MHERST, Mass. - Following a successful trip to the Bahamas, the 2006-07 regular season will begin Nov. 11 at home against Dartmouth.
Coach Ford: Hello fans, fire away with your questions!
Coach Ford: First off, recruiting is going very well for us. Next year's class is a very important class for the fact that we are having to replace four seniors and we still have two scholarships available for a total of six. We are succesfully recruiting guards and bigs. The next thing I want to say is don't believe everything you read about our recruiting. Recruiting is very complex. Sometimes you recruit players and you send them to prep school to have them develop. Some you recruit for immediate impact for your team. There are many reasons you recruit players. Sometimes you are preparing for the distant future. With all the many websites and recruiting guides there is a lot of spectulation on committments and who is recruting whom. No one knows more about the type of player we want; no one sees the player as much as we do in terms of truly understanding the potential of players or just how good players are. Any college coach in any program sees their recruits 10 times more than someone who writes for a recruiting service.
Coach Ford: This year's schedule is very tough and presents many challenges. We put this type of schedule together for a couple of reasons. First, we put together such a tough non-conference schedule to help us prepare for our conference road schedule. This will help us prepare for a run at the conference title. Along the same line, this schedule will help challenge our team and help our team improve as the season goes along. Secondly, we think we put together a schedule that will catch the eye of the NCAA selection committee. If we are position to get an at-large bid, we put together a schedule that will catch their eye. We hope they are not only impressed with the names of the teams, but where we are playing them. Yes, I really liked "The Departed"; it was a great movie and gave me a chance to think about something besides basketball for about two hours.
Coach Ford: That is a great oberservation on your part. With the unfortunate incident involving Nana Ampim and Chris Lowe, it made my decision easy as to who will start the first game. Although, it would have been a nice situation to have Tiki earn the position. Also, Chris Lowe deserved to be the starting point guard after last year, but circumstances have dictated the outcome of who will start. I have said on many occasions, these two are not necessarily competing with each other, they will play many minutes together on the court.
Coach Ford: Practices have been very good and competitive. It is kind of strange to say a three-time A-10 First Team selection has been the most imporved, but Rashaun is the most improved. He has come into his senior year very determined. He is starting to understand what makes him good. Other players who have impressed early are Brandon Thomas, who has played well. Ricky Harris, who is new to the team and is picking up things quickly. He will be a great player at UMass. Overall, I have been happy with everyone. They are working very hard and they have all impressed me in one way or another.
Coach Ford: Kevin, we do talk to our team about the potential of what we could accomplish. There has been a lot written and there are a lot of expectations put upon this team. I do agree we have the potential to be good, but we are still an unproven basketball team. If I had this same team on the court last year and everyone was returning, I would be quicker to jump on the bandwagon. Everything that is being written is based on potential and nothing we have actually done. Yes, we do have very good returning players but we are also adding in five new players who have never put on a UMass uniform, who will all play significant minutes. I say all this because I do not want our players and fans to put the cart before the horse. We need to first go out and earn any accolades that are set upon us. That is how we have approached it with our team.
Coach Ford: Hi Bob. I believe the interest level is continually growing. I think fans and students are excited about the upcoming season. Last year, we had games that had an incredible atmosphere and some that could have been more lively. We hope to make it an electric atmosphere every night at the Mullins Center, not just certain games. We need the support and the backing of our fans and students. It is a very crucial part for the success of the basketball program. Coming to the games and cheering loudly and being involved makes a huge difference for the success that we all want. We want this to be a group effort from coaches, players, fans, alums, and students ... to enjoy being a part of UMass basketball. Season tickets are going very well, but we would like to increase it even more and have sell outs at the Mullins Center ... So spread the word!
Coach Ford: Jon, we are very excited about the transfers that will be eligible this year. These guys were a part of our first recruing class along with Chris Lowe and we believe they will all have an impact to help lead it back to the top of the A-10 and beyond. They were all proven at different levels. They showed they could be impact players for us. We will continue to recruit players of this caliber whether they are transfers, high school players, prep players or JUCO players. We are looking for players that fit our system and who will help us reach our goals. I do not get caught up in where a player is ranked or who is recruiting whom for several reasons. No one understands the needs of our team better than I do or our coaching staff. Secondly, if a young man is not ranked high in some recruiting circles, there can be several reasons why, the least may be his talent. My coaching staff works extremely hard at finding and searching for players that fit our system and who can play at the highest level. Someimes this might be a player who is ranked high that everyone knows about ... Sometimes they might not play AAU or played in a smaller circle and were not recognized. But they might have the things we are looking for.
Coach Ford: Mike, Ricky Harris doing great. He will have an incredible career at UMass. I really enjoy coaching him every day. He continues to work hard and get better every day.
Coach Ford: Chris, Stephane has worked extremely hard in the off season. He has gotten bigger and stronger. This will help him and our team have more success. Yes I do believe we have two of the better post players in the Atlantic 10 because they both bring different strengths and they are seniors who have experience.
Coach Ford: Greg I agree free throw shooing is an intergral part of a team success. It is an area we have emphasized from day one of practice. We have stated to our team that we believe the two most important stats for us could be free throw percentage and how many turnovers we have. These are two areas that we lacked in last year and we must improve on them this year.
Coach Ford: I believe the opportunity to have been together for almost 18 or 19 days in the month of August and being able to practice and play has given us a jump start on the season. We have seen through the first two weeks of the season, the players have moved much quicker and they are understanding what they want much quicker. It helped the chemistry of the basketball team. Players have a better understanding of their roles on the team. We still have a lot of work to do in some areas, but the summer trip will be a major advantage.
Coach Ford: Link ... I can definetly forsee us using different starting lineups for different reasons; one can be opponent, one can be a player playing well or not playing well; one could be starting a defensive or pressing lineup ... Another could be wanting to play more zone. The good thing about our team is that we have different combinations that we can turn to. Depth is a very positive thing and we have that.
Coach Ford: John, I am looking forward to playing Kentucky for many different reasons. First I think this will be a game that will really test our team. Going to play a high caliber team like Kentucky and playing in an atmosphere like Rupp Arena will test your team and really prepare your team for the tough road games in the A-10 that we are going to face. I think my players will enjoy playing in Rupp Arena in front of 25,000 fans, but most importantly I think it will make them better. Yes, it is fun to go back home and play against your alma mater where I have so many great memories and friends that I look forward to seeing. For the fans who can't make it to the games, we have secured a deal to have both the games at UK and Louisville aired on NESN in New England.
Coach Ford: Bobby, anytime you lose a player like Jeff Viggiano and the things he meant to our team, it leaves a void on several levels. Most importantly, leadership, which Jeff consistently displayed. I do believe that we have great leaders on this team beginning with our captains for the 2006-07 season: Stephane Lasme, Rashaun Freeman and Brandon Thomas. Secondly, on the court Jeff's void will hopefully be filled by guys like Etienne Brower, when he gets healthy, and Gary Forbes.
Coach Ford: Brandon ... I would tell them if they enjoy watching good basketball to come watch this team play. If you enjoy watching up-tempo, pressing, trapping, come watch this team play. If you want to see a team with depth and team that is going to play hard every night and be prepared every night, come watch this team play. If you are a UMass fan and like basketball, you need to be a Mullins Center because I believe you will see a team that has a lot to offer. We still have a lot of work to do and we still have a lot to prove and we hope we stay healthy. We hope this will be a fun year. We hope to see you and all the fans out here for our exhibition game on Nov. 4 and then the regular-season opener on Nov. 11 vs. Dartmouth. Thanks and GO UMASS!