MHERST -- Brandon Thomas said the problem was in his head.
Thomas had a promising start to his junior season, his first at the University of Massachusetts, with three double-digit scoring efforts in his first four games. But his play went downhill after coach Travis Ford tried to convert him to point guard after Maurice Maxwell's midseason dismissal.
Thomas struggled and the experience seemed to hurt his confidence. Even after Ford abandoned it and moved Thomas back to the wing, he never really recovered as his points and minutes went down.
But Thomas said a piece of simple advice from assistant coach Steve Middleton has helped get him back on track.
'Coach Middleton told me 'You're thinking too much,'' Thomas said Thursday at media day as the Minutemen prepare for Saturday's exhibition game against Bridgeport (Mullins Center, 7:30 p.m.) and the season opener Nov. 11 against Dartmouth (Mullins, 5 p.m.), 'Once I stopped that, things started coming a lot easier,' Thomas added. 'Basketball is so much easier if you're not thinking too much. I feel a lot more in my flow.'
Thomas led the Minutemen in scoring during their five-game trip to the Bahamas and will likely compete with Gary Forbes, James Life and Etienne Brower for one of two starting spots on the wing.
STILL DISPLEASED - Ford, who was upset with his team's effort in Saturday's closed scrimmage at Albany, wasn't any happier Thursday.
'I'm going to be tough on them. I'm not going to be pulling any punches,' he said. 'We have a lot of guys who stink right now. There's not really one player who I'm overly happy with. They can all be better.'
Rashaun Freeman guards Stephane Lasme in practice.
'It's a lot better than it was,' Freeman said. 'My injury is not that serious. But I've never been injured before. I've never missed a practice. I've never missed a game. In my head I felt I couldn't get hurt and I'd never sit out, so I'm adjusting, getting lots of treatment.'
Ford wasn't sure if he'd use Freeman against Bridgeport.
'I doubt if I'll play him Saturday. It's still a game-time decision,' Ford said. 'It's taken longer than we expected. We don't want him to push anything.'
GOOFING - This edition of the Minutemen is a particularly mischievous bunch and they put those tendencies on full display at media day. While Forbes stood behind TV cameras trying to make his teammates laugh on the air, Luke Bonner spent the early portion of media day writing up funny 'Hello my name is' tags for his teammates to wear.
He dubbed the mohawked Freeman 'Mr. T;' Stephane Lasme, a native of Africa, was 'Nelson Mandela;' and bespectacled manager Matt Vogel was 'Harry Potter.'
And when he wasn't being interviewed, James Life sat at a table and sang.
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