@LATechHoops Media Day

Oct. 28, 2015

RUSTON -- Louisiana Tech head coach Eric Konkol and senior guard Alex Hamilton spoke to the local media on Wednesday afternoon as part of Basketball Media Day, in conjunction with Conference USA.

Eric Konkol

Opening Statement

“It is good to see everybody. It has been a really good fall for us and a great summer. I spent a lot of time getting to know our team, having a new staff and having several new players. This fall has been very much of a growth process for us. We have a lot of new guys, a lot of young players in this program that have not played a lot of minutes or years at Louisiana Tech, but I am excited about where we are headed.”

“I met with our strength coach today and we were talking about some of the testing and it has been a big part of where we have wanted to go. Our bench press numbers are 15 pounds heavier than they were six weeks ago. Our chin up is over 60 percent better. And then the guys that we have wanted to gain weight have gained a collective 40 pounds over the last six weeks. We are really excited about that part and then the practice which has been very competitive.

“Having lost three seniors that had an unbelievable and long-lasting impact on this program, there is great competition to elevate roles whether be an Alex Hamilton or an Erik McCree to the players in the program that played second or third string roles last year. We are looking forward to this season and to continue that growth process every day in practice and to just continue to build on that standard of excellence that has been here at Louisiana Tech.”

 

 

On players finding their roles:

“It is ongoing. We have scrimmaged some. We had a light game on Saturday where we could take a look at two different lineups. The guys are competitive so we wanted those lineups to stay throughout that game, but in practice we have done a lot of special situations. We have changed lineups and taken a look at different groups. I would like to play a deep bench. I would like everybody to be involved in the game to try to play nine or 10 guys. Competition has been very strong, but roles are defined some by me and it happens as well on the court. We are looking at different combinations so we can play with a versatile, up and down the court, but we have not made any determinations yet on who our starters will be in two weeks.”

On helping improve the half-court offense:

“There is no question we want to score in the full-court. We want to use our defense to create turnovers and get those easy baskets, but there is no secret that when it comes down to crunch time in tournament play or NCAA Tournament play or just great Conference USA games, you have to execute in the half-court. Very simply, we want to have great opportunities for our best players, our best scorers, to get great looks. We are looking at a few different things, but right now we trying to keep our overall core very simple to allow them to play freely with a free mind and as we go on, add some quick hitters to get our best guys some best shots.”

On the non-conference schedule:

“I think there are some great games. All 13 games fill a certain need from trying to have games at home, trying to have games on the road, trying to play teams who we think will make the NCAA Tournament, playing teams that we think will finish in the top three of their conference. We have a lot of those games. Of course the games that jump out at you right away are at Ole Miss, at Ohio State, at Memphis, but then we also have teams at home like Louisiana-Lafayette and North Carolina Central, teams that are picked at the top of their leagues. Not to leave anybody out, but those are some really good games that are going to challenge us for Conference USA play.”

On the league achieving multiple bids in the NCAA Tournament:

“I think scheduling and performing well with that schedule is the entire key. To increase a conferences profile, they have to do very well in the non-conference. There is a scheduling model that says you want to schedule the best games possible that you can win. You also want to challenge yourself and as the league does very well in the non-conference, those winning percentages carry over into conference play. That is where your RPI takes a boost. Your strength of schedule takes a boost. We all have to do well, all 14 of us, in the non-conference.”

On returning two of the top three scorers from last year, Alex Hamilton and Erik McCree:

“Both are very, very hungry to be successful. We all know that they are talented. They have shown that in past performances, but they are certainly not satisfied with their past records and what they have done. They have dreams and goals and we want to help them attain it. They have been huge proponents of what we have been doing in the weight room and in the training room, in extra skill work and so forth. Those guys are really trying to lead the way for us and we have asked them to do that and they have done it. We want to continue with that. We have a lot of young guys on the team that have not played a lot of Division I basketball before, certainly not here at Louisiana Tech. Alex and Erik have experienced a lot of success here both as a team and as individuals. We want them to provide that example for the rest of the guys.”

On Hamilton playing point or off the ball:

“I think he is very capable with both. I think that he is a guy that defenses are going to key on and we are going to want to move him around on the floor. He is going to handle the ball a lot for us this year. He is one of the very best downhill drivers I have been around that can finish with his right hand and his left hand, finish with contact. He went to the foul line 209 times last year which is really remarkable. We want the ball in his hands a lot. Sometimes it could be with starting it and him bringing the ball up the floor. It could be rolling off screens and catching it in different spots because we want to move him around so a teams’ defense does not get into a good rhythm guarding him.”

On the depth of the frontcourt:

“It is a challenge. We want to be a great rebounding team. We want to have a paint presence. We want to have a rim protector. We have some guys that are challenging to take a hold of that role, but at the same time it needs to be done by committee. Ultimately, we need to put the most productive five guys on the floor. We need to take a look at who those guys are and it is a lot of different categories. First it is defending and rebounding your position and also providing points. We need to look at the best fits in some different lineups and maybe even changing defenses to cater to the best skills of that five man lineup.”

On keeping the home court winning streak alive:

“I really don’t think about it. I am very proud of it and I am very appreciative of the support here. We are counting on all of the people in Bulldog nation to come out and support this team. Really, our focus has been to win each day. We talk about it all the time in our locker room, whether it be weights, treatment, academics, and practice, just trying to win that day and the score will take care of itself in the end. I know we are going to get the best effort out of our team at home and the best effort out of our fans in Ruston and the surrounding community.”

On Joniah White:

“I am really excited about Joniah. He is over 200 pounds for the first time ever. He has gained a lot of flexibility and strength. He missed some time with an injury recently, but he practiced yesterday and looked very good. It was the best I had seen him in my time here. I am excited about his future. He is a very intelligent person and player. He can talk basketball. He is a student of it. We just have to continue to help him grow and that comes every day.”

“I am not sure if he will [be ready for the season opener]. That is for doctors and trainers to give me that determination of where he is progressing.”

On newcomers who are expected to have an impact this season:

“First, the guys that were on the team last year that maybe had a secondary role, that did not play huge minutes. I think Merrill Holden has had an incredible summer and fall. He has really gotten stronger. He is gaining a lot of experience with the team. I think he is someone we are going to be counting on a lot this year. Qiydar Davis I think can be one of the better defenders in this league. I think he has tremendous athleticism and versatility and range defensively. We are going to count on that. I think Jacobi Boykins proved last year that he can score the ball. He can shoot it well. He has done it at an incredible clip this fall. I am excited about his ability to stretch the defenses and put it on the floor some. He has got an aggressive mentality and we want him to fill that role for us. Dayon Griffin has shown that he can be versatile. I think he is going to be able to play multiple positions and help us. He is shooting the ball extremely well and is improving in that. Then Branden Sheppard as a redshirt last year, he has gotten stronger as well. His bench press as gone up since the summer. He is continuing to mature as a player. We are going to need that frontcourt help. We have asked him to really take charge of his own development and help us.”

“Then we have newcomers who have not played Division I basketball before here at Louisiana Tech. LeAntwan Luckett is a talented player. He came here from Alcorn State. He has gained 10 pounds. His body has really improved in just the short time he has been here. He is a gifted athlete. He can score and he can pass and we are going to count on him this year. Jy’lan Washington from Tennessee, he has gained 30 pounds on his bench press this fall. He has gained 10 pounds and when you see him, he still has a long ways to grow, but he is a skill player. He can play multiple positions, and I believe he is going to find himself on the floor this season if he continues working the way he is. Derric Jean from Miami, he is a gifted athlete. He can really run. Sometimes it seems like he can run all day. He is shooting the ball very well. He is getting more comfortable. At first, I think he was really trying to please us, wanting to do everything exactly right and now he is playing with a little bit more aggressiveness and using his gifts. I am excited about him. Da’Shawn Robinson is a junior college player from Navarro. He has been very solid. He makes open shots. He can bounce it once or twice and find the open man. He has found a nice role on the team.”

“It is wide open competition right now. We have five to put on the floor and we have subs. I really want to play a deep bench because we want to play hard and fast. At each media timeout, I want to see guys breathing extremely hard so we will put somebody else in, rest, and get ready to go back in. I think we could have some really good depth this year.”

On Derric Jean’s potential as just a freshman:

“College basketball is such a jump. I met with each of the newcomers just recently and talked about how different it is, how fast the game is, how much stronger these guys are. And even just the tempo of their day because they have class, they have study hall, they have weights, they have training room, they have practice. It is a whole new tempo. Because of that, until you get used to it, you have inconsistencies and when you can erode those inconsistencies and become even and trend up, that is when you become really good. Our two true freshmen, Derric Jean and Jy’lan Washington, I think those two guys have a chance to be two very good players here.”

Alex Hamilton:

On being a veteran:

“When I first came here, we had older guys like Kenyon [McNeail] and J.L. [Lewis]. In practice we used to always pick at them. Now I am one of the guys that they pick at. When I walk around the locker room they always talk about me being banged up.”

On team meshing together:

“I think our new coaching staff has done a good job. They have really helped with the process. The younger guys have really been listening. That makes the job a lot easier.”

On adjusting to new coach:

“It really has not been a big adjustment. In high school I had a coaching change. That really prepared me for this process. With Coach Konkol being the guy that he is, he made it very easy on me. He has helped me with all of the transition and the schemes he wants to put in.”

On Derric Jean:

“He has made big strides. Coming in, he was trying to do more than he could do. Now he is settling in and gradually coming along. I see all of the little things he is doing to help our team.”

“I am constantly in his ear, every time he gets frustrated. I tell him that it is going to be alright and keep his head up. Keep playing hard and practicing hard and everything will come together.”

On leadership:

“It is not so much a new role, but I have to be aggressive with it. I have to let them know that I am there and present.”

On player growth:

“Derric Jean especially and Jy’lan Washington are two freshman that have grown a lot. LeAntwan Luckett, the transfer, was used to a different style of play coming from Alcorn, but he has been great. Da’Shawn Robinson has made a lot of adjustments coming from junior college. I feel like all of the new guys and returners are really stepping into their roles for the upcoming season.”

On continuing home success:

“We have to continue to play hard and play Bulldog basketball. These fans are going to come support us; we just have to keep playing hard and give them something to come support.”

On post season:

“The NIT is a prestigious tournament, but coming and playing college basketball, you always dream about the NCAA Tournament. Not being able to make it the past three years, it gives me an extra fire. You want to show everyone that your team is capable of making the NCAA Tournament. With these guys around me, I feel like we have the potential and the coaching staff to do what we need to do, to get there.”

On pre-season rank:

“I think it is good for us. I really do think it is good for us. We cannot get comfortable now. They did not pick us to win. Everyone on this team looks at that. Ratings do not matter to me; it is how you finish the season. You can start eighth in the conference and wind up going to the tournament. That really does not matter, but I feel like we have something to prove anyways. We want to get where we have not been and that is the NCAA Tournament.”

On similarities to UAB last season:

“That is what it is all about. They are an example of what I just talked about. If we can do all of the small things, that could be us this year.”

On depth:

“You want it to happen right away, but it does not always work like that. I feel like in the beginning of January, when conference starts that is when we should be coming together. It finally clicked for us.”

On non-conference:

“All non-conference games are important, every game we play is important. Of course, the Big 10 teams like Ohio State stick out. As well as teams like Memphis that are used to success. We will get to see where we stand against teams like that, to see what we need to do to prepare for conference.”

On lone senior:

“I am just enjoying the process and having fun. If you are not having fun, it makes the job so much harder. If you come together and treat everyone as family, it is easier to get along with the guys. You know they have your back. The family aspect is what I learned from the past guys. I just want to give it my all every night.”

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