As is the case every late July, we go around The Association catching up with each head coach as part of research for the Blue Ribbon preview. It’s particularly–I guess the word is comforting–because we get to talk basketball.
The drudgery of the hoopsless summer, and let’s face it this summer’s high drama has been particularly painful, gives way to thoughts of #STDGA during these two weeks and these conversations. Schedules trickle out. Kids are soon back to school, and the ramp up to the season begins.
Everybody’s getting ready and it’s awesome. The final push of summer, and what appears to be one last 3:00 conference call with Tom Yeager, is upon us. I say every year that I can’t for the season to start, but this year I mean it.
A certain William & Mary coach summed up the turning point in our basketball calendar perfectly:
“The Shaver family is going to sit on the beach and I’m throwing my cell phone into the ocean. Then we’ll come home and get rolling.”
In honor of this time of year, I figured providing some of my favorite or most interesting quotes is appropriate. Because of scheduling, I still have four coaches to get to, but I’ll get there and share my favorites from them. (For the record: Buzz Peterson, Paul Hewitt, Mo Cassara, and Bill Coen can expect phone calls.)
Pat Skerry, on stabilizing and setting goals: “We don’t talk about winning a specific number of games, we talk about winning every game. You have to defend and rebound and not turn the ball over–you have to do those things every game. You do those things and sometimes you find a way to win games and it’s funny how it can become a snowball effect. We don’t do those things and we will underachieve and that’s on me. It’s exasperating at times, with so many new pieces.”
Skerry on Georgetown transfer Jerelle Benimon: “He’s a skilled four man who drives, shoots, and posts. He’s working hard. He’s a strong kid, 6-8, 245 and 9% body fat. He can be as good as he wants to be but he has to prove he can lead a team. Can he have success like Givens, Burgess, Pearson? He’s a skilled four like those guys.”
Skerry on Marcus Damas: “He’s proven he’s going to play no matter what. He proved that, but now he’s got to prove he can consistently guard and not take bad shots. We want him to run the floor and get to the offensive glass because he could be great at that. He’s going to score but he needs to do other things.”
Tony Shaver, on one year of the Marcus Thornton Experience: “For me it’s easy. I thought we took decent advantage of his skills last year, but we will open things offensively a little more with Marcus and Brandon Britt. They’re both so athletic I want to open up a little bit, run a little bit more, which I love to do, and get some easy transition baskets. My whole life I’ve played up tempo so we want to put Marcus and Brandon in situations where they can score, whether isolating them or coming off screens or running.
The biggest thing for Marcus and Brandon both is that they’ve got to make better decisions as basketball players…when to shoot, when to pass. Our guard play was not good last year. Our guard play has to be at an entirely different level. I’ll tell you it isn’t athleticism or ability (holding them back); it’s decision making.”
Shaver, on Julian Boatner becoming more aggressive: “I’m not going to worry about that kind of thing with Julian. It’s a little different with Julian. In a lot of off-seasons I tell guys to work on their weaknesses–like if you’re a shooter work on ball handling. But with Julian I told him to work on his strength. I want him to be that knock down shooter nobody wants to leave open for an instant. I’m not really concerned about how much he drives. If he can shoot the ball like I know he can shoot the ball–he can be a great three point shooter–it will open the floor for everybody. We’ve got to get him back to that 40% mark.
Matt Brady, on Devon Moore: When he’s healthy he’s a very good player. He clearly recognizes a lot of this season is on his shoulders and he’s welcoming that challenge. He’s one of the better defensive guards and better rebounding guards in the league. Now, he’s got to make some shots, a shot or two from three (each game), but his leadership and health are (critical) for us.”
Brady, on Rayshawn Goins: “He hasn’t played a lot of basketball but he’s a good basketball player. He’s at his best weight since back in high school. He was 280 when he came to JMU and he will play this year at 265. He can rebound–he averaged 9.6 in 22 minutes–and he can really pass. He’s grown up a lot at JMU and he can see the end is close. I’ll tell you no one has made the most of trying to be a leader than Rayshawn.”
Ron Hunter, on Georgia State’s lame duck season: “I won’t look at it that way. The only thing we won’t do is play in the conference tournament. If we win a conference championship we will hang a banner but we won’t look at it any differently and we will take it the quote ‘game by game’ and I’ll coach with a chip on my shoulder and we will play with a chip on our shoulder but we will have fun.
Hunter, on his second time through the CAA: “I’m a little more experienced. Last year was the first time for arenas, officials, the impact of the CAA. Last year was the best year not really for the wins but because everything was new–the players, the program, the conference. I loved it all. I love coaching in the CAA but I’m not sad leaving the CAA. You know what I really love? The fans. The games weren’t that much different–basketball is basketball–but I enjoyed the arenas and the fans. These fans are some of the better fans in the country. There may not be a ton of them but they are passionate about their teams.The fans in the league are terrific.”
Hunter, on who we should look out for: “Cameron Solomon led the state in scoring. He’s going to play for us. He’s probably been the biggest surprise of the summer. He’s 6-2 or 6-3 and can flat out score. I love those guys. He can’t defend this chair or my wife or my wife sitting in a chair but he has a knack for scoring. You can teach a kid how to play defense but you can’t teach a kid how to score. It’s something you do. He and Devonta will play a lot together but I’ll tell you (Cameron) won’t have a lot of assists.”
Monte Ross, on Kyle Anderson: “Man he works his tail off. We need him to put the ball on the floor and work on his ballhandling. He put the ball on the floor a lot in high school but he wasn’t comfortable with it his freshman year. He let people take him out of the game if they closed out on him. He has to be comfortable with it this summer. It’s something we talked to him about and he went home and worked on it. He has a well-rounded game and he has to be confident to let it show.”
Bruiser Flint, on senior Derrick Thomas: “He can lock people down but I told him ‘you started trying to score points and got away from what you do best…defense’ and he agreed. He is four year starter and it’s not because of injury. He’s steady, plays hard, and is an aggressive kid and very consistent.”
Flint, on Dartaye Ruffin: “I was disappointed in him last year. He didn’t come in in great shape and he didn’t have the right attitude. He thought he was the third big guy and I told him he needed to work out this spring and summer and get in great shape. He needed to go back to being the kid he was his freshman year. He’s in great shape and you can see how hard he’s worked.”
Flint, on Damion Lee avoiding a sophomore slump: “He’s got to understand he’s more of the scouting report. People are going to expect more of him and come after him a little. But Damion’s an unbeliveable worker. He doesn’t take days off and you know thsoe kids are going to be (okay).”
Blaine Taylor, on Dmitri Batten: “It is an understanding of the next step. That’s critical. He needs to understand what he’s good at and shores up what he’s weak at. He has ability. He’s a sophomore but in his third year. I told him ‘you have to act it. Work as such and play as such. I don’t care how old you are just play basketball and know I’m good enough to do this.”
Taylor, on Donte Hill becoming “that guy” for ODU: “I hope so, I really think he’s the backbone of our bunch. He’s a really good student, a pillar of a person. Our kids look to him for what our program means…how he treats people and how he works. Donte’s observed a lot of success and has perspective on what his time frame will be like and (he will) exert that will.”
Taylor, on the secret to ODU consistency and success: It’s understanding. I enjoyed as a player asking the question why and having it answered. I think kids like having the question why answered for them. They want to have a sense for why this or that happens. The fact that we red shirt kids and are a freshmen-based program we have the opportunity to answer the question why and that’s a secret to our success.”