bleedCrimson.net will be conducting weekly in-season interviews with Aggie head men's basketball coach Marvin Menzies as the Aggies take aim at a WAC Championship in the 2009-2010 season and a return to the NCAA Tournament. This week we talked with Coach Menzies about how practices have been in the early going and the season opener against St. Mary's (CA).
bleedCrimson.net: How have your practices been going and how have your new players been performing in practice?
Marvin Menzies: I'm pretty happy with the way practices have been going. The focus and attention to detail has been good. There's an obvious high level of concentration in our practice with the returners and the expected mental breakdowns with the freshmen but even for freshmen they've been pretty solid. We've got a nice little mix of guys from an experience standpoint as well as new pieces to the puzzle that we think will help to compliment the returners as well as take over as years go by as we try to build this basketball team into a true basketball program instead of having to rely on instant help. The development of players both academically and athletically on and off the court, we're heading in that direction and we're starting to see it unfold. We're optimistic about the season in front of us and our chances to be competitive every game and have an opportunity to hopefully be in the upper echelon of the conference. We've got to worry about the games in front of us right now and we're taking them one at a time and right now we're focused on St. Mary's.
bc.net: On Friday you open up against St. Mary's and you have the fortunate timing of playing them after Patty Mills and Diaman Simpson have departed with Mills going to the NBA and Simpson to graduation.
MM: They're a lot like us in the sense that they've got a couple key ingredients coming back that will be hard to match up against. Their point guard, wing and center are all quality players and complementing them they've got a nice handful of talented freshmen. They're very similar in that realm having the experience but then also adding a bright young group. With some matchups I think it's going to come back down to execution in the latter part of the game. I'm optimistic we'll give them a good game and compete with them all game long it's just going to be a matter of who does the right things at the right time and the team that does that will come out on top.
bc.net: What will Aggie fans see in St. Mary's style of play and how do you feel you can be successful against them?
MM: They're going to do a good job defensively. They're not going to gamble, they're going to be real solid. Randy does a nice job with them in terms of knowing their identity and understanding their roles. They're going to look to go inside quite often to their premiere big man, Omar Samhan, they also have some guys on the perimeter that can really handle it and shoot the ball well. They also have what I could consider a defensive stopper in Wayne Hunter. I think accompanied with all those things they have a balanced attack of inside/outside game which is how the game should be played. Randy [Bennett] has done a good job of bringing in the type of players and personnel for being successful in the type of system he wants to coach.
bc.net: Their home gym, McKeon Pavilion, is one of the toughest places to play on the west coast, it's a very raucous environment. How have you been preparing your young guys to play in that type of environment?
MM: There's no real way to simulate that environment. It's just too loud and too raucous to be depicted in practice. It's hard to simulate it. So what we've done from the very beginning we've had play call where you don't necessarily have to be verbally communicating with your teammates, you can make the calls with signs. But we've had those in our system already, I don't think we've done anything special for them [St. Mary's] but we have things in place that allow us to deal with that noise.