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.