Wednesday, July 5, 2023

Interview with Coach Joe Pasternack, June 28, 2023

Gaucho Hoops ("GH"):  Can you talk about the the new players, incoming transfers as well as freshmen players?

Joe Pasternack ("JP"):  Yes.

GH: And then we can cover the returnees and how they're developing.

JP: Really excited about this upcoming season. All of our players are now back home. They have a break; we don't start up until July 10th. Our new guys are coming in this week, so Yohan Traore, Ben Shtolzberg, Jason Fontenet, and Mezziah Oakman--they're all here this week to get into summer school to get their physicals, and they get a two week head start on the returners. What we're doing now is their physicals, and they start lifting weights, they learn our shooting drills, kind of the details of our system. They're getting acclimated to a college campus. And I'm really, really excited about these 4 new guys that we have coming in so far.

GH: Awesome. Can you break down the freshman first, Fontenet, and his game.

JP: Jason Fontenet is an incredible, young man. He's a 4.0 student from Phoenix, AZ. He went to Bella Vista Prep School. His dad played basketball at Oregon State. He's got great genes. He's about 6'5", really strong college-ready body. Comes from a great, great family. Lives with his mom. He can really shoot the basketball but what I love about him is he's the total package: academics, he fits in at UC Santa Barbara, perfect student athlete. Highest character young man you can meet. That's number two. Number three, he's driven to be a pro, loves the game of basketball, and he's just such a perfect fit for our basketball program, and I expect him to be able to help us this year. He can play multiple positions on the perimeter as a guard.

GH: So 1,2, and 3 basically.

JP: Yep.

GH: So he's a good shooter. How about his defense? Does he use his length at all? Or is that something he has to develop, as most freshmen do?

JP: Yes, he is going to learn all that. He's just learning the details of our system right now.

GH: Let's talk about Ben. He's from southern California originally? He played at Creighton, right?

JP: Yes, Ben Shtolzberg is a young man we recruited out of high school. He chose Creighton. He's a 6'4" guard who plays multiple positions, which I like. He can really score the ball, shoot the ball, make plays off ball screens, has an incredible attitude, loves the game just wants to get better, coachable, from probably an hour and a half from here, in the Valley, and comes from a great family. High character, great student, so really excited about him.

GH: Was he on the team 2 years ago when you played them in the NCAA's?

JP: No. He's a sophomore. He has 3 years to play. Jason has 4 years to play.

GH: And then there's Mezziah Oakman.

JP: Yeah. Mezziah Oakman is a junior college player, and he's got two years left. Played at San Francisco City Junior [City] College where Jalen Canty and Miles Norris went. He's 7'0", 225 pounds, he's an incredible physical specimen, comes from an amazing Junior College. Justin Labagh is the head coach, he's the all-time winningest junior college coach in the state of California over Jerry Tarkanian. He's tied with JerryTarkanian for the most state championships in the history of the state of California. So Mezziah comes from a great, great coach, and so I'm really excited about Mezziah. I think with any new guy, and I just named the three, they have a long, long time...It takes time to get adjusted to college basketball in our system, so we're being very patient with them, but demanding and holding them accountable, and one of the big things we're doing because we have so many new guys. with Andrew Kelly, Miles Norris, Calvin Wishart, and Ajare Sanni gone, is we're going to take our team to Vancouver. It's the first time in six years. We've never gone on a foreign tour, so by going to Vancouver, we get 10 extra real days of practice--unlimited time to practice. To be able to practice those 10 days to be able to get ready to play college basketball games in Vancouver, to be able to install our system to teach these guys, and try to get them up to speed.

GH: Do you have the teams in Vancouver you will be playing?

JP: There will be some teams in Vancouver who we will play.

GH: Exhibition, preseason type games.

JP: Yes.

GH: The next new incoming player is Yohan. How is he coming along?

JP: Yohan Traore is a young man we used to watch. He was on KK's AAU team Dream Vision. We know him very well out of high school. He went to Dream City in Arizona, and Prolific Prep. So we're very familiar with him. He's a transfer from Auburn. With shoes, he's about 6'11" with a 7'3" wingspan. Again, he's only a freshman, he'll be a sophomore next year, so he's got 3 years to play. He has tremendous, tremendous potential. He's from France. He's an incredible young man, who I'm really, really excited about developing him.

GH: So he's another bilingual guy. I think he's our first 5 star recruit at UCSB out of high school, as far as I know.

JP: Yeah, I'm not sure about that.

GH: I think he is, which is kind of amazing. Any news on returnees? I'm sure Ajay comes to mind first for all the fans.

JP: I think Ajay is really locked in to have an incredible season. He had a great spring, working on his body. Again, got a lot stronger, believe it or not. Worked really hard on his entire game, his outside shooting, he's really shooting the ball great in the spring and summer. He's really locked into having the best year he possibly can have. He's had a great, great 2 years, but he's not satisfied which is great. He's another young man who has incredible character, academically does incredible in school and we're really excited.

GH: So wait, he gained about 25 pounds of muscle last year. You're saying he's gotten even stronger this summer?

JP: Yeah, he's over 200 pounds now.

GH: Wow. What about Cole Anderson?

JP: Cole Anderson again, this is their break, they're all off campus. Everybody needs a mental and physical break. And it's great to get them out of here. Cole Anderson is in Fresno right now with family. He loves the game and he's working out and I think he's going to have a huge year, and we're really excited about him. I think if I could describe anything about this team, the character of the individuals are so high, they love the game, they're very driven and motivated to be pros, but also to get back to the NCAA's. They got a taste of it, but want to get back there. But it's a grind. It's not easy. The pressure, the process and honoring the process every single day. When you're a high character individual, you understand that and you honor our process and that's the key for us. We don't talk about championships, we talk about being a champion every single day, and that's why I feel so good about this team.

GH: Having Gabe Vincent as a model of honoring the process certainly helps.

JP: Absolutely, because nobody honored the process every day like he did, being a champion like he did, and bringing up his team is huge.

GH: Yep, that was great, as I was rooting for the Heat the whole playoffs. What about JPL?

JP: Josh Pierre-Louis, this will be the first spring and summer where he's been healthy. The last 3 springs and summers, when he got here, it was during COVID. He wasn't around here, so we didn't get to coach him that spring and summer. Then we played in the NCAA tournament, and he got hurt against Creighton. And he didn't work out in the spring or summer leading up to his junior year. Then in the Irvine game before the Long Beach game, he got hurt. And his hip was out, he was out for the whole spring and summer. And so this is the first spring he's had with our team to work on his game, shooting the basketball, and he's now home in New Jersey with his family, which is great. He's had a great, great spring. He's going to have a great summer. I think it'll be his best year, so I'm really excited about him.

Matija Belic, is on the under 20 Serbian team right now, and all the fans can look him up. He plays on July 8th is when it starts. I think he's going to have a huge year for us. I'm really excited about him.

Then Ariel Bland redshirted, so our fans weren't really able to see him going against Miles Norris every day in practice. A lot of days, he got the better of Miles. He's going to have a great motor, and I think he's going to be a great forward for us, really excited about Ariel.

GH: Real quickly, what are his strengths, because we haven't seen much of him. Defense, rebounding?

JP: Driver, DRIVER...rebound, motor, and really, really plays hard. I'm really excited about him.

And then there is Evans Kipruto. Evans Kipruto came on strong...we don't to the NCAA tournament without Evans and Matija. We got them late. Matija hit huge 3's against UCR. When Andre Kelly got into foul trouble, Evans Kipruto came in and again, another guy that just loves the game. High character, really excited about him.

GH: Yeah I noticed they didn't play much in the beginning and when they stepped in they were ready. They could have been stale, but instead, they came through in the clutch. They really honored the process. That's it for the players, but going forward, you really like the team's chemistry and make up.

JP: We're really excited to get them all together on July 10th, and being able to practice and getting ready for our Vancouver trip. I think it'll be great team building, to integrate the new guys with the returners, and it's all about our returners establishing our culture on a daily basis, and our coaching staff; everybody working together to establish our culture right now.

GH: The schedule is always a topic.

JP: We're working on the schedule right now.

GH: Who can you announce?

JP: It looks like the one game that we're going to play, we're going to the Pit to play New Mexico, which will be a very challenging game, but we're still working on all our schedule. We're playing LMU in the Phoenix Suns Arena. We did it last year. The Basketball Hall of Fame Jerry Colangelo Classic. To be able to play in an NBA arena is huge. And they came up with the opponent, Loyola Marymount. It's a shame we have to go to Phoenix to play LMU, but that's the way it works. To play neutral games, I think it prepares us for the conference tournament. So that's what I'm excited for.

GH: Awesome.

JP: When I was at Arizona, we had a saying to our players. "You don't get to choose the NBA. The NBA has to choose you." You can't just say "I want to go to the NBA." Its the same with scheduling. People want to know why can't we play certain teams. Gonzaga won't play us. UCLA won't play us. Not one PAC-12 team will play us. So I don't get to pick who UCSB plays. They have to want to play us.

When you get married, she has to want to marry you. Not one PAC-12 school will play us. Gonzaga won't play us. And so people say, "Why will they play such and such?" I don't know. But they won't play us, okay? So that's where we're at right now. We're working really hard to finish our schedule. We're going to do the best we can. We'd love to have a big name come into the Thunderdome. Unfortunately, the days of Cal and North Carolina coming to the Thunderdome are not going to happen anymore. 

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