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Sampson Carter fills in at center for UMass men’s hoop

University of Massachusetts redshirt junior forward Sampson Carter attempts a shot over Christian Webster of Harvard during the Minutemen's 67-64 season-opening win Nov. 13 at the Mullins Center. Carter, whose natural position is on the wing, is also playing some minutes at center this season. KEVIN GUTTING

University of Massachusetts redshirt junior forward Sampson Carter attempts a shot over Christian Webster of Harvard during the Minutemen's 67-64 season-opening win Nov. 13 at the Mullins Center. Carter, whose natural position is on the wing, is also playing some minutes at center this season. KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

AMHERST — At 6-feet, 8-inches tall and 220 pounds, Sampson Carter doesn’t look like a prototypical Division I big man.

The University of Massachusetts junior’s natural position is on the wing and he can comfortably play the stretch four, the basket-facing power forward in the Minuteman’s offense.

But sophomore center Cady Lalanne’s stamina is still limited after offseason foot surgery. Freshmen big men Tyler Bergantino and Izzy Freeman haven’t quite developed enough for regular minutes and coach Derek Kellogg prefers keeping sophomore Maxie Esho at forward. So undersized or not, Carter is playing some minutes at center.

“Sampson is a little further along in that big guy spot,” Kellogg said. “He’s more physical and a little older. He knows the game better.”

After missing nearly all of last season with a hip injury, he’s glad to have any role.

“I didn’t expect to be guarding centers, but it’s a role I was given. I’ll take it and just run with it. It didn’t matter. As long as I was out there. Sitting out a year just made me more ambitious,” Carter said. “Whatever I can do to get out there, I was going to take it. ... I definitely didn’t envision it, but I am one of the strongest guys on the team.”

Without the weight and brawn to square up against some bigger players inside, Carter is relying on his feet and his mind, the latter of which he says gives him a big advantage.

“I feel like I’m way smarter than them. Mentally and physically I’m quicker than them. I just have to keep moving my feet and beating them to the spots I know where they’re about to go. I’m playing with their heads, playing mind games with them. I think I’m smarter than the average big man,” Carter said smiling. “Big men aren’t as smart as wings or point guards or shooting guards. Trust me, I know. They only know the paint. That’s their yard. I can experience other areas of the court being an all-around swing man. I’m steps ahead in certain areas.”

Carter will have his hands full at center against Siena (2-4) at 7 p.m. Wednesday at The Times Union Center in Albany, N.Y. Saints big man O.D. Anosike leads the nation in rebounding at 14.3 per game. He had 14 boards against UMass last year.

NOTES — With 7.0 assists per game, UMass point guard Chaz Williams is tied with Maryland’s Pe’Shon Howard for ninth in the nation.

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

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