Two years ago I covered my first college basketball game for a real publication. Through one of my journalism professors, I was put in contact with the sports editor at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch to cover a game between the UMass Minutemen and St. Louis.
I was excited for two reasons. The first, and most obvious, was that I would be courtside for a Division I basketball game. But the other was that I would be able to cover a game that featured one of the most legendary coaches to come through Amherst: Rick Majerus.
I sat right at the end of the scorer's table, inches from Majerus. I heard him scream things that made me both laugh and understand what I was seeing better than I would have from the other side of the court. I saw that he carried a piece of paper with head shots and names of each referee so he could address them by name during the game. After the game he gave one of the best press conferences I have even been in, ranting about sandwiches and the ridiculous travel arrangements that go with being in the Atlantic 10. (Click here to watch the presser)
UMass won, 72-59, and the only thing that distracted me from Rick Majerus was the way Raphiael Putney played on that January day. Putney scored 10 points during a 22-5 run over the last 8:05 of the first half and made me a fan of his for life. He is the subject of this week's edition of the 2013-14 UMass Basketball Roster Preview.
Raphiael Putney, Forward
At 6-foot-9, 189 lbs., Putney has the prototypical body of a modern-day small forward. He has 7-foot-3 wing span, defends and can shoot the ball from the outside well enough to be considered a threat, even if he could stand to take a few less of them.
Putney averaged 7.1 points per game, a number that should improve as he comes into his senior season as one of the key players for the offense. After starting the first 24 games last year before sliding to the bench, Putney has added some weight over the summer and Derek Kellogg will be leaning on him to both create space around Chaz Williams, but also take some of the scoring load off of him.
Through three games last season, Putney was averaging 11 points after scoring in double digits against three quality opponents in Harvard, Providence and North Carolina State. It is that kind of production -- not the eight games after when he averaged 4.4 ppg -- that the Minutemen will need from him for them to be competitive in the Atlantic 10 this year.
Williams drives the buss, but Putney will need to be riding shotgun for this offense for the Minutemen to get back to the NCAA Tournament in 2013-14.
2012-13 Stats: 7.1 points, 4.6 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.3 blocks, 41.1 percent FG, 28 percent 3PT
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