Basketball Media Day Quotes

GO HUSKIES
GO HUSKIES

GO HUSKIES

Oct. 25, 2011

DEKALB, Ill.  -- Northern Illinois head men's basketball coach Mark Montgomery and head women's basketball coach Kathi Bennett, along with members of both teams, met with the media on Tuesday to discuss the approaching 2011-12 season. The following is a transcript from Associate Vice President/Director of Athletics Jeff Compher and each coach.

Associate Vice President/Director of Athletics Jeff Compher

On the upcoming basketball seasons…
“It’s a busy time, but it’s a lot of fun. We still have all our fall sports going on, and now we’re transitioning into our winter sports.  I have to tell you, there’s a lot of anticipation around our basketball programs here at NIU.  When you go out and about in our community – I think the good news is that our coaches have been out and about in our community – when you hear people talk about their expectations for our program, everyone expects us to do better.  And everyone, I think, expects our teams and student athletes to play at a level that is representative of who we are as a university and who we are as an athletic department.  I think the success that we expect is something that has definitely transitioned into our coaching staff, and they are taking what they are doing very seriously.”

On Head Women’s Basketball Coach Kathi Bennett…
“The first coach I get to introduce today is Kathi Bennett; she is in her second year.  She comes to us after being at several different universities around the Midwest.  She came here from Wisconsin as you all know, and transformed their team and their defense.  What I’m excited about is what she’s been able to do recruiting-wise.  I can’t get into a whole lot of specifics yet because it’s before signing day.  But over the last two years, what she’s been able to do from a recruiting perspective has me really believing that the future of Huskie women’s basketball is not only good for this year, but for many years to come.”

NIU Women’s Basketball Head Coach Kathi Bennett

On this season’s newcomers…
“Jeff was kind enough to say several universities prior to Wisconsin.  He could have said ten; he helped me with my age a little bit.  To start, I like being in year two.  And I really love being in year two because last year at this time, I think about how I felt.  We had no verbals, had not established really any kind of identity for our team, didn’t know if we had buy-in from the current team.  Like I talked about, how hard it is to establish an identity, and now, I look at where we’re at right now.  We have, year two, six new players.  And then if you want to count Jenna Thorpe as a seventh, we have seven new players.  Four incoming freshmen; Claire Jakubicek, Amanda Corral, Natecia Augusta from Peoria-Limestone, Janae Jackson from Inkster – her team won the state title.  Not to mention a transfer who will be eligible next year and will have three years remaining from Wisconsin; Jada Buggs is her name, a phenomenal player.  And Satavia.  Satavia comes from a transfer from Loyola, and she will be eligible after our first six games.  If you add Jenna to that mix, that’s seven new players.  That’s incredibly exciting.  On top of that, at this time, what I can tell you is that for the 2012 class is that we already have our three verbals.  So we’ll have a full complement – 15 scholarship players.  That’s pretty exciting.  The feeling that that gives you as a coach, to know what you brought in, what you’ve changed; I think is something pretty special.”

On the team’s inexperience…
“But with that, yes, I hope you guys realize how young we are; how much we do lack experience.  When I look at our roster, our returners are Kim Davis – a first-year player last year and played a lot of minutes.  Danielle Pulliam – she was a first-year player last year.  Starting the half year, then she’s got a good deal of minutes.  Ashley Sneed – didn’t play a whole lot last year.  Shaakira – she played a little bit, but not a lot.  Alicia is another player, didn’t get a lot of minutes.  Then we have Courtney Shelton.  Courtney did play a lot of minutes; toward the end it kind of tailed off a bit.  Then we have Brittney.  So out of our team, we have Kim played a lot of minutes, and Courtney.  Dani a little bit.  That’s what we have returning.  So we’re really young, okay?  We lack a little bit of experience.  We lost our two best players.  

On the team’s aspirations…
“Why am I telling you all this?  I’m not padding; I have to tell you the excitement for this year – I’m enjoying coaching this year more than I have.  I’ve been at this for 25-plus years as a head coach, and I can tell you with all my heart that this has been one of the most enjoyable years so far.  I know we haven’t played any games, but I have to tell you the commitment that I see, the hunger, what I saw going on this summer, the hours put in the gym, the desire I see night-in and night-out at practice – this group wants it.  We talk about coming together and touching greatness.  We know that the only way that we’re going to be able to do that.  Talent for talent, are we there yet in the MAC?  Probably not.  But I’ll tell you this.  If you have a group that pulls together, and I believe we have that – I’ve been watching them for a while, we have a group that is willing to pull together.  And then they play collectively.  You’re going to have the opportunity to touch greatness.  And for us, that means winning a MAC championship.  For us, that means getting to the NCAA Tournament.  I don’t say these things lightly, but I really believe we have the opportunity to do that in year two.  With all these young players, with this inexperience.  This is a group that shares the basketball.  This is a group that has understood serving – how do I make my teammates better; it’s not about me.  And I feel like if you can get those things consistently through on a day-in and day-out basis, good things are in store.”

On the difference in year two…
“Strengths – I think that we have great depth; I think that we’re as competitive as we ever have been.  It’s only my second year, but last year we had no competition.  We come to practice, and you knew who was going to play.  Now – man, it’s competition.  Anybody can play at any time.  We are 13 deep.  Then we have a transfer that is as hungry as all get-up, making it 14.  We have more scorers; we’re not one dimensional.  We can score a variety of ways, which is really exciting – more options.  I would say this is what we need to overcome.  I feel that, as a team, Ebony Ellis did – a lot of the things she did went unnoticed.  She was one of the best rebounders I’ve ever coached.  And if we can replace that rebounding, the ability to keep people off the offensive glass, do a great job defensive rebounding – that’s going to bode well for us and really make us that special team and the ability to reach the next level.”

Summing up this season’s team…
“That’s a little overview of our team.  I believe in them.  And I feel we have great chemistry; an unselfish group.  Of course, we’re going to be tested – as all teams are – and I guess we’re going to find out.”

On Head Men’s Basketball Coach Mark Montgomery…
“I’m supposed to introduce Coach Monty; I know it’s Mark Montgomery, but we call him Coach Monty.  I have to tell you, it’s unbelievable working with him.  His work ethic – I’ve already stolen three drills.  We’ve got Monty shooting lay-ups; our team runs to them, they love them, they’re the favorite.  You know how you have a sense when someone is going to be successful, is driven, has the charisma, the kids like playing for him, knowledgeable beyond anything – I just learned a 1-3-1 zone offense in a five-minute conversation with him.  He does anything he can to help the women’s program.  I’m just so blessed and fortunate to have Coach Monty here at Northern Illinois University.  It’s a pleasure to work with him, and he’s going to get it going.  There is no doubt; I have a great deal of faith.”

NIU Men’s Basketball Head Coach Mark Montgomery

On looking forward to his first season…
“I think first I might need to steal some of your players.  Because our numbers right now with some injuries and some other things, we could use some more practice players.  Like Kathi, I’m very, very, very excited about this coming season.  After being an assistant for 15 years, you dream about this day, you’re first media day.  I think I picked this tie out once Jeff Compher and Dr. Peters offered me the job.  I think that following week before I drove home, we stopped at the outlet and I said this would be a great tie.  Not just for the sidelines, but for media day.  These are my new colors.  I’ve been wearing that green and white for so long, I hated red.  I’m like man, this looks kind of nice.  Kind of brightens up my mood.  I’m so excited about the season because I’m looking forward to the new challenges.  Gaining experience, our players gaining experience, our coaching staff gaining experience.  Just like Kathi, our team is very young.  Here at the ball club we have two seniors – Tim Toler and Tyler Storm.  Jeremy Reid pulled up some stats for me.  I don’t know if I should’ve got nervous, or if I should have ran, but I just got excited and said we’re going to roll up our sleeves, get to work in practice.  We’re going to compete, and we’re going to fight for every possession.  

On senior forward Tim Toler…
“Tim Toler is our leading scorer coming back; he averaged 9.9 points and five rebounds.  But he appeared in 28 games.  I’m happy with Tim right now, that he worked hard this summer.  He bought into getting into better shape.  He came in at 305 pounds, now he’s down in the 260s.  So we’re excited now for Tim, that he can definitely play more minutes as a senior.  I’m challenging Tim, where he had four double-doubles last year, he can be a double-double guy where he can get 10-plus per game in rebounds and in points.  I think I told Tim, he will touch the basketball on just about every possession.  But then when you look at the stats, Tim was fourth in the league in three-point shooting percentage.  So it’s unique for a big man, that he can step out.  He’s going to be able to shoot perimeter threes, but also he should get a lot of his points down low.  If not, definitely on the offensive rebounds if we miss shots.”

On senior forward Tyler Storm…
“Tyler Storm, another senior.  I’m proud of both my seniors because they will be graduating in the spring here.  But Tyler Storm, he’s coming off a year where he appeared in 22 games, and his high-point game was ten points versus Miami of Ohio.  He’s going to be looked upon as – I told him, besides being a little undersized, he will play the three and four for us.  Tyler Storm, what I think he can do in our offense that we’re going to do this year, is kind of stretch the defense, because he also has a good three-point shot.  I’m looking for a lot of leadership out of Tyler, because he’s been through the wars; he’s an upperclassman.  It’s going to be valuable for our young guys.”

On redshirt sophomore guard Antone Christian…
“Our other returners that played significant minutes last year was Antone Christian.  Which, he was more of a two-guard last year, and right away when I got here, we needed a point guard.  So he’s going to play some at the point this year.  Looking back at A.C.’s contributions last year, he appeared in 25 games, scored 9.4 points over six games which was exciting towards the end of the year.  His season high was 17.  What I like about Antone Christian is that he’s a leader.  He’s a guy that not only vocally brings it every day on the court, he’s a guy that’s checking up on our young guys.  I think through his leadership, and he’s a guy that will get down and defend on the other end.  So we’re looking for big things from Antone Christian.”

On sophomore forward Aksel Bolin…
“Our other sophomore is Aksel Bolin.  He actually played in 22 games last year, didn’t score a lot of points.  But what I like about Aksel is his length and his size.  And him just being more aggressive is going to make him a better player.  He has a good feel for the game, and he also shoots 90 percent at the line.  So that’s always a plus.”

On junior guard Tony Nixon…
“Our only junior in the class is Tony Nixon, and he’s been banged up for much of the fall here. He’s having foot issues, so he hasn’t practiced any of the eleven days.  But he did do some preseason conditioning, and hopefully we can get him before the end of the year.”

On freshman wing Abdel Nader…
“When Kathi says she has a young team, the rest of our roster is seven freshmen.  I have to commend my staff.  We get the job here in late April, and we put together a pretty good recruiting class in a short amount of time.  Player that comes in with the most accolades is Abdel Nader, who was a first-team all-state player from the Chicago area.  He’s a 6’7” kid that can score in a variety of ways.  He should be a good rebounder, a good defender.  We’re going to ask him to play inside and outside.”

On freshmen forwards Keith Gray and Kevin Gray…
“Then we have a pair of twins, Keith and Kevin Gray, coming from Brooks High School, where they won the city championship.  These are 6’7”, 6’8” –type athletes that have bought into their role very early in the season, which I really like because my philosophy is defense and rebounding.  Those guys attack the glass; they look to get every rebound.  So both of those guys will play significant minutes because they take defense and rebounding to another level.”

On freshman guard Zach Miller…
“Other freshmen guards we have is Zach Miller.  He’s an all-state performer.  His team was 28-4.  They went down to the state championship final four.  Zach Miller brings a quality that he is a true point guard.  He is undersized, but he’s very gritty.  He’s already on my Mr. Nasty team because he’s out there doing everything he can making his teammates better, he has a great feel for the game, and he plays with a lot of heart.”

On freshman guard Marquavese Ford…
“Other true freshman is Marquavese Ford, an all-state performer out of Saginaw, Mich. He’s going to play the one and two, very athletic guard, can score in a variety of ways.  We just have to get him used to valuing the basketball.  Because if you’re not awake, and you’re sitting in the first three or four rows, the ball could hit you.  But Marquavese is a very good athlete, he’s a very unselfish player; he will see significant minutes as a freshman.”

On freshman wing DeAndre Barnette…
“Another freshman is DeAndre Barnette.  He comes from the Memphis area.  He played the four in high school, and they were trying to get him to play the three.  So he’s trying to get the speed of the college game.”

On the team’s inexperience…
“Our depth, with our young guys; I think our biggest goal, which I tell the guys and my coaches, is we’re trying to gain experience through practice every day.  Because not a lot of guys have game experience, so we have to make every practice as competitive as we can.  What I’m liking about this young team, and the team I have this year, is the guys are doing everything they can in the weight room, they did everything they can at conditioning, and they’re buying into a new philosophy.  Unlike Kathi, the coaching staff is very challenged because we’re teaching everything.  You have to teach every drill, you have to teach tucking in your shirt, you have to teach how important conditioning is and nutrition is, academics.  So I think the best thing we can look forward to is our freshmen gaining a lot of experience, getting them ready for conference play, which starts in January.”

On the team’s nonconference schedule…
“Looking at our schedule, it’s not easy.  Any time you open up on the road at Purdue, that’s a challenge not just for a MAC team, but any team in the country.  We play two Big Ten schools – Purdue and Iowa – then we’re home against Milwaukee, which was a game away from playing in the NCAA Tournament.  Then we have two other in-state rivalry teams that I’m looking forward to playing – Southern and Eastern Illinois.  We make a west coast trip, where we go to Boise State and Utah Valley.  As a coach, you look at this schedule; I’m very excited from December 14 to January 7.  Any time you walk into a situation where you can have five home games and you don’t leave the state of Illinois for that month, it’s very exciting.  I feel like I’m Syracuse, because Jim Boeheim has had that schedule every year there.  So from December 14 to January 7, we’re definitely going to get better.  Over the break, we’ll be practicing at least twice a day.  I think we can get better during that time.”

On how practices have gone thus far…
“I think early in the season so far – we’ve only practiced for 11 days – we really have been emphasizing defense, rebounding, helping your teammate out.  Offensively, we’re just stressing the fundamentals.  Of course we want to be better shooters, better ball handlers, and better passers.  I like the makeup of the team.  I like that our guys are bringing a lot of energy, and a lot of effort, in every practice.  They’re buying into my style, they’re buying into the assistant coaches’ style, and we have a lot of basketball ahead of us.  Like I’ve said, we’re looking to gain experience in each game, but definitely in practice.”


 

 

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