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Backup QB Randall West joins UMass men’s basketball team

  • —THOM KENDALL FOR UMASS ATHLETICS

  • UMass' Randall West, left, controls the ball under pressure from George Washington's Patrick Steeves Feb. 14, 2018 during a men's basketball game at the Mullins Center in Amherst.



@MattVautourDHG
Wednesday, February 14, 2018

AMHERST — Playing in his first game just hours after joining the UMass men’s basketball team, Randall West didn’t look out of place.

The quarterback had one point, one rebound, drew a charge and committed two fouls in seven minutes in UMass’ 83-72 loss Wednesday at the Mullins Center.

After watching foul trouble cripple his team’s ability to defend in the second half off Saturday’s loss to Saint Joseph’s, UMass coach Matt McCall summoned reinforcements. West, had a tryout Tuesday morning and was officially issued a No. 41 jersey Wednesday afternoon.

“He hasn’t played basketball since high school, no disrespect to anyone at the Rec Center across the street,” McCall said. “He played really hard and he gave us some energy. He gave us some toughness. He has no idea what he’s doing out there. He’s practice for one day. I can live with that because the guy played really, really hard. I’ll chuck him in there more and live with his mistakes because I know he’s going hard.”

UMass had only six available regulars following Rashaan Holloway being declared ineligible and injuries to Chris Baldwin and Khalea Turner-Morris.

He checked in with 4:11 left in the first half with Malik Hines on the bench with two fouls. A decent contingent of his football teammates, who sat behind the UMass bench, cheered everything he did.

He nearly had an athletic rebound, but it was ripped out of his hand in the air, shortly after checking in. He grabbed an offensive rebound late in the half and fed Pipkins for a 3-pointer and his first career assist.

He was fouled hard trying to finish in transition late with 15:10 left in the second half. He missed his first free throw and made the second as the crowd cheered appreciatively.

C.J. Anderson said the team appreciated West’s arrival.

“I appreciate him helping the team out. He’s a wonderful guy. I’ve been knowing him since my freshman year,” Anderson said. “He hasn’t really learned any of the plays or defensive principles. For him to look good out there, kudos to him.”

McCall expected to keep using him.

“I just want him to bring energy and passion,” McCall said. “He did that. I’m proud of that kid. You can tell he’s got character and he’s about the right things. We needed a body and we wanted to help. Physically it felt like he could give us a bit more (than walk-ons Jaylen Franklin and Mike Gillespie), because he’s such a good athlete. When you’re banging against a more physical frontcourt like GW, he can give you a more physical presence. We’ll see going forward.”

West, a 6-foot-4, 235-pound redshirt junior from Moorestown, N.J. who played basketball at Lawrenceville High School, committed to former UMass football coach Charley Molnar. He was expected to be a dual threat quarterback, but suffered a knee injury as a senior and has seen only limited action on the football field at UMass. He’s completed three passes in seven attempts in four career games as a reserve quarterback.

The advantage to adding a football player over another walk-on or even elevating a manager is that he has already been cleared as eligible by the NCAA Clearinghouse and doesn’t have to wait to be allowed to play. The Minutemen haven’t set the start of spring football practice yet, but barring an unexpected postseason run for the basketball team, West would be unlikely to miss much football.

West is the first football player to join the basketball team since punter Andy Maclay in 1995-96.

TECHNICALS – George Washington coach Maurice Joseph was assessed a technical for intentionally affecting a ball that was in play. GW’s Terry Nolan Jr. and UMass’ Rayshawn Miller were each whistled for a technical for a verbal exchange in the second half.

MISCELLANOUS Carl Pierre’s one 3-pointer gave him 73 this season a UMass freshman record. The Minuteman are now 0-2 against teams that entered the game in last place in the A-10. At 4-9 in conference, UMass is now in a four-way tie for last in the Atlantic 10.

Matt Vautour can be reached at mvautour@gazettenet.com. Get UMass coverage delivered in your Facebook news feed at www.facebook.com/GazetteUMassCoverage