bleedCrimson.net Weekly Coach Menzies Interview :: 11/30/09

bleedCrimson.net: Your thoughts on the past four games? You had the loss to New Mexico and then the win against Oklahoma Panhandle State, then the loss at Cal State-Fullerton and then the win against North Carolina A&T.
Marvin Menzies: The reality that you're not where you'd like to be at this stage of the year has hit us with the three losses that we have. But understanding and being in the business for some time that each season is like a lifetime, we just keep working to get better. We'd like to have a different record now but I'm happy with the progress that we're making even though we took the loss at Fullerton, I've felt like since the UNM game we've improved in different areas. We have a lot of work to do to get even better but I have seen some improvement.

bc.net: What's been the biggest improvement that you've seen that you're the most happy with?
MM: I think that we're starting to play better man to man defense in the half[court]. We've still got some loose ends that we need to tie up in our pressing but I like the focus in the half at times. The game slippage is always going to be there but I feel like we're playing exponentially better than we did in the first two games of the season.

Hamidu Rahmanbc.net: Hamidu Rahman has played very well through the first five games. Talk about his improvement from last year, his freshman year, to this year.
MM: I think it's still probably a little early to judge his whole year. He's had some good early games and we're happy with that. But I think it's a little premature to say he's had a great sophomore campaign. He's still got a lot of games ahead of him and he's still got a lot of growing to do. But he's started off in a good fashion and we're happy with that. We're hoping that he stays consistent and keeps the right attitude so that moving forward when we get better production from the whole team then that will equate to W's rather than having a double-double with an 'L' behind it.

bc.net: One of the positive things so far through the first five games of the season is that the team is only averaging 14.2 turnovers per game.
MM: Well, even for me, our goal is to be at 10 or under. It's not always how many you have, it's when you have them in the game. Unfortunately we seem to have them at the wrong time. We may look up at the end of the game and say, we only had 13 or we only had 14 but it just seems like they come at the wrong time. So it's making good decisions at critical times that we still need to continue to improve on. I am happy that it's not a higher number but we've just got to strive to be stronger with the ball and make more passes that are being completed rather than not.

bc.net: One other positive early in the season has been the Aggies' free throw percentage which is right now over 75 percent.
MM: I know that they've worked hard on that and that's an area that's just about concentration and the right guys getting to the line. Typically Hamidu was one of those guys that wasn't a very good free throw shooter last year. He's improved, we've changed his shot drastically and restructured it. Since then he's been shooting a pretty good percentage in the last few games. He's up above 60 percent right now and we hope to have him about 70 percent by the end of the season.

bc.net: Tomorrow night you take on UTEP at the Pan Am. How do you feel like your team is preparing for the game?
MM: We're going at it very professionally in terms of understanding that it's a game that we would very much like to win and get back to .500. There's obviously all the basic reasons why you want to win a game but then there's the added incentive of beating a rival team will hopefully give us a little extra adrenaline and a little extra hustle which is a lot of times what's needed to win those games.

We know we've got our hands full, they've got a very talented team coming in here undefeated and we're looking forward to a competitive match that we think will come down to the last three or four minutes of the game before it's decided.

bc.net: On Saturday you travel up to Albuquerque to take on UNM at The Pit. How much different is your team now than it was when you faced them a couple weeks ago and what, if anything, has changed with their team since the first meeting?
MM: They've continued to experience success and we've had a bump in the road since then. I just think it's one of those type of things where you go up to play there and they'll have a phenomenal crowd there, it'll be very loud. I think the only difference in the teams is we're both a little bit older. We've taken one on the chin since then and they haven't. I don't know if that'll play a role or not. It's just a matter of going in there and lacing them up and dealing with trying to beat a very good team with homecourt advantage. It'll be a tough assignment but I think our guys will be up to playing their best ball.

bc.net: How does the environment at The Pit compare to other venues that you've coached in?
MM: It's one of the top environments in terms of giving them a competitive advantage. It's one of the best that I've ever been around. I've played in large arenas, I've coached in large arenas but the way the acoustics there seem like they designed it to seem even louder than it is. They do a great job and they have fans that get after the guys and they are very boisterous. They know basketball, they understand good plays and bad plays and it makes for an exciting place to play. Not just tough but a challenging environment especially for our younger kids. But that's what it's all about, that's what college basketball is all about.

bc.net: You mentioned the younger kids, how have they been doing and have there been anyone that has stood out?
MM: I can't say that there's one particular guy, we've had different kids that have had bright moments but it's a process. I'm happy with their attitudes. Their disposition towards learning and wanting to get better has been good and that's the biggest thing. They've gotta understand coming in that it's not high school anymore and they're going to have a higher level of competition and intensity than in high school. It's been nice to see that they've been staying positive through the process.