Minutemen on vacation, but won't get a break
By Mark Murphy, The Boston Herald, 12/22/1998

Perhaps the best thing about the next eight days, at least for UMass coach Bruiser Flint, is that his players have nowhere to run.

UMass, which has one of the longest winter breaks of any Division 1 university, will be a veritable ghost town during the next week.

At a time like this, with everyone else home for the holidays, there's nothing for a basketball player to think about, except basketball.

Training camp rules are back in play. Flint can bring them back for double sessions, if he so chooses. They walk through plays in the morning and watch videotape in the afternoon.

Best yet, this is the longest stretch of inactivity that a UMass team has experienced since Flint first joined the program as an assistant coach in 1989.

Considering the team's 3-5 start to the 1998-99 season, this will be valuable time.

And though it's far too early to tell, Saturday's reasonably decisive win over Detroit gives Flint something positive to build on.

That said, UMass has yet to play a game where every element, from Charlton Clarke and Monty Mack in the backcourt to Lari Ketner up front, plays well at once.

``But at least we had two guys (Clarke and Mack) coming through instead of one during the last game,'' said Flint. ``But Lari played hard.''

If history has anything to do with it, the best is still ahead, considering that UMass has traditionally played its best in January. In two previous seasons with Flint, the Minutemen have gone 16-2 in the first month of the new year, including last January's perfect 9-0.

The Minutemen have gone 35-2 over the last four Januarys. They have gone 70-17 in January since the 1989-90 season - John Calipari's second at UMass.

There must be something about the holidays and meditation in the Amherst wilds that gets this team particularly ready for the road.

``Well, you can do a lot of practicing and watch a lot of tape, leading up to (January),'' said Flint. ``We always come in twice a day at this time of year.''

Clarke, the senior captain, has been around so long, he remembers the 9-0 January that preceded UMass' trip to the 1996 Final Four. He is willing to pay attention to history - especially this year.

``This is where the turnaround always happens,'' he said. ``No one's at school. There aren't any distractions. It's just us.''


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