Season Preview: HoopsHD interviews Chattanooga SR PG Greg Pryor

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We continue our 2016-17 season preview interview series with Chattanooga SR PG Greg Pryor.  If senior point guards are a coach’s best friend then Coach Matt McCall will not be lonely for the next several months.  Pryor was named SoCon tourney MVP last March and will try to lead his team back to the NCAA tourney next March.  He was #1 on the team in STL as a sophomore and #1 on the team in AST as a junior.  HoopsHD’s Jon Teitel got to chat with Greg about being a senior leader and having a birthday on September 11th.

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You were born on September 11, 1995: what do you remember about 9/11/01, and how does it impact your birthday every fall (if at all)? I was at my birthday party at school in Jacksonville and I remember everyone having to go home. My family had planned to go to a water park that day but my mom said we would have to go another time. I do not really think about it too much any more: I just try to wrap my head around the fact that people lost their lives on a day that happens to be special for me.

You got a new head coach last year in Matt McCall: what makes him such a good coach, and what is the most important thing that you have ever learned from him? He has a great knowledge of the game after working under Coach Billy Donovan at Florida. He lets us play freely and we do not overthink everything. We just play off our teammates and do not worry about what will happen if we do something wrong.

In the 2016 SoCon tourney title game you scored 13 PTS in a 6-PT win over East Tennessee State en route to being named conference tourney MVP: how hard is it to win 3 games in 3 days, and how were you able to play your best when it mattered the most? It is really hard to win 3 games in 3 days but that is why we work so hard over the summer and at practice. You have to be mentally prepared for it and know that your teammates have your back. Once you get divided things start to go downhill and you cannot recover from that. We know there is no tomorrow in the postseason: you have to fix any problems right then.

In the 2016 NCAA tourney you scored 8 PTS in a loss to Indiana: what did you learn from that game that you think can help you this year? You cannot let the moment overcome the task at hand: you just have to go out and play like it was any other game. Do not let the hype of the environment affect your play: just have all of your teammates stick together and do what you did to get to that position.

PF Justin Tuoyo transferred from VCU a couple of years ago and is the 2-time reigning conference DPOY: what makes him such a great defender? He is a great player who talks a lot on defense and helps out a lot. He has great timing for a shot-blocker and has a great feel around the rim.

Your non-conference schedule includes games against Tennessee/North Carolina/Vanderbilt: which of these games do you feel will present your biggest test? Every game will test us as a team: even if we are playing the best or worst team in the nation we still have to just play the same way we always play.

You are 1 of 4 guys from Tennessee on the roster: what is the basketball scene like in the state right now, and what makes guys choose the Mocs over the Blue Raiders/Tigers/Volunteers? Myself and a lot of my teammates were not heavily recruited out of high school and our routes took us all here. We have the same mindset of having to work hard because nothing was given to us. We push each other every day to get better on the court: our team feels like a family. I love Chattanooga and everything that it has done for me.

You are also 1 of 6 seniors on the roster: how crucial will all of that experience be to your team’s success this year? We have been together for 4 years now through good times and bad times. We learned each other’s strengths and weaknesses, which is a plus for us. We have to be leaders and are on the same page at all times. We had to build it from the bottom up and teach the younger players to keep it going by accepting what we have built here.

Your father Greg played football at Delta State: who is the best athlete in the family? He also ran track while I chose baseball/basketball. I tried playing football for 1 year but got hurt: it left a bad taste in my mouth.

What are your goals for the upcoming season, and what are your expectations for the upcoming season? We have no expectations: we will just focus on 1 game at a time and cannot live off of making it to the NCAA tourney last year. We will have a target on our backs and will just play our hardest.

Season Preview: HoopsHD interviews Chattanooga coach Matt McCall

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We continue our 2016-17 season preview interview series with Chattanooga coach Matt McCall.  Most college graduates hope to find a good job when they graduate but McCall has them all beat: after Florida coach Billy Donovan hired him as director of basketball operations in 2006 he proceeded to win back-to-back NCAA titles with the Gators.  Most assistant coaches hope to have quick success when they become a head coach but McCall has them all beat as well: after being hired away from Florida as head coach at Chattanooga last year he proceeded to win 29 games and be named SoCon COY.  HoopsHD’s Jon Teitel got to chat with Coach McCall about working for Coach Donovan and the benefits of having 6 seniors on the roster.

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You went to college at Florida and later served as director of basketball operations during their back-to-back NCAA titles in 2006 & 2007: what was the most important thing that you ever learned from Coach Billy Donovan? The level of humility at which Coach Donovan did his job is what made it so special: it was never about him but was only about our team getting better. I think that is why he has been able to continue to have success now that he is at Oklahoma City. I keep trying to emulate him in my own position as coach: Xs and Os are important but the biggest thing I took from him is how he treated people.

You were an assistant coach at Florida in the 2013 NCAA tourney when you beat 1 of the greatest Cinderellas ever in #15-seed FGCU: what does it take to avoid an upset in March? It is all about your focus: you cannot worry about the name on the front of the jersey. Every team who makes the NCAA tourney deserves to be there: you must do your job on each and every possession and cannot focus on the hoopla. There is so much parity in the sport: a lot of “mid-major” teams like ourselves have veteran teams with seniors who could play at most programs around the country.

Last year you were hired as head coach at Chattanooga and you proceeded to win 29 games, make the NCAA tourney, and be named conference COY: how were you able to come in and be so successful right from the start? It goes back to the players. We had unbelievable chemistry with guys who bought in and put the team 1st. When you couple that with talent you have the chance to do something special. I give our guys a lot of credit for coming together rather than transferring somewhere else and going their separate ways. There are a lot of steps along the way and I am still learning each and every day. We have a lot of guys back this season and there will be a target on our backs, so we have to welcome the fact that we will get every team’s best shot.

In the 2016 SoCon tourney title game Greg Pryor scored 13 PTS in a 6-PT win over East Tennessee State en route to being named conference tourney MVP: how crucial were the 4 technical FTs that Greg got to shoot with 4 minutes left when Ge’Lawn Guyn/Coach Steve Forbes lost their cool? 1 of the things I am proudest of with this group is their ability to handle adversity. We knew that ETSU would make a run at some point during the game.  I want the ball in Greg’s hands with the game on the line because I know that he can make those FTs. There are a lot of talented PGs in the country…but I am hard-pressed to find a tougher 1 than Greg.

In the 2016 NCAA tourney you lost to Indiana: what do you think your team learned from that game that can help them this year? The Hoosiers are extremely well-coached and talented from top to bottom. We were not satisfied in just getting there: we need to get better so that we can get back there and then try to advance. We have a long way to go but our guys are hungry.

Your non-conference schedule includes games against Tennessee/North Carolina/Vanderbilt: which of these games do you feel will present your biggest test? Every game is a test but opening the season against a Tennessee team with a lot of unknowns will be a big challenge. The Tar Heels are a top-5 team in the country and Vanderbilt is a unique place to play with a lot of good players. We will just take it 1 game at a time.

You have 4 guys from Tennessee on your roster: how hard is it to compete with Josh Pastner/Rick Barnes/Kermit Davis/Tubby Smith on the in-state recruiting trail? We try to identify the right guys who are a good fit for our team and for our style of play. We like high-character kids who are about the same things that we are about.

PF Justin Tuoyo transferred from VCU a couple of years ago and is the 2-time reigning conference DPOY: what makes him such a great defender? I have been around a lot of good shot-blockers but I put Justin in the same category as Joakim Noah. He has unbelievable timing/instincts to erase shots so our opponents are always thinking about him.  He has grown as a player/person: he is not just a defensive guy but has been able to expand his game.

Justin is also 1 of 6 seniors on the roster: how crucial will all of that experience be to your team’s success this year? Having veterans was a big part of our success last year and being able to bring a senior off the bench will be a big benefit. We need our young guys to develop and have an impact early in the season but it is a luxury to have so many seniors.

What are your goals for the upcoming season, and what are your expectations for the upcoming season? Our goals are to get better every single day. We want to get to the NCAA tourney and then advance when we get there. However, we cannot focus on a conference title right now otherwise we will set ourselves up for failure. We are not defending anything: that is in the past and we are trying to chase a new title.

Season Preview: HoopsHD interviews Butler SR PF Andrew Chrabascz

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We continue our 2016-17 season preview interview series with Butler SR PF Andrew Chrabascz. His fame is growing, his game is glowing, and his name…rhymes with absolutely nothing.  As a freshman at Butler he was named to the Big East All-Rookie Team, and he has scored at least 20 PTS against top-3 seeds in each of the past 2 NCAA tourneys.  HoopsHD’s Jon Teitel got to chat with Andrew about his high school mentor and overcoming multiple injuries.

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During high school you had private workouts with former NBA player Chris Herren: how did he help you improve both on or off the court? I started working with him after my freshman year. I used to just be a big man who played with my back to the basket, but Chris taught me a lot of guard skills. He also helped me a lot off the court by teaching me what path to follow and how to stay on the straight and narrow. I still keep in touch with him and love his family tremendously.

In 2014 you were named to the Big East All-Rookie team: how were you able to come in and contribute right from the start? My mindset was just to help the team as much as possible, which is still my mindset. Once my number got called to step onto the court I just tried to play balls to the wall. I have great teammates and it was a special moment to be named to the All-Rookie Team.

In the 2015 NCAA tourney you scored 20 PTS in a 3-PT OT loss to Notre Dame: how close did you come to pulling off the upset? We played to our plan perfectly: if we had made a couple of more shots at the end of the game then we would have advanced. It was a sour feeling to lose but I give all the credit to Notre Dame.

In the 2016 NCAA tourney you scored 25 PTS/4-4 3PM in an 8-PT loss to Virginia: what did you learn from that game that you think can help you this year? We learned that we have to be more defensive-minded. In the 1st half we took the lead but in the 2nd half they shot almost 80 FG%: nobody can win a game when you let a team shoot that well. We just have to stay together, which we did for the most part.

You play for Coach Chris Holtmann: what makes him such a good coach, and what is the most important thing that you have ever learned from him? He can relate to his players and has created great relationships with everyone. We all love to hold each other accountable and we respect that he just wants the best out of the team. He is good at motivating us and is great at game-preparation.

You missed some time during your career with a concussion and a broken right hand: how is your health at the moment? It is good. I feel great and the entire team is also doing well. It is nice to have the whole team together and working hard.

Your non-conference schedule includes games against Northwestern/Vanderbilt/Arizona/Utah/Cincinnati/Indiana: which of these games do you feel will present your biggest test? We look at every game as a huge test, so it is exciting for us to compete every night. The IU game is an obvious 1 because we are in the same state, but we know that we will have to bring our best for all those games.

You are 1 of 6 seniors on the roster: how crucial will all of that experience be to your team’s success? It will be huge. We lost a couple of vocal guys from last year in Roosevelt Jones/Kellen Dunham, but it helps to have several veteran players who know what it takes to win. When we face adversity and have setbacks, our experience will allow us to fight back.

Your father Carl played basketball at Penn State and then the Washington Generals: who is the best athlete in the family? He beat me the last time we played when I was 12 years old so I guess that I have to give it to him…which is a tough thing to say!

What are your goals for the upcoming season, and what are your expectations for the upcoming season? We are just trying to improve every day and make strides in the right direction: it is too early to set any goals. I think we will have a chance to do real well and I want to make it to the NCAA tourney.

Season Preview: HoopsHD interviews Marquette assistant coach Brett Nelson

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We continue our 2016-17 season preview interview series with Marquette assistant coach Brett Nelson. He first gained fame at Florida, where he arrived as a McDonald’s All-American in 1999, helped the Gators make the NCAA title game in 2000, and was named All-American in 2001.  He graduated in 2004 with the most 3PM (274) and 2nd-most STL (199) in school history. After previous coaching stops at Ball State/Drake/Arkansas/Marshall, he begins his 3rd year working for the Golden Eagles under head coach Steve Wojciechowski.  HoopsHD’s Jon Teitel got to chat with Coach Nelson about playing for an NCAA title and being a great 3-PT shooter.

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You had 11 AST for the West in a 141-128 win over the East in the 1999 McDonald’s All-American Game (which set a record for the highest scoring game in McDonald’s history): which of your teammates impressed you the most (Jonathan Bender/Carlos Boozer/other)? I think Bender set a record with 31 PTS so he was by far the most impressive guy I saw that night, even though injuries later ruined his NBA career.

In the 2000 NCAA title game as a player for Billy Donovan at Florida you scored 11 PTS in a loss to Michigan State: how close did you come to winning it all? We got hot at the right time and played really well throughout the tourney. We played well against the Spartans but they were lights out that night and deserved to win the game. They deserve all the credit and had a great group of seniors.

In the 2002 NCAA tourney you scored 13 PTS despite playing with a broken cheekbone in a 1-PT 2-OT loss to Creighton: did you think that your 12-foot jumper in the final second was going in, and where does that rank among the most devastating losses of your career? It was really disappointing. I got a good look at the shot but it just did not go in. We had chances to put them away during the game but failed to do so. We had a good year so to lose in double-OT at the buzzer was tough to swallow.

You were top-10 in STL in the SEC for 3 straight years while averaging 11 PPG during your college career: how were you able to balance your offense with your defense? The way that we played pressure defense allowed me to be in a good position to get a lot of STL, and Coach Donovan gave us a lot of freedom on the offensive end. I think that to be considered a good player you have to be a 2-way player. I was lucky enough to have good coaches/teammates who put me in a position to succeed.

In 2001 you led the conference with 45.3 3P%: what is your secret for making shots from behind the arc? Confidence. You obviously need to put the time in to become a good shooter so I spent a lot of time in the gym. I felt that was my best year at Florida.

That same year you were named an All-American: what did it mean to you to win such an outstanding honor? I did not pay too much attention to that at the time but I know that it is a great honor. We had a lot of injuries that year and we really overachieved despite only having 7 guys playing for a big portion of SEC play. We really came together as a group, which is what I was happy about.

You currently work as an assistant to Marquette head coach Steve Wojciechowski: what makes him such a good coach, and what is the most important thing that you have ever learned from him? His passion for the game and the fact that he truly cares for the players. He is a great leader and has the ability to get everyone on the same page. I have been around a lot of good coaches during my career but he gets me excited to come to work every day.

You have severel big-time transfers on your roster including Luke Fischer (Indiana), Katin Reinhardt (USC), and Andrew Rowsey (UNC-Asheville): what is the key to having everyone come together and bond as a team? That will be a huge key to our season. Luke will be a big part of our rebounding. Andrew really produced at Asheville and has become a better defender: we also expect him to be a threat from the outside. Katin has produced at a high level and had a good summer for us: he can score but is also a passer who can make the right plays. All 3 of them will be really important for us but we also have a lot of depth which will bring out the best in people to see who can compete the best.

Your non-conference schedule includes games against a pair of Big 10 (Michigan/Wisconsin) and SEC (Vanderbilt/Georgia) schools: which of these games do you feel will present your biggest test? All of those games are going to be tough. Wisconsin is a preseason top-10 team, and Vandy is our season opener in Annapolis with a new coach in Bryce Drew so they are a bit of an unknown. Georgia has a lot of good players returning, and Michigan coach John Beilien is 1 of the best in the country. We will just focus on the next game at hand.

What are your goals for the upcoming season, and what are your expectations for the upcoming season? We expect our guys to play hard every single day during games/practice as well as in the weight room. We need to come together to try to reach our goals of winning the Big East and making the NCAA tourney. However, we must not get ahead of ourselves: if we just take it 1 game at a time then the results should take care of themselves.

The Hoops HD Report: Pre-Preseason Edition

Although the college basketball season doesn’t officially begin until the second Friday in November, teams begin practicing as early as next week, and Hoops HD’s season is about to get into full swing.  Our extension preseason coverage will consist of player and coach interviews, conference previews, podcasts previewing the upcoming season, and much more!  CLICK HERE for an index of all the preseason content, which is already underway and will continue to grow as the season approaches.

On this edition, Chad and the panel begin by reintroducing the site and all of the things Hoops HD features, including their weekly Bracketology with Jon Teitel which proved to be more accurate than all of the major networks and was #3 overall in the Bracket Matrix, the weekly Hoops HD committee updates that makes no attempt to guess the committee, but rather reports and builds the bracket the way they think it should look, the daily write up and recap of games throughout the season, the different types of weekly podcasts, Jon Teitel’s player and coaches interviews, and much more.  They also get us up to speed on the news and notes concerning the NCAA Tournament site being taken out of Greensboro, the coaching issues at George Washington, and Big Twelve expansion.

But, the main focal point this week is a look back at a podcast that was originally recorded on the day of last year’s National Championship game with ESPN’s Joe Lunardi, where the current state of college basketball was discussed.  One of the topics that came up was a series of Out of Conference games that we would like to see, which David Griggs wanted to institute as the “Griggs-Lunardi Awesomeness Series.”  So just for fun we take a look at each of those match-ups and talk about why we’d like to see them, as well as some of the reasons they are not played.  What particularly drives us nuts is that the most common reason we don’t see those games is that one or both programs feel they have “Everything to lose, and nothing to gain.”  Well, that’s ridiculous.  The teams that do play intriguing OOC games, even against regional opponents who are successful on a lower level, don’t lose much of anything.  Take programs like Wisconsin and Virginia, for instance.

 

 

Now, if you’re interested, we’ve got a second video for you!!  Below is the above mentioned video that was recorded on the day of the national championship game with Joe Lunardi, which discusses the current state of college basketball and several of the topics concerning it…

 

And for all you radio lovers, below is an mp3 version of the Hoops HD Report: Pre-Preseason Edition…

Season Preview: HoopsHD interviews new Arkansas-Little Rock head coach Wes Flanigan

CLICK HERE for all of the Hoops HD preseason articles, interviews, and previews

We continue our 2016-17 season preview interview series with new Arkansas-Little Rock head coach Wes Flanigan. He took over in March after working as associate head coach to Chris Beard for last year’s 30-win season, and is very familiar with the area after being born/raised in Little Rock.  He attended college at Auburn where he became 1 of the best PGs in Tiger history.  HoopsHD’s Jon Teitel got to chat with Coach Flanigan about winning an NCAA tourney game in double-OT and then having his dream come true.

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You played basketball at Auburn where your 573 career AST remains #2 in school history: what is your secret for being a good PG? You need a good feel for the game and for your teammates. I had some teammates who could finish plays and shoot the ball, so they made me look good.

You received the Cliff Hare Award as the university’s top student-athlete: how much importance do you place on academics? That all started with my upbringing: in our household I always wanted to get good grades so that I did not let my parents down. It helped to have a coaching mentor who instilled a lot of that in me.

Your father Al was the assistant coach of your high school team: how much of an impact did he have on your own decision to become a coach? He was my mentor/role model: it was my dad rather than Michael Jordan! My dream was to become an NBA player and I worked hard to reach that goal: if it were not for an injury I might have had that opportunity. In the back of my mind I knew that I wanted to become a coach after I was done playing because I wanted to be just like my dad.

As an assistant at Northwest Mississippi Community College you worked with both the men’s and women’s teams: what is the biggest difference between coaching men and women? The speed of the game/athleticism is different. The women were much more of a sponge to what I was teaching: they trusted me and would run through a brick wall for me. The men are a little harder to coach because they are more stubborn/rebellious.

Take me through the 2016 NCAA tourney as an associate head coach under Chris Beard at Arkansas-Little Rock:
You had a 2-PT 2-OT win over Purdue for the school’s 1st tourney win in 30 years: how were you able to overcome a 14-PT 2nd half deficit, and where does Josh Hagins’ game-tying 3-PT shot at the end of regulation rank among the most clutch shots that you have ever seen? Everything started with mental toughness: Chris instilled a sense of pride in both our program and our city. There were numerous games last year when we were down double-digits so Purdue was not any different: we just stuck with the process. Josh’s shot will probably go down as the biggest shot in our program’s history. It was not a surprise to us: we saw it each and every day. He was probably responsible for about 5 wins on his own that season by making plays for his team and that shot was a prime example of how much he meant to us.

You finished your season with a loss to Iowa State: what do you think your team learned from that game that can help them this year? We have 6 seniors coming back with a bitter taste in their mouth, so I think they want to get back to that point and then get to the next level. We will approach things the same but those seniors learned that each and every game is important.

In March you were named head coach and said that it was a dream come true since you were born/raised in Little Rock: how has the dream gone over the past 6 months? It has been great: every day I wake up and live my dream. I love this city because it meant so much to me and set the stage for who I am today. There are not many opportunities in this profession for guys to go home and become a head coach so I am very fortunate. I woke up at 5AM today to hit the recruiting road and I have no regrets. We look forward to sustaining some consistency.

Last year your team won a conference-record 30 games and won its 1st-ever outright Sun Belt regular season title: how much pressure is there on you to approach last year’s dream season? I do not call it pressure. In high school I was able to win a state championship after we lost all of our starters from the previous year.  I took over for Moochie Norris at Auburn and we were still able to win 20 games. I think that I am prepared and we have a great group of seniors. I am going to have fun with it because I have a great staff.

Your non-conference schedule includes games against Tulsa/Florida: which of these games do you feel will present your biggest test? I think that every game is a challenge at this level. We cannot just walk out on the floor and feel like we are going to dominate a team. The challenge is to try to win every game on the schedule.

Your roster has 7 players from Arkansas as well as international players from Canada/Kosovo: what sort of recruiting philosophy do you have in terms of geography? Since I am from here it is a huge priority to try and keep as many players in-state as we can. However, we want to win championships so we will recruit whoever we can to help us do that no matter where they come from.

What are your goals for the upcoming season, and what are your expectations for the upcoming season? We expect to give ourselves a chance to win a conference title. We want to have fun and make sure that our guys have a great experience. We will approach every game like it is our last game.