Here are quotes from the participating coaches in the 2017 Puerto Rico Tip-Off at Myrtle Beach following each school’s practices Wednesday (November 15) at the HTC Center on the campus of Coastal Carolina University in Conway, S. C.
Frank Martin, South Carolina
(On the hurricane relief exhibition vs. Virginia Tech): “It was huge. Buzz (Williams, Virginia Tech coach) and I are from this area, my assistant (Chuck Martin) is from Puerto Rico, I’ve got family in Puerto Rico, former players that live there, their families are there. Obviously, I’m a Miami guy so Florida got hit, not to the extent of those other places, but it was a great thing by the NCAA to allow us to do something like that. To be able to be a small part of what so many around this country have done to raise money to help others that are in need was a great teaching moment for our players, for them to understand that it’s not just about people in the stands for you to play ball, it’s about how much good can come from you playing ball.
“We’re still in that fact-finding mission with the basketball team. We have so much newness, even our returning players are moving into different possibilities and different roles so I’m still trying to discover what they can and can’t do within those roles, so we can help. Then we have all these new faces that we’re trying to incorporate. Not just their talents as players but their voices, their energies, their enthusiasm, their personalities to make everything coexist so we can learn how to respect to respect each other because then we’ve got a chance to be as good as we can be.”
(On Illinois State): “Kind of like us, a lot of new people, a couple returning guys that obviously have been a part of winning, because it’s not like they were a one-year wonder last year. Dan (Muller, Illinois State coach) has been winning there for a little bit. Then they got a transfer who sat out last year that seems to be an unbelievable passer, a good passer. I’m sure he and I are trying to figure a lot of the same things right now.”
Dan Muller, Illinois State
“We’ve got so many new guys, it’s such a different team. When we reference last year, it comes down to remembering how hard we played and competed, the leadership we had and how we handled adversity but other than that last years got nothing to do with this year because the players who were injured.
“If you look at our defense last year compared to our first game obviously those are completely different.” (On the opening loss to Florida Gulf Coast): “We got outrebounded by 24, they had 48 paint points, transition points they killed us, we just weren’t good defensively last game, probably one of the worst defensive games that I’ve been a part of as a coach, which is disappointing because it’s what we worked on the most. I’m excited to see how we respond after our performance on Saturday.
“We have really tough road games this year. That part I enjoy. I hope it’s a very good atmosphere and we’re going to learn if we can handle it or not quick. That part’s the fun part of the game. It’s not a tangible thing, I want to see how hard we compete. That’s all I care about. We’re shorthanded, we’ve got some issues with personnel and lineups, possibly foul trouble, but as long as we’re competing on the defensive end and continue to play unselfish on the offensive end I’ll be fine.”
Leon Rice, Boise State
“These three-game events are terrific because of the competition is so good and the neutral courts and those kind of things so you love that. I’m excited to see us take another step. We had two home games and those were terrific for us. We worked through some things we weren’t doing well and I think we got better at some stuff. But now when you step up against better competition it’s always exciting to see.”
(On transfers and probable starters Lexus Williams and Chris Sengfelder): “I couldn’t be more pleased with getting the quality of guys they are. Sometimes transfers have almost a mercenary feel to them. Not these two. These two bleed blue, they’re Broncos through and through, it feels like they’ve been in the program for 10 years. It’s their character, they’re just awesome kids and they care about the right things. That’s why they fit in so well with our guys because that’s what our guys are about. When you get a whole group like that, it’s contagious.”
(On missing Puerto Rico): “As a coach it’s our lesson to educate these kids as much as they can and expose them to as many as things as we can. From that aspect I’m kind of disappointed we weren’t able to go down there and maybe in some ways help that community, bring in an influx of some exposure to what’s going on down there and to maybe have our guys able pitch in and meaningful cultural experience. From a basketball standpoint I understand it has to be done this way and Myrtle Beach is a great location, this looks like a terrific gym and a great shooting gym so we’re excited.”
(On facing UTEP and Coach Tim Floyd): “The same people make the same things happen and Tim Floyd always finds a way to make his teams win. He’s one of the best coaches out there and I’ve got a ton of respect for him so our guys are going to have to be ready to play. He’s got a good group that looked real good in their game so it should be an entertaining game.”
Tim Floyd, UTEP
(On the tournament): “We’re excited to be in this tournament because first of all, it’s great for our guys to get out, get into another environment and prepare for opponents of the caliber that we’re going to see in this field. The tournament was originally scheduled to be in Puerto Rico, but Myrtle Beach is a great option for our guys. The facilities are terrific, the hospitality has been great, and we’re looking forward to testing our team against some teams that obviously are going to be as good as what we’ll see in our conference and can play at the national level.”
(On Boise State): “When you think of Boise State, you think of Leon Rice and the great job that he has done. He is one of the great young coaches in the country. His background at Gonzaga has allowed him to enter this job with a lot of confidence. His teams play with a lot of confidence. They really put a lot of pressure on you in the open floor. They have great decision-making. They’ve got multiple ball handlers, multiple guys that can shoot the ball and create terrific matchup problems for every team that they play against. In saying that, sometimes you lose sight of their big guys who are great screeners. Sengfelder is a guy who can hurt you inside and outside. He fits perfectly with the lineup that they have in that he’s a facilitator who can stretch the floor. This is going to be a terrific team that we’re going to play against, a team that has an All-Conference player in Hutchison, the preseason pick for player of the year in their league. They have a young man by the name of Hobbs who I think will be a first team All-League player. He is 18-for-22 from the floor in their first two ballgames. They have a lot of other pieces to go with those two great ones.”
Steve Prohm, Iowa State
“Yes, Hans (Brase) and Cameron (Lard) are back. I just want to see our team get better in all areas – offensively, defensively and the intangibles with the special teams, the character, the teamwork, playing the right way. We’ve got a long way to go but that’s the fun part of coaching.
“Obviously they were down in the dumps (after two defeats). We want to win, we’re used to winning, but we’re going to have a take a difference route this year. There’s no problem with that, we’ve got to figure out the way to get there. We’ve showed a ton of tape, we’ve talked, we’re trying to coach better, they’re trying to listen better and our focus has been better. It’s not going to be perfect today, it’s a process and we have to better at it every day.
“We’ve been on the road, we’ve been to Missouri already and we won’t be in any better atmosphere than that. We played in front of 15,000 there and we played in front of 14,000 at home. But three games in four days tests your character, tests your bench, tests your conditioning, its tests your mental and physical toughness.”
(On facing Appalachian State): “We know a little bit, not a ton to be honest, but really I’m just worried about us getting better.”
Jim Fox, Appalachian State
“We’re excited to get out there. Obviously we’ll find out more about where we are. (The first two games) give you good feel where we are but Iowa State is a good team and they’re going to come after us. They’re going to try and attack, I know that. So it’s going to be a good challenge for our team.
“Two seniors, a bunch of juniors, and our freshmen are going to have to play a bunch for us. We were really young last year, one of the top eight or nine in the country and we have to be able to be better for it. I’m looking forward to it. I know they’ve worked real hard and they’re excited about where we are right now.
“You simulate a conference tournament, that’s why these events are so good. How we’ll do our scouting, how we’ll do our stretching, how we’ll do our lifting, all those different things. Our players understand that ‘Hey this is the same stuff we do at the conference tournament.’ Then in March we’ll look on this experience. We get (sophomore forward) Hunter (Seacat) back in December but we have a bunch of versatile guys who can play a bunch of positions so we’re going to find out our depth now.”
Frank Haith, Tulsa
“It’s preparing you for conference tournaments at the end of the year. It prepares with that day off Saturday then you play Sunday, that’s like an NCAA Tournament type of setting. We look forward to competing. This time year, these preseason tournaments are all fun and you get a chance to get away and you learn a lot about your team when you play good competition like this.
“Our first game we didn’t play well against Lamar and then against Oral Roberts we played very well. We executed well offensively and the one thing I want to continue to grow with is our defensive intensity and rebounding. I think we can score but we want to make sure we can grow that part of the game.”
(On having a more veteran team this year): “Oh, no, you’re always on edge. I had so any unknowns at this time last year so I didn’t really know our team stood in practice. This year I do have a better feel for our squad in terms of talent level, in terms of they know what we want to do, they know our identity and how we want to play.”
(On Western Michigan): “They’re talented, they’ve got a great point guard in (Thomas) Wilder who I think is terrific. They’ve got great size in the paint, they’re well-coached. They’re a super talented team so it will be a great challenge for us.”
Steve Hawkins, Western Michigan
(On being the team picked to win the MAC this season): “I thought the team reacted well to it It’s better to have expectations than not have expectations. At the same time, we know what polls are. If we end up there at the end of the year, that’s what matters. The rest of this stuff is just sort of white noise.”
(On having already played South Carolina): “I hope the whole tournament isn’t that talented. We could be in trouble. It was a great experience and one of the reasons why we took that game … we knew their system well. As much as I watched South Carolina last year, they are so good defensively. We felt like it would be great for us to play against a team that good defensively this early in the year. That’s as tough as it gets. We hoped that would be the game where they dropped their (2017 Final Four) banner because it would be a great atmosphere involved and all of those things happened. Our kids responded well, we just didn’t shoot well. It was fun.”
(On facing Tulsa): “When Frank (Haith) was at Missouri we played them and they’re doing some similar things. They have some really good players, they’re very athletic. They play a brand of basketball that’s up and down which we really like as well. They’re not overly big but they’re long. It’s a very talented team.”