Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Interview with Dino Gini, High School Coach for 2013 UCSB Signee Alex Hart

Dino Gini is the head basketball coach for Immaculata Catholic Regional High School in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada.  The Mustangs, led by 2013 UCSB signee Alex Hart--the subject of this interview, won the B.C. School Sports 1A championships.  Hart won the Most Valuable Player award of this B.C. Provincial championship tournament.

Hart averaged 35 points per game during his senior season with the Mustangs.

Gaucho Hoops (GH):  Thanks for taking this interview, Coach Gini.  Some of these questions are from Gauchos fans, so this interview will be much appreciated.

Gaucho fans read that Alex Hart played a lower level of competition in Canada (1A).  He was quoted as saying that the level of competition wasn't as important as the coaching he received.  Can you expand on that line of thinking? 

Dino Gini (DG):  Thanks, the school is registered as a Single A school because of size.   Our schools go Single A, double A, Triple A, being in order of size, but we competed in a double A and triple A schedule, including tournaments, exhibition games etc...all at a high level. For example, the top-ranked Single A schools can compete with the top double A schools, and we have beaten triple A schools throughout our schedule. It's the schedule I set up to challenge my team and have them ready for the provincials. Our schedule was very competitive. We had great games with another private school here in Kelowna (KCS, lost by 15--but a great game).  They went on to win the Double A  provincials in B.C. [British Columbia?].

I have coached for 27 years, had university experience and all levels of elite programs, summer games teams etc... thus my work and my assistant coaches have really challenged Alex, and I  have been coaching him since grade 5.

GH:  At what age do kids start playing basketball in Canada?  Have you noticed the gap in skill levels closing between Canadian kids vs. their peers in the US?  I bring that up with Gonzaga's Kelly Olynyk in mind, who is obviously one of the best college players--from any country. 

DG:  We have really come along on the basketball front; we now start playing basketball in an organized league which is called our Steve Nash League at the grade 2 level, which is awesome. We are a hockey country, but we are really getting over the top now on the basketball front and it has paid off. We have elite clubs all over B.C. who compete with the top AAU teams.  Thus the basketball level in our country has vastly been improved and is now catching up with hockey. There are many great college players playing at the Div. 1 level: [Andrew] Wiggins from Toronto is the top recruit, Kelly O whom I have watched develop will be entering the draft, and of course the success of Steve Nash has really pushed the interest to the highest levels ever. Its been fantastic, and we're growing and we're improving.

GH:  Regarding his youth and build, do you foresee a redshirt for Alex?  It'll ultimately be his decision, but the coaches really like his skill set and he may play right away. 

DG:  He has had over 15 Div. 1 looks combined with offers, and it [redshirting] has been a topic for sure; some say jump right in, some say red shirt.  In the right situation, I think Alex can jump in and help a team immediately; it all depends on the fit and where the coaching staff thinks he is at physically and mentally. Alex is a young man with a huge upside, and he understands the process and will do what the coaching staff wants him to do. Kelly O sat out and waited for that perfect fit in the line up, and it obviously worked out for him.  Each situation will be different. All I know is in a couple of years, Alex will be an impact player.

GH:  What did you like about how UCSB recruited Alex? 

DG:  I thought the recruiting process the UCSB coaching staff did with Alex was fantastic, Coach [Ryan] Madry was awesome and kept me updated and informed about the process, and continued to educate me about the school and what they had to offer. I was very impressed with their professionalism; it was first class.

GH:  As you might know, the UCSB class of 2012 has several players playing professionally.  Orlando Johnson is in the NBA with the Pacers, James Nunnally is with the Bakersfield NBDL team, Jaime Serna is in Spain, and reserve Greg Somogyi is in Hungary after being the last player cut by the NBA Lakers.  Did that weigh on Alex's decision?  Does Coach Williams have a good/bad reputation for developing talent? 

DG:  Coach [Bob] Williams was great; his resume is, of course, awesome.  And yes, we checked into many things, and part of the process with any recruit's due diligence is seeing what players moved on to the professional level.

GH:  Does UCSB have a good reputation for taking care of its student-athletes during and after their playing days as Gauchos? 

DG:  It is funny as you meet various Div. 1 coaches that were recruiting Alex, you really get to  understand how close our basketball family is right across the country.  There are coaches at various Div. 1 schools that have played at UCSB--thus that was the case, and we heard nothing but good things on that front.

GH:  What are Alex's biggest challenges as he transitions to Div. 1 level competition? 

DG:  Alex's biggest challenge will be strength, but as I say that I am not implying he is weak, it's just he will get much bigger.  So strength is one, but I think the process of getting bigger and stronger is a process Alex is looking forward to.  He is a mature young man, and any challenges that he runs into will be handled.  I think with all student-athletes getting in the routine to make sure their grades continue to stay strong will be important, and it will be a transition from high school.  Alex is a very good student, so I am not really worried about it--but it is something that will be a transition.

GH:  In what area do you expect early success with Alex? 

DG:  I think Alex's early success will be his ability to step in and compete.   He is smart, has great court awareness, and being 6'11"--he has the skills of a guard, and thus his ability to adapt and find mismatches will be a huge asset.  He will make his teammates better.

GH:  What are his strengths?  Early reports suggest shooting ability for his size. 

DG:  Strengths, as I mentioned a couple of them earlier:  he can shoot, he can handle, an excellent 3-point shooter, and as mentioned, he sees the court extremely well.   He sees the court more through the eyes of guard than a big man, but he can also play with his back to the basket.

GH:  What about his necessary improvements?  Strength and conditioning? 

DG:  Strength will be the biggest thing, but his parents are big and strong, so he will get bigger, and that will make him a monster mismatch for many opponents.  Conditioning is pretty solid as he is a "gym rat', and he is always working on his game and working on his conditioning.  I think you will see a pretty fit big man when he comes there in August.

GH:  What's Alex like as a person?  As a player (coachability, etc.)?   Were academics important in his choice of schools? 

DG:  Academics were very important...also the feeling of the school, meeting the players, and just feeling like a family was huge. Alex is a great kid:  very mature, very social and simply just a great kid with a fabulous work ethic, and his parents have built a strong family foundation which has really set him up for this next big step in his life.

GH:  What do you believe are keys for him to reach his upside? 

DG:  Keys to achieving his upside...well, the stronger he gets, the better he gets, and he is very aware of this, and he is ready to jump all over this.  As he competes against guys his size--and against bigger and stronger guys, that will make him better. Good food--a lot of food, and a great diet right from the start will be huge for the big guy.  The scary thing is he still growing.

GH:  What feedback did you receive from him on his visit to UCSB? 

DG:  Well, as you could guess, the location and the weather were just a little of an influence of course, but combined with the players and coaching staff, it all fit and it all felt like home, so he made that decision based on the feeling like he fit in.

GH:  Alex is long and can shoot.  Based on his videos, many fans see a likeness to his game with Dirk Nowitzki, probably an unfair comparison at this stage.  Did he tailor his game after certain NBA players? 

DG:  With Alex, I don't think he really tailors his game to anyone.  Actually, his game is very unique and the combination of size, length, and the ability to play the 3 position, hit the 3-point shot, and handle, makes him a very rare breed, so I think Alex has developed his game around what he loves to do.

GH:  Any parting comments, Coach Gini? 

DG:  I am looking forward to seeing Alex grow as a player I don't have a crystal ball, but my guess is year 2 and year 3 will be great, great years for Alex, as he gains strength, and as he gains a comfort level of competing at this level, he will excel.  Yep I am his coach, but I have watched him compete at all levels.  I watched him compete against players at the college/university level, and he just raises his game and continues to shine.  Alex has handled this process with class and respect, and that is just the kind of kid he is.  It has been such a pleasure to coach him, and I am sure you will be impressed with his class and his soft, but confident personality. 

GH:  Thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule and giving us fans this interview, Coach Gini.  Good luck to both of your teams (boys and girls) next year, and we also look forward to watching Alex grow as Gaucho student-athlete.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Interview with Ali Parvaz, High School Coach for 2013 UCSB Signee Eric Childress

Ali Parvaz is the head varsity basketball coach for Leuzinger High School in Lawndale, CA.  The Olympians, led by 2013 UCSB signee Eric Childress--the subject of our interview, finished the season with a 23 - 9 record, 7 - 3 in the Bay League.  Leuzinger reached the semifinals of the 2013 CIF Southern Section Championships (Division 3AA), and the second round of the 2013 CIF State Boys Basketball Championships (Division III).

Childress, 6'0" and 175 pounds, is a point guard who averaged 16.1 points, 4.1 rebounds, 4.4 assists, and 3.5 steals per game.

Gaucho Hoops (GH):  First off, thanks for granting this interview, Coach Parvaz.  Some of these questions are from Gaucho fans, so feel free to elaborate as you please.  Let's get it started.

Regarding Eric Childress:  many talented players come out of the Los Angeles area. Whose game does Childress emulate most of all the recognizable names out there? 

Ali Parvaz (AP): If I have to give you a recognizable name for Eric's game, it would be Chris Paul. A true point guard who is pass first, but can score when needed. He is an outstanding athlete who can get in the paint and draw in the defense, finish above the rim, or make outside shots when open.

GH:  Was this signing out of the blue by Eric or do other kids at Leuzinger High consider playing at UCSB? 

AP:  It was out of the blue in the sense that UCSB was not one of the schools that was really recruiting Eric throughout his season; they came into play at the beginning of Spring AAU season. But once we got up there [to UCSB] and met the coaches and the team, UCSB had more to offer than the other schools.

GH:  When UCSB is mentioned in the Los Angeles AAU circuit, what is the description? 

AP:  As a high school coach, I'm not too involved with the AAU circuit. But the school and location have great reputations beyond basketball. Each year I see a few LA athletes going to UCSB and I am able to follow their careers and like what I see. Last year when UCSB signed Aamahd Walker from Culver City, I was impressed. We played Aamahd a few times and I felt he was a good player and would help any D1 program (unfortunately he was hurt this past season, so we will have to wait and see).

GH:  Where does UCSB rank compared to other west coast programs, both mid- and high-major?  What are the strengths of UCSB, and what are the weaknesses? 

AP:  I feel like the Big West as a whole is down right now.  I see the WCC and the Mountain West putting out more top 25 teams and more NCAA tourney teams and would like to see more Big West Schools in there as well. I feel that there are really good players in California that are leaving the state each year; I would like to see more kids stay in state.  Among the Big West however, UCSB is going to be competitive and fight for that tourney spot year after year. 

Now, off the court, UCSB blows the other schools out of the water. Great academics, awesome location, a true college town/college atmosphere that you are not getting at other Big West or most WCC schools.

GH:  Do you foresee a redshirt for Eric?  It'll ultimately be his decision, but what are the pros and cons for him redshirting? 

AP:  One thing I will tell you about Eric is that he is the most competitive player I have ever coached. Whether it is a game, practice, conditioning session, or a private work out, he is going to compete. He is going into the fall with the notion of competing for a starting spot; he will not concede anything. I think by the time November comes around, if he is one of the top 8 players in the rotation he will have to play.

That being said, one of the things we liked about UCSB is that they do have a lot of returning players and Eric has time to wait (if needed) until he is actually ready to contribute at a high level.  If the coaching staff thinks it is best for him to redshirt, there are advantages as well. The extra year to get accustomed to college life can be very valuable. He can work out with the team and coaches, while getting his academics on the right track and learning how to live on his own.  Eric understands that he has to understand the big picture in regards to his college career, and he is going to work hard no matter what.

GH:  For the record, what did you like about how UCSB recruited Eric? 

AP:  Of all the schools that I talked to about Eric, and there were quite a few, I really liked UCSB's honesty and insight in the process.  There were no games or deception (which I can't say about some other schools). Coach [Bob] Williams and Coach [Matt] Stock were very up front and open about what they were looking for, and Coach Stock is an amazing recruiter. He did a great job communicating with me, Eric and Eric's mother the whole way. When I took Eric up there for his unofficial visit, I was impressed with the entire coaching staff and the players on the team. After the unofficial, Coach Williams really sold Eric on the school and I think Eric had his mind made up at that point.

GH:  It sounds like the UCSB coaching staff did a good job on recruiting Eric.  What could UCSB have improved upon in the recruiting process? 

AP:  The process as a whole was frustrating to me, not just on UCSB's part, but the recruiting process in general.  I took over at Leuzinger the summer after Eric's freshman year and knew nothing about any of the players. Thirty minutes into the 1st practice I knew he was a D1 player.

So I have this kid, who is a great athlete, a great student, and a great person. He doesn't drink, do drugs, or hang out with the wrong crowd.  In my opinion, schools should be lining up, and the process took a lot longer than expected.  I watched Eric play against some of the best guards in the state for 3 years and he went from holding his own as a sophomore to outplaying most of them.  But he is not 6'4" so he goes on the back burner in the process.  I feel coaches miss out on some really good players out here; I'm not sure what they are looking for sometimes.  And one of the worst parts is that I had 3 different east coast schools on campus before anybody from California came by.

I think California coaches need to do a better job identifying and getting to know student-athletes earlier and not just look for 6'4" 'athletic' guys and 6'9" post players.

GH:  What negatives were brought up about UCSB from other schools in their quest to sign Eric? 

AP:  The #1 thing that came up was the quality of play in the Big West. I did not hear too many negatives about UCSB as much as conference strength, strength of schedule, TV coverage etc.

GH:  As you might know, the UCSB class of 2012 has several players playing professionally.  Orlando Johnson is in the NBA with the Pacers, James Nunnally is with the Bakersfield NBDL team, Jaime Serna is in Spain, and reserve Greg Somogyi is in Hungary after being one of the last players cut by the NBA Lakers.  Did that weigh on Eric's decision?  Does the UCSB coaching staff have a reputation for developing future pro players? 

AP:  I don't think that matters too much. These days, with advanced scouting and the numerous professional opportunities overseas and domestically, if you are good enough, then you will get the opportunity somewhere. That should not  weigh too heavily in the process.  You can tell the [UCSB] coaches have a great deal of pride in the players that went there and their success professionally.  I believe that college is supposed to prepare you for life after college, and if that is in basketball, great; if not, you need a good education and opportunities in the professional world and UCSB definitely provides that.

GH:  Does UCSB have a good reputation for taking care of its student-athletes during and after their playing days as Gauchos? 

AP:  I believe they do.  I had a conversation with former Gaucho PG Jacoby Atako, and he had nothing but good things to say about his time at UCSB and his relationship with the coaching staff after his playing days.  My younger brother is a UCSB alum ('06) and he was friends with many of the players on the team and keeps in contact with a few, and most of them are happy with the experience for the most part.

The big picture is Eric getting a college degree and preparing himself for life after basketball...if that degree comes from a good academic school like UCSB, it will only enhance his opportunities.

GH:  What are Eric's biggest challenges as he transitions to Div. 1 level competition? 

AP:  The first thing is the size and speed of the players. Eric has a good frame for a high school athlete, but needs to get in the weight room to bang bodies with D1 athletes.

GH:  In what area do you expect early success with Eric? 

AP:  He is fast and athletic, and that will translate at the college level. He also has a high basketball IQ and will pick up the system quickly.

GH:  What are his strengths? 

AP:  see above, and:
Shooting the basketball, competitiveness, defense.

GH:  What about his necessary improvements? 

AP:  Shooting off the dribble....He has to get stronger with the ball and take care of the ball better. That will come with the weight room and practicing against bigger players.

GH:  What's Eric like as a person?  As a player (coachability, etc.)?   Is he a gym rat?  Were academics important in his choice of schools? 

AP:  Eric is an amazing person. Great morals, hard worker, really good student.  He is soft spoken and kind of quiet, but when he opens up, he is very likeable. Definitely a gym rat, loves working on his game and very coachable. Really understands the game and plays to win.

Again, a great student. And Academics were probably the #1 factor (or close to it).  He worked too hard in the classroom over the last 4 years to sacrifice his academics in his college choice.

GH:  What do you believe are keys for him to reach his upside? 

AP:  The key is to really understand the big picture.  This is a 4 or 5 year process. Getting better in each off season improving his weaknesses and working hard on the court and in the classroom.

GH:  What feedback did you receive from him on his visit to UCSB? 

AP:  I was with him during his unofficial. But chose not to go with him on his official visit. During the visit Coach Stock called or texted me at the end of each day, and I talked to Eric each evening.  On the last day, Eric called me and told me he really enjoyed everything and could see himself going there. Turned out to be the best fit of his choices and he made the commitment to be a Gaucho! We are all very excited and looking forward to an exciting future for Gaucho basketball.

GH:  Great interview, Coach Parvaz, and the Gaucho nation appreciates your insight in getting to know Eric better.  Thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule, good luck in rebuilding Leuzinger into a power again, and we wish you the best.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Eric Childress and Alex Hart Verbally Commit to UCSB; Lewis Thomas Transfers Out

The UCSB Gaucho Locos message board indicates two high school class of 2013 recruits have verbally committed to the Gauchos.

Sophomore forward Lewis Thomas has announced his intention to transfer out.

Eric Childress, a 6'0" guard out of Leuzinger High School in Lawndale, CA intends to sign a national Letter of Intent to play for UCSB starting 2013.  Childress averaged 16.1 points per game, 4.4 assists per game, 4.1 rebounds per game, and 3.5 steals per game.

Alex Hart, a 6'11" forward from Immaculata Catholic Regional High School in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada, also verbally committed to play basketball for UCSB starting 2013.