It wasn’t quite the homecoming UMass point guard Chaz Williams wanted to have. The Minutemen came up short, 74-64, to Stanford in a NIT semifinal at the Garden on Tuesday night.
But Williams and the rest of his mates have much to look forward to. With four starters returning, Massachusetts is expected to be a major player in the Atlantic-10 next season.
“I was proud of this team and kind of happy to be the coach of these guys,” said UMass coach Derek Kellogg. “We go home 25-12, and I think that’s not bad for a team picked [to finish] 12th in the preseason. I think these guys played with something to prove all season long.”
The Minutemen finished fifth (9-7) in the Atlantic-10 standings and probably were just a couple of key wins of securing an at-large NCAA big. UMass fell to St. Bonaventure in an A-10 semifinal.
Although not happy with his performance, Williams (19 pts, 3 assists, 4 turnovers) sees a bright future.
“We have a young group of guys,” said Williams. “We are basically bringing back everybody and losing Sean Carter and Matt Hill. Those two bought it every practice and helped us get to where we are today.”
Hill didn’t play much, but Williams lauded him for helping the main players excel. Carter is the only starter or rotation player UMass will lose. Starters Terrell Vinson, Raphiael Putney and Jesse Morgan will all return next season.
“I think the greatest thing is we have some guys on our team who haven’t quite reached their potential yet,” said Kellogg. “I think people are now going to look at UMass a little differently, which honestly, I like.”