Tag:Trippin
Posted on: August 29, 2011 1:57 pm
 

Trippin': UNC-Wilmington builds anew with 8 frosh

Posted by Matt Norlander

Buzz Peterson’s just happy to have made it out of Hurricane Irene’s path without much damage to his home and university. He lives along the North Carolina shore; UNC-Wilmington’s campus is just a few miles left of the Atlantic Ocean.

Prior to the serious weather, Peterson and his team were basking in beautiful conditions, as they took a trip to the Bahamas on Aug. 16. The Seahawks’ second-year coach was pretty satisfied, considering he’ll have one of the youngest teams in the country this season. The Seahawks have eight freshmen on scholarship, plus two more walk-ons. There’s only one senior (Trevor Deloach) to go with two juniors and three sophomores.

While playing against Bahamian all-star teams, UNC-Wilmington went 1-1. Yep, only two games, but Peterson put everyone on the floor and carefully allotted minutes to maximize play and evaluation. Certain guys, like Keith Rendleman, Donte Morales and Matt Wilson, who Peterson said will be starters in November, only got a handful of minutes. With all those freshmen to learn about, they were the ones who saw most of the PT.

Peterson’s in this position — having so many young guys — because he came aboard last year, when the program was in need of a cleansing. There were only six scholarships player available when Peterson got the job because so many of the players didn’t have the grades to keep playing. He wanted a culture change. He wanted this huge freshman class.

“We’re all right. This is where we want to start,” he said. “These guys will be the foundation of our program, and we’ll move forward with our class.” There is now just one 2012 scholarship and two 2013s for the Seahawks.

What Peterson learned:  Initially, he was wondering how much of a hacking team he’d have, considering, according to him, his team was out-shot in free throws 77-33. That’s the type of disparity that can lead to brawls on the court, you know.

Peterson said the chemistry of the team coming together is what he learned about most, though. He squeezed in 13 practices in 10 days. Everyone was there, save freshman guard Freddie Jackson, who was held back because he didn’t have a summer school credit.

What impressed him: “Morales did some nice things,” Peterson said. “He showed some true leadership. He looked very confident, looked like a whole different person out there.”  Of all the freshmen who saw the court, Peterson said Nate Anderson (6-8, 245 pounds) played the best over the course of two games. Fellow frosh K.K. Simmons and Adam Smith scored a lot, “but they’ve still got to learn on defense.”

What concerned him: It was the collective defensive understanding of the team, and particularly with the guards. In the past, Peterson’s teams have relied on athletic ability, but this year’s crop will “be more about overall team support,” Peterson said.

-- Peterson began to see how his team would work as a group on defense by putting guys in different positions. He had 2s play the point, power forwards move to the 3. There was some success — but they did have all those fouls, too.

-- The starting five will get battles from Deloach, Keegan Pace, Shane Reybold and pretty much every guard who proves his condition can handle the secondary break.

-- No major injuries of any kind to report.

-- Peterson, who’s a North Carolina guy, will run the Carolina secondary break with all of his whippersnappers.” I’m still one of those old-school coaches, I guess, the closer you are to get that ball inside and take advantage of your size,” Peterson said. “In this league it’s hard to run. It’s a lot of half-court. It’s possession-for-possession. We will fight that.”

-- How’s this for a fun anecdote from the trip: Deloach doesn’t swim at all, and getting him to go on a water ride proved to be about as hard a task as any for the team. So with Peterson wanted to get some good bonding/teamwork going, he implemented a reward system. Peterson gives his guys plus-points throughout the year. Collect enough points, and you avoid sprints in practice. It’s an old thing Dean Smith used to do.

Peterson said the entire team would get 10 points if they could get Deloach to ride down the Leap of Faith, a water ride slide that included a brief streak across a pool filled with sharks. It took about a minute of encouraging, and came at the very end of the day, but Deloach finally went down. Once he was there, he freaked out — until he realized the pool he ended up in was knee-deep.

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: August 28, 2011 2:03 pm
Edited on: September 1, 2011 12:00 pm
 

Trippin': This must be the year for Middle Tenn.

In our Trippin’ series, we’re talking to teams as they return from preseason trips to foreign locales. Click here for all Trippin’ related stories.

By Matt Norlander


If Kermit Davis is ever going to get to the 20-win water mark at Middle Tennessee, it has to be this year. Why? The Blue Raiders’ head coach said this group is the deepest team he’s had in his 10 seasons at Middle Tennessee -- and “it’s not even close.”

Davis’ previous campaigns, in succession, have win totals of 14, 17, 19, 16, 15, 17, 18, 19, 16. Never a bad team -- but fair to say never a really good one. It’s time for the Blue Raiders to break through. The team won the Sun Belt regular-season title two years ago, but was upset by Denver in the conference tournament. The program has won more conference games than any other in the Sun Belt over the past four years. Davis knows there are no real excuses anymore for he and his program.

For its summer excursion, Middle Tennessee flew up to Calgary to play four games in three days last week. It was one of the few clubs this summer  that didn’t make it a point to travel all around, doing a lot of sight-seeing and get in a full-on touristy type experience. The team played in one arena, stayed in downtown Calgary and went 4-0 playing against the University of Calgary, the University of Alberta twice and a hodgepodge all-star team from the area.

It was the best possible scenario for Davis’ team, as far as he was concerned. There was focus on hoops every day.

What Davis learned: The aforementioned depth. Davis and his staff knew there’d be a lot of players who could get some quality minutes this season, but the games in Calgary confirmed their beliefs. This team should be 10 deep, no problem.

“And we better have depth, because we’re going to need it,” Davis said., alluding to his team’s non-conference schedule, which will have a number of BCS programs. The schedule hasn’t officially been released yet, but we do know Middle Tennessee will partake in the on-land portion of the newly formatted Maui Invitational and has locked in three BCS schools.  

Who impressed him: Above all others, LaRon Dendy, a 6-9, 235-pound redshirt senior and former Iowa State forward who will be key this year. Also, the 6-6 junior Jason Jones, who was the second-leading scorer on the team last season and was used on 25 percent of the Blue Raiders’ possessions.

What concerned him: “I think my concerns are similar to what a lot of coaches have right now, talking about movement on the floor, ball reversal and assist-to-turnovers.” The team had 28 turnovers and 15 steals per game in Calgary, but Davis said his team’s but offensive execution needs the most work before the season starts in nine weeks.

-- Davis got a look at four new guards who will fight for a lot of playing time. Raymond Cintron, a new guard to the team by way of Mississippi Gulf Coast Junior College, scored 25 in the team’s final game. “He’ll be able to play the point guard and the shooting guard,” Davis said.

-- Injuries: a couple guys missed a couple of games, most notably hybrid guard/forward Kerry Hammonds due to a twisted ankle. James Gallman suffered a concussion.

-- The most unknown factor to Middle Tennessee’s season is Oklahoma State transfer Torin Walker. He’s a 6-11 sophomore, but his eligibility is in question right now. Walker did not make the trip with the team because he and his mother were cited to have possibly taken illegal benefits from a Georgia AAU coach three years ago. Walker played for the Georgia Blazers. Davis said the problem stems from one AAU coach helping his mother take a trip on a recruiting visit.

Davis added that he and Middle Tennessee compliance are doing all they can to make this as transparent as possible, and he hopes this won’t trickle into the season, as these allegations came long before Middle Tennessee was ever involved with Walker.

-- If Walker is eligible then he’ll no doubt be in the start five. As of now, Davis sees Dendy, J.T. Sulton, Jones and Cintron as starters.

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: August 27, 2011 3:54 pm
 

Trippin': North Dakota St is young but familiar



In our Trippin’ series, we’re talking to teams as they return from preseason trips to foreign locales. Click here for all Trippin’ related stories.


By Matt Norlander

Hopefully North Dakota State basketball hasn’t slipped from your mind. You remember the Bison, right? In their first year of NCAA tournament eligibility in 2008-09, Saul Phillips’ (above) team made the Big Dance with a 26-6 record. They were a cute pick to upset Kansas in the 3-14 game. Didn’t happen, but they did give the Jayhawks a good go, thanks to Ben Woodside throwing up 37 in the first-round contest.

We’re now two and a half seasons removed from that run, and NDSU head coach Saul Phillips, who recently took his team to Canada, thinks this year’s crop is the first one since that tourney run who resembles the group that made it to the big stage. Why? Because they’re so young they don’t know any better; they’re completely unafraid. The 2011-12 Bison are comprised of nine freshmen and sophomores.

“They have youthful exuberance,” Phillips said. “They’re so young, they don’t know what they can and can’t do yet.”

This year’s team doesn’t have as many shooters as that team, which was a top-10 group from behind the 3-point line, but they can attack the basket better than the ’08-09 squad.

“And this team is a little more versatile,” Phillips said.

The Bison went up to Winnipeg for some exhibition play, and faired very well, winning a few of their games with relative ease.

What Phillips learned: “With 10 practices we had a real good opportunity to learn and see what we have. The biggest thing was being able to implement what we want defensively. With such a young team you’re learning everything, and with what we’re able to do with our size, we’ve got a lot of players in similar veins who switch off.”

Who impressed him: A freshman by the name of Lawrence Alexander. Alexander was in prep school last year. He’s a 6-3 guard who “really took a huge step forward,” according to Phillips. The other player Phillips mentioned was Dylan Hale, a transfer from Texas State, who will be a big part of why NDSU will push and get into an open-court game. That’s a departure from what the team’s been about in recent years.

What concerned him: “The youth is the primary concern. There are going to be mistakes on the fly this year that we’re going to have to overcome. Despite the growing pains, we’ve got talent to compete for next three years.”

-- Injury-wise, the team had one redshirt from last year, Jordan Aaberg, who was forced to sit all season due to a concussion. He’s back, and the team’s healthy. “We just a couple of rolled ankles in Canada,” Phillips said.

-- This team can’t shoot like his previous tournament one, but it’s still got some ability from 20 feet out. Combine that with an aggressive approach, and that’s why Phillips believes the team can make a run at 20 Ws.

“With our young group, those are the recruiting classes we were able to get after the NCAA tournament,” he said. “I think we’re going to be exciting to watch because we’re more athletic than we’ve been in a long time.”

-- This group has two seniors back: Eric Carlson and Drew Lundberg. Neither are guaranteed a starting spot, Phillips said.

-- Sophomore TrayVonn Wright, a 6-8 forward, Taylor Braun, a 6-7 guard, and Marshall Bjorklund, a 6-8 sophomore, all have starting spots as of now.

-- And you read that right: Braun is a 6-7 guard. He’s able to run their not because of his offense, but his great ability and length to handle the Summitt League’s guards on the perimeter. He’ll be vital to keeping NDSU a contender in the league. Braun’s able to play guard at that height because

“He’s got a variety of ways to score and is a slasher,” Phillips said. “His touch from 17 to 18 feet is good, too.” Braun averaged 10 points and six rebounds last season.

Photo: AP
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: August 26, 2011 7:52 am
Edited on: August 26, 2011 8:05 am
 

Trippin': Hawai'i experiments in Asia

In our Trippin’ series, we’re talking to teams as they return from preseason trips to foreign locales. Click here for all Trippin’ related stories.

By Jeff Borzello

Going into his team’s 15-day trip to China and Japan, Hawai’i head coach Gib Arnold knew it might be a culture shock.

And it was – the team ate bugs, cow tongue, chicken feet, duck tongue and other local delicacies.

“You name it, we ate it,” Arnold said. “We didn’t shy away from anything. If it was on my plate, we were eating it.”

There was only one thing Arnold wouldn’t eat: friend scorpion.

“It wasn’t PF Chang’s or Panda Express,” he said. “It was the real deal.”

What Arnold learned: “I was pleased with how well they got along. We only traveled with 10 guys, and over half didn’t play for me last year. They really gelled. The veteran guys helped the new guys out. It wasn’t just on the basketball floor; it was fun seeing those guys at the markets, trying to buy fake watches and bartering. I think that was as much fun as watching the games.”

What impressed him: Freshman guard Shaq Stokes – “He was our leading scorer. You saw some real, real talent in him. He has the ability to score in bunches. He’s a freshman, so he has a long way to go, but he was fun to watch.”

What concerned him: Zone offense and fatigue – “We only had 10 practices, so we didn’t put in a lot of plays. We ran a lot of basic motion, a lot of ball-screen action. We didn’t really have a zone offense, and in the first game, the team came out and zoned us. That had to do with the amount of time before the trip, though. I was also worried about fatigue, and guys had to play a lot of minutes. By the end of our trip, our legs were pretty much gone. But we’ll have Vander [Joaquim] and Zane [Johnson] back, and a couple of recruits will join us.”

- Hawaii was without perhaps its two best players. Vander Joaquim, a 6-foot-10 big man, was playing with the Angola national team, while former Arizona transfer Zane Johnson was injured. Johnson turned his ankle in a pre-trip practice and wasn’t able to play on it in Asia. “He’s a couple weeks away from playing again,” Arnold said. “We were being pretty cautious with him. We need him more during the season than we did on the trip.”

- Junior college transfer Hauns Brereton was impressive on the trip, according to Arnold. Brereton averaged 20 points and seven rebounds at Western Nebraska Community College, racking up about 25 scholarship offers before choosing Hawaii in mid-April.

- Former USC transfer Davis Rozitis, who hasn’t played in nearly two years, got back on the court. The 7-footer held his own. “It was real good for him just to play games again,” Arnold said. “It was good to see his progress.”

- Bobby Miles, Trevor Wiseman and Joston Thomas stood out among the returnees. “They knew what I expected of them and they delivered,” Arnold said.

- Hawaii picked up former Nebraska transfer Christian Standhardinger earlier this week. Two things helped the Rainbow Warriors’ recruitment of Standhardinger: assistant coach Walter Roese coached Standhardinger at Nebraska, and Arnold speaks fluent German. “I don’t know if that helped us, but I was able to talk to his mom in German,” Arnold said.

- Arnold expects basketball in China to explode in the next few years. “The amount of basketball being played – there’s hundreds and hundreds of basketball courts,” he said. “The number of kids playing it. China’s going to become a major, major power in basketball.”

CBSSports.com’s list of teams taking preseason trips

Photo: US Presswire

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: August 25, 2011 10:52 am
 

Trippin': Gardner-Webb comes together in Bahamas



In our Trippin’ series, we’re talking to teams as they return from preseason trips to foreign locales. Click here for all Trippin’ related stories.

By Jeff Borzello

Chris Holtmann and his Gardner-Webb team were sitting at their pregame meal in the Bahamas, awaiting their 7 p.m. tip against the Nassau Cybots.

Then a phone call came in – the Runnin’ Bulldogs had to get to the arena for a 6 p.m. game against the Bahamas All-Stars.

“They flipped the script on who we would play,” Holtmann said.  “We told them we would play whoever was there, but we can’t get there for a 6 o’clock game.”

Gardner-Webb ended up facing the Bahamas All-Stars at 7 p.m., and despite losing by three, Holtmann felt good about the last-minute contest.

“It was what we expected, and we were still learning about each other,” he said. “I felt as good about that game as the game we won by double-figures.”

What Holtmann learned: “At $2.50 per minute for a phone call and no cell phones, you see the value of community, what’s special about a team. There’s no question that cell phones can be a detriment to that at times. Having five days of no cell phones, we bonded together. Being on the bus, not seeing guys texting while they’re with their teammates. When we got back, we had six guys on Facebook and three on Twitter say it was the best experience of their entire life. They could spend time with each other, and that was really, really valuable. It’s something I won’t forget.”

What impressed him: Chemistry and leadership – “I think the chemistry and our leadership has a chance to be good. The guys like being around each other and competing. We also have better depth than we had last year, knock on wood. We have so many new faces. The first game here, our five leading scorers were not members of the team last year.”

What concerned him: Inexperience – “The youth would be number one. We have a number of inexperienced guys that we’re going to need to play significant minutes. We don’t have the luxury of saying, you can play behind this guy for two-three years, or even a year. We’re going to have a chance to have a successful season, but newcomers will have to step up and contribute right away.”

- Wofford transfer Jason Dawson is expected to make an immediate impact at the point guard position. “He played well in both games,” Holtmann said. “It was up-and-down, so the pace was good for him. I think he performed really well.”

- Despite all the newcomers, leading returning scorer Laron Buggs is not going to relinquish his spot easily. “He played really well in the second game,” Holtmann said. “I think he’s continuing to get better and better.”

- Freshmen Donta Harper and Max Landis were the standouts among the first-year players on the roster. Harper had 13 points in the opener, while Landis averaged 8.5 points off the bench.

- There were no injuries and everyone was able to go on the trip besides UCF transfer Jarvis Davis. Davis played in 15 games for the Black Knights last season, and joined Gardner-Webb in June. He will sit out the upcoming season.

- The Runnin’ Bulldogs stayed at the Atlantis resort, but also got out and explored the island. For Holtmann, one of the highlights was a trip to an orphanage. “It was important for me that our guys maybe take some time and think about other people,” he said. 

- With seven returnees and eight newcomers, there will be some growing pains – but Holtmann is looking forward to the future. “We’re going to be young, there’s no question,” he said. “It’s a season where we go through tough stuff, but I’m excited about what we’re starting to build.”

CBSSports.com’s list of teams taking preseason trips

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: August 25, 2011 9:50 am
Edited on: August 25, 2011 10:20 am
 

Trippin': Creighton finds point guard depth

By Gary Parrish

Greg McDermott never really thought of it in advance because he was focused on basketball and stuff. But once his Creighton Bluejays were in the Bahamas for their preseason trip, the second-year coach realized that having little-to-no cell phone service was a nice advantage.

"There was no Facebook and no Twitter," McDermott (right) said. "So the players had to spend a lot of time together and figure out things to do with each other, and that's what I wanted accomplished on this trip. It was really important to develop team chemistry; I think that was accomplished on this trip, and having limited cell phone service was certainly a benefit that I didn't really think about before we left. It was a huge benefit because it forced the guys to spend time together."

Creighton returned home from the Bahamas last week.

McDermott shared his thoughts about the trip with CBSSports.com this week.

What McDermott learned: "We have depth at a lot of positions," McDermott said "We played 11 guys 14 minutes or more with nobody playing more than 21 minutes. So we were able to put a lot of combinations on the floor."

Who or what impressed McDermott: Freshman point guard Austin Chatman had 30 assists and just four turnovers in four games. "He's picked things up as quickly as anybody I've ever coached," McDermott said. "He's been blessed with a lot of speed and the ability to change speeds and change directions, and he's got unbelievable vision. Point guard was an area where we were weak last year because Antoine Young was our only point guard. So to have a quality person as a freshman who can play that position as well is going to be a huge plus for us."

What concerned McDermott: "We turned it over as a team a little more than I would've liked, but we're trying to play a little faster because of our personnel and I think that's a natural step in the process of learning to play that way," McDermott said. "You're going to force the issue sometimes, and that was somewhat of a concern. And the other concern is that we didn't shoot free throws very well, but I think we're a much better shooting team than we shot it."

----- NOTES -----
  • Most teams on foreign trips bounce from one city to the next, but Creighton stayed at the same resort the entire time. That made the trip more about basketball and less about sight-seeing. "From an educational standpoint it maybe wasn't as good in terms of seeing everything you can possibly see when you're on a trip," McDermott said. "But I think this is beneficial in a different way. You check in and you're there to stay, and we were at an all-inclusive resort so we never had to jump on a bus and go find a place to eat in the middle of the day."
  • Gregory Enchenique did not make the trip with Creighton because he's playing with the Venezuelan national team. That's not ideal, obviously. But it forced McDermott to look at other options in the middle and develop depth. "It ended up being a huge positive for Will Artino and Geoffrey Groselle," McDermott said. "They got all the reps in practice and all the playing time in the games at that center position. So there's some quality depth there that's gonna be really good for us."
  • Sophomore Ethan Wragge was limited to playing in just two of the four games because of an injury. "But it was only a mild MCL sprain," McDermott said. "He's going to be fine."
  • McDermott said he wants all of his veterans to get some rest over the next week or so -- especially his son, Doug McDermott, who played for USA Basketball before accompanying Creighton to the Bahamas. "I think he understands that he has to listen to his body," McDermott said. "He's essentially played half of a college season since the first week in July. He's played 15-plus games and has probably been part of 20-plus practices. He needs to give his body a break."
  • Because Chatman has been so impressive, McDermott will play his two point guards together at times this season. "We did that some over in the Bahamas," he said. "Having two great ball-handlers on the floor who can also distribute the basketball will really help us."
Posted on: August 24, 2011 5:07 pm
 

Trippin': Injury-riddled Drake goes to Australia



In our Trippin’ series, we’re talking to teams as they return from preseason trips to foreign locales. Click here for all Trippin’ related stories.

By Jeff Borzello

Drake head coach Mark Phelps caught flashbacks when he saw video of the brawl between Georgetown and China.

Twelve years ago, Phelps went to Italy when he was an assistant at North Carolina State – and the same thing happened. With no security around, an all-out brawl ensued for at least two minutes before two Americans on the Italian team escorted NC State to the locker room and then the team bus.

“It was a zoo, it was a bad scene,” Phelps said. “You show up to a gym, there’s nothing familiar about the venue that makes you have any level of comfort. The crowd is against you, you’re not getting one call and you don’t know what their team is comprised of. You’re thinking, ‘Man, what are we getting ourselves into?’”

There were no fights or brawls during Drake’s trip to Australia this month – and that was a good thing for more than just safety. The Bulldogs were without four of their best inside players, leaving small forward Ben Simons to play the post.

Phelps thinks the 1-3 trip Down Under will help in the long run, though.

“There will be residual benefits,” he said. “Players had to play out of position, so we got see how they react to adverse situations – situations, toughness-wise, that we wouldn’t see until January or February. It was a really good experience.”

What Phelps learned: “It was confirmed that we can really rely on Rayvonte Rice and Ben Simons. As a sophomore and junior, that will be our strength. In our league, they’ll be as good of a one-two punch as there is. I think that’s what we really learned more than anything – those two will be dependable, reliable, our go-to-guys.”

What impressed him: Wing scoring – “Rayvonte Rice is on an upward path, and he did exactly what I expected from him. He averaged over 20 a game, Ben Simons had about 17.5 per game. I’m really happy to see those two guys scoring, we’re really going to rely heavily on those two guys. Jeremy Jeffers, a 6’6 wing, averaged right around 10 points a game. Going into his freshman year, he’s got a big-time headstart on any other freshman.”

What concerned him: Physicality and defense – “It’s not really fair, because we were missing so many guys with size, but in order to win in the Missouri Valley, you have to compete physically. We were outmanned – once again, you’re talking about pros in their 20s and 30s and we didn’t have our bulk and size – nevertheless, it’s something I can point to and say, we have to compete at a higher level. We’re not where we want to be defensively. Other teams shot 53 percent – it’s another thing you can point to and talk about.”

- Returning starters Seth VanDeest (shoulder surgery) and Jordan Clarke (knee), as well as key reserve Frank Wiseler (illness), did not suit up at all on the trip. Reese Uhelenhopp started the first game, but left the game with a thumb injury and did not play the rest of the time in Australia.

- Kraidon Woods – a former Villanova commit, Arizona State signee and Binghamton transfer – did not travel with the team due to disciplinary reasons. “We had an agreement,” Phelps said. “And he was on-course before falling off at the end. But I had to stick with my word. It should be a wake-up call for him.”

- Point guard play is another area of concern for Phelps. Karl Madison, who redshirted last year due to injury, could take the reins later in the season, but David Smith shouldered most of the load on the trip. “We’ve got some question marks there,” Phelps said. “We’ll hone in on that in the fall.”

- Drake plays Iowa State in the second game of the season, a game Phelps has had circled on his calendar. “That’s going to be a big game,” he said. “The experience we had prepares us to play Chris Allen, Royce White, Chris Babb. As opposed to opening up at home in a situation . . . we do have four games under our belt. We don’t have a false sense of security going into the opening games.”

- Drake had 18 practices or workouts as a team because of the trip. “That’s 18 workouts you wouldn’t typically get with your team,” Phelps said. “It’s such a head start. Definitely beneficial on so many levels.”

- The team certainly took some time to take in the sightseeing spots in Auckland, Sydney and Melbourne. The Bulldogs went on a Sydney Harbour cruise; saw koalas and kangaroos at a wildlife reserve; and one player even climbed the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

CBSSports.com’s list of teams taking preseason trips

Photo: Drake Athletics

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: August 24, 2011 4:16 pm
Edited on: August 24, 2011 4:31 pm
 

Trippin': Get to know Dayton's new coach

In our Trippin' series we're talking to teams as they return from preseason trips to foreign locales. Click here for all Trippin' related stories.

By Matt Norlander


If you’re tired of the Brad Stevens driver’s license jokes, prepare for yourself later next season for the onslaught of Archie Miller cracks. The new Dayton coach is 32 years old, has a stomach full of fire but looks like he’d be the perfect candidate to be your local high school’s starting point guard. Plus, that name: Archie. It just rings with whippersnapper undertones.

And then there’s the fact he’s Sean Miller’s younger brother. Miller’s ready for those questions and stories to come when the season begins, too. But right now, he and his team just got back from a European trip wherein they went 4-0 against the Holland U-23 national team as well as other junior teams in Belgium and France.

Miller didn’t care much for the games though. It was about the practices. This was the first time he got to work with his team; Miller was hired in April after Brian Gregory took the Georgia Tech job. Miller said he was very serious and direct in practice from the start. That’s his style. He has to offset those youthful looks and inexperience at the head-coaching level with a tone and demeanor with his new guys.

He said they responded terrifically, a credit to Gregoy and his staff.

“Eighty percent of the learning curve of how we practice is now out of the way,” Miller said. “Now it’s why we practice and why were’ doing certain things.”

What Miller learned: “I think the one thing most coaches want to learn about is their depth. But I also learned we have to be really, really smart the way we practice and how we protect ourselves. As a coach, in terms of strength, I think we’ve got a conditioned a group that works really hard.”

Who or what impressed him:  “For me, the most positive things happened before the games even started. But also, Kevin Dillard and Chris Johnson were a step above in terms of where they’re at talent-wise and experience-wise in where we play. Other guys had terrific stretches in games, but the way I look at us and how I see us, they’re above right now.”

What concerned him: “The frontcourt productivity is a question mark and a concern as of now.”

— The team currently has 10 scholarship players. Two incoming freshman jumped ship once Gregory left for Tech.  “I know people can say, ‘You could say there’s not a lot of whole lot of depth and continuity in their classes,’” Miller said. “It’s up to us to do a great job of recruiting going forward. We’ll do just fine with what we have.”

The Flyers will also have transfers from Georgetown (Vee Sanfaord) and LSU (Matt Derenbecker) available for 2012-13.

— More on who Miller is. When I asked him to sell himself to me, he responded: “I’m very nuts-and-bolts. I have always been that way, not only with being a player (at N.C. State), but the everyday process is so important to me. That’s what we’re about. Every day they’re competing, getting better. Me, personally, am very direct and very honest. When I played I was very blunt and in telling people both what they do and don’t want to hear, because it’s about the bottom line.”

— Injury-wise: The Flyers were down two in Europe: sophomore Ralph Hill, who’s dealing with a stress fracture in his foot; and sophomore Devin Oliver, who caught mono in early August and missed the trip. Paul Williamswent on the trip and played,  which was a victory. He’d been battling a deep knee bruise since the end of last season. It was so bad they almost elected to have him go under the knife.

— Miller said Dillard and Johnson are the only surefire starters as of now. He rotated starting lineups on the trip to “keep guys honest,” and said his frontcourt is up for grabs. It’s likely Paul Williams will also crack the starting five come the fall.

“I’m not as concerned as to who’s starting, but more concerned with roles and rotations,” Miller said.

— On his relationship with his brother: “It’s instant and daily communication. He’s everything to me. We’re obviously family, but part of the reason we went to Arizona is to achieve something together. Our relationship will go from practice comments to planning. Scheduling to recruiting to shooting the [expletive] about anything.”

— And on the pressure of comparison to his brother: “I put a lot of pressure on myself because, number one, I think anyone in college basketball knows it’s a hard-ass job. I have one of the best jobs in the country. This is a really special place. I think, as a young coach, having a chip on your shoulder or not, it’s about having a fearless approach, no matter who you are.”

 
 
 
 
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