hen Travis Ford took over as the coach of the Massachusetts men's basketball team eight months ago, he inherited a team with a slew of returning players who saw plenty of action during the last two seasons.
This year's squad returns all of the post players from a year ago, and Ford augmented an already strong group of wing players with the additions of junior transfers Brandon Thomas and James Life.
The only spot that sticks out as weaker than last year is the point guard position. With the graduation of four-year starter Anthony Anderson, as well as back-up Chris Chadwick, Ford was left with very few options.
Ford went out and signed freshman Chris Lowe from Mount Vernon, N.Y., to run the show, but as with most first-year players, Lowe has been up-and-down early on.
Without a proven player at such a critical position, a promising season could have been set back before it even began. That is, until junior Maurice Maxwell approached Ford about moving from his natural small forward position to the point.
And while Maxwell is still readjusting to the position he played at times in high school, he has provided Ford with some comfort knowing that a veteran leader will be at the point until Lowe proves he is ready to be the floor general.
"It's a situation where Maurice is trying it out of his normal position, but because the team desperately needs his leadership, he'll be out there until Chris Lowe is ready to go," Ford said. "Maurice has done a good job, and we need his leadership out there in order for us to get off to a good start."
Maxwell played in all 28 games last year, starting 25, but saw almost all of his action on the wing. Playing on the perimeter, Maxwell's main duty on offense was to score, and he was successful, as he was second on the team with 11.4 points per game.
The move to the point brings with it a different set of responsibilities, as Maxwell now must focus on running the offense and incorporating his teammates more, while still adding the scoring punch he provided last year.
Adding to all of this, Maxwell has had to learn Ford's complex offense while making the position adjustment. This has been a lot to take in, but Maxwell feels he will be able to handle it.
"Everything was new with trying to learn a whole new offense, but I think I'm starting to get it better and better," Maxwell said. "I'm trying to learn how to score from it, keep my teammates into it and how to be a leader at the same time."
Leadership is what Ford is looking for from the position, and that is the main reason he will go with Maxwell over Lowe in the early goings.
"[Lowe's] developing, but he's still doing a lot of the same things all freshmen do," Ford said. "He's going to get more and more minutes each game, but we need leadership out of him and we need him to gain the respect from his teammates."
Being a vocal leader is not something that comes naturally to Lowe, but he realizes that in order to succeed at the college level he'll need to speak up more.
"I just have to learn to be more vocal, that's the biggest thing Coach Ford gets on me about," Lowe said. "In high school I wasn't really that vocal; I just led by example. At this level, you have to be assertive and be a leader."
Tonight will be the first test for the Minutemen with their new system, and Maxwell feels confident that he and the team will improve as the season progresses.
"I'm ready to go [tonight], but at the same time I know I still have a lot to learn," Maxwell said. "It's Game 1, and I want to show improvement by the fifth game, and the tenth game."