UTC freshmen getting lots of playing time early

UTC freshmen getting lots of playing time early

February 9th, 2012 by David Uchiyama in Sports - College

UTC freshman Jared Bryant recovers a rebound during a game against Davidson in McKenzie Arena in this file photo.

Photo by Doug Strickland/Times Free Press.

Freshman Jared Bryant didn't sign up for this.

He didn't join the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga basketball team to be part of the longest losing streak in the school's Division I history.

He did not sign up to be part of a team with so much turmoil in his freshman season.

Then again, he didn't sign scholarship papers with the expectation of being the first center off the bench of a 9-16 team (3-9 in the Southern Conference) even after a prolific career at Roger Bacon High School in Cincinnati.

"I knew there would be some adversity during the season, but I didn't know there would be this much," Bryant said. "I'm playing way more than I thought I would."

Bryant has been on the floor more, especially in recent SoCon games, than any other freshman post player in the coach John Shulman era. He's played at least 10 minutes in six of UTC's last eight games.

"The minutes I was playing at first were the minutes I thought I'd get all year," Bryant said. "Now that I'm playing a lot more, it threw me a curveball, but I've had to step up a bit."

Bryant will be among the first off the bench for UTC tonight when the Mocs face first-place Elon (13-10, 8-4) at 7 in McKenzie Arena.

And he likely won't be the only freshman to log significant minutes against the Phoenix, especially with coach John Shulman stating that Zaccheus Mason will not play and Jahmal Burroughs is questionable.

Bryant, Ronrico White and Lance Stokes -- all freshmen -- combined to log 46 minutes on Saturday in an 88-61 loss at Davidson. Walk-on sophomore Drew Baker played 11 minutes, and freshmen Martynas Barieka and Trey Brown played in the final two minutes.

The youngsters claimed more than 25 percent of a total 200 minutes possible in a regulation college basketball game.

"I didn't expect them to play," Shulman said. "I've never done this. I've never had to count on freshmen. I guess the only freshmen we've had to count on were Josh Odem and Jaycen Herring. And we're counting on these guys."

Three of the youngsters have been on the floor at the same time for various stints since Burroughs and Mason were felled by injury on Jan. 26.

"It's unlike anything I've done," Shulman said. "In the long run it's good. In the short run, I don't know if you can win with freshmen. But think they're doing a great job."

White is the only UTC freshman that has played in all 25 games. Bryant has played in 22 and Stokes has been in 18 with six starts because of injured teammates.

"There was a bit of a learning curve at the beginning," White said. "The seniors have told me to stay aggressive and just play basketball."