Senior expands game
By Matt Vautour, The Daily Hampshire Gazette Staff Writer, 10/18/2001

AMHERST - On the basketball court, Kitwana Rhymer has never been hard to find.

As a traditional back-to-the-basket big man, the 6-foot-10 Virgin Islands native has rarely strayed more than 10 feet from the basket on offense or defense.

Rebound. Block shots. Score inside. That's what the University of Massachusetts coaching staff asked of Rhymer in the past and that's what he delivered. He'd step out to set picks, but he'd rarely have to make a decision with the ball out there in little-guy land.

In coach Steve Lappas' new motion offensive system, every returning player's role has changed to some degree, but nobody's game is likely to change more than Rhymer's.

"Our big guys get a chance to move around a little bit," Lappas said. "You're going to see Kit Rhymer handle the ball on the top of the key sometimes."

It's a mental picture that's hard to develop. But when Rhymer arrived in Amherst as a project who didn't even start on his high school team, just envisioning Rhymer as a indispensable part of the roster was a long shot.

Rhymer admits the change as been a little difficult, but he's enjoying the process.

"Everything has changed. We're definitely running more because motion offense is constant movement. Everything is different with it," Rhymer said. "I have to make smart decisions handling the ball, when to shoot, when not to shoot. I have to concentrate on footwork to get me better to get the team better."

The change only extends so far. Rhymer isn't going to become Troy Murphy or Lamar Odom overnight.

"He's probably going to handle the ball the least," Lappas said. "But he's going to catch the ball on the foul line and have to throw the ball inside sometimes to whoever his partner is."

As he installs his offense, one of the built-in advantages for Lappas at UMass is that he inherited two big guys in Micah Brand and Eric Williams who are already comfortable handling the ball, taking jump shots and passing.

Their ability to handle the ball outside will draw defenders to the perimeter and open things up for Rhymer's abilities inside.

"He's going to get better scoring opportunities because the floor will have better spacing," Lappas said. "He'll be one-on-one inside a little bit more. I think its going to be good for him."

Rhymer said practice has proven Lappas' point. "It's shown in practice that I'll get to work a lot more in the post by myself because the defenders aren't coming as close as they were last year," he said.

Rhymer appreciated the coaches' patience so far.

"We know we're going to make mistakes, and the coaches know we're going to make mistakes right now," Rhymer said. "I'm looking forward to seeing it when everything is together."

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