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HBU's Ron Cottrell: "We're excited about who this team can end up being at the end of the year."

POSTED: October 11, 2019 -- 3:55 p.m. CT

Last week, I stopped by Houston Baptist University and watched a few minutes of men's basketball practice. Before practice began, HBU Huskies' Head Coach Ron Cottrell spoke with me about this year's team; his expectations for the 2019-'20 squad; and junior guard Ian DuBose. Earlier this week, Ian was tabbed as a member of the Southland Conference Preseason First team. Ian is the lone junior among four other seniors on the SLC First Team.

Here's a Q and A of the transcript:

The HRR: How have things gone so far?

Coach Cottrell: Very good. I'm very pleased with the guys' effort. Obviously, there's a lot of learning going on right now. A lot more talking and walking through things and explaining the principles and things like that that I would like. But, we'll get to the point where we can pick up that intensity as go along.

The HRR:Is that because of the youth of the team?

Coach Cottrell: Yeah, to some degree. We've got several new guys. We've got four freshmen; and, then, one transfer in that are new to the program. So, to some degree, it's getting those guys; and, it's just some new things that we're doing with the whole team entirely.

The HRR: What's the roster breakdown in terms seniors, juniors, sophomores, and freshmen?

Coach Cottrell: Two seniors. Two guys that are very experienced for us who've been a part of the program. We have quite a few juniors. This is kind of our junior cycle. This is - the juniors are kind of the core of our team right now - and, then, just a couple of sophomores; and, then, four freshmen. We've got a good mixture of guys and some good leadership in those junior and senior classes.

The HRR: In your opinion, right now, who are players to watch this coming season?

Coach Cottrell: Well, Ian DuBose is Second Team All-Conference and someone that will probably be First Team All-Conference Preseason; and, people will kind of point towards. Probably, after that, Ryan Gomes is going to be our starting post. He sat out last year. He transferred from Mount Saint Mary's. So, he's someone that's going to have to anchor our posts; but, we've got two other guys in there with him: Ben Uloko and Zach Iyeyemi, who's a local guy from Cy Fair, that we think are going go to be able to us in the post quite a bit.

Then, there's a bunch of other guys. You've got Jackson Stint who's a 4-man for us. A senior. And, then, Jalon Gates, who is a senior shooting guard for us. Those guys are going to all be counted on quite a bit.

Ty Dalton - Second Baptist - a guy who was in our program last year; who's now a junior for us. He's another one of that junior core group of guys that's going to be a big part of our success this year.

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The HRR: What about DuBose's game do you think he's improved?

Coach Cottrell: I think the biggest thing for him is understanding that people are going to run at him and concentrate on him; and, that he's going to have to defer some early in the game. Get his teammates involved in the game; and, then, take over when he needs to - when we need him to step up at the end of a shot clock; end of a possession; and, then, at the end of a game. Just kind of identifying his spots when he needs to take over and really get the ball and do what he does.

He's an interesting guy because he's so well-rounded offensively. He can shoot the ball from three. A matter of fact, we're encouraging him to shoot more of the three ball right now than what he has in the past because he's got such a high efficiency from three. But, he also puts it on the floor. He can do a lot of different things for us.

The HRR: When the non-conference schedule first came out, I thought to myself "it's only like nine games listed here"; and, then, I realized you're going to the twenty game conference schedule this season. What are your thoughts about the non-conference first and then what are your thoughts on the move to a 20-game conference slate?

Coach Cottrell: Well, obviously, our non-conference schedule is as challenging as everybody in the Southland has. It's going to be something that we're going to have to really step up to the challenge early on. We start at Tulsa (November 5) and at Oral Roberts (November 8) on the same trip. And, then, it's at Texas Tech (November 13); it's at Michigan (November 22); it's at U of H (November 26); at Dayton (December 3). You've got Samford here at Sharp Gym (December 7); and, we go to New Mexico (December 22). The hits just keep coming in the non-conference schedule; and, we're going to have to be ready to play from the very beginning.

And, then, we get into early conference play this year with 20 games. I like that. I like playing more conference games. I think that makes for more balance in the conference schedule. I think that's important for our conference to have more people playing each other home and home; so, you can really have a true conference champion at the end of the day. But, it also means you're going to be beating up on each other quite a bit within conference play as the Conference continues to improve every year.

The HRR: Let's talk about the Southland Conference. Who are teams to watch? Who are the favorites in your opinion?

Coach Cottrell: I think, anytime that you talk about our conference, you've got to talk about Sam Houston State, Stephen F (Austin) have been the mainstays. And, I see Stephen F getting back there this year after a little bit of a down year last year. But, I think Sam Houston State is going to be at the top. I think Central Arkansas is going to be really, really good because they've got a lot of returning players. And, I think Abilene Christian, coming off of the year that they had last year, they've got a core group of guys coming back off the success they had last year. They're going to be good. Anytime that you're playing a Willis Wilson team at Corpus Christi you're going to be in for a battle.

You just keep going down the line. Tic Price over at Lamar is going to have a great group of guys because they had a lot of guys sitting out last year. They're going to be ready to play as well.

The HRR: How about your team? What's the ceiling for you guys this year?

Coach Cottrell: Well, I think the number one thing is we've got to approach the non-conference portion of our season as our preparation to get ready for conference play. And, knowing that we only have one non-conference home game; but, we have Rice and U of H here in town. That's an opportunity for us to have exposure here in town for our fans. I think that's a big part of our early season schedule. Anytime that you play a Michigan and a Texas Tech you know you're going to be challenged by those kind of teams; but, those are things that are going to get us ready for conference play. And, our thing is we want to win a conference championship. That's what we're working towards. If the non-conference schedule helps us get there, then, that's what we're going to do.

We're excited about this team. We're excited about the core group of guys that are back; but, we've also added some new guys that we think can really step in and play for us right away.

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The HRR: What's the buzz around campus for you guys; but, because of the success of the football team?

Coach Cottrell: Anytime that you have any program - football, volleyball, soccer, or whatever - have success we all feed off that. Our school is such a close knit community that you have student-athletes that go to class together. They're around each other. They attend each other's games. I think when you see one of your classmates having success competing in the conference; competing at the national level. I think that helps feed everybody. I think it's very important for us to, as a program, to realize that if football is having success; if volleyball is having success; that's something for us to point towards. And, to try to feed off what they're doing and get ready for our season as well.

The HRR: Is the Southland Conference still underrated / underappreciated?

Coach Cottrell: I think there's better athletes in the Conference than people realize. There are a lot of guys who may be a little bit smaller than what you would see at one of the Power 5 schools; but, are just as athletic; quicker; just as skilled. And, I think our coaching is much better than what people give credit for.

When you look across the Conference, we have quality coaches all the way across this Conference. And, yeah, there's no doubt in my mind that this Conference is underrated. This is a really, really good conference; and, if people would go out and watch Southland Conference play, they are going to get excited about what they see.

The HRR: How is recruiting going for you? Has it changed in the last few years? Is it easier? Are you guys getting more recognized on the road?

Coach Cottrell: Yeah. I think we've done a good job over the years. We've really gone outside of the region and made a name for ourselves; so, that we can go and pick and choose where we want to get players outside of the region. Obviously knowing that Houston's our home. Houston is where we're going to make our real base of players; and, Texas in general. But, we want to be able to go to other areas because of the academic standards that we have at HBU, we're going to go find guys who can compete at this level; but, also are going to succeed academically here. So, it's important for us to go to certain areas of the country and be able to go get some really high quality, high character guys. And, we've been able to do that.

The HRR: Do you still have your pipeline in North Carolina?

Coach Cottrell: Yep. We've got a couple of new North Carolina guys this year that are freshmen (6'2, 190, Myles Pierre and 6'7, 195, Jason Thompson). And, we're going to continue to go out to North Carolina. That's a hot bed for basketball. Basketball is important in the state of North Carolina; and, you get high quality, high character guys coming out of there. They're wanting to go and make a name for themselves and really have a great college experience. It's easy for them to travel back and forth between Charlotte or Raleigh / Durham into Houston. So, yeah, we're going to continue to go in North Carolina.

The HRR:The HRR: Is there anything you want to mention that I haven't asked you so far?

Coach Cottrell: No. We're excited about our team. We're excited about who this team can end up being at the end of the year. We know that we're going to have some challenges early on. We know we're going to possibly take some lumps early on with the type of non-conference schedule that we're playing. But, our goal is, at the end of the day, when we're at the end of the conference season, we're competing for a conference championship. And, we're going to the Conference Tournament with a chance to try and get to the NCAA Tournament. And, that's what our goal is; and, that's what our guys are working towards every day.

The HRR: And last thing, of course, the Conference Tournament Championship takes place in Katy at the Merrell Center; so, what are your thoughts on that.

Coach Cottrell: That's exciting. Anytime that you can have a Conference Tournament in your hometown, that really spurs you on to work hard to make sure you're in that top 8; and, you give your fans a chance be able to come out and watch you play. We had great representation last year when we were in the Conference Tournament; and, our fans really turned out. We want to give them another chance to come out and come see us play this coming year.

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