The Houston Roundball Review is an online basketball publication
by: Kris Gardner, United States Basketball Writers Association member. Credentialed media member since 1997. USBWA approved online journalist. Voter of Lowe's Senior CLASS, Naismith, USBWA, and Wooden awards.
Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Head Coach Willis Wilson at 2018 Southland Conference Basketball Media Day: "I think the thing that excites me the most is we've got sixteen home games."
October 11, 2018 -- 9:52 a.m.
The Southland Conference held its Basketball Media Day at Toyota Center Wednesday, October 10. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Head Coach Willis Wilson took a few minutes to speak with me to discuss the Preseason SLC Poll; the Islanders' non-conference schedule as well as having 16 home games this season; and more.
Here's the Q&A with Coach Wilson:
What are your thoughts on the Southland Conference Preseason Poll? (Islanders picked 9th; SFA picked 1st.)
"I've never been one to put a lot of stick in preseason polls. It's fun. It's exciting. It's kind of a starting point for the fans and for the media. But, I think the reality is when you go back and look at the polls in the past, maybe with the exception of the top two or 3 teams, you just never know what you're going to get.
"This tends to be a league that, if you have experience, guys that have been through the league a couple of times through, you can do well because you know what to expect. You know how to prepare yourself.
"The polls are for the fans. I know Stephen F. Austin is picked at the top. They've got a great team. Great coach. I know they'll do well; but, everybody else is going to be fighting to take them off the top of the perch this year."
What year is this for you at Corpus Christi?
"I'm entering my 8th season. It's been an exciting, fun run. As you well know, the first couple of years were a bit of a struggle. Then, we were able to turn things around; and, now we're really searching for that breakthrough. We want to become that mid-major breakthrough basketball program. For us to do that, we have to continue to build our culture. We've done a great job so far. Now, we need some of those little amenities that can help us take it over the top. At the end of the day, coaches are only as good as the players they can recruit and the players they get.
"We're really excited about the future of the program and the direction we're headed."
How has practice gone thus far?
"Practice has been really good. I think the great news is nobody has stood out. Typically, you have outliers; guys that are either not caring their weight or guys that are above and beyond the crowd.
"I think the good news for us is that we've got depth from our seniors and veterans guys all the way down to the young guys. We have not had a lot variation. As we've mixed up lineups, the competition has been very consistent and consistently at a high level and that's one of the things that excites me. The other thing that I like is we've shown the ability to shoot the basketball. Make shots. That's really what this game is all about.
"I think the other attribute for our basketball team is that we can defend. We will be committed to being a good defensive team."
Is this year's team more three-point oriented? Are you one of the threes more than twos mentality?
"I think we're going to be an opportunistic team. We've got guys that can shoot the three. We're going to let those guys go. We're going to let them shoot it. We have guys that can get to the rim; and, I've always been a coach that believes in pressuring the rim is maybe the most significant part of offense. You have to be able to collapse the defenses and move folks around; so, we're going to try to do that by getting up and down the floor by letting those guys that have the ability to get to the rim get there. And, hopefully, that will open up the daylight for the three-point shooters.
"I like our versatility. We've got guys that can do a variety of things. I think we've got a chance to be a really, really solid offensive basketball team."
What's the roster breakdown of this year's team?
"We've got a couple of seniors: Emmanuel Toney who's a sixth-year senior who's fought a couple of injuries the last couple of years. We also have Jake Babic who is a transfer from Appalachian State - fifth-year transfer. A guy who's going to bring a lot to the table. But, aside from that, we're juniors and sophomores.
"We're a basketball that has a lot of guys that have the ability to make plays; but, we're real heavy right there in the middle. And, that's part of the excitement. If we can play to our potential this year, it's sort of an exciting proposition that we'll have all these guys back for an additional year."
Who do you have on the non-conference schedule?
"Well, the biggest marquee game for our season this year is at Tennessee. Tennessee will come into the preseason top 5 in the nation. Very, very talented basketball team; and, we're really, really looking forward to an opportunity to learn and grow and play Tennessee.
"Oklahoma State is another team that's got a lot of tradition. They've been very successful out of the Big 12.
"I think the thing that excites me the most is we've got sixteen home games. For a program at our level, to be able to host that many home games is an opportunity to grow our fan base. It's an opportunity for our team to gel and gain a lot of confidence. I think it's also a challenging schedule, in particular against teams like UTSA and Texas State, we'll be able to gel as a basketball team as we prepare ourselves for Southland Conference play."
What are your thoughts on the NCAA's new metric: the NET?
"The new metrics are always interesting. There's a lot that goes into it. I think as a basketball coach coming out of the Southland the most important day of the year for us is the second Saturday in March. Championship Day in March when it's boiled down to two teams. That's our goal: to get there. If we can do that, we won't have to worry about metrics. We hope that we're a program that, over the next three to 5 years, we can grow. And, certainly as a league, where we can grow and metrics will matter; but, the bottom line for us right now is we've got to get to that second Saturday in March."
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