bring out several candidates, and the 77-58 loss to Iona at the Mullins Center would be near the top of the list.

So as the Minutemen begin a season that they hope will be marked by a return to their winning ways from the mid-1990s, they get a chance for some redemption right away. UMass will take on Iona Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at the Mulcahy Center in New Rochelle, N.Y.

"We owe some teams. We got a lot of games where teams put a spanking on us last year. Iona put a spanking on us," UMass coach Bruiser Flint said. "We have to rebound the ball. We have to contain everybody and keep our turnovers down and play smart basketball. If we do that we have a real good chance of beating them."

Regardless of the opponent, Flint is ready to put his team on the floor.

"I'm ready to go. When you start watching the games on TV, it gets you all pumped up," he said. "I can't wait to get started and to see where we really are."

Where they are might be affected by how ready Monty Mack and Mike Babul are as injuries hampered both players during the preseason and kept them out of the two exhibition games. With a new system in place, the two have to learn on the fly.

"They get better day by day," Flint said. "You have to re-teach the other guys too. They have to get used to their movements. Offensively they'll come around. It's the defense that hurts you a little bit. Especially when you're pressing."

Both players expressed readiness to compete.

"I'll be comfortable. I practiced the first three weeks before I got hurt, so I'm comfortable," Babul said. "It's just sore."

Mack's feelings were similar.

"I feel like I'm a bit rusty doing things, throwing away a few passes, but I'm just taking it one day at a time," Mack said. "The foot feels fine. The bottom of my feet are hurting me because I haven't been used to running. I feel a lot better. I'm just happy to be out there."

Mack enters the game needing just 15 points to become UMass' 34th career 1,000-point scorer.

The UMass pregame notes list Mack and Babul as reserves, with Jonathan DePina and Winston Smith starting in their place, but if Mack and Babul are ready they'll likely move into the starting lineup.

Rounding out the starting five is Kitwana Rhymer at center, Chris Kirkland at forward and Shannon Crooks at guard. If Mack starts, Crooks will be at the point, while if DePina starts, he'll move to the off-guard spot. After being a reserve last year Rhymer is looking forward to the chance to start.

"I'm just trying to go out there and play," he said. "I'm comfortable. I'm just doing what I did last year, rebounding and blocking shots."

Crooks is one of three Minutemen who will make their regular season debuts in the game. Junior college transfer JoVann Johnson and freshman Micah Brand are expected to see time off the bench.

The Gaels, who were picked second behind Siena in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference preseason poll, are coming off a 16-14 campaign last year.

"We have a nice nucleus right now," said coach Jeff Ruland. "Some days we play like world beaters. Some days we're awful."

Tariq Kirksay, last year's leading scorer, is beginning his final season after averaging 13.3 points and 7 rebounds last year.

"He'll be one of the top 10 players to ever play here," Ruland said. "He's a great player and a better kid. As he goes, we go."

Iona will miss Kashif Hameed who scored Iona's first 14 points against UMass last year and finished with a game-high 27 in the Gaels' win.

"It didn't matter who got the ball for them last year, they scored," Flint said. "They thoroughly beat us. We didn't do anything that night. We were awful. That was the worse game that we played. They beat us to every ball and got every rebound. They made shots and scored in the paint. They returned just about everybody, so it's going to be another tough game."

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