C.J. Anderson looking to be a leader for UMass

  • UMass guard C.J. Anderson (23) is preparing to be a leader for the 2016-17 Minutemen. AP

  • C. J. Anderson, center, of UMass, begins a pass amid VCU defenders Korey Billbury, from left, Melvin Johnson and Jordan Burgess last season at the Mullins Center. JERREY ROBERTS

@MattVautourDHG
Published: 5/4/2016 10:12:49 PM

C.J. Anderson already planned to be a leader on a UMass men’s basketball team that figures to be one of the nation’s youngest next year. Now he has a better feel for how to do it.

The rising junior guard wasn’t sure exactly what to expect when he attended the NCAA Student-Athlete Leadership Forum last month. But he left Arizona excited.

Each Division I conference sent one male and one female athlete to the event in Phoenix. Anderson and Saint Louis field hockey player Maya Bentley represented the Atlantic 10.

“It was probably one of the best experiences of my life. I’d say top five,” he said. “I didn’t want to come back. It was a great time out there.”

The Minutemen will have seven new scholarship players on the roster next year. Anderson is eager to channel what he learned into being a positive force.

“It was trying to teach better ways to lead. We were there in big group settings doing activities on how to be a leader and when it’s time to follow or listen,” he said. “I learned how to be more versatile leading. It’s not always just being real loud and vocal or just leading my your actions. There’s so many ways you can do it and you need all those traits because not everybody learns the same. It really opened my eyes for that.”

UMass coach Derek Kellogg thought the experience was good for the player and the program.

“For him to go out to Phoenix and represent UMass and the conference speaks volumes about the type of kid he is and the commitment he’s made,” Kellogg said. “For him to be able to do things away from the court to help him with his leadership abilities speaks volumes for what he can be for our program and what he can be as an adult. We’re going to have seven new guys so we’re definitely going to need some leadership from the older guys.”

Anderson said the returning players are eager to welcome their new teammates into the fold.

“The freshmen are going to do great and have so much confidence because of the guys we have on this team,” Anderson said. “We’re going to spend time with those freshmen and figure out what gets them going. It’s not like we’re going to say ‘the juniors are going to get it done and you guys can just sit back.’ We want them all competing with us every day.”

Anderson won’t be cleared for basketball activity until next month as he continues to rehab a foot injury he suffered late in the 2015-16 season.

He was eager to get back on the floor.

“We have a great group of guys. I really feel like we can turn this thing around and have a great year,” said Anderson, who was prepared to raise his game. “I have two years left. What am I going to do with these last two years. Are you going to make them the great two years that I can. I’m a hard worker. I don’t slack or whine. I’ve always wanted to be the best and I’m going to strive for it every day and I know I have teammates that are going to do the same thing.”

NONCONFERENCE SCHEDULE COMING TOGETHER — UMass needs two more nonconference games to complete the 2016-17 schedule.

The Minutemen will host Harvard, Central Florida, Wagner and UMass-Lowell. They’ll have three more home games as part of the Gotham Classic, an event that culminates with UMass playing a yet-to-be announced opponent at Madison Square Garden. Each of those games will be played in mid-late December.

UMass has road games scheduled at Providence and Ole Miss. The Minutemen and Holy Cross are starting a three-game series in November at the DCU Center in Worcester. The Crusaders will visit Amherst in 2017 and 2018.

UMass has extended both of its New England rivalry series with Harvard and Providence for two more seasons. The Minutemen will host the Friars and go to Cambridge in 2017. The Crimson will visit Amherst and UMass will go to PC in 2018.

FULL SQUAD SUMMER — Kellogg hopes to have his full roster available at the start of the second summer session in mid-July. That’s when the incoming freshmen can first arrive.

Luwane Pipkins, who sat out last year for academics, can start participating in team workouts on May 16, the start of the first summer session.

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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