Derek Kellogg has not had the best start to his head coaching career.
In 2008-2009, his Minutemen struggled through a 12-18 season, although they did knock off then-defending champion Kansas. Last season wasn't much better, as UMass finished just 12-20. And while UMass brings back the majority of their rotation, they will be conspicuously without Ricky Harris, who was just seven points shy of averaging 20 ppg on the season.
But the good people of Amherst do have something to look forward too. Kellogg is proving to be a serious recruiter. His 2009 class was impressive, as top 100 recruit Terrell Vinson headlined a five-man class where each player received at least a three-star rating by Rivals (Vinson was a four-star).
This season, Kellogg brings in three more three-star recruits, with 5'8" spark plug Daryl Traynham, who cracked the Rivals top 150 list, leading the way.
With second leading scorer Anthony Gurley also coming back, UMass has talent on their roster this season. I doubt I'm the only one that thinks this team could be a sleeper in the Atlantic 10 this season.
Cady Lalanne is an 6'7" forward that showed enough potential to draw interest from a number of major college programs before committing to Georgia last October. But Lalanne couldn't get academically eligible at Georgia, and as the SEC does not allow Prop-48 players (Prop-48 requires incoming student-athletes to reach certain academic standards, and if they aren't met, the athlete can become eligible if they have a 2.0 GPA after their freshman year), Lalanne needed to find a different school.
Along came Kellogg, who scooped up Lalanne two weeks ago.
Luke Cothron has as much potential as just about any power forward in the class of 2010. He's big, he's athletic, and he has the skills to be a face up forward. But he also has attitude and effort problems, and after bouncing around during high school, Cothron committed to, then de-committed from, NC State before signing with Auburn. But like Lalanne, Cothron was not cleared academically. And like Lalanne, Cothron is expected to go from the SEC to UMass.
Now, neither Cothron or Lalanne (Cothron and Lalanne ... has a nice ring to it, no?) will be eligible until 2011. And there's something to be said about the potential of a recruit that is unable to get eligible in college -- especially one with the red flags of a kid like Cothron. But talent is talent. Kellogg is a protoge of John Calipari, who has seemingly perfected the art of coaching questionable characters with talent.
With a roster that will lose just one significant piece this year (Gurley), and a full year for Kellogg to bring in another recruit of two, the future looks bright for the Minutemen.