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.
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
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
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.
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
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
GH: In what area do you expect early success with
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
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
GH: What's Alex
like as a person? As a player (coachability, etc.)? Were academics important in his choice of
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
GH: What do you believe are keys for him to reach his
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
GH: What feedback did you receive from him on his visit
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
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
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.