Transfer Derrick Gordon helping Minutemen from the sideline
AMHERST — Derrick Gordon bristled as he watched St. Bonaventure guard Eric Mosley put up 39 points against the University of Massachusetts last week.
Sitting in front of a computer watching the game online, Gordon, a sophomore guard who is sitting out this season after transferring from Western Kentucky, felt helpless as the Minutemen fell to Mosley and the Bonnies.
“When we lose games that’s tough. I watched St. Bonaventure and the kid had 39,” Gordon said. “I was upset about that. Watching those games I know we could be winning if I was out there, is definitely hard.”
At least he has company on the sideline. A combination of transfer rules, injuries and academics have left five Minutemen sitting out. Javorn Farrell had offseason foot surgery and won’t play this season, preserving his final year of eligibility. Jesse Morgan tore his ACL in early January ending his season. Clyde Santee, a freshman academic nonqualifier, and Izzy Freeman, who played the first semester before becoming ineligible, give the Minutemen a sidelined five that could make a pretty good lineup.
Of that group, only Gordon has been able to practice full time. He’s hoping his intensity helps.
“I’m just trying to get the team better, whether it’s on offense or defense. I think we’re at a crucial point in the season. We need to win. The only thing I can really do right now is push my teammates as hard as I would want to be pushed,” Gordon said. “It’s definitely tough. I’m not used to sitting out, especially a whole season. My time is coming soon.”
UMass coach Derek Kellogg said Gordon’s energy has been an asset.
“Derrick Gordon has been valuable all year. He presents a unique challenge to the guys,” Kellogg said. “You come off a road trip and guys are a little fatigued or tired and this guy is as fresh as a daisy ready to go out and get after you. It makes guys be prepared and ready to go.”
Gordon takes that role seriously.
“I know they’re playing a lot of games. I know how it feels and how tired you can be when you come back,” Gordon said. “I just try to give that energy and get everybody back up. We’re not where we need to be. I’m just trying to be positive and humble and hopefully we can get to the (NCAA) tournament.”
When the team is on the road, the sidelined fraternity will usually get together to watch games either on television or online. On Saturday, they’ll gather at 2 p.m. to watch the Minutemen play Xavier in Cincinnati on the CBS Sports Network.
“We’ll get a workout in. We’ll get some food until the game starts and we’ll put up some shots after that,” Gordon said.
Gordon has made it a point to look out for Santee when the rest of the team is travelling. Because he’s a nonqualifier, Santee is not allowed to practice or participate in certain team activities. Many former UMass nonqualifiers have been left by themselves when the team is on the road.
“These past few weeks me and Clyde have been spending a lot of time together, eating together, playing video games, working out together,” said Gordon, who predicted big things for Santee next year. “He’s a very good shooter. He just needs to work on his footwork and driving. But a lot of people are going to be shocked at how good he’s going to be.”
Farrell, who was a key contributor during his first three seasons, said sitting out hasn’t been as hard as he expected, except during games.
“When I’m watching games, it’s hard. There are times I think I could do something that the personnel on the floor is not able to do,” said Farrell, who is glad to have company during the games. “I don’t like watching the game by myself. I like to hear what other people have to say, especially people I may play with in the future.”
Farrell is not yet at full strength. He participates in practice, but not in every drill. He’s already earned his degree leaving him with options. If he doesn’t stay and pursue either a second bachelor’s degree or a master’s, he’s eligible to take advantage of the NCAA fifth-year transfer rule, which would allow him to transfer for one season without sitting out.
With an overseas professional career likely awaiting him, he could choose to start making money now. He said he hasn’t decided what he’s going to do.
“I just want to get healthy to feel like I did before I hurt my foot two years ago. I just want to get that back and get confidence back in my foot so I can play at a high level again,” he said. “I haven’t thought too much about any of that. I’m walking at graduation at the end of the year in May. That’s my only plan so far. We’ll figure out all that when the time comes.”
OFF WEEK — With no midweek game, Kellogg is trying to balance his team’s improvement with getting in some rest before facing Xavier.
“We’re still trying to figure it out as far as how hard to go and what things to do,” he said. “Monday we had a good film session watching the Dayton tape. Mentally we’re trying to have these guys focus and learn from some things.”
MISCELLANEOUS — Xavier guard Dee Davis missed Tuesday’s game against Memphis with concussion symptoms. His status for Saturday is uncertain. The 6-foot sophomore is averaging 8.9 points and 3.5 assists in 29.4 minutes. ... CBSSports.com’s Jerry Palm still has UMass projected in the NCAA tournament field. In his latest bracket projection the Minutemen are a 12-seed playing in the play-in game in Dayton.
Matt Vautour can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow UMass coverage on Twitter at @GazetteUMass. Get UMass coverage delivered in your Facebook news feed at www.facebook.com/GazetteUMassCoverage.