Gaucho Hoops (“GH”): Thanks for taking time out for this interview, Coach Williams. Let’s get started. First off, I have to ask. What is the status of John Green?
Bob Williams (“BW”): Unfortunately, John broke the 5th metatarsal on his foot—the same injury he suffered last season. It’s primarily due to the impact and how he lands on his feet. We will try the most aggressive, state of the art solutions for him, to give him the best chance of playing again. However, the last thing we want to do is have him re-injure his feet, and have a long-term problem down the road, a la Bill Walton or Sam Bowie, where basically things are all fused together. We’re looking out for John’s best long-term interests health-wise—as a person first.
GH: John’s a great kid—it’s sad to see that he has been injured for so long, but hopefully, he can literally get back on his feet, and perhaps play again somewhere down the road. The Gaucho community is rooting for him.
Let’s talk about your personnel this season.
BW: Our biggest task is to replace last year’s senior class and their production, which includes their points, rebounds, and size. This year’s team is composed of very talented sophomore and freshman classes. Obviously, we’ll be very young, but we’ll also have more possibilities. Because we are more athletic, more of our offense should be created off of our defense. We’ll be more similar to the team 3 years ago, when we led the Big West in steals. We had Orlando Johnson, James Nunnally, Justin Joyner, Jordan Weiner, and Paul Roemer on that team. Because of our defenders, we were able to apply more guard pressure that year. I expect this team to apply guard pressure at least one-third of possessions.
GH: It sounds like this will be an exciting brand of basketball—perhaps more uptempo?
BW: This team will have to work harder, play faster, and play shorter minutes, as we are athletic and have team depth. We’ll trap more, and defend “into the ball”, closing any gaps between the ball and the defender. We’ll control and contest on the perimeter.
GH: Does this mean we should expect to see more man-to-man defense?
BW: Actually, we will be applying even more guard pressure with our zone defense.
GH: One of the things I noticed about your match up zone defenses is the ability to disguise it. I recall at the University of Oregon tournament in Eugene a couple seasons ago, I had no idea what defense the Gauchos were playing. I wasn’t the only one, as the players and coaches on Oregon’s bench weren’t even sure. Is it tough to disguise your defenses against Big West opponents who have your teams well-scouted over the years?
BW: We did a very good job of disguising our defense a few years ago. We will continue to do that this season. We’ll also run the floor harder…and as I said, our defense will create more offense.
GH: The infamous “jail break” offense?
BW: Yes, and other schemes. Last year, we ran many iso’s [isolations] for OJ and Nunn, because they were so good at knocking down their jumpers and turnarounds. This year, we’ll move more…
GH: Will you be running the motion offense?
BW: We’ll run some elements of it. When I say we’ll move more, I mean we’ll have more ball movement, passing and cutting. We have some outstanding shooters in Kyle Boswell, Michael Bryson, Nate Garth, Taran Brown, and Keegan Hornbuckle.
GH: Taran Brown?
BW: Yes, Taran can knock down 3 point shots, has a mid-range jumper, and can create off the bounce.
GH: What about the post players?
BW: Big Al Williams has improved his game, his conditioning, and strength. He has added some post moves, and can step out and hit the jumper. Freshman Sam Beeler is more ready to contribute than we originally thought. He’s long, runs well, and jumps well. The other freshman, Mitch Brewe is already physically ready, and the strongest on the team. He’s 6’7”, and all of 245.
GH: What about the wings?
BW: John Green will redshirt. Freshman Aamahd Walker will likely redshirt. He’s talented, but not quite ready to execute at this level yet. His high school team played mostly a zone defense, so he’ll have to adjust to the increased intensity.
Freshmen Michael Bryson and Dalante Dunklin will definitely play and will contribute immediately.
GH: So besides Walker, no freshmen will redshirt?
BW: Correct, we don’t anticipate anymore redshirts. Green being out means we won’t have that luxury, as we normally would like to. Because of the way we will play this season, we need three point guards and three 5’s [centers]. We’d like to get 26 – 27 minutes out of Big Al, but things may come up. Foul trouble, an injury here or there, and all of a sudden, your depth is wiped out.
GH: Back to Big Al, he was usually the 4th scoring option last season. With his production, he will undoubtedly draw more attention from opponents this season. How has his game improved?
BW: Yes, Big Al will draw more focus from opposing defenses. He has added post moves, he can step away and knock down the jumper out to 13 feet, and he’s developed a nice spin fadeaway. He’s making better decisions and he’s committed to defending.
GH: What about the other freshman—point guard Dalante Dunklin?
BW: Dalante will be a crowd favorite.
GH: How so?
BW: Defending is his #1 priority. He’s very similar to Derrick Allen and Larry Bell in that aspect. Most of my point guards in the past fit that mold. They were tough—and they defended. They may not have been the best shooters—it’s important for them to be able to knock down the outside jumper, because it keeps the defenses honest, and opens up scoring opportunities for teammates. But my point guards have traditionally defended well.
GH: What about the returnees? Will Lewis Thomas redshirt?
BW: No, Lewis will play at the 4 [forward]. He’s a good rebounder, and he started off last season well, but he tailed off a bit. We need him to be a fierce rebounder again. He has improved his shot, his bounce off the dribble, he’s stronger, and a better rebounder this year. He’s long, runs well, and gives effort.
GH: Why is Lewis a good rebounder? Is it because he has good technique blocking out?
BW: Lewis has decent technique. But the key to his rebounding is being fierce on the boards. He has to give maximum effort consistently.
GH: What about Keegan? How is his summer going?
BW: Keegan had a good summer and was playing well through July until suffering a bad ankle sprain. We need him to play at least 20 minutes at the 4. He’ll be ready before October.
GH: And Kyle? Will he start, after coming off the bench as the designated shooter last season?
BW: Boswell is a phenomenal shooter; he’s Mr. Instant Offense off the bench. I want to keep him in that role, as he gives us a lift off the bench. But will I be able to do that? That’s something I have to wrestle with.
GH: Any other comments about the Gauchos overall?
BW: This team will have interchangeable parts at the 2, 3, and 4 positions. We’ll have ideal size and versatility at these positions. I’ve always wanted a team of interchangeable parts, as it gives me many options. Nunnally and Orlando played multiple positions, which also required them to defend multiple positions.
Taran is a special talent. He can shoot, he runs well, and has natural gifts we haven’t had here in a while. He needs to increase his basketball knowledge, but his ability to play above the rim is special. He can also defend the 1 through 4 positions, and can create off the drive.
Duke Da Re will also get a look. He’s a physical point guard, and defends well also.
GH: So you’ll possibly have 4 point guards in the mix.
BW: Yes, we should be deep at the 1. We have two former starters returning at point guard in TJ Taylor and Nate Garth, so we should show vast improvement at that position. Shawn Moore is also solid, and a good shooter at the 3, 4. If he increases his competitiveness, he will contribute.
GH: What about Drew Dickey? Why did you invite him to walk-on?
BW: When a guy is 6’8”, can shoot, and displays good basketball knowledge, you take him.
GH: I actually saw him play in the CCS playoffs, and he’s also an underrated passer. He found his open teammates on numerous occasions when double-teamed, and he also had some nice spin moves in the post. He’s also a good shooter out to the elbow. He’s got a high basketball IQ.
BW: He’s big, and we like him as a developing player.
GH: Is there any news on the recruiting front?
BW: We only have one to give, so we are looking at a few players. We expect to sign one in November.
GH: That’s great to hear. That pretty much wraps it up. Thanks again for the interview, Coach, and good luck this season. We’ll see you at the games.