With everything that is going on these days, finding ways to keep in touch with people has become a little more challenging. Zoom has been a lifesaver in that regard. On Wednesday, River Hawks men’s head basketball coach Pat Duquette took advantage of this to have a conversation and give an update on the status of his team and the program. The one hour chat gave fans a chance to ask questions of the coach to get an idea of where things stand with regards to next season. Coach Duquette also took a look back at the season gone by as well.
Last year’s team finished 13-19 overall and they were 7-9 in America East losing in the first round of the conference tournament at Hartford. In terms of wins and losses, the coach was looking for a few more wins out of last year’s group. Yes, injuries would play a role in the final record as well as a couple of players leaving the program before the conference schedule began. The team was a bit light at the point guard position forcing Duquette to go to some freshman players a little earlier than he would have liked. Ron Mitchell was one of those players that were given more time at the point guard spot. Coach though, as the year went along, Mitchell’s play improved which is a good sign going forward. There as more good news in the backcourt in the return of Bryce Daley who missed all of last season with an injury. He has been cleared to play and should help out at the guard position.
Coach Duquette also talked about the number of close games the team lost. Citing five or six of them in the non-conference part of the schedule that could have been the differences between a 13-win year and maybe an 18 or 19-win season. Finishing games was, at times, a tough lesson for the River Hawks to learn. The coach did praise two of his departed players, Josh Gantz and Christian Lutete for their effort and leadership while with the program. He believes that Lutete does have a shot at playing pro ball somewhere in the fall. As is the case with all of college sports, no one really knows what lies ahead. As it stands right now, the River Hawks plan on playing their full schedule for the 20-21 year. But as the coach points out, “it’s a step by step process and there could be shifts in policy.” The other bit of news was that senior to be, Obadiah Noel, did declare for the upcoming NBA draft. Although the coach also said, “Noel is 100% committed to returning to school in the fall.” Noel did this to gain much-needed information on where he stood as a possible pro player.
The coach also mentioned some improvements to Costello gym which the team uses as their practice home. New locker rooms for the players, new offices for the staff, and a student lounge as well. All part of UMass Lowell’s effort to be a must-see place for high school players looking for a place to continue play ball and getting a quality education to boot. There are six new members, including a grad transfer, to the basketball program when they finally get a chance to get back on the court as a group. Four new additions to the frontcourt and two to the backcourt. In the frontcourt, the River Hawks have added size and athleticism. Greg Hammond is a fifth-year grad transfer who is as big a player as the program has ever had. The coach said, “he has a college-ready body.” Max Brooks, out of Maryland at 6-7, has a chance to be a really good player. Duquette compares him to Noel. Brooks averaged 14 points and seven rebounds last season as a senior in high school. Charles Russell transferred from Tulane and is a 6-8 very long and skilled player. Darion Jordan Thomas is 6-8 and coming over from Wagner. He will have three years left out of Brockton, Ma. He played in 16 games last season with five starts.
In the backcourt, the team has added Richie Greaves out of Staten Island NY. Coach calls him “tough hard nose with a high basketball IQ.” He went up against some high-level competition in both high school and summer ball. Anthony Blunt, brother of current member Allen, was a two-year captain at St. Vincent Pallotti in Maryland. He reached 1,000 points for his career, averaged 15 points, five rebounds, and four assists a season ago. Duquette has said with transfers now being a part of the college basketball landscape being able to grab a couple is a must.
He also touched on recent events. He told us he has been a part of two of the protests in Boston in the past days. That he marched during the Rodney King riots. He does have black assistant coaches on his staff as well as black players. And he has talked to them about being a better listener and ready to help with social changes. All in all, it was a good hour with the coach. And he, like everyone else, is hoping to play this coming winter.
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