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February 1, 2003

Rising Retriever

By Roxanne Reyes, UMBC Athletics

Following a 22-point effort in UMBC's 73-68 loss to Northeast Conference rival St. Francis (PA) earlier this year, sophomore Andrew Feeley was still unsatisfied with his performance. "I could have rebounded more," says the 6'9" Retriever center, who rounded out the night with seven boards, while shooting 10-for-11 in field goals and 2-for-2 at the line, en route to a career-high 22 points.

"Andrew is a young player with a great deal of upside and a great deal of desire to get better," says Head Coach Tom Sullivan. "He is a very strong kid with a good work ethic."

Coming off a year in which Sullivan's Retrievers won a Division I school record 20 games, Feeley maintains high expectations of the team and of himself. "During the summer, I spent much of my time in the weight room, where [Head Strength and Conditioning] Coach Fred Cantor helped me a lot. Together with last year's experiences, the training has given me more confidence now than I had in the games last season," says Feeley.

The increased confidence of the Scotch Plains, New Jersey native undoubtedly shows as he has been brilliant in numerous games this year, including double-double performances against NCAA basketball powers Villanova (14pts/12reb), # 23 Maryland (12p/12r), and Oral Roberts (14p/10r). "He has been fortunate to have had a good amount of playing time, and it has helped him develop. His offensive game has improved," says Sullivan.

"On the court, I'm starting to understand how the game really works, offensively and defensively," said Feeley, whose efforts against State Farm Classic opponent Oral Roberts, along with a 13-point performance against host College of Charleston, earned him a spot on the All-Tournament team.

It wasn't Feeley's first honor of the kind, however, as he also received the same recognition at the 2002 Battle of Baltimore Classic. In the season-opener, the sophomore had 16 points and seven rebounds against Towson, and then scored nine while pulling down six and blocking three in the championship game versus Loyola, to aid UMBC to its third Battle crown in three years.

"Coach Sullivan still places emphasis on defense, so we still consider it as the most important aspect. Basically, I try to help by playing well defensively, especially by rebounding," says Feeley. "I don't try to force anything or do too much. I just let the game come to me."

As part of a young Retriever squad that lost players who accounted for nearly 60 percent of their offense, Feeley can see why UMBC was picked to finish ninth by the NEC league coaches this season. "I understand why they made that prediction, but the league doesn't know how we've matured. People who didn't get much of a chance to play last year are stepping up, and the freshmen have played well and picked up the slack. Even though we lost four players, the way we play the game hasn't changed," says Feeley. "Actually, I feel that this year's team has more chemistry. We play better together."

Unfortunately, in addition to losing key players, the Retriever team has also been plagued with other difficulties. In fact, six members of its eleven-man roster have suffered at least one injury this year, including Feeley, who had back spasms at the season's start.

Nonetheless, the sophomore's main goal remains uniform with the rest of the team: to win the conference tournament. UMBC, who has made the 8-team, post-season tournament in all four of its NEC seasons, has not yet been able to take home the conference title. "We will be better when everyone is healthy," says Feeley. "By then, we'll be a tough team to contend with in the NEC."

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Posted by dwinds1 at February 1, 2003 12:00 AM