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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Men’s Basketball Preview: Starting Over Again

This was to be the year.

That is what Charlie Titus, UMass Boston’s men’s basketball coach thought, for the past two years. In 2001, he brought in a stellar class of 12 freshmen to fill a depleted roster. That year, the team finished with a 9-16 record, good for seventh in the Little East Conference (LEC). Last season, the team improved its record to 11-15 (eight of the losses were by four points or less), finishing fifth in the LEC. With a nucleus of veterans expected to return, Titus was expecting nothing short of a LEC title run.

Now, it seems like it is déjà vu all over again. The team is missing a total of 13 players that were, at some point last year, members of Titus’s squad. That list includes Billy Gomes, Roderic Jean Joseph, and Jurvon Wallace, who are still UMB, but are not playing for their own reasons.

The team also had to endure the departure of four players who wanted dorm life as a part of their college experience: Geoff Ponitz (transferred to Babson College), Eric Stein (transferred to Boston College), Yassin Osman (transferred to UMass Amherst), and PJ Thompson (transferred to Suffolk University).

“These were good students. Gomes, Ponitz, Stein, Osman, and Thompson were 3.0 [GPA] and above students,” said Titus. “I hate losing that kind of student-athlete. Plus, losing them after investing two years in them is a tough hit to take.”

Titus believes that if the university had dormitories, the UMB Athletic teams would benefit as a whole.

“In all honesty, dorms are critical to the future of UMass Boston athletics,” said Titus. “These [players] were students who did not want to have to worry about the responsibilities of running a household. They wanted to enjoy being students.”

And then there are the players who leave because they didn’t hit the books. The only player, however, that was an academic casualty this year is Billy Allen, a 2002 First Team LEC member. Allen, who led the team in a half dozen offensive categories, did not manage to keep his grades above the 2.0 GPA minimum.

Allen’s absence is particularly magnified by the other departures, but there is an outside chance he could be back. He is currently at Quincy College attempting to boost his GPA, and he could rejoin the team in the spring if he does well academically and is re-admitted to UMB. Titus hopes that Allen can do it, but the coach is not banking on it.

Ten new faces are now on the bench, and Titus knows that there are going to be some bumps on the road of the 2003-04 season. The coach will be looking toward a tandem of junior guards to lead the war. Eric Summerville and Roger Perry, the only two remaining members of the freshman class of two years ago, will be in charge of a team is, at the moment, small but extremely quick. Forward Charles Yuan, a sophomore who did not see much action last season, should see an increase in playing time.

Titus states that this is a team that will showcase an up-tempo style of play, which means a lot more pressing and a lot more fastbreaking. He is approaching this season much differently from others in the past, he expects a different brand of basketball.

“It’s going to be a game that the fans are going to enjoy a lot more. We are a team that is going to be playing for today, which I don’t necessarily like. I’m always looking to build and strengthen a program, but we’ll see where this takes us.”

As for the incoming players, many of them are transfers. Titus says there are added difficulties with transfers in terms of teaching them, having them adopt his methods even though another college coach might have taught them differently. Also, he has to make his team develop some kind of chemistry on the court and that is easier said than done. Nevertheless, he creates the best opportunities that he can for his players, and he adapts his system so that his players can succeed.

“I am excited about the upcoming season,” he said with a smile. “Make no mistake about it.”