AMHERST - Mullins Center fans will get their first glimpse of the 1998-99 University of Massachusetts men's basketball team tonight beginning at 7, although who the Minutemen are actually playing remains something of a mystery.
The uniforms will read Converse All-Stars on the front, but the roster of this team might not be known until the bus rolls into Amherst.
According to UMass coach Bruiser Flint, Converse could have some familiar names.
"I have't heard anything," Flint said. "They didn't know if they were going to have some guys that would depend on what was going on with the (NBA) lockout."
One potential opponent could be ex-Minuteman Kennard Robinson, a 6-foot-10 backup center who finished his UMass career in 1993 and has played professionally in the Far East ever since. "Kennard may play," Flint said. "He's been actually playing over in Japan."
While Converse's entire roster is a question mark, UMass has just a few. A severely sprained ankle will prolong the debut of sophomore Kitwana Rhymer, while senior Ross Burns is sidelined with a stress fracture in his foot. An ankle injury could limit playing time for junior Chris Kirkland.
Junior shooting guard Monty Mack, who is coming off a hand injury, presents a larger issue. Flint said he believes Mack's hand is healed enough for him to play, but that he might hold him out for reasons related to a weekend incident in which a woman alleged that Mack assaulted her.
"We're just trying to get all the information together and see how it goes from there," Flint said. "There are a lot of conflicting stories. We're just trying to make sure we get all of the information before we make a statement. We're going to get to the bottom of it and make sure we handle things the right way."
If Mack isn't in the lineup, sophomore Jonathan DePina likely will start at point guard, with senior Charlton Clarke moving to the shooting guard spot. Sophomore Rafael Cruz will see time at both backcourt spots off the bench. Walk-on guard Darryl Denson and junior center Anthony Oates will wear a Minuteman uniform for the first time.
The much anticipated up-tempo offense will be on display for the first time, but Flint thinks people's anticipation about the running game might be a bit out of hand.
"We've committed to it so we're going to do it," Flint said. "But a lot of people think that we're going to be the Denver Nuggets, where the first guy down the floor shoots. I don't think we're going to be doing that. We'll be playing a little faster, but I don't think we'll be going that fast."