Gerald “Chip” Armelin
Photos courtesy of the U of M
Among the 11 total newcomers on the two U-M basketball teams this season, seven are Black. Since the start of the season, three of them have seen their respective roles change.
Kionna Kellogg: adjusting to ‘freshman transition’
Gopher forward Kionna Kellogg naturally had set goals for her first collegiate campaign. “One of my goals this season was to start one game as a freshman,” admits the 6”-2’ young woman from Ames, Iowa.
Kellogg was the first player at Ames High School to finish in the top 10 in all major statistical categories when she graduated last spring. “In high school, I just showed up and played,” she recalls. But that was then, in Iowa — now Kellogg is in Minnesota, fighting for playing time while adjusting to a faster game.
“The game is a whole lot harder, more physical and more demanding — workouts, school, everything,” she points out. “At first, I wasn’t giving myself enough time to adjust to being a freshman and to realize that there is a freshman transition. Once I changed my attitude and was making the most of the moments I was getting, it was easier to focus on other things and slow the game down — or speed my thinking up — so I could figure it out.”
Whatever she did, it worked as Kellogg’s playing time has increased, averaging 20 minutes over her last seven games. Also, one of her first-year goals finally was realized as she has started the last three games.
Kellogg humbly points out that she just went back to her hoops roots, “the way I played in high school — anticipating, running the floor [and] being long; that has been part of my game, but I kind of lost a little bit as I was trying to find myself.”
“Her game is about playing hard and play[ing] tough,” notes Gopher Coach Pam Borton on Kellogg. “She’s a smart player and has her head on straight. I think the reason she has been successful is her skills catching up with the pace of the game.”
“Starting is just a plus,” Kellogg says smiling.
Kionna Kellogg was just named Big Ten Freshman of the Week after helping the Gophers win back-to-back games against Northwestern and first-place Michigan. “Kionna’s definitely not playing like a freshman right now,” Coach Borton says.
Chip and Maverick: ‘picking it up’ for the college level
Gopher freshman guards Gerald “Chip” Armelin and Maverick Ahanmisi perhaps have the team’s most colorful names.
“They used to call my dad ‘Chip’ when he was a kid because he ate a whole lot of potato chips,” says the 6”-3’ Armelin from Sulphur, Louisiana of his father Gerald. “So he passed [the nickname] on to me — he would call me ‘Little Chip’ and he was ‘Big Chip.’”
“My mom’s name is Marissa and my dad’s name is Victor,” adds Ahanmisi, a 6”-2’ guard from Sanita Clarita, Calif. “So they put Ma and V together and got Maverick.”
Both young men came to the Gophers with stellar prep stats: Armelin increased his scoring average each season from 15 ppg as a freshman to 23 ppg in his senior year. Ahanmisi finished as his high school’s all-time leading scorer and three-point shooter, then spent a year at Stoneridge Prep in Simi Valley, Calif. where he was a 20-point scorer.
As with most freshmen, the two had to adjust to the college game, where they quickly found out it is another game altogether.
“I had to change my defense,” admits Armelin. “We played mostly zone in high school; so when I came here, I had to change my defensive skills and turn into man-to-man, especially on the ball. I’ve gotten better at that.”
The physicality and the speed was Ahanmisi’s biggest adjustment, he says. “When I used to play high school [ball], I usually was quicker than anybody and would blow by them. But here you got good defenders like [senior guard] Al Nolen and you can’t get by them that easily, so you have to be strong with the ball.”
Armelin added that the practices also took him aback at first. “It really wasn’t that hard in high school, but coming to the college level you have to pick it up, especially with a great coach [as Tubby Smith].”
Both freshmen also realized that playing live in the Barn is a whole lot different than it looks on television. “When you are watching it on TV, you don’t realize how loud it is until you’re really on the court,” admits Ahanmisi.
Finally, due to a foot injury to Nolen, both Armelin and Ahanmisi’s roles have changed as a result.
“You got to be mentally focused and ready to play,” says Armelin.
A final note: All three aforementioned players also did well academically in their first semester of college.
“My GPA is high,” says Armelin.
“I’ve always been a good student,” asserts Ahanmisi.
“I had a pretty good GPA my first semester, so I’m happy to keep that up,” says Kellogg.
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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