UMass Basketball: The 10 Best Players of the Derek Kellogg Era
Derek Kellogg was named head coach of the University of Massachusetts men's basketball program on April 23, 2008, taking over for the departed Travis Ford, who left to become the head man at Oklahoma State.
Kellogg's teams struggled in his first two seasons at the helm, compiling a record of 24-38, before improving to 15-15 in 2010-11.
Recently, Kellogg has found more success at the school that he once helped reach the Elite Eight as a player. In the last two years, his squads have earned back-to-back NIT berths with 20+ win seasons.
Heading into 2013-14, many college basketball pundits are picking UMass to end its 15 year NCAA tournament drought and return to the Big Dance in the upcoming season.
This year's Minutemen will again be led by the one and only Chaz Williams, who has almost single-handedly changed the fortune of the UMass basketball program.
Williams is without a doubt one of the best players Kellogg has coached in his five year tenure, but there have been many other talented players to don the UMass uniform since Kellogg took over.
Here are the ten best players to suit up for Kellogg since he became head coach in '08.
Note: Players were only judged based on how they performed while playing for Kellogg, regardless of their play under Ford.
10. Jesse Morgan
Morgan was an extremely talented scoring guard that could have ended up much higher on this list, had it not been for missed time due to injuries, academic issues and his forced departure from UMass following his junior season.
In 2011-2012, Morgan’s only full season of play in Amherst, the Philadelphia native averaged 9.9 PPG with 2.9 RPG and 2.2 APG, while appearing in all 37 of UMass’ contests, including 29 starts. He led UMass in scoring on eight different occasions, and topped the 20 point mark five times (via umassathletics.com).
Morgan was poised for a huge junior season in 2012-13, and he emerged as a key player not only because of his ability to score but also for his status as the team’s premier lockdown perimeter defender.
His season came to an unexpected and sudden end when he tore his right ACL in the second half of a UMass loss at Saint Louis on 1/10/13, and the contest ended up being the last for Morgan in a UMass uniform, as he was forced to withdraw from school after an undisclosed incident at an off-campus party.
At the time of his injury, Morgan was second on the team in scoring (13.4 PPG), and many UMass fans would later point to his loss as one of main factors contributing to the Minutemen failing to make the NCAA tournament in 2013.
Memorable Moment: Morgan exploded for 35 points, including 7-10 from three-point territory, in an 85-76 win over Ohio (12/19/12).
9. Raphiael Putney
Putney checks in at #9 on this list, with an opportunity to move up based on how he performs in 2013-14. During his first three years at UMass, Putney showed flashes of brilliance, but was also known to disappear for stretches of time.
He emerged as one of UMass’ biggest offensive weapons as a sophomore in 2011-12, when the 6’9’’ forward was second on the team with 10.1 PPG, while also averaging just under 6 RPG in only 24.2 MPG.
The Woodbridge, Va. native has the ability to rebound, alter shots with his huge wingspan, and score with both three point range and on high-flying alley-oops, which he has displayed on numerous occasions.
Although Putney seemed to lose confidence as a junior, UMass is counting on him to regain his 2011-12 form and become a reliable offensive threat once again.
Memorable Moment: Putney scored a career-high 22 points (on 9-12 shooting) to go with 10 rebounds in a big home win over Saint Louis (1/28/12).
8. Freddie Riley
Freddie Riley came to Amherst with high expectations as part of Derek Kellogg’s first recruiting class, and left as one of the most polarizing players to don the maroon and white in recent memory. The 6'5'' guard was almost as well known to UMass fans for his antics on social media than for his play on the court.
Riley started off his career at UMass with promise, averaging 9.3 points per game, before regressing to 8.0 as a sophomore and 6.5 as a junior.
Riley underwent a major transformation as a player during his four years in Amherst. As a freshman and sophomore, the guard had a tendency to slack on defense and put up ill-timed, contested three pointers on the offensive end.
By the time Riley was a junior, he had turned himself into a lock down defender (Once holding Tu Holloway to 10 points on 2-11 shooting in a February ’12 contest), and a smart offensive player who was a key piece on two NIT squads.
Regardless of outsiders' perception of Riley, the Hargrave Military Academy (Va.) graduate had a nice career for the Minutemen. He finished his playing days with over 1000 points (1006, good for 45th in UMass history), including 231 three pointers made (good for fourth in program history).
Memorable Moment: Riley poured in 28 points, including 23 in the second half, to help UMass overcome a 22 point deficit and beat Rider (11/12/10).
7. Chris Lowe
Lowe’s final year in Amherst coincided with Kellogg’s first, and the senior point guard struggled to adjust in UMass' often stagnant dribble-drive offense. Through his first three years as a Minuteman, however, Lowe had established himself as one of the best pure point guards in the A10.
He led the A10 in assists as a freshman, and was third as a sophomore.
In 2007-08, Travis Ford’s final year at UMass, Lowe averaged 11.8 PPG and 6.3 APG. His 6.3 assists per game was good for 12th in the NCAA, as the Mount Vernon, N.Y. native helped UMass reach the NIT Final.
Heading into his senior year, Lowe was named a preseason Atlantic 10 First Team guard, and statistically, he lived up to the expectations. Lowe averaged 12.4 PPG and was second in the A10 and ninth overall in the NCAA with 6.4 APG, but UMass struggled mightily.
The Minutemen finished 12-18, losing to Duquesne in the first round of the A10 Tournament.
Despite these struggles, Lowe still concluded his career at UMass as the all-time assist leader, with 678. Although Lowe's teams had much more success in his first three years as the floor general, the point guard was still a solid performer on a poor team in his only season playing under Kellogg.
Memorable Moment: Lowe’s game-winning, coast-to-coast layup as time expired to beat rival URI on the road (3/7/09). The play ended up at #1 on SportsCenter's Top 10 for the day, and #10 for the week. Lowe finished the game with 18 points and seven assists.
6. Sean Carter
Carter was recruited to UMass by Travis Ford after Carter's decision to transfer from Oregon State after his freshman season. The big man instantly became a lynchpin in Derek Kellogg’s lineup, starting at center for all three of his years at UMass.
Carter was not a spectacularly talented player and had trouble handling the ball and finishing in the paint early on in his career. The Fayetteville, N.C. native became a fan-favorite for his hard-nosed attitude and toughness on the glass.
Carter averaged 6.1 points and 6.6 rebounds per game in 99 games for UMass (of which he started 89), but the 6’9’’ center took his game to another level as a senior.
In 2011-12, Carter upped his scoring average to 8.1 PPG to go with a team-leading 6.5 rebounds per game.
In one of UMass’ biggest wins since Kellogg’s return to Amherst, Carter was an unsung hero as the Minutemen took down #21 Temple in the quarterfinals of the Atlantic 10 tournament. The big man played 39 minutes, grabbing eight rebounds and scoring six points.
Memorable Moment: Carter scored a career-high 22 points to go with 10 rebounds and three blocks against URI on senior night at the Mullins Center (3/3/12).
5. Terrell Vinson
Terrell Vinson was the highest rated member of Derek Kellogg’s highly touted first recruiting class, which consisted of Vinson, Putney, Riley, guard Javorn Farrell and forward Sampson Carter.
The 6’7’’ forward was given a rating of 93 while a senior at St. Frances Academy (Md.) by ESPN and was ranked #49 overall in ESPN’s Top 100 recruits for the class of 2009.
He started from day one for the Minutemen, and during his senior season he became UMass’ all-time leader in games started, with 128. The Baltimore native had an excellent start to his career at UMass: He averaged 9.6 points and 5.4 rebounds per game as a freshman in 2009-10.
By the time he was a senior, Vinson had a polished offensive game, with the ability to take the ball into the paint or knock down long-range jumpers.
In the last of several clutch shots he made throughout his career, Vinson drained a three pointer with 25 seconds remaining in UMass’ A10 quarterfinal contest against Temple to push the Minutemen past their longtime rival.
While Vinson did not quite live up to his ‘93’ high school rating, he evolved into a consistent offensive threat that nearly helped the Minutemen end their long NCAA Tournament drought.
Memorable Moment: Vinson provided the play of the 2009-10 season for UMass when he helped the Minutemen top Memphis at the TD Garden in Boston with a last-second shot that ended up as the #1 play on SportsCenter's Top 10 plays.
4. Tony Gaffney
Tony Gaffney was a relatively unknown role player in two seasons at Boston University and one at UMass before emerging as a defensive force in his senior season.
In 2008-09, Gaffney became only the third player in UMass history to win the A10 Defensive Player of the Year award. Per game, he averaged 3.8 blocks (third in NCAA), 2.03 steals (second in A10), 10.2 rebounds (second in A10) and 11.5 points.
The Berkley, Mass. native recorded 12 double-doubles during his final year in school, after posting zero during his first three seasons of college ball.
Gaffney only played for Kellogg for one year, but the 6’8’’ forward made the most of his senior campaign. After a memorable performance in an early season 80-58 loss at #13 Memphis as part of the 24 Hour ESPN College Basketball Tipoff, Memphis then-coach John Calipari shared his thoughts on the senior forward.
“Gaffney was, far and away, the best player on the court tonight”. Also on the court that night for Calipari’s Tigers was guard Tyreke Evans, who went on to become the #4 overall pick in the 2009 NBA Draft.
Memorable Moment: The previously mentioned Memphis game (11/18/08), in which Gaffney posted some incredible stats (16 points, 19 rebounds, 5 blocks, 3 steals) in the lopsided UMass loss.
3. Anthony Gurley
Although he was not recruited by Kellogg, Anthony Gurley did play three years for the former UMass point guard after transferring from Wake Forest following his freshman season. The Boston native averaged 12.4 PPG his first two seasons in Amherst, before blossoming into a star as a senior in 2010-11.
Gurley posted career highs as a senior with 18.7 PPG (third in the A10) and 4.4 RPG, as he helped UMass to its first .500 or better season under Kellogg (15-15). The 6’3’’ guard led the Minutemen in scoring in 23 of their 30 games and finished his career in Amherst with 1331 career points, good for 16th in program history.
Memorable Moment: Gurley put forth a valiant effort in his last regular season contest at the Mullins Center, scoring 25 points on senior night, but UMass fell to Temple in overtime.
2. Ricky Harris
Ricky Harris, who played two seasons under Kellogg's guidance after being recruited by Ford, was an excellent pure-scoring guard that had the misfortune of playing on a couple pretty bad teams.
He averaged 18.2 PPG as a junior and 19.8 as a senior, and was named to the Atlantic 10 Third Team in both seasons. His 19.8 scoring average in 2009-10 is the ninth highest total in program history (via umassathletics.com).
The Baltimore native, who led the A10 in scoring as a senior, finished his career at UMass as the third all-time leading scorer, with 1960 points.
Although UMass’ record was only 22-40 with both Harris and Kellogg, the prolific guard provided a bright spot for fans that had to struggle through watching those first two seasons under new leadership.
Memorable Moment: Against URI on Harris' senior day at the Mullins Center, the guard hit a game-winning floater in the lane with 3.5 seconds remaining in the contest to lift UMass over the Rams and into the A10 tournament. Harris finished his final game in Amherst with 28 points, seven rebounds, and five assists.
1. Chaz Williams
Chaz Williams tops this list after two years in maroon and white, with his upcoming senior season as an opportunity to stake a claim as one of the greatest Minutemen in the history of the program.
Williams arrived in Amherst following his transfer from Hofstra University, where he excelled as a freshman, averaging just under 10 points, over four rebounds and four assists per game.
In his two years at UMass, Williams has averaged 16.2 PPG and 6.5 APG, while maintaining his impressive ability to rebound for someone his size, with 4.3 RPG. He has been selected to the Atlantic 10 first team the past two seasons, and this week he was chosen as a preseason A10 first team member for 2013-14.
The impact Chaz Williams has had on the UMass basketball program cannot be fully measured just by looking at his stat page, however. When the 5’8’’ point guard arrived in Amherst, UMass was coming off a mediocre 15-15 season, its ‘best’ in Kellogg’s three years at the helm.
From the very first game that Williams played for the Minutemen, an 85-67 beatdown of Elon University at the Curry Hicks Cage, the diminutive guard changed the outlook of UMass basketball.
Not only did he guide UMass to consecutive 20-win seasons and NIT berths, but the Brooklyn native re-energized the campus and once-proud fan base, bringing an excitement back to UMass basketball that hadn’t existed in the three years that Kellogg had been in charge.
UMass scrapped its dribble-drive offense for a more exciting, up-tempo style, and Williams was the perfect man to captain the ship. Before long, it became the norm for UMass to appear on SportsCenter’s Top 10 plays with Williams tossing long alley-oops to Sean Carter, Maxie Esho or Raphiael Putney.
Chaz Williams still has the upcoming season to continue building his legacy at UMass, but after two years he has already left an indelible mark on the program.
Memorable Moment: Williams has had countless classic performances in a UMass uniform, but his 29 point, 9 assist, 5 rebound, two steal effort in an 80-73 home victory over Tu Holloway, Dez Wells, and Xavier stands out as one of the best (2/21/12).