UMass walk-on Jaylen Franklin ready if called vs George Washington

  • Jaylen Franklin, left, passes during UMass preseason practice at the Champions Center. Due to a depleted lineup, Franklin could see time during UMass’ game against George Washington, Wednesday at the Mullins Center. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Jaylen Franklin shoots during UMass preseason practice Oct. 9 at the Champions Center. Due to a depleted lineup, Franklin could see time during UMass’ game against George Washington, Wednesday at the Mullins Center. Gazette Staff/JERREY ROBERTS

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

AMHERST — Jaylen Franklin doesn’t know how much he’ll be asked to play Wednesday night when UMass hosts George Washington at 7 p.m.

But the freshman walk-on promises he’ll be ready if called upon to help.

UMass’ roster was always going to be at least a little thin after seven players transferred and only four immediately eligible players replaced them. One of those players, fifth-year Maryland transfer Jaylen Brantley, has missed the season with a heart ailment. At midseason, junior Rashaan Holloway was declared academically ineligible. Sophomore Chris Baldwin is done with a leg injury and freshman big man Khalea Turner-Morris is in concussion protocol after a collision early in Saturday’s game. He won’t play Wednesday.

The Minutemen (11-14, 4-8 Atlantic 10) finished Saturday’s game with Malik Hines as the only big man alongside guards Luwane Pipkins, C.J. Anderson, Carl Pierre, Unique McLean and Rayshawn Miller, a walk-on who has seen regular minutes all season.

“I’ve just prepared throughout the season as if I was playing,” said Franklin, a 6-foot guard from Springfield. “I’ve been putting up shots after practice, working with our strength coach constantly. I’ve definitely been prepared. I think I’m ready. I’m very vocal on the court. I try to help do the little stuff. I take pride in that.”

Franklin, who was a manager last year, has scored three points in 18 minutes of action this season. He has the green light to shoot if the right opportunity presents itself.

“I can knock it down,” he said. “Coach knows I can knock it down.”

He’s vocal on the bench, calling out defensive alignments to his teammates.

“I had to find some way to be involved and contribute whether I was in the game or not,” Franklin said. “I’m paying attention to scouting reports and trying to help our guys on the floor.”

UMass coach Matt McCall thought Franklin would be ready.

“I saw early on when I got the job the respect he has in the locker room,” McCall said. “Every teammate likes Jaylen and those guys believe in him. He plays really hard and plays inspired. He has to play within the flow of the offense, but if the ball gets swung to him and his feet are set he’s got to shoot it. He’s got a good feel and a good handle.”

Franklin has drawn inspiration from Miller, a former manager turned player turned regular.

“To watch Ray do what he’s done knowing what he’s been through, every bucket Ray scores feels like one for me,” he said.

Regardless of what Franklin provides, McCall is trying to get every effective minute he can out of his regulars. That partially means using timeouts for rest as much as strategy and playing some additional zone.

“We have to get these guys who are playing so many minutes, the rest they need. We have to utilize our timeouts,” McCall said. “We’re not going to press as much as we’d like to, but we still have to be aggressive on defense. That was one of our problems on Saturday.”

GW (10-15, 3-9) was 7-6 in nonconference play and opened Atlantic 10 play with a win over Saint Joseph’s. But the Colonials have gone 2-9 since, including five losses in their last six games.

Senior guard Yuta Watanabe leads the Colonials with 15.6 points and 6.4 rebounds

The game will take place on 23rd anniversary of why many UMass fans hate George Washington. UMass was ranked No. 1 on Valentine’s Day in 1995. But with Marcus Camby was out of the lineup, the Colonials became the first opposing team to ever win at the two-year old Mullins Center. GW coach Mike Jarvis, who coincidentally would later give McCall his first assistant coaching job at Florida Atlantic, did an impromptu dance at the end of the game.

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