Thursday, November 13, 2008

A conversation with Coach Zeigler...

Tim and I had a chance to sit down with Coach Ernie Zeigler on Tuesday afternoon. The team is on its way to Princeton, N.J., for its season opener, which takes place Friday night at 7 p.m Some highlights from the conversation:

On what has changed since last season:

“The biggest thing I learned from last year is that we spent so much time trying to be a dynamic offensive team. Some guys had mixed signals about what was most important. We didn’t start to actually defend until the fifth loss. But we started off with 85 points, then 81 to Hillsdale. Offensively, we were really good to start, but defensively we never got off to a good start. What pleases me is the defensive effort we had in this exhibition game.”

On the four players who are out because of injury and suspension (Adrian Hunter: suspended two more games. Marcus Van: Suspended five more games. Jordan Bitzer: Academically ineligible until Dec. 14. Marko Spica: Out indefinitely with a knee injury.):

“You have to play the hand you’re dealt. That’s what I’m telling our guys. It’s unfortunate we have some of the situations we’re dealing with in terms of some of our veteran players, but there’s still a game to be played. We can’t be thinking woe is us, we’re going to be competing to win. The guys that are going to get opportunities, be it freshmen or be it newcomers, are guys that we recruited. That’s why you have 13 scholarships to recruit to have guys that can step in during any circumstance that comes about.”

On the turnover from last season (seven players gone, six new players this season):

“I kind of look at that group last year. What happened last year for us is nothing that doesn’t happen throughout college basketball. There’s always attrition for one reason or another. I kind of like to compare this building process to building a home. You start with the foundation, and if you’re doing it yourself you go to Home Depot, and you try to get the best pieces of wood. That’s kind of how we looked at that first recruiting class. Unfortunately, there was a couple of guys in there that we went to Home Depot and we bought the ply wood and we got them and we got them in there and there were some holes in it. We tried to sand them down, we tried to get it to fit, to change and unfortunately we weren’t able to. But we have to keep building and replace those pieces. I’m very confident that they guys we have are a much better fit for the program, for the house that we’re building. It has definitely been great fit in terms of chemistry and personality here during our fall workouts and now entering our fourth week of workouts. This group isn’t one that me or my coaching staff is trying to beg effort from or trying to convince them of our style of play and what our program is going to stand for.”

On junior forward transfer Jacolby Hardiman, who is likely to start:

“Jacolby is very versatile. He has the ability to put pressure on the defense to attack the basket off the dribble and he has a very innate ability to offensive rebound. Those two things are going to put him in a position to be a big scorer for us. And I think he has the opportunity to be one of our best defenders in terms of matchups.”

On freshman point guard Adrian Hunter (from Grand Blanc), who is suspended two games for a violation of team rules:

“I think he’s definitely understands the point that I was going to get across to him. Adrian’s a very tough kid. And just like most freshmen, you come in, and sometimes you’re not aware and sometimes you may try to do certain things to see if there’s bark behind the voice. But Adrian is definitely going to have the opportunity to contribute early.”

On the criticism for giving Marcus Van another chance after dismissing him:

“It comes with the territory. If I spend every waking hour responding to negativity or negative comments — or in those people’s minds they’re positive comments — Ultimately every decision I make is for the best interest of this program and for each kid in the program. And I have a responsibility that I have put upon myself to help every kid to become a successful adult in our society… The easiest thing to do that takes no effort at all is to quit. Quit on the game, quit on someone, it takes no effort. The pressure, where it really comes, is if you can stick with someone through the tough times and help them see the light and what direction they should be going. That’s how I’m going to try to go about this. At the same time, once you’ve shown that you can’t be helped, then those guys will not continue to be there. Thus far I’ve had three of those situations, and so far I’m sitting 1-for-2. So hopefully now Marcus Van is going to keep me batting .500 with this chance he’s getting.”

On Chase Simon and Nate Minnoy, who both left the program after last season:

“Those kids are good kids. Unfortunately, upon getting here and seeing how they’re going to be pushed and seeing what I expect, they weren’t able to sustain those things. I’m a firm believer in those situations to help kids change. But when kids don’t want to change, there becomes two options. You’re either going to change, or you’re going to leave.”

On so many players being out to start the season and if there is going to be a slow start because of it:

“The great thing about college basketball is that there’s three seasons. Every team goes through some adversity during one of those parts of the season. Last year, we went through it during the conference season when we had issues. And it ended up keeping us from being a winning program last year when we were right on the threshold and had some really good moments but kept teetering and tottering. The teams that end up dealing with their adversity and then overcome it end up being the most successful during the end of the season, which is where you want to be. For us, I look at it as we’re dealing with it right off the jump. Going through these situations here early and going through these games is hopefully going to put us into a position where we’re going to be much stronger mentally and really help us start to gel come conference season.”

1 comment:

  1. Good stuff guys. The blog will get more popular as time goes on. Keep up the good work.