Weekly Coach Menzies Interview :: 12/29/08 will be interviewing Aggie men's head basketball coach Marvin Menzies throughout the 2008/2009 season as the Aggies take aim at their third consecutive WAC championship. This week we recapped the rivalry games against UTEP in El Paso, UNM in Albuquerque, the home victory over Loyola Marymount plus look ahead at the rematch with New Mexico and the start of conference play against Fresno State and San Jose State. Your thoughts on the UTEP game in El Paso?
Marvin Menzies: That was a disappointing loss because I felt like we took a step backwards in our own development. We didn't go out there and do what we did well and that's execute and that's partially due to their defense and they did a good job. There's a lot of emotion that caused us to get distracted and focus on things that weren't really that important that we shouldn't have been focusing on and our execution was really bad. I was really disappointed after that game because we took a step backwards. But the next game against UNM I thought we played better, unfortunately we didn't play well enough to win. Your thoughts on the UNM game in Albuquerque?
MM: It was a hard fought battle. I thought they did a good job of executing the things that they tried to do. They took us out of some of our sets, they added some new things offensively that we weren't prepared for and by the time we made the adjustments they had gotten a little lead on us and every time we got a run in it seems like they answered. Especially in the point where they hit two threes in a row [Ed. Note: The Aggies were down by two points with just under 12 minutes remaining in the game] and it seems like every time we'd try to fight back they'd answer with a three or a good play. Your thoughts on Sunday's win against Loyola Marymount?
MM: Loyola was one of those games we were a little scared of because the team hadn't won a game yet. They're not gonna go through the whole season without winning a game and you don't want to be the first notch on their belt. So I was a little leery that the kids were gonna be looking forward to the second UNM game and kind of look past this one but they stayed focused and kept their priorities in order and went out and executed and gave us a chance to grow as a team, get a little more confidence going in and hopefully that'll bode well for us. Jahmar Young was 7-9 from behind the three point line for .777%, best percentage all time single game, he's become a better three point shooter this season and that combined with his ability to drive to the basket makes him a tough guy to guard.
MM: He's a very competitive person and he hates to lose and his last game last year which was a very disappointing triple overtime loss, I think he used that as fuel for the offseason to really go out and work on his game in the offseason. He's done a fantastic job of that and as a result he's a better player because of it. Over the break Terrance Joyner made his debut, talk about him and what he can bring to the team and now that he's had four games under his belt, what do you like about his play and what are some things you'll be working on with him as the season progresses?
MM: He's a natural leader and he's a kid that gives us added depth at that position. We're playing Jonathan [Gibson] kind of at combo [guard]. It best suits us to have another pure point at that position. Jonathan is a kid who can spell us at that but he's probably more prolific as a scorer and more comfortable there right now.So as a result we get that added depth by bringing Terrance in and we're optimistic that going forward he can learn the system and get more comfortable so that hopefully by the middle of conference he'll be able to give us more quality minutes. Hamidu Rahman scored 19 points in that game against UTEP and really kept you in the game in the first half, nine points and 4 rebounds against UNM, the pace of that game really kind of prevented him from getting more involved in that game.
MM: Yeah, Hamidu's really coming around. He's another freshman who took advantage of a year off last year and really got his body right and he's just improving every game. That's really one of the rewarding things about coaching when you get to see kids who are listening to your tutelage and getting better as a result of it. Tomorrow [Tuesday] you've got the rematch with UNM, in that first game against them, you didn't have a great first half shooting but you found yourself down by just six at halftime. What will you need to do the second time around in order to come out with a win?
MM: Obviously we need to put a better offensive product on the floor. I think the guys will be a little bit more comfortable here at home. They learned a lot from last game, we'll see how much they learned, I played them all. There's a lot of little things we had to shore up and I think we've addressed them so it's just going to be a matter of the kids going out and performing. This Saturday you open up conference play against Fresno State. They're 6-7 on the season but have played some pretty good teams in the non-conference. They've got a good big man in freshman Paul George, he's their leading scorer averaging 15.3 points per game. He's also their leading rebounder and but he can also step out and hit the three, he's 28-55 on the season from beyond the arc.
MM: That's a challenge. Any time you play on the road it's a more daunting task, especially for young kids. We're hungry for our first road win so we're hopeful we can get it done there. And they're [Fresno State] a lot like us in the sense that they're rebuilding their program with a lot of young kids. They've got a few returners but a majority of their kids are new to the program. I think that they've had the same trials and tribulations that we've had in the early season with the tough schedule. I'm sure they'll be pumped up and ready to play at home and I know that we'll be hungry for a road win which we've gotta have to be competitive and compete for a conference championship. That's our first task at hand, to go out and get one of those behind us this season. They've shot the most three pointers in the league this season, the Aggies are second. Do you want the game to be more perimeter oriented or do you want to slow the game down a bit?
MM: No, I think our team is more suited for running and gunning but that doesn't mean that you don't have framework. You've got to give them some structure but you've got to give them some freedom to play in it. So if that is the shot of the day, meaning that's the shot that they're giving us based on our defense, then we're comfortable taking it. We've got four guys that are very capable three point shooters. We're okay taking those but you can never settle for that. You've obviously got to go inside as well to have a nice balanced attack. We feel like we're solid in that area but it's also something we don't want to rely on solely to win games on. Then on Monday night you've got San Jose State on the road. They're 6-4 on the season and have won four of five. Just like you did, Coach Nessman picked up a nice early Christmas gift with the eligibility of Adrian Oliver, a transfer from the University of Washington. He's already off to a pretty quick start averaging 20 points per game through four games.
MM: He's a big time get for them. He's a very good player and he gives them a nice punch in the middle of the season to really give them a boost right now. Hopefully we can catch them a little of guard with their overall team chemistry but he's a prime time player and he's obviously someone we're going to be concerned about but they've also got a lot of other capable guys. They really came off from last year and they had a young crew. I think they're one of the underestimated teams in conference so we've got to be super ready to play that game when we lace them up. Chris Oakes for them and Wendell McKines are 1st and 2nd in the league in rebounding, that should be a good battle to watch.
MM: Yeah no doubt. Chris is a little bit different body frame, he's a bigger kid, a little bit wider body but he does a great job of using his blockouts and he's got some very good hands. He's one of those kind of kids that we've gotta make sure that we do some team rebounding in order to hold him in check. He's obviously a concern in the rebounding area especially since we've struggled there. NMSU and SJSU are both averaging over 7 steals per game, ball security in this game will be a key and is something that Hernst Laroche has been very good at. He's got 54 assists and just 17 turnovers, over a 3:1 in assist to turnover ratio, good numbers for a freshman.
MM: Yeah, it's very good and I think Terrance coming in and giving him a break from time to time will add to his numbers over time because he won't be fatigued and so I think that he's going to be able to benefit from having Terrance added on. I think those two games are obviously critical games for us. We always say if you can split the road and win all your home games it puts you in a position to compete for the title. That first weekend will be a good test for us.