Team practices for Greece trip
By Matt Vautour, The Daily Hampshire Gazette Staff Writer, 8/6/2001

The event bore little resemblance to Midnight Madness.

Instead of the crowd, fireworks, loudspeakers and the seemingly endless parade of dance teams that usually mark the beginning of basketball practice at the University of Massachusetts, Sunday evening's workout was actually about basketball.

In preparation for their trip to Greece, which begins next week, the Minutemen began practicing Sunday as the sounds of squeaking sneakers and bouncing basketballs broke up an otherwise quiet evening on the ghost-town-like campus.

New head coach Steve Lappas was pleased with his first UMass practice.

"I thought they played very hard," said Lappas, who praised the play of two veterans and a newcomer on day one.

"It's obvious that Shannon Crooks and Micah Brand and guys with the most experience played the best," Lappas said. "I thought Anthony Anderson looked very good. He didn't look like a kid that had been sitting out for a year."

Anderson didn't meet the NCAA's freshman eligibility standards and missed last season.

Brand said everyone tried to make a good first impression on the new coaching staff.

"Everybody is a little winded. We all worked out in the summer, but nothing like this," Brand said. "Everybody looked good for the first day and caught on real quick. Everybody tried to come out and play hard and show a little bit of everything they can do. Coach Lappas talked about in the beginning that first impressions are a real big part of things, whether you like it or not."

Because he's teaching his new squad a new system that is very different from the one it used under former coach Bruiser Flint, Lappas admitted he isn't expecting much success in terms of victories in Greece.

"I made a decision that practice has nothing to do with the trip," Lappas said. "I know that sounds crazy, but we want to use this week more to help us get ready for the season. With a new system in a week, no matter which way I cut it, we're not going to be ready to play games next week. We're probably not going to play that well, but that's not what I'm looking for.

"I've thrown so much at them," he continued. "They can't possibly play free and easy next week, but it's going to help us play free and easy in November and December."

Instead of coaching for victories, Lappas will use the games as he would practices, substituting liberally and pulling players aside to instruct.

"There's going to be a lot of teaching, especially on the defensive end," Lappas said. "We want to play everybody equally and see who has talent. Who can play the game. I want to see what guys are like as individuals because I really don't know."

He might not be able to see too much from senior center Kitwana Rhymer.

Rhymer is coming off ankle surgery and saw limited time on the court Sunday.

"Kit is coming back from the injury and he didn't do hardly anything today," Lappas said. "I don't know how much Kit is going to be able to do at all on this trip."

The Minutemen leave for their 10 day trip Sunday.

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