In 2016-17, the UMass Lowell men’s basketball team officially completed what has been an arduous, four-year transition to full-fledged NCAA Division I eligibility. Head Coach Pat Duquette, who has been heavily focused on developing solid building blocks in order to create and sustain a successful program, made sure that the forward progress continued for his squad this season.
The River Hawks posted an 11-20 overall record in 2016-17, marking the team’s fourth consecutive year with double-digit wins. In America East Conference action, the team finished 5-11 to take sixth place in the final regular-season standings.
“I was really pleased with the season we had this year,” said Head Coach Pat Duquette. “I knew it was going to be a challenging year for us. But overall, I felt like we competed against some of the top teams in the league better this year than we have in the past. We took important steps in the right direction. The team made a lot of progress and most importantly, our young guys got a lot of playing opportunities and improved as the season went on.”
Some victories that highlighted the early part of the season included an 87-76 decision against Wagner in the home opener on November 14 and a 77-75 thriller against Boston University on December 21.
The team also put together a stretch of five wins in six games that started with a 98-96 overtime victory at Cornell on Dec. 29, and included an exciting, 85-79 decision against America East foe UAlbany on January 5.
The River Hawks boasted a powerful offense in 2016-17, averaging 78.4 points per game, the program’s highest average since 1994-95 and a mark that put them second in the league rankings.
The squad also paced the league with 16.0 assists per game this season, and finished second in several categories, including field goal percentage (48.1), and three-point field goal percentage (39.0). The team’s impressive percentage from three-point territory goes down as a new Division I program best and UMass Lowell’s highest three-point shooting percentage since 1993-94, as well.
Off the court, one of the biggest highlights from 2016-17 was welcoming Team IMPACT match Nathaniel Fortes to the squad.
Nathaniel was diagnosed with Kawasaki's disease when he was just six months old. Kawasaki's is a disease where blood vessels become inflamed, impacting many parts of the body. He also has neutropenia, making him more susceptible to bacterial infections. Team IMPACT is a Boston-based nonprofit organization whose mission is to improve the quality of life for children facing chronic illnesses through the power of a team.
Redshirt-junior Jahad Thomas (Williamsport, Pa.) became the program's first America East All-Conference First Team selection, while freshman Rinardo Perry (Washington, D.C.) was named to the All-Rookie Team.
For the third year in a row, Thomas averaged team highs for points (18.3) and rebounds (9.0), while also leading the squad with 143 assists and 50 steals. The guard/forward, who paced the America East with a 58.9 field goal percentage, surpassed 1,000 career points and 500 career rebounds in back-to-back games this season to become just the ninth player in program history to achieve both milestones. Thomas registered 13, 20-point games this season, including a career-high 28 points at Binghamton on January 8. The Williamsport, Pa. native, who totaled 11 double-doubles on the year, finished his junior campaign tied for first in the nation with two triple-doubles.
Perry, who started 21 of 30 games played, averaged 4.3 points and 1.9 rebounds per game with 30 assists and 18 steals. Maturing throughout the season, the rookie improved from 2.7 points per game during the non-conference slate to 5.6 points per game in America East play. Perry notched personal bests for points (16), field goals made (6), three-point field goals made (3) and assists (5) at home against Fisher on Jan. 28.
Coach Duquette graduates just one senior this year, but it is a student-athlete whose impact will not be forgotten. From walk on to scholarship player, senior Tyler Livingston (Hudson, N.H.) started every game during his final campaign, turning in the best season of his career with 13.2 points and 4.6 rebounds per game.
A captain who led by example, he paced the team from beyond the arc with 79 threes to rank second in the America East this year and sixth on the UMass Lowell all-time single-season record list. He turned in 22 double-digit scoring performances in 2016-17, as well, including five 20-point performances with a career-high 27 points against LIU Brooklyn on November 26. In his 113 career appearances, he totaled 934 points, 371 rebounds and 107 assists.
“Tyler had such a remarkable senior season and did a great job expanding his role,” commented Duquette. “He played with extreme confidence this year. He developed it over his four years and it really emerged as a senior, and I think that’s a big reason why he had such success. To see him get to that point from where he was as a freshman is what makes the whole thing so special. Not only did he elevate his own play, but he became a vocal leader for our young guys. He’s always been about the right things, said the right things and done the right things, so it was good for us that he was ready and willing to play that leadership role.”