Big East Media Day Notes
A very interesting season awaits the Big East.
On the expectations for this season and whether there is pressure:
I feel like it’s no pressure that we haven’t been through. So the pressure we have now, we’ve been through pressure since freshmen year. This is New York basketball, there’s always pressure. We’re opened arms to this and we’re glad to have the opportunity to have this pressure on us. We really feel like this year is going to be a good year for us.
On the new “no facial hair” policy:
At first, we were all a little upset about it, but it’ll grow back (laughs). This is one of coach Lavin’s policies and we’ll do whatever it takes to win.
Who instituted the policy?
That’s John Wooden (laughs). Yeah, that’s coach Lav’s policy. There is no problem with it at all. He is big on John Wooden, so yeah definitely.
On how coach Lavin has been adapting to NYC:
He ain’t going to lose the LA in him. I think he is still adjusting but he likes the fast life and kind of used to that so he’s just excited of being back to coaching and we’re just excited to have him around.
On how coach Lavin wants to them to play:
He definitely wants to speed it up. It’s going to be uptempo and we are going to be running it all day. And there is definitely going to be a lot of pressure but I feel like we always wanted to be a pressured team. We are real athletic and have a lot speed on this team, so we’re definitely going to use that to our advantage.
On contemplating whether to transfer during the first three years when things were going bad:
Never. What’s success without a struggle? I feel like sometimes you gotta go through the struggles to receive the success. I feel like the three years we’ve been here it’s been a struggle but I definitely feel like the three years are going to pay off this senior year. Hopefully it pays off this years. If this year we get in the tournament and get on a good run, it would have payed off and it would be an honor to have gone through those three years.
On how far St. John’s expects to get:
I feel like the sky is the limit. With the experience we have and the coaching staff we have, there is no limit on this team.
Coach Steve Lavin on his new hire Gene Keady:
Gene Keady with 800 wins. Twenty-two postseason appearances. Seventeen NCAA Tournament appearances. Six Big Ten titles. Six National Coach of the Year awards. USA team gold medals. So you are not going to get a coach in America that is any more accomplished than him. And also a 74 year old perspective in terms of life experience and wisdom, so he’s kind of our personal Mr. Miyagi. The equivalent of Pat Riley out in the NBA. The expertise of Dick Carter or Phil Jackson. That was the idea, not only are we great friends and he is my mentor and most influential person in my life in terms of basketball, but also he is a great asset to our program, to our coaching staff, for our staff meetings, for observing practices, watching game film with our staff. He’s a real blessing for us.
On getting the players to adapt to his new system:
We really view our job as taking the baton from Norm Roberts and continuing that climb, continuing to move forward to reach the goals that coach Roberts and this team had, which was to play in the postseason and have success in the postseason. So really we see it more as a continuous arc as opposed to separating from the past and taking what’s been built and continuing that drive for success.
On the success of recruiting top national talent:
We just try to be diligent, to be pragmatic in terms of rolling up the sleeves because we were a year-and-a-half to two years behind in both the 2010 and the 2011 recruiting classes. And really it comes down to trying to connect with the prospects and their families. First is identifying the right talent that is going to help us climb the ladder in the Big East because there is no purpose in pursuing players that aren’t going to allow you to climb the ladder. And number two, is full-court pressing. It’s tackling those prospects and their families. And number three is trying to get them to cross the finish line and close like a Mariano Rivera or Goose Gossage.
Advantage of having 10 seniors:
One of the strengths in this team is that we have 14 seniors in our program, 10 players and four managers, and we want to send them out on a high note. And to that we’ll have to take advantage of the fact that they are experienced, they are veteran group that have been through the rigors of the Big East Conference.
UConn’s Kemba Walker on going from coming off the bench of his high school freshmen team to now starring In Connecticut:
I didn’t really expect for myself to get to where I’ve gotten. I was always playing and I just got better as the years went on. I didn’t start in the freshman team. I got a lot of minutes so it wasn’t bad. Sophomore year I played behind Edgar [Edgar Sosa}. I didn’t play a lot.
On when he finally broke into the nationally scene:
Probably after my sophomore year on the AAU circuit. We had a good summer. We lost like five games the whole summer and won like four or five different tournaments. That was probably when going into my junior year I knew I had the chance. I wasn’t really thinking about college like that until that summer when I started getting a lot of letters from colleges. I was just playing and we were just winning. You know, winning takes you far. It got to that level where coaches were coming to just watch us play and they realized how good I was.
On being the new leader and co-captain of the UConn team:
Of course, I’m excited. I can’t wait. Being a leader is going to be tough but I think I’m ready to take on the role, especially with the help of my co-captain Donnell Beverly. I just can’t wait to get this season started.
On former UConn guard AJ Price:
From AJ, I learned to be a good leader vocally. He was a good vocal leader so that was probably the biggest thing I took from AJ.
Expectations for this season:
I think we can go real far. A lot of guys are probably under estimating us but I think we can have a pretty good season.
On coach Jim Calhoun’s health battles:
He looks a lot more enthusiastic. He’s just so competitive. He wants to win so bad. But right now I’m loving his fire. He always gets us motivated to work hard in practice. He has a lot of fire in him. I think basketball saves him just because he loves the game so much and he never wants to leave it. No matter what’s going on, I think he is always going to bounce back.