Keeping Score: Checking in on Minutemen of yesteryear

Published: 11-17-2023 2:45 PM

Good morning!

Now we get to see how the turncoats are doing, those Minutemen ex-pats who pulled a Benedict Arnold and left for, ahem, greener pastures. 

Each year the UMass fandom’s theme song is “Anticipation.” They hear about the incoming talent and think UMass coach Frank Martin (or any coach) can wind them up and control the players like a puppeteer.

Alas, we’re in a day and age when feelings are easily hurt and the talent can leave with impunity. Noah Fernandes was a natural, a Wichita State transfer and the straw that stirred the drink. Fernandes was injured in December against Harvard, came back after missing five games and inexplicably was never seen again after Jan. 11, the day he scored 15 points in a 78-77 loss to La Salle in one of those defeat-snatched-from-the-jaws-of-victory games.

Fernandes transferred to Rutgers, and on Wednesday he scored 10 points in the Scarlet Knights’ 71-60 win against Georgetown before a packed house (8,000) at Jersey Mike’s Arena.

Last year’s second coming of Dr. J was supposed to be a New Zealander named Tafara Gapare. The can’t-miss kid didn’t play defense, didn’t listen to his coach and transferred to Ga. Tech. “He’s as talented as they come,” said Yellow Jackets coach Damon Stoudamire, “now it’s a matter of getting everything out of him.”

Frank Martin probably laughed and said, “Good luck with that.” On Tuesday against UMass-Lowell, Gapare had no points, two turnovers, three personal fouls and was a brutal minus-17 in 13:32 of playing time. “Gapare’s just gotta have better awareness. Ill-advised foul on a good shooter,” said Ga. Tech’s TV analyst.

The River Hawks, who are coached by Pat Duquette of the Dalton, Mass., Duquettes (brother of Jim and cousin to Dan), beat Ga. Tech, 74-71. It was only the second time the program has beaten a Power 5 opponent.

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Another player who thought he was too good for Amherst was RJ Luis who transferred to St. John’s. Luis was lured by Red Storm coach Rick Pitino, who’s making $20 million over six years and is universally hated by UMass fans.

Good news on the Schadenfreude front though, Luis has been sidelined since Sept. 27 after he broke his hand during practice.

Former Minutemen also playing elsewhere: Dyondre Dominguez is averaging 14 points a game at Arkansas State, T.J. Weeks Jr. is contributing 11 ppg at Rider (N.J.) University and Wildens Leveque is averaging under two points at Texas A&M.

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Before last April’s NFL draft Yahoo Sports reported that Alabama quarterback Bryce Young scored a 98 on the S2 cognition test that helps determine a player’s split-second decision making. Meanwhile the other big name in the quarterback class, Ohio State’s CJ Stroud, scored a dismal 28 and looked skittish in the pocket.

The Carolina Panthers traded up to get Young, who’s thrown eight touchdown passes and seven interceptions and has a 75.9 passer rating for the 1-8 Panthers.

Stroud meanwhile leads the NFL in passing yards per game, has thrown 15 touchdown passes and two interceptions, and has a 101.0 passer rating for the rejuvenated Texans.

Determining how a young college player will perform on the pro level is like picking horses to win the Kentucky Derby that’ve never raced its mile-and-a-quarter distance.

Lowell psychologist Peter Hantzis doesn’t dispute the cognition test but has his own thoughts about analyzing talent. “The greatest two winners in professional team sports both played for New England teams, Bill Russell and Tom Brady,” writes Hantzis. “They were both tens on the two I’s —  intelligence and intensity, but eights in skills.”

“As for athleticism, Russell was a ten and Brady was a five — average at best. My conclusion is that while all four characteristics are important, skills and athleticism are overrated and intelligence and intensity are underrated. They are harder to measure, but teams should put more value on the two I’s.”

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Dans Locmelis scored his first collegiate goal for UMass on Saturday against UVM and the puck was flipped onto the bench for a keepsake. “Uses crossovers on the rush to keep his approach deceptive,” says his scouting report on Elite Prospects. “Uses the width of the ice, scans for teammates, and passes to them early in transition sequences.”

Locmelis’s goal was one of the lone bright spots in a 6-2 loss to the Catamounts. Goaltender Michael Hrabal showed that 18 years is a tender age to be between the pipes in Hockey East. Hrabal was pulled after he let in his fourth goal. “The team played well,” said coach Greg Carvel. “We got out-goalied. They scored 5 goals on 8 chances. We scored 2 goals on 15 chances. That’s hockey.”

On Thursday night the Minutemen ventured to Rhode Island, twice came back from one-goal deficits and beat No. 5 Providence College, 3-2. “Now that,” said Carvel, “was a UMass hockey win.”

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“Texas A&M football caused me more stress than any job I’ve ever had,” said school president Robert Gates after he left to become the secretary of defense for George Bush in 2006.

The Aggies haven’t won a national title since 1939, and Jimbo Fisher wasn’t getting them any closer. He was 10-13 in the SEC his last three years, and 45-25 overall since he was hired. According to Texas Monthly, firing Fisher will cost the school over $100 million after his assistants are paid, a mere write-off considering the school’s $18 billion endowment.

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The JMU football team beat hapless UConn last week, 44-6, to stay undefeated. UMass hosts UConn next week in what should be some sort of bowl game for former FCS teams that have had a losing record every year since 2012.

This afternoon the Minutemen are 28-point underdogs at undefeated Liberty (10-0) in Lynchburg. The Flame reloaded during the offseason by adding 56 new players to the roster.

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Tommy DeVito’s mother looked like a real prize celebrating her son’s touchdown for the Giants in Dallas. Wearing a skintight T-shirt and red lipstick, the blonde-haired Jersey mom put her fingers in the air and did a hip dance. Her husband tried to put his arm around her to celebrate their son’s achievement, but she was too busy looking at herself on the big screen and he sat back down.

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SQUIBBERS: Asked if UMass hoops coach Frank Martin yelled as loudly in the season opener as he did during all last season, South Deerfield’s Dan Carmody answered, “Does a leopard change its stripes?” … Slap Shot’s Larry Brooks in the NY Post: “The Bruins acquisition of Charlie Coyle from the Wild by Don Sweeney for a fifth-rounder and Ryan Donato rates as one of the great trades of the past decade.” … Scott Ferrall’s Rant of the Week: “This guy Stroud has played way better than Mahomes. I don’t care what anybody says, so take your Patrick Mahomes and why don’t you go to a Taylor Swift concert!” … New Red Sox GM Craig Breslow was a crafty lefty for the Red Sox. He has a Red Sox World Series ring, and feels genuine compared to his analytics predecessor. … DA took it on the chin against Choate last week, 44-14, but a win at Belmont Hill today would give Brian Barbato’s Big Green a 7-3 record. … For what it’s worth, Seton Hall beat Albany, 96-71, on Wednesday, an almost identical score to the 92-71 beating UMass gave the Danes in the season opener. … BSJ’s Greg Bedard on the pass interception that got Mac Jones benched: “The state he was in that final pass, he was completely shot. He Knoblauched that pass.” … Deion Sanders’ kid is driving a Rolls Royce on campus, put that on 60 Minutes. … John Feinstein’s latest book is about Ivy League football. “It’s the only league I know that won’t realign,” Feinstein told WFAN’s Richard Neer. “It’s the same eight teams forever. I’ve interviewed 64 kids and they’ve all had good stories to tell.” … Happy Thanksgiving, or in the words of Vietnam Vet Tom Murphy: “Be thankful for what you have. Your life is someone else’s fairy tale.”

Chip Ainsworth is an award-winning columnist who has penned his observations about sports for decades in the Pioneer Valley. He can be reached at chipjet715@icloud.com