MHERST - Rashaun Freeman has heard the question worded several different ways, but the basic query is the same:
"How will his ego handle it, if he doesn't lead the University of Massachusetts in scoring?"
Rashaun Freeman works in practice.
Forbes, who UMass coach Travis Ford called a potential candidate for Atlantic 10 player of the year, led the Minutemen with 21 points in Saturday's exhibition win over Bridegport. He figures to thrive in the accelerated tempo of UMass' offense. The fear is that if Forbes becomes the focus on offense, that Freeman might pout and disrupt team chemistry.
As the men's basketball team prepares for its regular-season opener against Dartmouth at 5 p.m. Saturday at the Mullins Center, Freeman wants to quell those concerns. The more points Forbes or anybody else scores the better. Freeman's been the man for the past three seasons. It's earned him an Atlantic 10 rookie of the year trophy and back-to-back spots on the all-conference first team.
Freeman doesn't want to finish his career with an impressive personal stat sheet and no team accomplishments to show for it. He'll trade points, rebounds and even minutes for a chance to play in the NCAA Tournament.
"People are saying you won't score as much. To be honest I'm not looking to put up a lot of points, I'm looking to win. I'm willing to do anything to be a winner," said Freeman, who has averaged 14.8 points per game in his career and 13.6 last year.
"Winners get remembered. Losers just disappear. I don't want that to happen to me because I've put too much into this program not to come out with something," Freeman added. "Whatever I have to do to win, that's what I'm willing to do. That's the only mind-set I have."
Ford said Freeman has been a positive force this preseason.
"Wanting to do anything to help the team win is a great approach," Ford "He said I'll score less, I'll rebound more. I can't say he's always had that approach. Not that he was selfish, but he's become a really selfless player. He's had all the personal accolades. I think now he's at a point in his career where all he wants to do is win."
When Freeman was growing up, the Minutemen were a perennial NCAA Tournament participant. He said he's dreamed of being part of the foundation of returning the program to that level.
"I want to bring UMass back to where it was," he said. "If we can become a winner and get this program back to where it was, it would be more of a story than if I just went to some school that already had a winning tradition."
While Freeman has big dreams for the end of his senior season, he's trying to savor every step along the way.
"When I was a freshman and a sophomore I couldn't wait for practice to get over. Now I never want it to end. I know this time next year basketball is going to be a business where I'm at," he said. "I'm approaching the game differently and trying to get the most out of it."
While Forbes did lead the Minutemen in scoring in the exhibition game, Freeman wasn't far behind with 19 points. Expecting his numbers to plummet seems unlikely. In fact, while Ford appreciates that Freeman is willing to score less, the coach thinks he could potentially score more.
"If you asked me a month or two ago, I might have said he might not score as much because he had other scorers around him," Ford said. "But with the improvement he's made in the last three weeks, I think he might surpass what he had last year. Now he's taken the approach that he doesn't have to do everything. That's made him a much better player and it's made our team much better, I hope."
Matt Vautour can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more UMass coverage including a frequently updated UMass sports blog, go to www.dailyhampshiregazette.com/umsports.