SDSU Men's Basketball News Conference Quotes

Jan. 31, 2018

SAN DIEGO -

SDSU Head Coach Brian Dutcher

Opening statement:
“Well, we’re back at it. We have a bye week leading into the Air Force game. We practiced extremely hard on Monday with a heavy emphasis on our defense. We took yesterday off during which all four Aztec coaches were on the road recruiting – so we spent a day recruiting, it’s a big part of the job – and we’re back to work today on the practice floor getting ready for Air Force, which everybody knows is a unique game in that it’s an academy school [and] they run the Princeton offense. They’re very disciplined and they have about 20 guys on their bench. You watch one game and they’ve got a guy in there and you’re thinking ‘where was he three games ago?’ They’ve got a lot of very good players that get a chance to play in different games and it’s going to be a real challenge. We only have three players who have played against the Academy – we have Malik [Pope], Jeremy [Hemsley] and Max Montana. The other six guys available to me for the game have never played against Air Force or the Princeton offense, so the next three days are going to be very important for our prep.”

On how different it is playing against an academy school:
“Even if you play good defense, there are certain shots you know they are just going to get and if they’re making them it’s a difficult game, but if they’re missing them, you’ve got a chance. As much as you can say ‘let’s take away everything,’ there are only certain things you can take away. They’re going to get shots within their offense, they do against everybody. So we want to prevent the ones we can, prevent any back cuts for layups and we want to contest as many threes as we can – they’ve shot as many as 36 or 37 three-point shots in one game this year – so we know they’re going to shoot it and if they make them, it’s going to be a real challenge for us.”

On if the game against UNLV snapped the team into a defensive mindset:
“I thought we had a pretty good defensive practice on Monday and the veterans know what the verterans know. It’s trying to bring the new guys up to speed. We’re playing three freshmen significant minutes and as much as we teach, there are lessons they have to learn. And then we have players like Devin [Watson] and Kameron Rooks that have played college basketball before, but are new to the Aztecs. So we have a veteran roster, but for the Air Force game, only three players available have played against Air Force. For six guys that are going to play, it’s a whole new experience and I like that challenge of getting them ready to play in this game. And it should be a challenge to get their concentration level to where it needs to be and their focus and see if we can put in a game plan that they can execute. That’s the fun in it.”

On the injury to SDSU senior guard Trey Kell:
“Well, we were really worried about Trey, obviously. He left the game against UNLV in a walking boot, non-weight bearing on crutches also. He saw our doctors when we came back and hopefully we’re looking at a minimum of two weeks that he’s going to be out. I think that would probably be the earliest and it could stretch anywhere to three and beyond. So he won’t play against Air Force and whether the two-week window is Nevada and something happens in rehab, that I don’t know because that is basically two weeks away. So we’ll see how the rehab goes, but definitely will not be available against Air Force on Saturday.”

On Jeremy Hemsley stepping in for Trey Kell at UNLV:
“I’d like to say what a good job Jeremy did stepping in for Trey against [UNLV]. Seven for 12 from the field, 19 points, and so I’m not worried about the next guy being ready to step up. It was Jeremy in the last game and it could be someone else the next game, but in all truthfulness, too, you’re losing a first team all-conference guard and a senior captain. So we can say what we want about next man up, [but] it always hurts when you lose a talented guard out of the lineup. The good news is, we will have him back down the stretch. How soon? I don’t know, but I know we’re better with him on the floor. At some point, whether it’s starting or on the bench, we’re better with Trey in the lineup.”

On the difference in the age of the roster:
“Obviously, we’ve always had our greatest success with veteran teams. Whether it’s fifth-year transfer JJ O’Brien or senior Winston Shepard or senior Skylar Spencer or senior Trey Kell and senior Malik Pope. The seniors are what we’ve relied on over our history here. Even when Kawhi [Leonard] had his magical sophomore year, he was out there with senior Malcolm Thomas, senior Billy White, senior D.J. Gay, so he didn’t have to step up and be a prime-time player early in his career, he could just fit in and let his talent show. So we’ve always won with great senior leadership and great senior players. Malik has stepped up and pretty much stayed injury free, but the games he has missed – the last five minutes against Fresno [State] in a two point game, the second half against Washington State – when they’re out, it definitely hurts. Now the other guys have stepped up and played magnificently, but you want your best players and your seniors out there at crunch time and unfortunately, we haven’t been able to see that enough this year in critical games.”

On SDSU freshman forward Jalen McDaniels’ ‘wow factor’:
“I would say this about Jalen: whatever you’ve seen, there is more there and it will slowly start to come out. He can shoot the three and we let him take the three, but he’s not at the point where he’s looking for it a whole lot, but he’s a terrific shooter. If it shows at the end of this year or the start of next year, he’s got more to his game than he’s showing and we’re letting him develop at his pace. When he’s ready to do it, trust me, he does it in practice, and we’ll eventually see some of that aspect of his game on the game floor. He can attack the basket off the dribble, he’s an aggressive rebounder, he plays with a high motor and I just think he will continue to grow his game into something special for us. Not only this year, but in the future.”

On what happened defensively against UNLV:
“That’s the beauty of a two-way sport, this isn’t football where you have a defensive unit and an offensive unit. You play both ends so sometimes something that happens on the offensive end affects you on the defensive end. The mental ability to play both ends for 40 minutes is a challenge and sometimes it’s just one or two mistakes that can lead to a run for the other team. We’re trying to shorten the mental lapses where we make the mistakes we know we can’t make. My title is coach, but the description is teacher, so we continue to teach and I have students that want to learn, that’s the beauty of this. They come to practice every day and are attentive, want to know what they’re doing wrong and we teach them and they continue to make progress. That’s the challenge of coaching.”

SDSU Junior Guard Jeremy Hemsley

On how different it is playing against an academy school:
“This team specifically is a lot different than any other team we’ve played. They’re so focused on their offense and they run it basically to perfection. It’s not something we see too often, so it’s definitely different.”

On Trey Kell’s inability to avoid unlucky injuries despite improving his body this past offseason:
“That’s frustrating for anybody, but I know that hurts a lot for Trey because he put a lot of work in during the summer. He was doing three-a-days at one point, so I’m sure that was extremely frustrating and that’s been tough on his mental [state]. At the same time, he’s one of those guys who’s just going to keep fighting and just going to do what he has to do. This is like the second or third injury that he’s dealt with, so he’ll be fine, it’s not anything he hasn’t dealt with before. He’s a hard worker and I’m sure he’ll be back without missing a step.”

On how important age is in the locker room:
“It’s definitely an important factor. I remember when I first got here, having the presence of the seniors in the locker room is something that the freshmen need to have and need to see. So I do keep that in mind with me being an upperclassman now, just trying to be a role model and someone the freshmen can look up to. So it’s definitely something that is important.”

On SDSU freshman forward Jalen McDaniels’ ‘wow factor’:
“When Jalen first started practicing, it was pretty obvious that he had something special about him and when he does the things that he does on the court, I don’t think any of us find it as a surprise. There’s Jalen being Jalen.”

On what happened defensively against UNLV:
“We work so hard in being at the right spot and closing out the right way and when you look back on film and see you’re not doing those things the right way, it costs you. Like I said before, it’s not really on the coaches, it’s on the players. We’ve just got to want it more on defense and that was the emphasis last practice. We just got to want it more and take it more personally, each guy guarding their man has to take it more personally. If we [limit] the slip ups and mental mistakes, we can get back to how everyone’s used to the Aztecs playing and that’s being one of those teams that makes it hard for you to score.”

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