Monday, October 10, 2016

UCSB Men's Basketball Coach Robert Williams Interview on the 2016-2017 Team

Gaucho Hoops ("GH"):  Thanks for taking this interview, Coach Williams. 
In the Santa Barbara News Press article, you mentioned you sat between George Karl and Mitch Kupcak (father of UCSB sophomore forward Maxwell Kupchak).  Did you pick up any particular insights you'd like to share from them? 

Robert Williams ("RW"):  I had the privilege of spending a couple days with Coach Karl.  He shared a ton of basketball knowledge, most of which I can't share here.  But he is a very knowledgeable basketball coach and he's super smart.  He spent a lot of time going over how to defend hand-offs, for both perimeter and post defenders.  He also covered one of the toughest plays to defend, the back screens.  What was particularly interesting was his opinion of coaching post players.  He said foot work is overrated.  What's more important is how post players catch and finish. 

GH:  This is one of your youngest teams, and they will require a lot of teaching.  Based on the few practices so far, what are the most pressing areas of coaching that the players need?  What are they good at already? 

RW:  We're running very few isolates right now, because they need to take better care of the ball.  They don't value possessions.  They don't make good risk vs. reward decisions on passes.  They don't maintain good balance.  They don't make good decisions on driving or passing.  They need to learn to slow down, because they are trying to do too many things quickly.  Slowing down lets their athleticism take over.    This team is athletic.  When a player is off-balance, he gets exposed.

GH:  Christian Terrell seems to be one of your tallest combo guards in a while.  As a pass-first point guard, how is his perimeter shot?  Can he penetrate the lane against smaller, quicker defenders?  Does his size make him disruptive as a defender? 

RW:  Christian is a really good athlete.  He has a good perimeter shot; his shot is much improved.  He has good range.  He runs well, and is a dynamic athlete in transition. 

GH:  What about Clifton Powell?  How is his game? 

RWClifton is a really good athlete and very springy.  He also shoots and runs well.  He just needs to get stronger.  Both Christian and Clifton have good upside defensively. 

GH:  What about Max Heidegger--we know he can shoot.  Can he penetrate the lane against the trees inside?  Is durability a concern given his history?  What's the status of his foot injury?  How's his defense? 

RW:  Max is very skilled on offensive.  He can create his own shot, and he's a good passer.  His defense needs work.  He's wearing a boot right now, but he should be good to go in two weeks. 

GH:  Eric Childress and Gabe Vincent are the obvious leaders of this group.  How are their personalities as leaders?  How have they stepped up this year? 

RW:  Both are vocal leaders now, but with Gabe, he was already naturally vocal.  He just chose to let the seniors lead last season.  As a junior this year, he is stepping up.  Eric developed into a more vocal leader, but he was naturally quiet as a freshman.  Both have improved in every aspect of their games.  Gabe really stepped up his defense last season.  He went from being a good defender to being a great defender. 

GH:  What makes a better defender? 

RW:  Commitment.  Gabe committed to becoming a great defender last year.  

GH:  Let's talk about the bigs. 
RW:  We have some serious beef on the glass.  Probably the biggest we've had since I've been coaching UCSB.  Jalen weights 276 pounds, X 230, Felix 240, Ami 270, and Tyler 290.  We have five post players who are all good rebounders.  We have enough depth at the 5 spot to possibly play two on the floor at the same time.  It would be similar to having Jaime Serna and Big Al [Alan Williams] both on the court.  We have strength and athleticism in the post. 

GH:  How is X [Alex Hart] playing right now? 

RW:  X is more aggressive this year.  He's rebounding better and shooting with more confidence. 

GH:  What improvements have you noticed with the other returnees? 

RW:  Maxwell [Kupchak] and Jarriesse [Blackmon] have been working on their perimeter game.  The key to improvement over the summer is not just working, but working on the right stuff.  Max playing some at the 3 position is partially due to necessity as we have depth at the 4 and 5 positions. 

GH:  You mentioned Jalen Canty had a similar build as Big Al [former center Alan Williams].  Where does he fit in? 

RW:  Jalen needs to increase his conditioning.  We're confident our preseason practices will improve the team's conditioning, in addition to the weight room.  Jalen is a natural rebounder.  We will have to see how he responds to adrenaline.  Big Al stepped up the most of any player I've coached.  He was much better during games than in practice.  He was best at stepping up his game when the lights were on.  We hope Jalen can give us 20-25 minutes a game, that he is fit enough to play more minutes.  Big Al was a fouler.  Jalen is not. 

GH:  What about Ami Lakoju? 

RW:  Ami is also a good rebounder, and big.  He has improved his conditioning, runs well, and has improved his finishing. 

GH:  And Tyler Jackson? 

RW:  Tyler is rebounding better and may get minutes this season.  He needs to continue improving is mobility. 

GH:  What about Felix White gets you excited? 

RW:  Felix is improving every week.  He picks things up quickly.  He's strong, fast, and aggressive.  He is a potential impact player.  Despite our depth in the post, he will not redshirt.  He's too good to redshirt. 

GH:  Do you anticipate Clifton redshirting? 

RW:  No, we don't have enough depth among the wings.  He's too good to redshirt.  We have six guards for 3 positions.  At the 1, we've got Tide Osifeso backing up Eric.  Max Heidegger is a combo guard.  He's out two weeks, and Eric is out today with a hamstring.  Now we only have 4 players playing 3 positions. 

GH:  Every year, the team's make up and personality are different.  OJ and Nunn's teams seemed to be very serious and focused.  Bryson was more laid back, less vocal, but led by example.  How would you characterize this team so far? 

RW:  This team is unknown.  The strength is in the backcourt.  But we have surprisingly good rebounders at the 4/5 positions, probably the best since the Jaime/Big Al team. 

GH:  How long do you intend on coaching the Gauchos?

RW:  A couple more years, but when I do, it's important that I leave this program in good shape. 

GH:  It sounds like you really enjoy the teaching aspect of coaching.  What else makes it fun for you, and keeps you coming back? 

RW:  What's fun is the interaction with the kids, and the practices.  What is unexpected is the older I get, the harder it is when we lose.  I thought losing games would become easier over time.  When I was younger, and we lost a game, I was bouncing right back up the following morning.  The longer I've been in coaching, the harder it is to take game losses. 

GH:  Let's answer some questions from Gaucho hoops fans: 
From GauchoFreg:
"Who will be the top teams in the conference this year?" 

RW:  Long Beach State. 

GH:  Yes, they lost Nick Faust to graduation, but they bring in and bring back some great athletes.  Which other teams? 

RW:  CSUN.  They are very athletic.  We'll see how their non-conference season plays out. 

GH:  From GauchoFreg:
"After your coaching career, what do you see yourself doing?" 

RW:  I'm not sure.  Maybe broadcasting, consulting...I enjoy lakes. 

GH:  From GauchoFreg:
"Name your all time UCSB starting 5, only players you coached." 

RW:  That's a great question.
1) Big Al--he was our most productive player of all-time.
2) Orlando Johnson--the only question is at what position?
3) Mark Hull--he was just so good.
4) if I go with a big lineup, BJ Bunton at power forward.
5) Al Harris, at the 2 in a big line up.
Off the bench, James Nunnally, Branduin Fullove, and Michael Bryson.  I would add Jacoby Atako--he was good.  So was Zalmico Harmon. 

GH:  From Charlie Hill Cannot Score:
"What kind of defense do you expect we will play this year: mostly man or zone?" 

RW:  Zone defense.  Because we are big and we can clog up the inside.  Our length at the top of the zone will help. 

GH:  From Charlie Hill Cannot Score:
"Do you expect Gabe Vincent will shoulder an even bigger scoring load?" 

RW:  Yes. 

GH:  From Charlie Hill Cannot Score:
"What improvements are you looking for in Eric Childress his final season?" 

RW:  His ability to communicate with the coaches.  Understanding the flow and pace of the game. 

GH:  Thank for the great interview, Coach! 

RWMy pleasure.  See you at practice.

No comments: