UMass coach Derek Kellogg happy to have Antwan Space back in the lineup



Last modified: Friday, January 22, 2016

After missing the first 10 games of the season, Antwan Space is set to join the UMass men’s basketball team.

Space, a 6-foot-8 senior transfer from Texas A&M, left the Minutemen on Nov. 9 to “attend to a private matter” according to UMass. He has remained on campus, but hasn’t participated in practice or games.

“I’m happy to have Antwan Space back after dealing with a private matter,” UMass coach Derek Kellogg said. “We’re looking forward to having him get acclimated to the team and ready to go here.”

Space, who won’t speak to the media until after Monday’s Providence game, was at practice Saturday morning and again on Sunday. How much he plays Monday (7 p.m. Mullins Center) depends on his stamina.

“I’m sure he’ll pop in some. I’m not sure how much he’s ready to play right now. ... I’ll have to see what kind of shape he’s in and how he fits in with what you’re doing. We will find out shortly. Mostly it’ll be whether he can keep up with what’s going on,” Kellogg said. “He’s probably done some training, some running and some individual work to stay in shape. I’ll find out a little bit more in practice.”

Entering the preseason, Space was expected to provide size, experience and offense at power forward, and some minutes at center as well. His absence has provided additional playing time for freshmen big men Rashaan Holloway and Malik Hines, as well as time inside for sophomores Zach Coleman and Seth Berger. While Kellogg has praised their progress, he’s still talked about needing someone to establish himself as a mid-post scoring presence who can take some of the offensive burden off UMass’ three guards. Space, who filled that role during the team’s summer trip to Paris and London, could give the Minutemen a lift in that role depending on how quickly he can regain stamina and shake off any rust he’s acquired in the past six weeks. Kellogg hoped Space, who played at Florida State and Texas A&M before UMass, would adapt fast.

“You hope an older player who has played in college can get acclimated a little quicker,” Kellogg said. “You can get out of shape fast at the college level. I’m hoping that’s not the case.”

Kellogg looked at him as a potential source offense from the post.

“I haven’t seen it. I’ve seen it in Europe some against lesser competition,” he said. “It’s something we’re hoping to establish as the season goes on. From him, Zach, Seth or somebody in that midpost area which we haven’t totally gotten to yet. We do have to establish something around the basket.”

Space looked comfortable in Saturday’s practice, moving effectively in transition while knocking down several 3-pointers.

His presence would make the Minutemen more versatile. It would allow Berger to play some of his minutes on the wing and any frontcourt foul trouble would be less problematic.

“If he’s able to get back into some sort of game shape at some point and play the way I’m hoping and envisioning he can, it gets guys back to normal positions,” Kellogg said. “That can be beneficial if he’s ready to play pretty quickly.”

With finals ending Friday, Kellogg said it was an ideal time for Space and the team to get accustomed to each other.

“It’s nice to have some time without as much classwork where we can go a little more basketball during the days to get the other guys acclimated to having another guy in the rotation,” Kellogg said. “That’s as important as him getting acclimated to the team.”

Space’s return makes it unlikely that UMass will add a walk-on. The Minutemen held a tryout earlier this month and looked into football player James Sosinski, a 6-foot-7 freshman quarterback who got low-level Division I basketball scholarship offers in high school. But the need for an extra body in the frontcourt is lessened with Space back.

Space is taking advantage of the NCAA’s graduate transfer rule that allows players, who have completed their degrees, to play at their new school without sitting out. This is his only year of eligibility at UMass. Space averaged 6.4 points and 4.7 rebounds in 23.3 minutes per game as a sophomore at A&M. His averages (4.2 points, 2.9 rebounds) and minutes (12.4) diminished as a junior.

Like UMass guard Trey Davis, Space is from DeSoto, Texas, a Dallas suburb. Space said the two have been friends since middle school. As a senior in high school, Space said he got to know Coleman, who is also a fellow Texan.

WAITING ON PIPKINS STATUS — UMass is waiting to learn whether freshman Luwane Pipkins earned a 2.5 grade point average during the first semester. If he did, he’s eligible to practice during the second semester.

“Final grades are posted the 28th,” Kellogg said. “He’s worked really hard this semester. Hopefully he’s good to go for practice.”

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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