On Thursday morning, all of the coaches gathered for a conference call, with the media getting six minutes or so to ask them questions. The audio of the call can be found here. I decided I would provide a quick summary as well of what the coaches say, just in case you don't want to listen! Surely I am missing some things, but here are some of the key things they touched on.
EASTERN WASHINGTON COACH JIM HAYFORD
- Hayford talked a little bit about the trip to Canada over the offseason, and how that was helpful with so many newcomers.
- When asked about Collin Chiverton, he said he is a lot healthier, and that he is looking for more consistency from him. He said when Chiverton is good, he is really good, and when he is bad, he is really bad. More consistency will help the whole team.
- I asked him about the PG spot, and he said that transfer Justin Crogsile has the ability to be a special player in the Big Sky. He also had good words for freshman Daniel Hill, who has played a lot of minutes in Australia. Hayford noted that the PG spot is extremely important in his offense.
- He talked about Parker Kelly, and how he was a very hard worker and a big part of the team down the stretch last year.
- I asked him about Venky Jois, who has gotten a lot of praise. He said in a closed scrimmage, Jois pulled down 20 rebounds. He is a very athletic and intelligent player. He said that Jois and fellow freshman Thomas Reuter have the chance to both be four year starters.
IDAHO STATE COACH BILL EVANS
- Evans talked about his past experience in the Big Sky (as an assistant at Montana) has given him a good feel for the conference. He is familiar with the teams and coaches.
- He said the transition has been made easier by the fact that he has some really good kids with the program. Even though he is the third head coach in two years, the transition has been smooth, with most of the credit for that going to the kids.
- He talked about how it will be an emotional return to Cedar City when Idaho State travels to take on Southern Utah, where he used to be the head coach. He believes that even though the Summit League has really good teams up top, and is a little more athletic than the Big Sky, that the Big Sky is more competitive top to bottom. One of the biggest reasons for this is the stability of the conference.
MONTANA COACH WAYNE TINKLE
- I asked him right off the bat if he was concerned about the frontcourt with all of the losses, and he said it was one of his biggest concerns. He is happy to have Mathias Ward back, and Eric Hutchison has really stepped up and grabbed the 5 spot. He said they were hoping to redshirt Andy Martin, but circumstances mean he will be playing now. He also said Jake Wiley has been a pleasant surprise, and that he is the most athletic post player he has had at Montana since he got there.
- He talked about the decision for Will Cherry not to have surgery, and said it was the safer route for his future. He will be getting the cast off this week, and they are hoping he can return by early December.
- He mentioned that Kareem Jamar is a guy that they are counting on to be a leader, on and off the court. They toyed with the idea of playing him at PG, but they don't want to take away from his skills on the wing.
- He talked a lot about Jordan Gregory and Keron DeShields, the two guys trying to replace Will Cherry. Gregory is a guy that they saw as someone that can lead a team, as he can be a vocal leader. He is very physically strong, and can get almost anywhere he wants on the court through his strength. He is also a very good shooter. DeShields is a bit more unorthodox and herky jerky, but also seems to get where he wants. He is a very confident player (which Tinkle said can be good and bad), who is very athletic.
- Tinkle did say that the thing they are most trying to preach with the young PGs is that they don't need to score a lot of points to get time and to impress the coaches. He compared it to a young QB, who you just want to not be the reason you lose a game.
MONTANA STATE COACH BRAD HUSE
- Huse talked about how even though there are a lot of new guys with the program, they do return a core group of guys that will provide continuity for them.
- He talked about how the frontcourt production will be a bit by committee, but that Flavien Davis, Paul Egwuonwu, and Eric Norman have all really asserted themselves. He has also been pleased with the freshmen in the frontcourt. He believes this year's group doesn't quite have the size of last year's group, but that they are more skilled.
- He believes that the frontcourt defense will come down to having the right mentality.
- I asked a question about newcomer Antonio Biglow, and Huse talked about how talented and unselfish he is. Huse made sure to note he did not want to overhype him (I noted in my question that Biglow was much hyped) or put too much on his shoulders, but noted that he has the ability to play both guard spots. Huse has been very pleased with his approach.
NORTH DAKOTA COACH BRIAN JONES
- I asked him if he was worried at all about the team having to go on long roadtrips whenever they played any road games in the conference, but he said that the players and coaching staff have learned a lot about how to handle those from the last two years in the Great West.
- Jones said he is a big believer that you win at this level with great guard play, and he feels very good about his talent and depth there, as they return a bunch of talent.
- I asked him about Troy Huff and his potential. Jones said there is no doubt that Huff is as athletically gifted as anyone in the conference, but his biggest hurdle is mental. Last year, he did not sneak up on anyone as he did the year before, and he was impressed with how he battled through it. He did say that they will do their best to have a balanced scoring attack.
- I asked him about the status of Jaron Nash, the transfer from Texas Tech. He said that the NCAA has requested more medical documentation that they are working on sending over to them. He just wants to make sure that the NCAA has everything they need to make the best decision for everyone. He didn't say it but I will - it would be a shame if the NCAA does not grant Nash immediate eligibility.
NORTHERN ARIZONA COACH JACK MURPHY
- Murphy started off my talking about how the seniors (six of them) have been through a lot, but have really come in really willing to work hard, and to bring along a lot of the younger guys in the program. This has obviously been a big help for the transition.
- The team will be relying a lot on seniors Gabe Rogers and Stallon Saldivar for leadership. They will be relied on in the backcourt in many ways. They are counting on Saldivar to do even more offensively, and provide a bit more scoring in addition to his passing.
- Of the big guys, Ephraim Ekanem is a guy that has really stood out to the staff, and seems to be in line for a starting gig. The other guy is Gaellen Bewernick. Coach Murphy called both of them "lunch pail type of players." He did say there is a lot of good competition after that, but those two were head and shoulders above the rest.
- He talked about freshman guard DeWayne Russell, who he said is a winner and plays with a ton of heart. He takes care of the ball and makes good decisions. It sounded like he will be relied on immediately. Murphy even said there could be times when he would be on the court with Rogers and Saldivar, as they want to do what they can to get their best players on the court.
NORTHERN COLORADO COACH BJ HILL
- Hill talked about how they are returning a ton of guys, though he (humorously) noted that can be a good or bad thing when it was a 9 win team. A big key will be the backcourt taking care of the ball.
- He talked about Derrick Barden, and said a big thing is that even with his strong credentials, he is a very coachable guy with no ego. He is very versatile and good around the rim, but can also step out and stretch the defense.
- He talked about the turnovers and defensive issues from last year, and how those are generally the toughest areas for a young team.
- He ended with talking about how Tate Unruh and Tevin Svhihovec really have challenged each other and pushed each other, and how they will rely a lot on them. He said that more than anyone else, those two have worked hard in the offseason at adding different things to their game.
PORTLAND STATE COACH TYLER GEVING
- Geving talked extensively early about how the team's defense should be improved this year, and that he has been happy with the team's effort. In particular, he noted that Andre Winston on the wing has the potential to be one of the best defenders in the Big Sky. He said Marcus Hall is another guy that brings a defensive presence.
- I asked him about Renado Parker, who he said was a warrior in the low post, especially in the second half of league play last year. He is a good rebounder, and a load down low who can have a really good year for PSU. I am also very high on Parker.
- After losing Chehales Tapscott and Charles Odum, he said they will be a lot more balanced offensively, and try to make up for that scoring hit with four or five guys.
- When asked about how there is no freshmen on the roster, he said it was not necessarily by design, but that he really liked the veteran makeup of the team, with no players under the age of 20. After losing Tapscott and Odum, they felt like they wanted to get JUCO help.
SACRAMENTO STATE COACH BRIAN KATZ
- Katz started off talking about how this is the best team that they have had in a while, but ultimately have to play the games. He talked about how they have a lot of experienced talent back (five guys that averaged around double figures in scoring), and will have a pretty set 8 man rotation.
- He said that three guys have really shown they can step up and be contributors off the bench, and they are Mikh McKinney, Cody Demps, and Joey Quigley.
- He had a lot of praise for Dylan Garrity, who he said is unique in that he is so pass-first. He is the best shooter on the team and may well be the best scorer, but he has an infectious unselfishness. Katz also had good things to say about Joe Eberhard, and how versatile he is with the ability to play three positions.
- I asked him about Konner Veteto and his foul trouble issues, and he said it is something that they have worked on everyday with him. They made it a big priority, but he says until he shows he can stay out of foul trouble in games, you still have to consider him foul prone.
SOUTHERN UTAH COACH NICK ROBINSON
- Robinson said they have had good enthusiasm and energy in practice, and talked about how it is a new year for everyone. He talked about one of the biggest challenges is whether or not players really buy into the system, and the seniors and leaders of the team have really done that here.
- He believes one of their strengths will be their balance. He also talked about his philosophy on defense being a strong man to man team.
- They have a difficult non-conference schedule, which he said would allow them to better prepare for the Big Sky season. They have a non-conference tournament that would prepare them for the Big Sky tournament, which is obviously where they want to be at the end of the year.
- One guy he talked about was newcomer Jayson Chessman, who will have an impact from 15 feet and in.
WEBER STATE COACH RANDY RAHE
- Rahe started off by saying his team isn't very good yet, but that probably echoes the sentiments of many coaches at this time of the year. He thinks they can be competitive by conference time.
- He continually talked about how one of the biggest things they are losing from the departure of Damian Lillard is leadership, and how they are looking for somebody to fill that leadership role.
- As is pretty obvious, he talked about the fact that they will be more balanced this season.
- He said that Gelaun Wheelwright and Jordan Richardson are both playing some PG, but it's a spot they haven't played that much at before this season. Another sign of how much Lillard was counted on last year.
Anything stand out to you?
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