Big East Media Day Notes
A very interesting season awaits the Big East.
by Franklyn Calle
The Big East Media Day was held last week at Madison Square Garden, taking place in the WaMu Theater, due to the $800 million transformation the building is currently in the midst of. There was a feeling of rejuvenation and optimism in the air as the local media looked forward to speaking with the three new local head coaches at Rutgers, Seton Hall, and St. John’s.
From the minute the media session began, it became very evident who had stolen the show. New St. John’s men’s basketball head coach Steve Lavin aka “Hollywood Lav” as his players call him. Lets put it this way, in a room full of coaches that have a proven track record of success in the toughest conference in America, the former UCLA coach had about two or three times as many media members surrounding his table than any other coach at any other time. He certainly is Hollywood status in the Big Apple, without even having coached in single game yet.
Needless to say, for the first time in a long time, there is actually pretty high expectations for the Red Storm program. When it was time for coaches to vote in the Big East Preseason Poll, St. John’s actually received a first place vote, with the word around being that the selection came from Louisville coach Rick Pitino. Being that the league is relatively young while the Red Storm return 10 seniors, expectations are very high for the program this year — deep NCAA Tournament run high. Welcome to New York City!
Although St. John’s was clearly the Media Day’s main attraction, Pittsburgh, Villanova, Syracuse, Georgetown and UConn were some of the other programs that drew hefty attention.
I caught up with some of the players and coaches, and have some quotes below but first lets look at the Preseason Coaches‘ Poll and Preseason All-Big East teams.
2010-11 Preseason Coaches’ Poll
1. Pittsburgh (12) 222
2. Villanova (1) 208
3. Syracuse (2) 187
4. Georgetown 173
5. West Virginia 164
6. St. John’s (1) 145
7. Notre Dame 123
8. Louisville 121
10. Connecticut 113
11. Seton Hall 104
12. Cincinnati 91
13. USF 54
14. Providence 36
15. Rutgers 32
16. DePaul 26
First-place votes in parentheses
2010-11 BIG EAST Preseason Player of the Year
Austin Freeman, Georgetown
2010-11 BIG EAST Preseason Rookie of the Year
Fab Melo, Syracuse
2010-11 Preseason All-BIG EAST First Team
Austin Freeman, Georgetown (Player of the Year), G, Sr., 6-3 ½, 227, Mitchellville, Md.
Kemba Walker, Connecticut, G, Jr., 6-1, 172, Bronx, N.Y.
Ashton Gibbs, Pittsburgh, G, Jr., 6-2, 190, Scotch Plains, N.J.
Jeremy Hazell, Seton Hall, G, Sr., 6-5, 188, Bronx, N.Y.
Corey Fisher, Villanova, G, Sr., 6-1, 200, Bronx, N.Y.
Kevin Jones, West Virginia, F, Jr., 6-8, 255, Mount Vernon, N.Y.
2010-11 Preseason All-BIG EAST Second Team
Chris Wright, Georgetown, G, Sr., 6-1, 208, Washington, D.C.
Jimmy Butler, Marquette, F, Sr., 6-7, 220, Tomball, Texas
Tim Abromaitis, Notre Dame, F, Sr., 6-8, 235, Unionville, Conn.
D.J. Kennedy, St. John’s, G/F, Sr., 6-5, 214, Pittsburgh, Pa.
Kris Joseph, Syracuse, F, Jr., 6-7, 207, Montreal, Quebec
2010-11 Preseason All-BIG EAST Honorable Mention
Yancy Gates, Cincinnati, F, Sr., 6-9, 260, Cincinnati, Ohio
Darius Johnson-Odom, Marquette, G, Jr., 6-2, 215, Raleigh, N.C.
Rick Jackson, Syracuse, F, Sr., 6-9, 240, Philadelphia, Pa.
And now just some quotes from the fellas…
Georgetown’s Austin Freeman after being announced as the Big East Preseason Player of the Year:
It’s been an honor to play in the Big East Conference, which is one of the best conferences in college basketball. I appreciate the notoriety I’ve gain from playing in this conference. It’s special.
I’ve grown as a basketball player and as a man playing for coach Thompson. I would treasure the relationship I’ve develop while at Georgetown with my teammates, coaches and friends. It’s been wonderful to carry the torch and be an ambassador for a wonderful school like Georgetown. The education I’ve received there will serve me for the rest of my life. My teammates and I look forward to another challenging year in the conference.
Villanova guard Corey Fisher on his development throughout the years at Villanova:
My guard play has changed. Coming in as a freshman, you don’t know how hard you gotta work on the floor. There’s people bigger and better than you, and you have people ahead of you at your position. You’re basically gotta wait your turn. Coach put me in there as sophomore with guys like Stokes [Cory Stokers] in sophomore and junior year. Me being the leader of this team now, everybody’s role is the same but everybody’s status is different. And me being the leader of this team, that starts with me playing hard on both ends of the floor so it’s kind of different now that I’m the leader of the team. You can’t win on your own. If you want to compete for a national championship or be a good team, you gotta have a great group of guys playing together. I know with me making my decision and coming in with a lot of other great guards like Scottie [Reynolds] and Stokes, that was going to make be better in the long run.
On what he’s learn from being a back-up:
I’ve learned a lot. Just having poised, having pride and just waiting at Villanova, and things like that. There is a lot of things coming into college that you don’t know until you get there. Me being young, and coming in and playing the best of the best in one of the best leagues, you just learn a lot. It has to do with growth. That’s one of the key things.
On now being the leader of the team:
I just can’t wait till I get out there and lead my team with guys like Stokes and Tone [Antonio Pena]. I just think it’s going to be a fun senior year and I think I worked hard enough to show people. Also, I give a lot of credit to Scottie. He taught me a lot about just handling myself when things are going good or bad.
If things go bad people are going to look at me, if things go good people are going to look at me. But it’s not about me. I got two other great guys in Stokes and Tone, and other teammates and young guys that are going to learn.
On sophomore guard Maalik Wayns:
Maalik is like my little brother. Everytime I see Maalik, Maalik is kind of like how I was when I was young. And playing good, with a great group and knowing that when I leave, the team is going to be his. We talk about that everyday. In practice, we all do the drills together and compete against each other. Coach always says, “Maalik you gotta make Fisher better,” and I gotta make him better. And if we keep doing that everyday, then we should be alright.
On former Villanova guard Scottie Reynolds:
I talk to him on Skype sometimes. He always tells me, “is on you and everyone follows you.” It’s going to be a fun ride. He says it’s a challenge and you always want a new challenge in life. Things are going to go good and bad, it’s just how you handle it. He tells me to have a good attitude.
On whether last season’s early exit from NCAA Tournament still on his mind:
Nah, not at all. You’re gonna win and you’re going to lose. We knew we was a good team and St. Mary’s was a good team. People didn’t expect us to lose. They just said, “Oh, Villanova lost to St. Mary’s,” but a lot of people don’t know that St. Mary’s is a good team. You just don’t see them a lot because they are on the West Coast. We gotta look past that. We’re going to come out and be humble.
On what happened those last 12 games of the season, where the team went 5-7:
Nothing happened. We know how hard we worked. Everyday practicing hard. Nothing happened. We came up short and lost a couple of games. And that’s last year. It’s a whole a new season and we gotta look past that.
On whether the team is bring a different strategy this year:
Nothing changes. We are going to do the same thing we did last year. We’re going to play hard, compete and play Villanova basketball. Nothing changes!
Pittsburgh’s small forward Brad Wanamaker on the team’s goals for the season:
Final Four. If we make it to the Final Four, we want to make it to the Championship obviously. But our goal is to make it to the final four.
On the pressure on being chosen as the favorite to win the Big East and having to live up to it:
No pressure for us. It’s just someone writing down on a piece of paper and people voting that they want us to be number one. We are happy that people feel that way about us but we still have something to prove.
On what to take from last season:
Just to stay hungry. If you have something to prove everyday, you’ll be successful. So for us to do the same thing we did last year, we should be good. We’ve all improved in some aspects of our game. My game, more so of cutting down on my turnovers and knocking down outside shots. Other’s may be different.
On Pitt’s struggles in the Big East Tourney:
The last two years we’ve been one and done. Hopefully this year we can make it farther. We just gotta come in more focus than we were the past two years and learn from our mistakes.
St. John’s DJ Kennedy on new head coach Steve Lavin:
Hollywood Lav! That’s what they call him. He’s a great guy. He does everything real professional. Just a great guy to talk to on and off the court.
On having 10 seniors this season:
We will use that to our advantage. All that experience we have and basically we’ve been through every situation you can put a team through. It will definitely help us in the long run, down the stretch in the Big East Conference. We will know what to expect. I feel like with a lot of teams, with the experience, it’s kind of hard to know what to expect in the Big East.
On the national attention the team has gotten as of late:
A lot of people are just excited. With a new coach and staff this year, a lot of people feel like this year things are going to be bigger at St. John’s, make the tournament and bring back college basketball to New York. We definitely feel the same way. Everyone is just excited.
On first place vote from Pitino:
I think Coach Pitino has always been big on St. John’s. Last year he picked us to be a great team. So we have a lot of respect for coach Pitino and he thinks that we are going to be great. We think we are going to be great too.
On the experience of St. John’s new coaching staff:
They know what it takes to win with the background these guys have. And just to be coached by these guys, a hall of-famer coach to have around and have advice and wisdom from, I’m just honored to have coach Lavin, coach Rico and coach Keady around.