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UMass teammates Chaz Williams, Raphiael Putney head to Spain with Athletes in Action

University of Massachusetts players Chaz Williams, right, and Raphiael Putney will travel to Spain this weekend with Athletes in Action. The pair will play exhibitions against Spainish teams as well as do community work.

University of Massachusetts players Chaz Williams, right, and Raphiael Putney will travel to Spain this weekend with Athletes in Action. The pair will play exhibitions against Spainish teams as well as do community work. Purchase photo reprints »

University of Massachusetts rising senior basketball players Chaz Williams and Raphiael Putney will join Athletes in Action and head to Spain this weekend for a two-week tour that will take them to Madrid and the Canary Islands.

“It’s a great opportunity. It’s been a great opportunity for kids over the years. It’s helped them mature and improve,” UMass coach Derek Kellogg said. “I think it’s going to be good for those two to help them bond and get the chemistry we need for our team next year.”

Putney was excited about the opportunity and the overall experience.

“It’s a great opportunity for me and our program at the same time,” he said. “Chaz and I are two of the three seniors coming back for our team. It’s a chance for both of us to get our chemistry back together. I think it would be good for us. This is a great way to start my summer off, going overseas and getting my confidence up. Last year I didn’t have the year I wanted to. Going overseas and playing with Chaz and other players is going to be a big boost in confidence for me as well. This year I’m a lot more confident in myself and my team needs way more things from me.

“This is my first time really going out of the country other than the Bahamas,” Putney continued. “I’ve always wanted to go to Spain. I’m excited about it. I really want to enjoy my time there. I’ve heard a lot of good things about it.”

Athletes in Action is coached by John Jackus, a former professional coach in Bulgaria and Macedonia. The team will play five or six exhibition games against Spanish teams of varying levels. They have a chance to do some sightseeing and will work camps for kids.

“We’re a Christian organization that’s pretty specific about doing some kind of outreach, whether that’s handing out shoes in Africa or putting on camps for kids in Europe,” Jackus said. “We want to teach guys to use their position to make a difference because of basketball, that usually ends up being the highlight of the trip for the guys.”

Putney was looking forward to it.

“I’m majoring in sociology and education. After basketball is over I want to be a teacher,” Putney said. “This will help me with kids, being able to talk with them and work with them and tell them how things are in college basketball.”

Williams was unavailable to be interviewed.

Kellogg hoped the trip would be a launching pad for Putney’s senior season.

“I’m expecting huge things out of Putney this year,” said Kellogg, who thought competing for playing time would be good for Putney. The Athletes in Action coaches “don’t have an allegiance to anybody whether it’s Putney or whoever he’s competing against. So he has to go in and prove himself as being the best guy at your position. I think that’ll be good for him.”

The team was originally scheduled to go to China, before plans were changed. The switch had an added benefit for Putney, who thought that Spain would be more likely to have food that’s conducive to his dietary needs.

“The way for me to keep putting weight on is to eat a lot of things. In China that would have been tough,” Putney said. “Now that we’re going to Spain that’s going to be easier.”

Williams and Putney will be joined by Baylor forwards Rico Gathers and Taurean Prince, Tulsa guard Scottie Haralson, Lehigh center Gabe Knutson, Texas-Arlington guard Reger Dowell and forward Brandon Edwards, and three Division II players.

TD GARDEN TRIPLE-HEADER ALMOST SET — According to Steve Nazro, the vice president of events for the TD Garden, the triple-header of Massachusetts Division I teams is close to being official. The event is scheduled for Nov. 10 and would pit UMass against Boston College, Northeastern against Boston University, and Holy Cross verse Harvard. That weekend is the New England Patriots bye week.

“It’s not finalized, but I think it will be,” Nazro said. “We’re drawing up an agreement and we’re going to be on that shortly. We hope there won’t be any delays and we’ll be able to make an announcement soon.”

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

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