PRINGFIELD - It was a stated goal since his freshman year, and last week University of Massachusetts guard Monty Mack officially fulfilled it.
Mack sat out his freshman year after not attaining NCAA minimum eligibility requirements, but the South Boston product will get that year back. After his game in the Greater Springfield Pro-Am League Tuesday night, Mack confirmed that he had completed the final course (computer science) he needed to finish his degree in the first half of the summer session.
Under current NCAA rules, any player ineligible as a freshman can earn a fifth year if he or she attains a degree in four years.
"I'm just happy I can come back another year," Mack said. "I just did the best I could in the course and I passed it."
Mack is the second UMass men's player to take advantage of the rule. Tyrone Weeks gained another year for the 1997-98 season. Minutewoman guard Sabriya Mitchell also took advantage of the rule. Current Minuteman Kitwana Rhymer is on pace to take advantage of it after the 2000-01 season.
If he stays healthy, Mack has a chance to be the school's second 2,000-point scorer. He enters with 1,617. Jim McCoy is the all-time leading scorer with 2,374.
With his academic work behind him Mack said he plans to spend the rest of the summer making a little money.
"I just applied for a job at the campus center hotel," he said. "I'm hoping to work a little and work out."
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Incoming freshman point guard Anthony Anderson has been at UMass a lot this summer and Mack has been trying to look out for him.
"I've been trying to bring him around with me when we work out," Mack said. "Little things coach taught me I try to teach him."
Mack's been impressed by the Lynn native in pickup games.
"I think he can help us," Mack said. "He can really shoot the ball. That'll help us out a lot."
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It still will be about a month until dates on the UMass schedule are finalized, but the Minutemen know who they'll play in next year's unbalanced Atlantic 10 schedule.
Each of the 11 teams in the conference will face six teams twice (home and home) and four teams once. The schedule became unbalanced when Virginia Tech left to join the Big East. The league will go back to a balanced slate in 2001-02 when Richmond becomes a full member of the conference.
UMass drew a difficult slate. The Minutemen will face all of the Atlantic 10's postseason (NCAA or NIT) participants - Dayton, Temple, St. Bonaventure and Xavier - twice, as well as George Washington, which returns a solid nucleus. Rhode Island is the only team to finish below .500 that UMass faces twice.
The Minutemen will play host to Duquesne and Fordham and will travel to St. Joseph's and La Salle.