February 23, 2010
By David Driver
For the News & Messenger
Used with permission
WASHINGTON - Woodbridge High graduate Raphiael Putney leaned against a wall at the Smith Center while talking to a teammate following Wednesday's game at George Washington University in Atlantic 10 conference play.
His team, the University of Massachusetts, had just lost in the closing seconds and for the 26th time in as many games this season the freshman forward had not seen action for the Minutemen. Putney most likely will be a redshirt this season and have four years of eligibility remaining.
"It has been tough but I will get through it. It will turn into a good thing," he said. "It will help us out next year."
So what is it like to watch a game on the bench after playing four years of high school ball?
"It is totally different when you sit on the bench," said Putney, who played for coach Chad Anderson at Woodbridge High. "I didn't sit when I was in high school. It is pretty hard. Now I am coming to college and sitting. I can see a lot of things and learn from it. I can watch my team and see what it is going on."
This is not the first time the 6-foot-8 Putney has been on the sidelines. He began playing organized basketball as a seventh-grader at Woodbridge Middle School. But he did not make the team as an eighth-grader, according to his father Richard, who attended the game at GW on Wednesday. Putney then played on the freshman team at Woodbridge and was on varsity for his last three years of high school.
Putney said he is totally healthy and a redshirt season will allow him to get stronger. He said he lifts weights twice a week and practices regularly with the team.
"Raphiael Putney is exactly the type of player we are looking to recruit at UMass," head coach Derek Kellogg said prior to this season. "He is a little thin, but we anticipate he will be able to add weight. He is a very versatile player who can play multiple positions. He has the length and size and athleticism to be a great perimeter and post-up defender."
Now he is one of two Woodbridge residents for UMass, which fell to GW 66-60. The other local freshman is Javorn Farrell, who played two years of high school ball at Bishop Ireton in Alexandria and then as a junior and senior at Riverdale Baptist in Largo, Md.
"It is good to have someone from the same area if you are homesick from time to time," said Farrell, who committed to UMass before Putney. Before this season the two had never played on the same team at any level.
Farrell's mother, Ingrid, brother, sister, cousins and aunts were among about 20 family and friends who attended the game at GW. The 6-5 guard/forward made his eighth start (he has played in 24 of 26 games) against the Colonials, who had lost the previous three games to UMass.
But the night did not go well for Farrell, who missed both shots from the field and had two turnovers in seven minutes of play. He was ejected for fighting with 17:45 left in the game when referees watched a replay of Farrell grabbing a defensive rebound away from Damian Hollis of GW. It was determined that Farrell had thrown a punch, though he said it was not intentional.
"On that play Hollis grabbed me and pushed me and kind of slapped me. We were kind of tied up for the ball," Farrell said after the game. "I was trying to push him out of the way but they said it was a punch. I just tried to get him off me."
Due to the ejection Farrell sat out the home game Feb. 21 against Saint Louis.
UMass senior Ricky Harris, a Baltimore product who is averaging nearly 19 points per game, said the ejection of Farrell hurt the Minutemen down the stretch.
"Losing him was a big factor for us. It changed the momentum of the game," said Harris, who was held to 10 points after scoring at least 25 in the previous four games.
In his first 23 games as a freshman Farrell averaged 15.9 minutes, 4.2 points and 3.6 rebounds per game and shot 38 percent from the field with 35 assists, 22 turnovers and 18 steals.
"Not only is he an unbelievable student and a great kid, he is going to be a great asset to our basketball program," Kellogg said before the season began. "He's a tough, physical hard-nosed player and will be physically ready to come in and help us right away."
Farrell and Putney are two of five freshmen for young UMass (10-17 overall, 4-9 in conference), which is trying to gain a bid to the conference tourney that begins next month.
The short-term future may not be as promising as the big picture for the Minutemen. "I think it is not going as well as we expected it to go (this year). But things are going in the right direction," Farrell said.
Farrell added he plans to take a summer course at UMass but hopes to be home in Woodbridge for several weeks after the spring semester is over.
"I have to rest some because my hip has been bothering me all season," he added.