College basketball: Kolton Mitchell leads UMass’ social justice movement

  • The UMass men’s basketball team stands in the Championship Center during Kolton Mitchell’s YouTube video titled “I’ve Had Enough..” YOUTUBE

  • UMass sophomore guard Kolton Mitchell released a video titled “I’ve Had Enough..” on YouTube last week. Mitchell says in the video, “I have nightmares that one day a news reporter could be reading my name on a teleprompter. Now I don’t know about you, but every time I get pulled over, I pray that it’s not my turn and that I get to go home and see my family again. … I’ve have enough.” YOUTUBE

Sports Editor
Published: 9/9/2020 6:25:12 PM

UMass sophomore guard Kolton Mitchell had something to say about the racial injustice gripping the nation. So he turned to his camera and started rolling.

His teammates were involved in making the short film. So, too, were the coaching staff. Last week he posted his 3-minute, 12-second video titled “I’ve Had Enough..” on YouTube.

Mitchell says in the video, “I have nightmares that one day a news reporter could be reading my name on a teleprompter. Now I don’t know about you, but every time I get pulled over, I pray that it’s not my turn and that I get to go home and see my family again. … I’ve had enough.”

The video shows his teammates standing in a line in the Champions Center wearing black shirts with the names of Jacob Blake, George Floyd, Tamir Rice, Breonna Taylor and others on the front. UMass head coach Matt McCall stood at the front of the line wearing a Black Lives Matter shirt.

“I was all in and I couldn’t have been prouder of him because he did that on his own,” McCall said during a virtual press conference Wednesday. “You have to give your players a platform and a voice to speak and to speak exactly to how they’re feeling. There are times when I have to just be quiet and listen.”

McCall has discussed non-basketball-related matters more so now than at any other point in his coaching career. His young players have taken action and he applauds their work.

“I couldn’t be prouder of them. I stand with them. Everything that is going on in our country, things need to change and the fact that our players are speaking out about it, I could not be prouder of them,” McCall said. “I want to continue to support them and we’ve taken some necessary steps here. We’ve got to continue, they’ve got to continue and I’ve got to continue to have a voice with regards to this and continue to move forward and make sure that it’s not just a one-time thing, but we continue to send messages out there.”

McCall said the message to the team is about being proactive and not reactive.

“We need to continue to be proactive in creating change and they need to know that they always have a voice and they always have a platform to be able to want to speak to how they feel and do the different things that they want to do during these times,” McCall said.

The team is still in the infancy of the preseason. Thursday will be the team’s 16th workout, but the Minutemen have yet to compete in a five-on-five scenario. COVID-19 regulations have limited the schedule so far, but McCall has been pleased with what he has seen.

“They’ve brought great energy, they’ve brought great effort; their attitudes have been through the roof,” McCall said. “We’re excited but have to just stay and continue to get prepared.”

Senior guard Carl Pierre, sophomore wing Preston Santos, redshirt freshman T.J. Weeks, junior forward Dibaji Walker, sophomore center Tre Mitchell and Kolton Mitchell return from last season.

Sophomore guard Noah Fernandes, graduate center Mark Gasperini, and freshmen Javohn Garcia (guard), Dyondre Dominguez (forward), Cairo McCrory (guard) and Ronnie DeGray III (forward) are new to the mix.

Gasperini transferred from American, while Fernandes, whose eligibility has not yet been determined, transferred from Wichita State.

McCall said the players have made the most of the time away due to the pandemic.

“I heard Doc Rivers on a podcast early in the quarantine about winning the wait. What are we doing while we are waiting in order to prepare ourselves to win?” McCall said. “I don’t know when we are going to play. I don’t know what (NCAA Senior Vice President of Basketball) Dan Gavitt is going to come out with, but I know at some point in time we’re playing and we gotta be prepared. ... I love our guys’ approach every single day down on the floor.”

Key to the preseason chemistry has been the familiarity the players have with each other. Eight players have ties to Woodstock Academy in Connecticut. Add Weeks’ healthy return from hernia surgery and Tre Mitchell’s growth following a season in which he won Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Year honors, and McCall is expecting a lot from his team.

“I’m very pleased with where we’re at,” he said. “I do have high expectations for this team. We talked when I was hired and we did the press conference down here — the standard was to win championships. We’ve not been able to do that and we’ve not been close. I feel now from this group that is the direction that we’re are headed in and there is no question that I have high expectations.”

Mike Moran can be reached at Follow on Twitter @mikemoranDHG.

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