MHERST - It doesn't matter and he's not telling.
University of Massachusetts men's basketball coach Travis Ford thinks he knows who will be in his starting lineup, but he doesn't want to announce it yet to keep competition sharp in practice.
Like most coaches, Ford believes it doesn't matter who starts. However, he knows it matters to the players.
He has 22 days until his team plays a regular-season game and 15 until they even play an exhibition. Figuring out who will start those nights isn't a priority yet.
''As a coach, it really is so insignificant. As a player I didn't believe it when Coach (Rick) Pitino said it, but it's true,'' Ford said. ''But we'd be naive as a coaching staff if we didn't think it meant something to those players. It's a great motivational tool.
''Is it something we talk about? Absolutely,'' Ford continued. ''If you want to start, understand your role and work hard every day. Cut down your turnovers and make some free throws.''
Ford said he hasn't even yet begun playing a first unit together consistently in practice.
''I'm changing it up in practice every day,'' he said. ''We have 11 players who can play. Are 11 players going to play? Not the minutes they want so we have to see who separates themselves. We're still trying different combinations.''
HARRIS IMPROVING - A week after saying freshman Ricky Harris was far behind his more veteran teammates, Ford has been pleased with the 6-foot-2 guard's improvement.
''He is really picking it up,'' Ford said. ''The first couple days it was tough, but things have really started clicking.''
LEAMAN LEGACY GAME - The contest at 2 p.m. Dec. 2 against Boston College at the Mullins Center is the Leaman Legacy Game. Five dollars from the sale of each ticket sold for that game will go to the athletic scholarship fund that's named for former coach and broadcaster Jack Leaman who died in 2004.
NEW/OLD TRAINER - UMass will have a familiar face on its sideline as Ron Laham is back as the team's full-time athletic trainer.
Laham was the team's trainer for 10 seasons before deciding in 2003 to cut back to part-time status. Laham replaces Kevin Avila, who worked with the men's basketball team for three seasons.
MISCELLANEOUS - The Mullins Center has new baskets which will make their debut Nov. 4 when both the women's and men's teams will play exhibition games. ... The Minutemen have two potential walk-ons working out with the team this week because Ford is hoping to find a practice point guard. ''When we play Chris Lowe, Tiki (Mayben) and Gary (Forbes) together on the same team we don't have another point guard for the other team,'' Ford said. ... The Atlantic 10 preseason poll will be released Tuesday at the league's annual media day in Atlantic City.
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