MHERST - As he stands on the sideline now, Austin Newton has a pretty good guess what's going through the minds of the University of Massachusetts men's basketball players. He's been where they are.
Newton may have a better perspective than anyone right now on new Minuteman coach Travis Ford. Newton played for Ford for four seasons at Eastern Kentucky and is now his staff assistant, a position that is often a stepping-stone to a coaching career.
Newton says he has a new appreciation for his boss.
'You take a lot of things for granted as a player. All the time they put in, you don't see it until you coach. It's a whole new world for me,' Newton said. 'It's a whole new perspective on things they do. Things that get done that you don't notice as a player. You get a different view, that's for sure.'
While he didn't envy the players as he watched them go through Ford's rigorous training regimen this fall, Newton said they will find out soon how much it helps.
'They're finally understanding what coach Ford wants. In the long run it pays off. Every night on the floor you know that you're working harder than the other team,' Newton said. 'It takes awhile for guys to figure it out. It's a system everybody has to buy into if it's going to work. If you only have three or four guys putting in the effort, it's not going to work.'
DOWLING AFTERMATH - Disappointed that his team only outrebounded Division II Dowling by one in last week's exhibition game, Ford dedicated most of Saturday's practice to improving his team's work on the glass in preparation for the regular-season opener against Hartford at 7 p.m. Friday at the Mullins Center.
'We spent all day Saturday working on rebounding and not turning the ball over and moving our feet without fouling. Those were evident things we saw as weaknesses,' Ford said. 'We had two practices on Saturday and that's pretty much all it was, full-contact rebounding.'
COBLYN vs. DUKE - Former Amherst Regional star Ben Coblyn and Boston University opened their season last night against No. 1 Duke in the Preseason NIT.
Coblyn led BU with nine points in 29 minutes, but the Terriers fell to the Blue Devils 66-47.
Coblyn will return to Amherst when the Terriers travel to the Mullins Center on Dec. 12.
MILESTONES - Barring injury, Rashaun Freeman is on track to become the 37th member of UMass' 1,000-point club this season after scoring 877 during his first two seasons as a Minuteman.
If he continues on his 15.4 points-per-game career pace, he'll crack 1,000 at the Panasonic Holiday Festival at the end of December.
While nobody else is likely to reach 1,000 this season, two other Minutemen are on pace to get there including Maurice Maxwell (553 career points) and Gary Forbes (511 at Virginia). Artie Bowers (495) and Brandon Thomas (481 at Long Island) are in striking distance if they increase their output a little.
Stephane Lasme is already No. 7 at UMass in career blocks with 123. He's on pace to finish as the school's second best shot-blocker of all-time behind only Marcus Camby's 336. If Lasme matches last season's 72 blocks, he would move up to No. 4 this year.
THE FAMILY TREE - Several people with UMass connections are in different places this season.
Former Minuteman forward Mike Babul moved from Memphis, where he was the director of basketball operations, to Drexel, where he's an assistant under former UMass coach Bruiser Flint.
Former UMass assistant coach John Robic is working as an assistant on John Calipari's staff at Memphis after being dismissed as the head coach at Youngstown State.
And two former assistants for ex-Minuteman coach Steve Lappas could face their former players this season.
Craig Carter, who was Lappas' director of basketball operations last year, is now an assistant at Siena, which visits the Mullins Center Dec. 23. Carter's new boss is Fran McCaffery, the former North Carolina-Greensboro coach, who was the leading candidate to replace Flint before Lappas became available.
Andrew Theokas, who was an assistant under Lappas for four seasons in Amherst, is now an assistant at Columbia under Joe Jones, the top assistant to Lappas in his final season at Villanova. The Lions are a possible second-day foe in the Panasonic Holiday Festival in Madison Square garden Dec. 28. UMass will play either Columbia or St. John's.
Jose 'Chuck' Martin, a former Bruiser Flint assistant at UMass, is on the St. John's staff.
MISCELLANEOUS - Based on the tickets already sold and given out to students, the UMass ticket office estimated Friday's crowd would be between 6,000 and 7,000.
Ford had considered naming captains Monday, but held off. 'It's still a work in progress,' he said.
Matt Vautour can be reached at email@example.com. For more UMass coverage including a frequently updated UMass sports blog, go to www.dailyhampshiregazette.com/umsports.