MHERST - Admit it. You were wondering. What ever happened to your favorite former Atlantic 10 pseudo-stars?
Well, wonder no more because it's time for this edition of "Where are They Now?" - otherwise known as exhibition basketball - between the University of Massachusetts and Statmaster.com (tonight at 7, Mullins Center).
Three former Atlantic 10 players will suit up for the Dot.Commers, formerly Team Fokus, before that the Converse All-Stars, previously Mickey Walker's All Stars and before that a-bunch-of-guys-who-will-be-getting-a-job-soon-but-who-are-barnstorming-now. Next year, who knows? as Statmaster went out of business.
The last time UMass fans saw Shandue McNeill, the 5-foot-9 guard was wearing the Mustard and Brown of St. Bonaventure, beginning a tradition of not-tall-enough-to-ride-the-rollercoaster guards to run the point in Olean.
He'll be joined in the A-10 reunion backcourt by ex-Virginia Tech Hokie Brendan Dunlop.
Fans with a real good memory of bad basketball teams will remember Rutgers' Jamal Phillips (1992-95). The 6-7 forward's claim to fame was beating former Minuteman Lou Roe for the conference's rookie of the year honors in 1992.
Phillips is actually Statmaster's second tallest player, with only Brendan O'Brien (6-8) taller.
UMass coach Bruiser Flint said he would coach this game more like a real game than he did in the team's first exhibition game against the California All-Stars.
"We're going to do some things, but still try to play a lot of people a lot of minutes. I'm not going to be letting them play through things this week. If you aren't doing what you're supposed to do, you're coming out," he said. "You sit them down and make them watch tape.
"Last week I let them play through their mistakes and then we watched tape and I let them know what they did wrong," Flint explained. "It's a learning process for the new guys. You don't want them to lose confidence because they've made so many mistakes. So you take them out, make them understand and put them back in. You want to put them in a situation so they can be successful."
One thing he learned from last week's game was that he's more comfortable with junior Eric Williams playing center.
"He's going to probably have to guard a center. Eric rebounds the ball better nearer to the basket," Flint said.
Junior forward Jackie Rogers might see only limited action tonight due to a foot injury he suffered in practice Tuesday.
"I don't know how much we're going to play Jackie because he hurt his foot," Flint said. "Somebody stepped on it. He has a bruise so I don't know if I'm going to keep him out there for a long period of time."
Tonight's game is UMass' final exhibition. The regular season begins next Saturday when the Minutemen play host to Iona.
he grace period is over. The training wheels are off. No more Mr. Nice Guy.
In last week's season-opening exhibition game against California Midwest, Massachusetts men's basketball coach Bruiser Flint let his players work off their early-season rust. In tonight's exhibition finale against Statmaster.com, it will be the guys with the most polished game who get the lion's share of time on the William D. Mullins Center floor.
"My thing for this game is that we're going to treat it more like a real game than we did last week," Flint said. "I told the guys that if they don't play, they're coming out. Last week everybody played between 14 and 20 minutes, so everyone got somewhat equal time. It might not be that way this week."
Statmaster.com presents the Minutemen with a challenge similar to the one they faced against the All-Stars. The team boasts seven former college standouts, each of whom brings a solid facet to an overall dangerous squad. Factor in the propensity for a traveling team to switch up its ranks, and Statmaster.com becomes an almost impossible team to prepare for.
"You never know with teams like this," Flint said. "People might show up who aren't on the roster, and other guys won't show up who are."
The job of bringing the ball up the floor for the visitors will likely belong to Shandue McNeill, arguably the most prolific passer in the history of his alma mater, St. Bonaventure. McNeill holds the Bonnie assist records for both career total (313) and high game (13) and stands at No. 29 on the SBU all-time scorer's list with 1,049 career points. Upon his graduation in 1997, McNeill took his act overseas and played professional ball in Germany.
Dueling with the former pro will be Minuteman Jonathan DePina, making his second-straight start at point guard. DePina logged 27 minutes in the exhibition opener last week, racking up a game-high five assists. His backcourt mate, Shannon Crooks, led the Maroon and White with 17 points.
UMass will enjoy somewhat of a size advantage against Stamaster.com; the visitors' tallest player is 6-foot-8 Manhattan grad Brendan O'Brien. The team does possess a tenacious frontcourt presence in forward Brent Fisher, a 6-foot-6 Cornell product who averaged 9.6 points and a team-high 5.2 rebounds over his senior season for the Big Red.
Fisher and 6-foot-7 Rutgers grad Jamal Phillips (10.4 points, 6.1 rebounds per game from 1991-95) will be a key focus for a Maroon and White squad that had a problem with caroms against Cal-Midwest.
"We didn't rebound the ball well at all last week," Flint said. "It wasn't because we weren't boxing out, we just didn't go for the ball. We'd have three guys around the ball, and they'd pick it up and score. Maybe it was jitters, but I want guys to fight for every rebound."
The Minutemen most needed in the board war will be 6-foot-10 Kit Rhymer and 6-foot-8 Eric Williams. The two split time in the post last week and teamed for 14 rebounds, nine of which came on the offensive end of the floor. Problems came when the two tried to play in tandem, limiting the schemes Flint could implement on defense.
"It's tough trying to play zone when you've got Kit and Eric out there at the same time, trying to guard guys out on the perimeter," Flint said. "This game, we're going to work on our zone on both offense and defense. I'll probably tell the other team to play a little zone too."
Not that Statmaster.com will necessarily oblige. Last week, Flint tried a similar negotiation with Cal-Midwest and made a deal that the All-Stars didn't quite live up to.
"Their coach asked me not to press, because they only had seven guys," Flint said. "I asked them not to play zone, because we hadn't worked on it yet. Then they came out and played zone for the first 10 minutes of the game.
"I wanted to go over and ask them if they wanted their check or not."
Tip-off is slated for 7 p.m.