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We did an offseason Q&A session with Pepperdine men's basketball coach Marty Wilson to talk about what's happening this summer and next year's team:

Q: After a few last minute roster changes, how do you feel about the team as your prepare for next year?

A: I'm feeling really good about everything, even after the loss of some great players. I am excited for our returning players this season. Stacy Davis received all-conference honors last year and we are going to continue to challenge him. Jeremy Major started every game and had more assists than any other freshman in Pepperdine history. We are hoping to take another big step with our leading players. Jett Raines, Amadi Udenyi, Marley Biyendolo, Lamond Murray Jr. and David Jesperson should play bigger roles next season.

We have spent some time talking to Lamond and coaching and challenging him, and he is going to come back even stronger than last year. We are also going to be challenging Atif Russell on defense, where he can have the most success. Both Atif and Lamond are great athletes and their true athleticism really plays out on the court and helps make the team stronger all around.

Incoming freshman Nate Gehring recently had surgery on his right shoulder but is already ahead in his rehabilitation and will continue his rehab when he arrives in Malibu next month. He will gradually begin conditioning and skill work when his body allows him. Ryan Keenan is a very strong player who is extremely tough and physical and not afraid to mix things up. He's a big guy, not slow, and has no problem getting up and down the court

A.J. Lapray is transferring from the University of Oregon and he's an older player with a lot of talent and experience, and is definitely going to be an asset to our team. I'm excited about A.J. John's athleticism and skill, he's got a great upside and can become a very good player. Shawn Olden was a great get for us late in the process, and he has an opportunity to come in as a freshman and compete right away for valuable minutes due to his ability to score and defend.

Q: What is the team focusing on this summer?

A: Right now it's quiet. Jett and Marley are the only players here before everyone else arrives in June. They are training eight hours a week, with six hours of lifting and conditioning and two hours on the court. This summer the team will work twice a week with our staff on the court, and with our strength and conditioning coach Matt Young four days a week lifting and conditioning on the beach. We are going to focus specifically on the individual growth of the players, as well as improve collectively both offensively and defensively.

One of our biggest focuses this summer is going to be on changing our defensive mindset. Last year I was not satisfied, especially late season, in how our team defended and our urgency. We will focus a lot on defense this summer and that focus will also carry over into the season.

Q: As the team reunites this summer and welcomes the freshman players, what do you hope to see the veterans teaching their new teammates?     

A: The successful transition of our new players is a top priority this summer. I was talking to Stacy about his role as a team leader, and really stressed the importance of reaching out to the new players, not just on social media and through texting, but by physically picking up the phone and calling them. It is very important that the players are able to develop a genuine bond with one another, and it is the job of the veteran players to act as role models and educate the new players. Establishing trust and building unity early on is only going to make our team stronger.

The veteran players will utilize the summer to teach the new players about the campus, show them where their classes are, where the shuttle is and how everything around Pepperdine works. The freshmen players are going to learn how our team is run, and what it is like being on the court in the heat of the battle. Our coaches and staff are really going to take the time during this summer period to spend time with the players both on and off the court.

Q: You recently went in for surgery to clean up an old knee injury. How is your recovery?

A: My recovery is great. I've been in the training room getting treatment. My stitches were taken out yesterday. I'm feeling good and on the bike everyday. My surgery was pretty minor and easy but Coach (Bryant) Moore tore his patellar tendon during an adult-league game and has a major six-to-eight month road to recovery ahead. He received 25-30 stitches and is currently in a brace and unable to drive. He is very passionate and energetic on the court but it will be tougher this summer for him due to his injury.

Q: What does your summer schedule look like right now?

A: Our staff is preparing for next year and really focusing on video and breaking down strengths and weaknesses and areas of improvement. I was planning on scheduling a staff retreat where we would all take a few days and analyze videos and practices from last season, but with Coach Moore's injury we might stay a little more local and plan something up at the Drescher campus for a few days so it's easier for him to move around. I believe that changes definitely need to be made, but it is essential that we have video confirming why a change is necessary. That will allow us to discuss and debate, and change and fix things as necessary.

Pepperdine had its most successful season since 2005 and finished with 15 wins. The Waves finished fifth in the West Coast Conference. Sophomore forward Stacy Davis was the first All-WCC first team selection for Pepperdine since 2005, Brendan Lane was named Defensive Player of the Year and also received a spot on the All-WCC honorable mention team, and freshman Jeremy Major was named to the WCC All-Freshman team.

The Waves fell short to Saint Mary's in the quarterfinals in the WCC Championships, but were able to celebrate finishing in the top half of the conference.

"We played well," said Pepperdine Coach Marty Wilson about the SMC game. "We scrambled a couple times in the game, allowing the Gaels to hit three's, and they took full advantage of every opportunity and were extremely confident. Unfortunately, it ended up being a little too late for our team to make the comeback that we needed, and it was hard to end the season with a loss, while also having to say goodbye to such great seniors."

The team's camaraderie this season played an essential role in the Waves' success.

Said Wilson: "What really made the team different this season was the chemistry. A lot of times, there are teams where players disagree and bicker, but as a whole, we never had that issue. Our team genuinely liked each other both on and off of the court, and that played a large role on how they were able to work together in games and be successful. The team leadership this season was also a tremendous advantage."

Lane, Malte Kramer and Nikolas Skouen all have played their final games as Waves.

"It was really hard to lose the last game, especially knowing that it would be the last game for our seniors," Wilson said. "It was difficult seeing the emotions of the seniors, and how the younger players reacted to their feelings, because it truly showed how much the younger players looked up to them. There was a time where I, myself had to turn away and hold back tears. As coaches, we all go through times like this where we have to say goodbye to players who are both quality people and players. It's a tough goodbye, but we were lucky to have such great role models for the younger players."

Though the season has come to an end, the Waves will soon begin preparation for next season.

"We will have a staff meeting, where we will collectively review players and film," said Wilson. "We've got a better understanding now of what our younger players are capable of and where we can incorporate them. We'll take a look at the team's strengths and weaknesses and actively continue the high school recruiting process for future classes."

The 2013-14 season ended for men's basketball on Saturday with the Waves falling short to fourth-seeded Saint Mary's in the WCC quarterfinals in Las Vegas. Both teams had slow starts offensively, and then the Waves trailed the Gaels by 13 points at halftime, and by as many as 16 points in the second half. The Waves were able to bring the deficit down to seven points later in the period, but were unable to overcome Saint Mary's, which advanced to the semifinals after defeating Pepperdine 80-69.

Pepperdine's record of 15 wins is the team's most since the 2005 season, making this year the Waves' best season in nearly a decade.

"I could definitely feel the difference between regular season and postseason play," said freshman point guard Amadi Udenyi, who led the Waves with 13 points against Saint Mary's. "I really realized how big of a deal this tournament was and I am honored to have been given the opportunity to compete there."

Udenyi suffered a knee injury earlier in the season. He said: "I feel like my injury stunted my growth as a player at the beginning, but once I was healthy and back on the court, I really began to appreciate and enjoy the team and develop strong relationships with both my teammates and the coaching staff. It has been a really fun season, and it's tough saying goodbye to Brendan (Lane), Niko (Skouen), and Malte (Kramer). All three of them really took it upon themselves to be leaders and really took the time to teach all of the new players how to properly work out, train and take care of our bodies. They are great role models, and I am lucky to have been given the opportunity to play with them."

All-West Coast Conference first team honoree Stacy Davis also reflected on Saturday's game: "I thought everyone played hard and gave it their all. Unfortunately we were unable to come back from the deficit that was established in the first half, but Coach (Marty) Wilson always explains to the team the importance of putting forth the maximum amount of effort and bringing everything to the court. As a team, I really felt that we all did that, and even though we didn't get the results we had hoped, we have no regrets about the way we played. It's all about seeing the light in every dark situation. Everything is an ongoing process of improvement. This season especially, having a large amount of young players that were able to make such an impact so early on, shows just how competitive our team will be in the coming years."

Davis stepped up this season as a leader, but credits his success to his teammates.

"This year was a good year, I've definitely improved since my freshman year, but I owe all of my success to my teammates and team staff," he said. "The seniors, Brendan, Niko, and Malte really provided our team with the leadership that we needed. It had been my goal this season to become more of a team player, and someone that my teammates could look up to, and I would not have been able to make that possible without the seniors. We are all already excited for next season and working out this summer and improving. We're ready to bring Pepperdine back into the spotlight."

 

The postseason will begin on Saturday for Pepperdine, as the fifth-seeded Waves will compete against fourth-seeded Saint Mary's in the quarterfinals of the WCC Championships in Las Vegas. Pepperdine's current 15 overall wins make this season the team's best since 2004-05.

"We had a short but intense practice yesterday," Pepperdine Coach Marty Wilson said. "We need to play with the same level of aggressiveness and passion that we do at our practices in order to finish the season off strong."

This season has been an adjustment for many of the team's younger players.

"Many of our players this season had to learn what competing at the college level was like," Wilson said. "Understanding the grit, intensity and dedication that goes into the sport at this level takes time and does not just pertain to on-the-court conditioning, but sleeping patterns, grades, social life and mental health."

Through the entire learning process, the team has been able to come out stronger and more reliant on one another.

Said Wilson: "We have had a lot of ups and downs this year. Unfortunately we had quite a few injuries, beginning with Jett Raines and Amadi Udenyi, and later followed by Malcolm Brooks and Brendan Lane. We have had to move bodies around a lot but the players have become more versatile and are able to utilize their strengths and abilities on the court."

The team's leadership this season has also greatly influenced the Waves' success. Sophomore forward Stacy Davis is the first All-WCC first team selection for Pepperdine since 2005, Brendan Lane was named Defensive Player of the Year and also received a spot on the All-WCC honorable mention team, and freshman Jeremy Major was named to the WCC All-Freshman team.

"Our team's accomplishments this season have been valiant," Wilson said. "Two out of our three players honored this season have at least two more years on the team."

As the Waves prepare for Saturday's matchup against the Gaels, the team will collectively create goals that they hope to achieve at the tournament, while also watching and analyzing game film. Wilson's main goal for the tournament is "to get the team back on track, and play with the same amount of heart and aggressiveness as we do at practice, while also making sure that we continue to play unselfishly. We hope that our efforts and determination will pay off and give us another opportunity to play again on Monday."

Saturday's (March 8) matchup against Saint Mary's at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas will begin at approximately 8 p.m. on ESPN2. There will be also be audio-only WaveCasts at PepperdineSports.com with Al Epstein on the call for both men's and women's games.

 

With the Waves heading into postseason play and the season nearing its end, the team will soon say goodbye to its three graduating seniors: Brendan Lane, Malte Kramer and Nikolas Skouen. Following their final home game on Saturday, the players reflected on their season and experiences and explain what playing basketball at Pepperdine has meant to them.

Q: How did it feel playing in your final game at Firestone Fieldhouse on Saturday night?

Malte: It was both really exciting and very sad all at the same time. It was fun during the game because I was focused and enjoying every moment on the court and my mind was focused on the game, but then when the game was over it hit me that it was the last time I would be playing there, and it was a bittersweet moment.

Nikolas: My mind was in the game the whole time, and it was difficult when we didn't come out with a victory, but our team came together and I was really able to appreciate the time we all had together. It was a weird kind of feeling I had after the game though, realizing that it would be my last game at Pepperdine forced me to come to terms with the fact that my time on the team is ending.

Brendan: It was definitely a thrill. It's crazy because I feel like I've been in college for so long, and realizing that it's all coming to an end is still unreal to me right now.

Q: What has been your favorite part about playing basketball at Pepperdine?

Malte: The camaraderie has definitely been my favorite part about playing basketball at Pepperdine. The team has been so lucky to have great players with personalities that work so well together. The group this year has been one of the best, and we have such an amazing group of guys. I'm really lucky to have been able to play on a team with people that I have such a deep amount of love and respect for.

Nikolas: Pepperdine has such a solid team. Everyone gets along really well, and the respect that we have for one another doesn't just stay on the court, but it also carries into our lives as students. The team has not only allowed me to grow as a player, but also gave me the opportunity to make lifelong friends that I now consider my family.

Brendan: The people. My teammates, the coaches, it's all really been a family experience. Everyone gets along really well and genuinely cares for one another. It has really made my experience on the team a great one, and the bonds I've formed with my coaches and teammates are solid.

Q: What is your most memorable experience during your years on the team?

Malte: The team trip to Hawaii where I played in my first game after recovering from my knee injury. It was a special game for me because I was finally able to play, and I felt great knowing that I had contributed to our team's win after having been injured for an extended amount of time.

Nikolas: I will always remember the games we played against BYU. Last year I was on fire in the first five minutes of the game, and for me, that was the moment I realized my potential as a player, and truly became confident on the court.

Brendan: Playing BYU for the first time this season. That was the game where we really came out as a team and showed everyone what we were capable of. We proved that we were the real deal and I think we really pumped everyone up for the season. It's been really fun.

Q: How have the basketball coaches and staff impacted your life on and off of the court?

Malte: The coaches and staff have helped me develop both as a player and as a person. Their passion for the sport is what really encouraged me to love the game. They cared so much about everyone, and that is what made me want to care so much. The amount of time and effort that our coaches and staff put into our team acts as the foundation for the mutual respect and love that we players have for one another.

Nikolas: Our coaching staff is extremely focused on all aspects of the game. Not only do they care about our performances on the court, but they also care about our lives outside of basketball. They always want the best for us, and are constantly checking up on us and making sure we all are all on the right paths. I am lucky to have been on a team that has such a hard-working and dedicated staff.

Brendan: The coaches have impacted me a lot as a player and in my personal life. They taught me how to be a leader and the importance of being vocal. I wasn't always vocal about things in my life, but learning to be more expressive on the court and seeing how that positively affected the team, encouraged me to be more like that off the court as well. Stepping up as a leader this season really allowed me to bond with everyone and establish long-lasting relationships.

Q: How do you want to be remembered by your teammates and coaches?

Malte: I want to be remembered as someone who my teammates felt they could come to about advice or for encouragement. I hope that I was seen as a reliable player that both my teammates and coaches knew they could always count on.

Nikolas: I hope to be remembered as a hard-working player who always tried my best. I hope that my discipline and dedication to the sport, as well as my obedience as an athlete, contribute to my coach's and teammates' views of me, and that I was able to positively impact each of their lives in some way. 

Brendan: I hope I am remembered as a player who was dedicated and dependable, had fun, and genuinely enjoyed playing basketball.

In the WCC Championships quarterfinals, the Waves will play Saint Mary's on Saturday (March 8) at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas at approximately 8 p.m. on ESPN2. There will be also be audio-only WaveCasts at PepperdineSports.com with Al Epstein on the call for both men's and women's games.

WOMEN: Coach Weisenberg on the Final Games

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Pepperdine women's basketball coach Ryan Weisenberg answered a few questions prior to the team's regular-season finale at Santa Clara:

Q: How is team morale?

A: "We are having a difficult season. There are a couple of people who are just waiting for this season to be over. Then there are the smart ones that are looking at this as an audition for next season. The team has actually stepped up the energy and the focus has gotten better. This is a great audition for next year and the players are starting to realize that we have six new players coming in next year. There are players who will be taking starting roles and the competition is going to be fiercer."

Q: What explains the team's difficulties of late?

A: "It is a lack of defense. We have a new defensive philosophy from the past, and it is easy to fall back into what you know. We have seen some major steps in the right direction. That point differential will not be there next year. We will have a whole summer to drill in that new philosophy. Our next two recruiting classes are impressive. We are battling between five players who would start for us right now and we can only give two scholarships to those five. The '15 class will be just as good as our '14 class."

Q: In the final games, what should fans expect?

A: "Our motto is we want one more -- we want one more win over last season. We are anxious to see who we will play at the WCC Tournament. We need to play at the top of our game. If all of us aren't there it will be a struggle.  For the people who have gone to the games they have seen how hard these girls have been working. We have made it extremely difficult for other teams."

Q: Has the team philosophy changed?

"The team's approach to the game has not changed since day one. We believe that if we start going soft on the players because we are losing, not only will we lose our players but we will lose our momentum going into next season. We have made adjustments, yes, but we have not done anything drastic. It comes down to player development. We need to keep these girls accountable on and off the court and that is the big thing we are doing."

Q: Who should fans be watching for in the final game and at the WCC Tournament?

A: "Ea Shoushtari. Ea has been playing a whole new role. She has been thrown back into the responsibility of carrying the team, facilitating, and scoring still. She has done a phenomenal job at what we have asked her to do.

"Fans should look out for Allie Green as well. She has the possibility of winning Newcomer of the Year for the WCC. We generally like to celebrate team over individual, but this is huge and she has done an incredible job, so we are really pushing for her."

Q: What do you expect at the WCC Tournament?

A: "Last year we went in and our focus and mentality wasn't there and we got blown out by San Francisco. I have asked the girls who they would like to see in the first round. A lot have said we want San Francisco. Some say LMU, because it is our rival and we would like to knock them out.

"The intensity of the tournament is different. Something I learned from being with the Lakers and Sparks is that there is a different mentality. It is a completely new season. We are going to teach these girls how to prepare for the playoffs even after a season like this.

"In Julie (Rousseau)'s first season here, they were 11-14 going into the WCC Tournament and she won it!  It is basketball and you never know what it can happen."

Last Thursday, senior forward Malte Kramer made Pepperdine history as the first basketball player ever to receive Capital One/CoSIDA Academic All-American honors (third team). Kramer an economics major, currently holds a 4.0 grade-point average and is one of just three basketball players in the West Coast Conference who received the honor this year.

Q: How do you manage to balance both school and basketball?

A: "It's definitely been a challenge at times. Classes become especially difficult during the season when the team travels because it's not always easy to catch up when we miss classes. Overall I have pretty good self-discipline so I always study when I need to, and stay on top of all of my assignments."

Q: Why did you choose to major in economics?

A: "I enjoy real world applications like math and feel that it is a subject that I excel in. As a major, I felt that mathematics would be too dry for me, so majoring in economics made sense to me, and I enjoy being able to see how my studies play a role in the real world."

Q: As one of the older players on the team, you have had more experience playing basketball on the college level than most of your teammates. What advice do you give your teammates who are just starting their college careers?

A: :The biggest piece of advice I give is to enjoy every single game. Time flies by so fast, and before you know it, you will be graduating. Cherish the moments you have with your teammates and enjoy this time as much as you can because before you know it, it will all be over."

Q: You're a senior with a perfect 4.0 GPA. What are your plans after graduation?

A: "Right now everything is up in the air. I will either go back to Europe and play basketball at the professional level, get a job, or attend graduate school. I still have not made a decision on what lies ahead in my future, but I am looking forward to the experiences, and no matter what I end up doing, I will miss my teammates and coaches back at Pepperdine."

Pepperdine faced rival Loyola Marymount for the second time in conference play on Thursday evening at LMU.  The Waves had a slow start, trailing the Lions by 10 in the first period, but stayed strong defensively, which allowed them to make a comeback and defeat LMU, 72-69, in the Wells Fargo PCH Cup game. The road win not only allowed Pepperdine to move back up to fifth place in the WCC standings, but was also Pepperdine's sixth road win of the season, the most the team has had since 2002-03.

Leading the Waves to victory, Stacy Davis contributed 27 points on 10-for-15 shooting, plus 12 rebounds, two assists and two blocked shots. Malcolm Brooks followed with 15 points, and Academic All-American Malte Kramer had 12 points.

"Our defense really contributed to our overall performance," said Davis. "We really locked in after being down by 10 in the first half, and were able to come together and play as a team and for each other. Every player on the team will tell you we are all very unselfish players, and that has really contributed to our team's success this season."

Davis came off the bench for his sixth consecutive game on Thursday and said: "At the end of the day I just love being on the court. Not starting really puts things into perspective and when I'm out there, I just really try to do everything in my power to stay on the court and contribute as much as possible."

As Pepperdine approaches its final two games before the WCC Championship tournament in Las Vegas, Davis described the emotions of the team.

"I think our team's overall mindset is to strive to be the absolute best that we can be," he said. "You always hear coaches talking about their teams peaking at the right time and I think this is our time to really come out and shine. We are all focused and determined to give our all everyday, at every practice, and every game, and we plan to finish the season at our peak."

The Waves end the regular season at home next weekend against San Francisco (Thursday, Feb. 27) at 7 p.m. and Santa Clara (Saturday, March 1) at 5 p.m. The Waves will honor their three seniors prior to the finale against the Broncos. It's also going to be Fan Appreciation Day, with general admission seats free to all. Both games will be shown on TheW.tv.

After a Thursday night loss to Gonzaga, Pepperdine faced the Portland Pilots on Saturday afternoon in the team's final game of the Pacific Northwest trip. It was the last home game of the season for the Pilots, who defeated the Waves 74-62, forcing Pepperdine to drop to sixth place in the West Coast Conference standings.

Junior guard Malcolm Brooks led the Waves with 15 points, followed by Stacy Davis with 12 points, and Brendan Lane with 10 points and 10 rebounds, achieving his eighth double-double of the season.

The Waves never led in Saturday's game and shot just 35.1% from the field compared to Portland's 46.0%.

"From the start, Portland came out a lot longer stronger than us," Brooks said. "Our team lacked energy in the beginning, which is really unusual, and Portland had the fan support and motivation to win.

"I was just trying to do whatever I could to help the team win. Points matter in every game, but it's always hard when you don't get the 'W.' If we could do it all over again, I wish we would have come out with more energy, had been more focused on the court, and paid more attention to detail.'

With just three games remaining before the WCC Championships in Las Vegas, Pepperdine hopes to re-group after the weekend's road losses.

"We want to go 3-0 for these final games, and really just put everything we've learned from this season on the court and finish on the strongest note possible," Brooks said. "We are all still confident about the remaining games of the season, and we are very resilient as a group. We survive the tough moments and always come out stronger. I'm looking forward to the next three games and am confident in our team."

Pepperdine's final road game is on Thursday (Feb. 20) at rival Loyola Marymount in a Wells Fargo PCH Cup battle. The game will be shown on ESPNU at 8 p.m. and there will be a free audio broadcast via WaveCasts at PepperdineSports.com with Al Epstein on the call.  

Pepperdine traveled north to Spokane for a Thursday night matchup against the West Coast Conference's top-ranked team, Gonzaga. Pepperdine trailed #24 Gonzaga by just seven at halftime but the Bulldogs ultimately pulled out the win, defeating the Waves 83-68.

Stacy Davis led the team in points with 14, followed by Brendan Lane and Nikolas Skouen each with 12, and Malcolm Brooks with 11 points.

Skouen has been contributing on the court more and more as the season progresses and played 20 good minutes in Thursday's game.

"I am very grateful for the opportunities I have been given recently to contribute more on the court," Skouen said. "I have been praying a lot about it, and have focused on utilizing every opportunity I have to prepare as much as I can and make sure that I am ready to perform whenever the coach calls my name."

Gonzaga's McCarthey Athletic Center, often referred to as "the Kennel," is a unique experience for any visiting team. Said Skouen: "It was a great place to play. The fans started showing up an hour and a half before the game, and they brought a lot of energy and adrenaline to the game. It was really fun to play there."

Despite the loss, the players continue to motivate each other and maintain a positive outlook on the remaining games of the season.

"We are able to stay together, stay aggressive, and play confidently," Skouen said. "We have the ability to do some amazing things on the court, and I feel like we are continuously growing, and we are more together at this point in time than we have been all season. Like we've said all season, this is a very unique team with a great group of guys, and we have the potential to do some really great things."

Pepperdine continues its Pacific Northwest series at Portland on Saturday (Feb. 15) at 1 p.m. It's the WCC Game of the Week and it will be televised locally on Time Warner Cable SportsNet. An audio broadcast of the game will be available for free via WaveCasts at PepperdineSports.com with Al Epstein on the call.

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