The UMass Lowell Men’s Basketball team’s recent move from Division II to Division I in the America East Conference isn’t the only thing that the team is getting used to — they’re also learning how to work together and find their rhythm with a new coach in a new program.
It’s been 10 years since the last Men’s Basketball Championships at UMass Lowell, where the 2003-2004 team soared into the Elite Eight in the NCAA’s Tournament Northeast Region Championships for their second year in a row, but that’s not holding down any of the players in the 2013-2014 season. Division I is a whole new playing field and each player knows that they need to work harder than ever.
“Even though we’re not playing the Dukes, and the Kentuckys on a regular basis, we’re in the same general league, we’re part of the same game, and it’s exciting,” said head coach Pat Duquette.
Division I Men’s Basketball is sometimes only thought of through the games of conferences like the ACC, Big Ten, or Big East. UMass Lowell’s boundless advancements indicates its ambition to be a top university with a top athletic program.
“Someday we’ll be in that tournament with all those other teams,” said Duquette.
The team strives to better their play-by-play instead of focusing on their 1-9 overall record, but it’s always in the back of their mind. Four out of five of their starting players are upperclassmen, and will leave the future of the team to the younger players at the end of the season.
Most of the players have had to make the switch from DII to DI, while some players have entered the program straight from high school. The mix of experience means that Duquette and his staff have a lot of work to get the team on the same track.
Going into the season with a lot of experience at the guard position meant that Duquette had to utilize his players the best he could, and teach them to use their knowledge to their advantage. He wants to highlight their skills, and teach them to play a better game.
“We’re not where we want to be yet, but I can assure you, we’re going to get there,” said senior center Parris Massey who transferred into the program after an injury at Sacred Heart University, also a DI program in the Northeast Conference.
Duquette realizes the struggles of putting together a new program, and says, “our players have been great, and they’ve made it a lot of fun for our coaches.”
Duquette was formerly an assistant coach for Northeastern University as well as Boston College, both Division I programs, which will be undeniably useful in coaching the Riverhawks towards future success.
The game plans are mostly focused on the current season and players rather than focusing on the long-term plans for recruits and championships.
“I know how important recruiting is, but I think it’s all about your current players first,” that’s not to say he doesn’t hope to play with the bigger DI teams in the future of UMass Lowell’s basketball program.
“This campus sells itself, and the Tsongas Center, our future home is a beautiful facility,” said Duquette.
The Riverhawks take the floor for the first time at Tsongas Center on December 21 at 2:00 p.m. against Duquense.
“He connects with us, he’s a good guy,” said Tyler Livingston, freshman starter for the Riverhawks about his new coach. “It takes some getting used to, but everyone likes the new coaches, everybody’s friends on the team,” said Massey.
This new camaraderie bodes well for the future success of the team. Their home opener hosting Brown University at Costello Athletic Center brought in a record 851 fans as they fell 76-87 to the Bears. Riverhawk blue filled the stands.
“We’ve got 10 of our last 18 games at home, so that’s going to help us too,” said Duquette about the lack of home games so far this season, hoping for another loud crowd at their game on December 18 against University of Vermont.
Appearing on ESPN sure has helped the team as well. Livingston and Massey laughed when asked about if they ever thought they’d be on ESPN in coverage of UMass Lowell.
“I did think when I was younger of course, but I had no way of knowing for sure, but it happened, and I’m glad it does,” said Massey. “I kind of knew, playing Michigan, playing some of the big teams we we’re going to play we we’re going to get some TV coverage,” said Livingston.
UMass Lowell’s known for their DI hockey program, the men’s basketball program is looking to change that in the next couple seasons.
The 2013-2014 season is just one part of the new men’s basketball program, and all good things take time and hard work, and the team is doing their best to work on both as of now.
UMass Lowell players are proud to be a Riverhawks, and proud to wear Riverhawk blue, and so is Duquette.
“I love being a Riverhawk, still don’t know what it is, but I love it.”
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