It is starting to feel like the 2023-24 season is close to starting for the UMass Minutemen and Minutewomen up in Amherst. UMass Men’s and Women’s Basketball opened up their seasons with Mullins Madness on Thursday night. During Mullins Madness, both teams participated in different games as well as some fans that were selected before the event started. The games included a three-point shooting contest, knockout, and Simon Says. The winners of all three games came from either of the two teams. The winner of the three-point shooting contest was Robert Davis Jr., the winner of knockout (for the second year in a row) was Keon Thompson, and the winner of Simon Says was Lilly Ferguson. Both teams this season have a lot of new faces combining for a total of eight (including walk-ons) returning players and nineteen players coming in as freshmen or transfer students. Each team is going to look very different from last year in a positive manner.
The women’s roster has Lilly Ferguson, Stefanie Kulesza, and Kristin Williams returning to the team from last year’s roster. Coach Mike Leflar and his coaching staff brought in four freshmen – Chinenye Odenigbo, Dallas Pierce, Lilly Taulelei, and Avery Childers –and six transfer students – Alexsia Rose, Jermany Mapp, Tori Hyduke, Bre Bellamy, Mikenzie Jones, and Allie Palmieri. “We have a lot of new faces. I was excited [about] what we were able to add in the transfer portal. Six transfers and we have four freshmen. I mean that’s ten newcomers,” Leflar said on the additions to the team. “We have six transfers, four freshmen, and three returners. So three different groups of people.” The Minutewomen also have Harper Carpenter as part of their team from Team IMPACT this season. Leflar also kept Jessica George and Sarah Shaw on his coaching staff while bringing in Clare Fitzpatrick, Samera Marsh, Yolanda Cole, and Tatyana Vasquez to round out the rest of his staff. “It really hasn’t felt that much different,” Leflar said on adjusting from being the associate head coach last season to head coach for this season. “I felt very comfortable with it, and just [have] been myself.” Coach Leflar also has the same goals set for this season as he had set for his team during his time as an assistant coach. “Just being really, really competitive, really vocal, and really together,” Leflar said on the main goal for the season with his team. “And just helping us take steps forward. I think we’re doing those things.”
Coach Leflar and one of the UMass players (which is currently to be determined) will be traveling to the Henrico Sports Complex in Virginia for the Atlantic 10 Women’s Basketball Media Day on Thursday, October 26th. If you are looking to watch the livestream for media day it will be available on ESPN+. The schedule for who will be there and when they will talk will also be released closer to media day.
The men’s roster has Rahsool Diggins, Keon Thompson, Matt Cross, Ryan Marcus, and Jackson Cronin returning (Marcus and Cronin are walk-ons). Coach Frank Martin and his coaching staff brought in seven freshmen – Jaylen Curry, Robert Davis Jr., Marqui Worthy, Jayden Ndjigue, Tarique Foster, Mathok Majok, and Rollie Castineyra – and two transfers – Daniel Hankins-Sanford and Josh Cohen. “Freshmen have two roads. They either [can] go to a school where they get a lot of upperclassmen, and then they complain because they don’t play or they go to a place like we have right now where they have an opportunity to play, and then they complain because it’s too much pressure on them. That’s the life of a freshman,” Martin said on having seven freshmen joining the team for this season. “There’s no other avenue for a freshman, it’s one or the other.” Martin retained Allen Edwards, Brian Steele, Doug Edwards, and Jake Hayden while also bringing in Anthony Evans and Brett Nelson to his support staff. “I’m really excited,” Martin said. “These guys got personality [and] they really like being on this team and going to school here.”
The Minutemen are currently dealing with a shortage in the frontcourt with freshman, Sawyer Mayhugh not being with the team for family reasons, and Hankins-Sanford dealing with a stress reaction in one of his feet. “I’m pretty confident that he’ll start full practice next week,” Martin said on the timetable for Hankins-Sanford’s return.
The Minutemen kick off the 2023-24 season with an exhibition game against Western Connecticut State University on Wednesday, October 25th at 7pm in the Mullins Center. The Minutemen officially open up their season with a home game against UAlbany on Tuesday, November 7th at 7pm also in the Mullins Center. Additionally, the Minutewomen will kick off the 2023-24 season with an exhibition game against Assumption University on Sunday, October 29th at 2pm in the Mullins Center. The Minutewomen host Saint Peter’s University for their season opener on Monday, November 6th at 6pm in the Mullins Center.
Featured Image: Chris Tucci, UMass Athletics
Kaily “KG” Godek is a current student at Western New England University (WNE). She has been a supporter of UMass Athletics for over 15 years. Kaily focuses on both UMass Basketball teams and occasionally on the other Women’s Basketball teams in the conference. While writing for A10 Talk, she works in the athletic department at WNE. When she graduates from WNE she wants to go into Sports Broadcasting and Journalism. You can follow Kaily on X, formerly known as Twitter, @kgumass23.