Jeff Dowtin, Cyril Langevine, Fatts Russell and coach David Cox met with the media on Monday to preview Tuesday's season opener.
On opening night: just can’t wait to get on the court with the guys and just go out there and show that we worked all summer, and just go from there.
On whether he’ll sleep tonight: I’m excited. I’m going to be up a little bit late, but I’ll be locked on the game plan. Go out there and get the win, hopefully.
On starting with tough challenges: Both teams that we’re playing this week are pretty good. LIU is expected to win their conference, and obviously, Maryland is ranked. We’re going to be the underdog. We’re just ready to go out there and perform.
On the off-season: Everyone is excited and locked in. It’s all about the work we put in. Now we get to show that we did is going to pay off.
On the NCAA Tournament chase: Me and Jeff, we want to go back there. Obviously, last year, we came up short, but we’ve been there before and we just want to go back.
On losing Antwan Walker and Jeremy Sheppard: Obviously, we want both of those guys on the court. They’re great talents, but we’re ready. It’s another thing that’s going to bring us back up and make us stronger.
On his last first game: Sad, bittersweet, but it’s another chance for us to play in front of our home crowd. So at the same time, we’re just ready to go out there and play.
On last year: That experience means a lot for us, coming in last year and being leaders, having that one year under our belt. We’ve definitely grown throughout the years. Leadership is something we wanted to have. It’s a lot of weight on our shoulders also, but we’re ready for the challenge.
On LIU: Coach has been preaching that they’re one of the fastest teams in the country. They like to push the ball a lot and run with a lot of pace. Our transition defense is going to have to be key.
On the newcomers helping out with the absences of Walker and Sheppard: We’ve got a great group of freshmen who are ready to step up, and D.J. being a transfer, he’s going to have to step up. The returning guys know what it takes to win. The freshmen, the new guys are just going to have to follow our lead. I think they’ll be ready.
On coach Cox: He’s been the same as far as his energy and motor. He’s an energetic guy and he’s excited to get back out there. I know his confidence as far as coaching is up there. He’s got one year under his belt. No more butterflies anymore. He’s ready to go.
On the opener: I’m very excited to get back on the floor with these guys - Jeff, Cyril, the returning six, the new guys. I’m extremely excited.
On what’s worked for him in the preseason: Honestly, it’s just basketball. I’m going to go out there and be myself. I’ve matured a lot through the off-season. I’m just going to go out there and play basketball.
On the backcourt without Sheppard: That hurt a lot. Jeremy is a really good player. Honestly, me and Jeff have been through that last year a little bit. It’s going to be different this year without another supporting cast in the backcourt, but we’re built for this and we’re ready.
On next steps for the sophomores: I just tell Tyrese and Dana to be more aggressive offensively, because we need that. We don’t need people just looking at me, Jeff and Cyril. Even if they’re making mistakes, just play aggressive.
On what the freshmen can do: Just to go out there and give energy where they can. Kind of on the road that I was on my freshman year - just run out there, get the crowd involved, play their role.
On LIU: They’re a very good team. They have really good guards and really good shooters on the wings. It’s not going to be a cakewalk. They’re a really good team and we have to come out there ready.
On the looming game with Maryland: I didn’t even know we played Maryland. Coach Cox tells us to focus on one game. I didn’t know, but that’s exciting.
On whether he still feels the nerves and anticipation: Absolutely. There’s anxiety, there’s a whole bunch of feelings going through my mind and through my body right now. But I think the most prevalent one is just excitement to start the season with this group of guys. It’s a great group of guys. I think they’ve come a long way. The returners from last year and the young guys have meshed well. I’m excited to see where we’re at, and we will find out tomorrow against a very, very good LIU team.
On the NCAA waiver denials: We’re disappointed, but we’ve got to move forward now. That’s it. Can’t cry over spilled milk. We’ve got 10 other scholarship players that are ready to go. We’ve got to just deal with it.
On what he’s told the other newcomers since that news: This is what you wanted so be ready. All those guys were recruited to come here and play minutes and fill roles, and expand on roles as the year proceeds. I didn’t think I’d have to quite throw them into the fire this early. I was actually hoping I wouldn’t have to, but here we are. The situation has now presented itself. It’s an opportunity for these young guys and I think they’ll be ready.
On LIU and similarities to Derek Kellogg’s UMass teams: They play with tremendous pace. UMass also liked to play with tremendous pace. He’s recruited a lot of offensive players, so they’ve got a lot of firepower. They’ve got firepower returning and they’ve got some that transferred in, and that was kind of his thing at UMass as well. And he’s still as fiery on the sidelines, so I’m sure fans will look forward to that as well.
On starting with tough tests: This is what it is. It’s a 30-game season, and we’ve got to take advantage of every opportunity. This is absolutely what it’s all about. And I certainly can’t cry over playing a formidable opponent like LIU, when ACC teams are kicking off conference play tomorrow.
On LIU: I just think they have a team full of basketball players. They’re kind of a position-less team. They’ve got some bigs, but their bigs can all put it on the floor as well as shoot. They’ve got a lot of athletes. And their guards are really dynamic off the bounce, and they’ve got some good shooters. Defensively, they’re going to be as talented an offensive team that we’ll face all year. And with all the position-less players, it will put our big men in some precarious positions that they’ll have to be ready for. We talked a lot about it in the last three or four days.
On the leadership provided by Dowtin, Langevine and Russell: I think they’ve grown up a lot. I think they’ve learned from last year. I think they’ve learned they need to be more vocal, they need to hold themselves accountable, they need to hold the team accountable. I think they’ve learned we can win with a coach-led team, but we can’t win championships if the coach is the leader, necessarily, of the team. Those guys have to assume that responsibility. Thus far, they have. At this point, we haven’t played any games. We’ll see what happens when adversity hits. That’ll be the biggest test.
On taking the court: I think they’ve very excited. They’ve been battling one another for months now. They’re probably getting tired of playing one another. They know each other’s games. They know our plays, so when we’re lining up against one another, guys are cheating the plays. So they’re ready to just go out there and face some new competition, and be able to root for one another.