Nicholas Schreiber, Sports Editor
Andrew Wyatt, Staff Writer
Mike O’Connor, Staff Writer
Ryan Golden, Staff Writer
This past Friday, The Mountain Echo interviewed men’s basketball players and Coach Jamion Christian at the official Media Day for the NEC Champion Mountaineers. Sports Editor Nicholas Schreiber and fellow writers Andrew Wyatt, Mike O’Connor and Ryan Golden asked a series of questions to gain insight on the NEC Tournament and the upcoming NCAA Tournament matchup against Albany.
Q: What was the one thing that sparked your offense in the game against St. Francis Brooklyn?
A: We weren’t ready to lose; we weren’t ready to go home. It wasn’t our time.
Q: Is there any worry that if you against a number one seed like Florida that you and the rest of the bigs will be outsized up front, especially without Kristijan [Krajina]?
A: It’ll definitely be tougher than these past games. I’ve been practicing against bigger people all year, so I feel like I’m ready.
Q: Are you guys doing anything different in practice to prepare for next week?
A: We’re having the same kind of practicing. We don’t know who we’re playing yet so we’re just working on better ourselves when it comes to details like knowing our offensive and defensive fundamentals.
Q: What was going through your mind when you were cutting down that net after that NEC Championship win?
A: I couldn’t believe it. It was a dream come true. I had never won a championship before in my life. I wouldn’t have had it any other way than with this team.
Q: What are you guys doing to stay on track with all this hype surrounding your team?
A: Coach just tells us to enjoy it, but don’t get too crazy. He also tells us to always stay humble and focused.
Q: How does it feel to make it to the NCAA Tournament as a senior? Was it what you expected or something special?
A: Its definitely a tremendous feeling, it feels better than I expected. As a kid, everyone wants to play in the NCAA Tournament, but when you get there by winning a championship, it’s better.
Q: You’ve improved a lot from last season into this season. What’s been the key for you in stepping up your game to the next level?
A: I just spent a lot of time in the gym this summer after summer classes; I just came here and worked hard. A lot of my ball handling I think has helped me out the most, because I’ve been able to get around people and just get to the basket pretty easily.
Q: With this entire buzz surrounding the team, how are you guys staying focused?
A: Right now, we’re just focused on getting back and getting our make-up work done [for classes]. We missed some time, so we have to get back into things.
Q: What do you have to say to the loyal Mount fans that followed the team though those NEC road playoff games?
A: Our fans are always great. It’s always nice to travel with a student section that is louder than the home team’s.
Q: Are you worried about the upcoming game being too far away for Mount fans, and you guys won’t have that crowd presence on your side?
A: I don’t think it will hurt us. I think we’ll be prepared for whomever we face.
Q: Are you guys practicing to play the same high-tempo style of basketball that you’ve relied on thus far or will that change depending on who you play?
A: Our personnel may change, but it’s still going to be the same Mount Mayhem.
Q: You were red-hot last against Robert Morris. What you do attribute to your success?
A: I’ve been shooting in the first half as much as possible because I’ve been playing as much in the second. I kept finding open corners off the zone that they were playing and they were just falling for me.
Q: What did it feel like to catch fire in the NEC Tournament Final at Robert Morris?
A: It was a great feeling, one the best feelings I’ve had as a basketball player. It was an amazing experience.
Q: What are you looking forward to the most going into the NCAA Tournament?
A: Just going out and competing against the best. I feel like we can match up against anybody in the country with our shooting.
Q: You’ve been a big part of the offense ever since Kristijan [Krajina] went down with an ACL injury. How has he helped you mature as a player?
A: He’s helped a lot; even without him playing he’s been very vocal on the sidelines and during practice, just telling me how to finish and post up inside. Being a fifth-year senior, he’s been really involved in what we’ve done.
Q: You had a great game at Robert Morris. What led to that all-around great performance?
A: Really it was just executing the game plan. We found Sam [Prescott] in the high post and that opened me up for the easy lay-up. You really have to credit the coaches for that one.
Q: Being a mainstay of our frontcourt, are you worried that a bigger school like Syracuse or Florida may outsize your team?
A: I like playing against bigger guys. As for my team, we’ve been playing small all year. We’re so fast and we shoot threes so well, that I don’t think size will be an issue.
Coach Jamion Christian
Q: What’s been the main difference going into the NCAA Tournament as an assistant coach at VCU compared to being a head coach at the Mount?
A: Well, everybody has a lot more questions for you. I think the big difference is that at VCU we really expected to go. We had a very good idea of where our seeding was going to be, and so you’re already starting to prepare for that mentally even as you’re going through your conference tournament…For us, we have to deal with this week of excitement, but we didn’t have that at VCU. Coming off the Final Four run the next year, we’re expected to make another one, and so it’s a little bit of a different feeling. While the vibe here on our campus is all about being excited, taking the time to step back and appreciate the road we’ve been on, and now we have to reset over the next couple of days and be ready to fight our next opponent.
Q: Was there a desperate mentality of having to win now with having three seniors in the starting five?
A: We talked a lot about desperation. We played St. Francis NY like a desperate team. You don’t ever want to play like you’re desperate to win because it sort of puts you in quicksand; you’re trying to move so fast, and you’re never going to get to where you want to go. So I said, “Hey we’re going to give you guys a couple areas where you can be desperate. You be desperate on the rebounds, you’ve got to have the rebound.” So we kept desperation in that area there, but let’s make the game about playing the game. I told my guys we needed to be like water, we need to be whatever we need to be like at a given moment. Let’s not try to be THIS. Let’s just try to be whatever the moment calls for us to be.