MHERST - Amid the excitement of the end of the century, the end of a decade doesn't seem like an especially big deal.
But by far, the top local sports story of the past 10 years was the rise from obscurity of the University of Massachusetts men's basketball program to a brief stint in the national spotlight.
From that rise, the players became household names. In Pioneer Valley basketball conversations, the names Marcus, Lou or Edgar needed no last names for clarification.
Following is my all-decade Minutemen team, the best 12-man squad that suited up during the 1990s, a decade I'm certain will be remembered as the program's golden age.
Unlike so many all-time period teams, I tried to adhere to positional confines and make an actual team instead of a collection of the 12 best individual talents. For example, Derek Kellogg might not have beaten some others omitted from this list in a game of one-on-one, but in a team game, his steadiness and his presence as a point guard were invaluable.
The choices weren't easy. For example, the unofficial Donta Bright fan club has been lobbying hard for his inclusion. But after many discussions and debates with basketball scholars and yahoos alike, these are my 12 and I'm standing by them.
THE STARTING FIVE
Center - 1993-1996
Camby would be on the roster of the all-decade team for all of college basketball, let alone UMass.
Before a scandal came to light involving accepting money and gifts from an agent during his UMass career, Camby could do no wrong in Amherst.
Armed with some of the best shot-blocking instincts ever, the long 6-foot-11 center was nearly unguardable as a junior, leading UMass to its only appearance in the Final Four. He captured nearly every national player-of-the-year award available that season.
Before leaving after his junior year for the NBA, Camby set the national record for career NCAA tournament blocked shots.
He is currently a member of the New York Knicks, who he helped lead to the NBA Finals last spring.
Power Forward - 1991-1995
No player defined the rise of UMass basketball more than the 6-foot-7 (likely closer to 6-5) forward from Atlantic City.
Roe's game and his heart were always bigger than his undersized frame. He was always better when the spotlight and TV cameras were on and the opponent was ranked.
Among his many defining moments was a 34-point, 13-rebound statement game against AP preseason player of the year Corliss Williamson in UMass' 104-80 rout of No. 1 Arkansas in the first game of Roe's senior year.
As the school's second leading career scorer with 1,905 points, his retired No. 15 hangs from the UMass rafters.
Small Forward - 1989-1993
Mike Williams has grabbed most of the fame for big shots, but Barbee was reliable with the game on the line.
And unlike the sporadic Williams, he was equally reliable for the other 39:30 of the game.
His desperation 3-pointer against Siena in the 1991 NIT forced overtime, where the Minutemen prevailed to advance to that tournament's Final Four.
Harper Williams' 3-pointer against Syracuse is the shot people remember from UMass' upset of Syracuse during the 1992 NCAA Tournament, but it was Barbee's three that put the Minutemen ahead for good.
Currently an assistant coach for UMass, Barbee is the fourth leading scorer in the program's history, with 1,643.
Shooting Guard - 1988-1992
The cornerstone of John Calipari's building process was this shooting guard from Pittsburgh.
McCoy led the Minutemen to two consecutive NITs and was the leading scorer on the UMass squad that advanced to the Sweet Sixteen his senior year before the team fell by a narrow margin to Kentucky.
He averaged more than 16 points per game all four years of his career at UMass and is still the program's leading scorer, with 2,374 points. A lock to eventually be inducted into the UMass Hall of Fame, his No. 20 should be retired.
Point Guard - 1993-1997
Despite everything Marcus Camby did during UMass' run to the Final Four in 1996, the Minutemen would not have gotten there without Padilla's steady point guard play.
His 247 assists during the 1995-96 Final Four run were the most ever recorded in one season by a Minuteman. He finished second on the school's career list with 597.
When John Calipari coined his oft-used "warrior" description for inside players whose heart and work ethic overcame their smaller stature, Williams was the blueprint.
At just 6-foot-7, Williams more than held his own in the pivot. His 3-pointer against Syracuse vaulted the Minutemen into their first ever Sweet Sixteen in 1992.
The most exciting player to wear a UMass uniform since Julius Erving. This transfer from Richmond was a highlight film fixture for his leaping ability and his alley-oops that helped the emerging Minutemen arrive on ESPN's SportsCenter.
Herndon was a key member of the 1991-92 upstart team that went to the Sweet Sixteen.
Forward - 1992-1996
No player in Minuteman history has played in more NCAA Tournament games than Dingle, who took the floor for 13 games.
Despite never being UMass' go-to-guy, he finished with 1,043 career points and is 10 on the school's all-time rebound list with 791.
Underrated because of the supporting cast around him, Dingle was good at just about everything, as well as being a solid locker room presence. His versatility would allow him to fit in on any UMass squad, thus earning him the nod over Donta Bright.
Guard - 1991-1995
Few players in college basketball history have had careers as interesting as Williams' was.
His clutch shots made him legendary, his off-court problems made him notorious.
His big shots against Temple, North Carolina, West Virginia and Rutgers helped UMass attain the nation's No. 1 ranking for a stretch and established the Minutemen as a giant-killer. But in the end, a string of disciplinary suspensions led to his dismissal on the eve of the 1994-95 NCAA Tournament. He finished his career with 1,122 points, 26th on the UMass career list.
Guard - 1997-Present
The team's struggles during Mack's career may overshadow his place in history, but barring injury, he will leave Amherst as one of the best scorers the school has ever seen. He is listed as a senior, but is expected to earn back the year of eligibility he lost as a partial qualifier by graduating in four years.
On his current pace he will finish his career as UMass' second best all-time leading scorer and could break the 2,000-point plateau.
His skills go beyond scoring, though, as Mack has proven himself to be a capable defender and passer as well.
Guard - 1991-1995
On this list, Kellogg's accomplishments are the least quantifiable. But his intangibles and steady leadership earned him the nod.
He was never a prolific scorer, but he didn't have to be with the likes of McCoy, Camby, Roe, Harper Williams and Mike Williams around to pass to. He rarely turned the ball over and is No. 4 on UMass' all-time assist list with 453. He is currently an assistant coach at Youngstown State under former UMass assistant John Robic.
Guard - 1993-1997
After appearing to be over his head early in his collegiate career, Travieso developed into one of the best pure shooters ever to wear the maroon and white.
He made more 3-pointers than anyone else in school history with 245 and finished with 1,186 career points, No. 20 on the school's all-time list.
A solid defender as well, Travieso was a member of the Puerto Rico Olympic team at the end of his career.
Tyrone Weeks was the hardest to leave out. The burly power forward was a pure rebounder and an effective scorer. His heart and leadership went a long way toward helping the 1996-97 and 97-98 teams make it to the NCAA Tournament. His status as one of the first beneficiaries of Prop. 16 earned him a special spot in NCAA history.
Donta Bright was the most highly touted recruit ever to go to UMass and had a stellar career, but being overshadowed by some of his more prominent teammates caused him to miss this cut.
Anton Brown was the floor general for the Minutemen's 1992 run to the Sweet Sixteen. Steady and reliable, Brown almost made this list, but Kellogg's four NCAA tournament rings pushed him ahead.