Friday, March 14, 2014
At 6 p.m. CST, Friday Javorn Farrell will likely be in front of a television.
One time zone and over 2,100 miles away, his former University of Massachusetts teammates will be taking on Virginia Commonwealth in a sold out game at the Mullins Center. Farrell, now a senior at Texas-Pan American, expected that he’d be watching and rooting for the Minutemen as he has been most of the times UMass has been on national television this season.
Farrell admits he thinks about what it would have been like to play on this Minuteman team, but doesn’t regret his decision to leave.
“You obviously wonder thinking ‘I could be there’ or ‘I wish we were top-25 when I was there,’” said Farrell, who wasn’t surprised at the team’s success. “I was there for the whole building of what’s going right now. I’ve seen the big steps that we’ve taken and all the work we’ve put in. We expected to be top-25 my junior year (2011-12). The fact that they’re there right now, with all the work we put in, it’s deserved. The games that are on TV I watch them. I get notifications sent to my phone after every game. I talk to most of the guys still. I hit them up after certain games to see how they’re doing.”
Farrell’s departure from UMass was amicable. He was part of Derek Kellogg’s first recruiting class and was a regular contributor for three years. Foot surgery after his junior year caused him to take a medical redshirt and miss the 2012-13 season. NCAA rules allow any player that has completed their bachelor’s degree with eligibility remaining to transfer without sitting out.
Farrell faced the conundrum that so many college players have faced. Do you stay at one school as a role player to be part of a better team or transfer to a smaller school to play a more prominent role?
Those decisions aren’t always about ego. Farrell thinks he could have helped the Minutemen. But a year from now he wants to be playing professional basketball and being one of the leading scorers in the Western Athletic Conference turns more heads than being a solid bench contributor for a good Atlantic 10 team. While he’s a long shot to get an NBA opportunity, many solid college players have been able to dramatically improve their financial futures and take care of their families with careers overseas.
So he left, heading to the small fledgling Division I program in Edinburg, Texas, just over 30 miles from the Mexican border with the promise of an opportunity to be a leader and a scorer.
It’s worked out. Farrell leads the Broncs in points (16.0), assists (3.4) and minutes (33.6) per game and is second in rebounding. He’s scored at least 10 in 23 of UTPA’s 27 games and is averaging 13.4 shots per game. He’s coming off a 30-point, six-rebound, four-assist effort Saturday that helped earn him WAC player of the week. He reached the 1,000-career-point milestone in that game.
“When I was in the process of transferring, mostly every school that offered me said this is the role they wanted me to play. I just embraced it. For my professional career, I wanted people to see I could actually put the ball in the basket instead of just doing the little things,” Farrell said. “That’s that the transfer was about — more opportunity to put myself in a better position for that.”
Despite his numbers, the Broncs have struggled to an 8-19 record and are in last place in the WAC. But they’ve won two in a row and Farrell was optimistic that the Bronc could make a run in the WAC Tournament next month.
“I honestly think we can beat anyone in the conference. Most of the games we’ve played we were either winning or in position to win, late in the game,” he said. “Especially in a neutral location, I feel like we can beat anyone in the conference.”
Farrell expected his former team to reach the NCAA Tournament and he’ll be proud to watch them there.
“I feel like I was part of building process,” he said.
FELLOW FORMER MINUTEMEN — Farrell isn’t alone among players that could have been on this team if things had turned out differently.
Point guard Daryl Traynham would have been a senior this season, but his off-the-court actions caused UMass coach Derek Kellogg to dismiss him part way through his freshman year. He spent a year in junior college before transferring to Morgan State. He never got academically eligible at Morgan ending his college career.
UMass had high hopes for Jordan Laguerre, who sat out the 2011-12 as a partial academic qualifier. But he left the program without playing a game. He quit basketball to pursue work within his religion.
Izzy Freeman was a freshman center on the Minutemen last year, but after playing sparsely he was ruled academically ineligible at midseason. He is currently enrolled in junior college.
Andrew McCarthy was a 7-foot-1 walk-on for the Minutemen in 2011-12, but had academic woes. He left to attend junior college.
COUSY FINALIST — UMass point guard Chaz Williams was named as one of the 23 finalists for the Bob Cousy Award, given annually to the nation’s top point guard.
IT WORKED FOR THE RED SOX — The Louisville players and coaches have decided not to shave until the Cardinals’ next loss in hopes of making another, albeit hairy, postseason run.
It’s hard to picture the famously vain Rick Pitino with a beard, but the coach, who is a UMass alum, is surrendering his razor along with the players.
“We all said, ‘Let’s have some fun. Let’s grow beards until we lose.’ It’s the first time in my life that I’m trying to grow a beard,” Pitino told the Louisville Courier-Journal. “It’s the first time I’ve looked in the mirror and seen multifaceted hair coming in, different colors. We want to have some fun right now, so we’re going to do that and hopefully we can get on a little streak and grow some full beards.”
DUKE WEEK — The snow-fueled cancellation of Duke vs. North Carolina last week sets the Blue Devils up for a particularly tough week. After playing Georgia Tech Tuesday, they’ll face their rival Thursday before hosting No. 1 Syracuse on Saturday.
MY TOP 10 — 1. Syracuse, 2. Florida, 3. Wichita State, 4. Arizona, 5. Duke, 6. San Diego State, 7. Cincinnati, 8. Creighton, 9. Saint Louis, 10. Villanova For the rest of my Top 25 visit the College Hoop Week Guide on GazetteNET’s UMass Sports Blog.
GAMES OF THE WEEK: No. 11 Louisville at No.7 Cincinnati, Saturday, noon, CBS — A Bearcat win would give them a two game lead in the inaugural AAC race.
No. 19 Texas at No. 8 Kansas, Saturday, 7:30 p.m., ESPNU — Kansas always wins the Big 12 regular season title. Always. But if the Longhorns win, the Jayhawks streak of nine straight could be in jeopardy. Kansas expects to have stud freshman center Joel Embiid near full strength after being hobbled last week.
ATLANTIC 10 GAME OF THE WEEK: VCU at UMass, Friday, 7 p.m., ESPN2 — UMass’ bounce-back performance Saturday all of a sudden makes this one intriguing again. VCU isn’t as good as it was last year and isn’t as good on the road. A Minuteman win could go a long way toward shoring up an NCAA bid.
FINALLY — Michigan State is going to ruin brackets. When they’re are healthy, the Spartans are good enough to win the whole thing. When they’re aren’t, they’re bad enough to lose to Nebraska, which they did last week. Good luck knowing how healthy they are on Selection Sunday.
Information from personal interviews, newspaper articles and sports information releases was used in this report.
Matt Vautour can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Get UMass coverage delivered in your Facebook news feed.