Glasser, McMillan Q&A

During ASU's basketball media day Devils Digest caught up with Sun Devil guards Derek Glasser and Jamelle McMillan to talk about ASU's upcoming 2009-10 season.

Derek Glasser

Devils Digest: Derek, you obviously ended last season on a very high note, playing perhaps at your highest level during the Pac-10 and NCAA tournament. Do you try and build on that performance, or is this a new season for you with a clean slate?

Derek Glasser : "Obviously I take the confidence and the experience I've gained from last season and I carry over the trust and the respect of my coach and my teammates. At the same time it's a new season and people's expectations of me are much higher now. I don't want to dwell on the past because if I come out and not play well it was for nothing. I'm turning the page and trying to re-produce those games every day now."

DD: This program has grown so much over the last three years. When you look back at when you first got here, and take a look at the program right now, what are some of the changes that jump at you right away?

DG: "I think the major change is the culture. When I first came here it was OK to lose, it was OK just to be competitive. Now, it's not OK to lose. We learned how to win, how to close out games. Just because we lost our two best players doesn't mean that we are down and out and 10th in the conference. That's not even close to how it is. We have definitely enough talent to finish in the top five of this conference and if we don't it's a major disappointment. Everybody in this program feels the same way."

DD: As a senior point guard, does Coach Sendek consider you almost as being a coach on the floor?

DG: " I hope so at this point (smiles). I know what he wants, and he knows my game better than anybody. He's probably watched me more hours on film than anybody. I definitely feel that at this point I'm capable of doing what he wants me to do and I hope he feels the same way. We've had our ups and downs, but I've grown up a lot not only as a player, but off the court too. So our relationship has matured and grown and it is at a very good place right now."

DD: How do you feel Coach Sendek has changed from the first year he got here until now?

DG: "I think just like all of us, he's been used to winning before he got here. He saw the culture and did an outstanding job changing it. Losing doesn't even enter our minds anymore. When we got here, it was like ‘keep it within ten (points)' and if we don't get blown out it's a good game. But now we are the other team. We want to win, we know we can win. He has done a really good job changing the culture."

DD: Entering your senior year is it hard for you not to be reflective at all you have accomplished here?

DG: "It has gone so fast. I remember coming here for my visit and I'm a senior now. Everyone has gone now. It's just me and Jerren (Shipp). It's kind of surreal but you have to stay in the moment and hope that your last season is your best."

DD: Being that this is your last season as a Sun Devil, do you have a sense of urgency?

DG: "I don't know about a sense of urgency. I'm like Coach Sendek in that I'm thinking one game at a time."

DD: What are some of your favorite memories here at Wells Fargo Arena?

DG: "I would have to say that the win over UCLA last year, for me beating an L.A. school from back home, was big. The year before that beating Stanford who was no. 6 then and we beat them in overtime, after being down seven with a minute left in the game. That was an incredible game. Anytime we beat Arizona at home is really good. It's hard to pick a favorite moment but I do have a few.

DD: You talk about Arizona, and you probably have seen and heard what's going down there with a new coaching staff. Do you think that the rivalry will be taken to even a higher level because of the sense of renewed excitement down there?

DG: "I don't think the rivalry ever fell off. Just because we won five games in a row doesn't mean anything, because it was still there when they won 25,26 in a row. Obviously they have a great new coach. They got Nic (Wise), they have other great players. They got good freshmen like we do. It's going be tough finishing my career winning the seven games(against Arizona) but I hope I do. I don't want to lose to them my senior year that's for sure."

DD: What do you think is the team's biggest strength and biggest challenge going into this season?

DG: "I think the biggest strength is defensively, we're solid on defense every year and that's not going to change. It's not so much a weakness, but we have to find our identity right now. We lack an identity because we are kind of a new team. Once we find our identity we'll get it rolling."

DD: You talked about defense being a strength but do you see teaching your defensive scheme to the freshmen as being a challenge?

DG: "It's going be tough. People don't realize how hard it is to learn our zone defense. It's not really a normal zone and it's obviously not man (to man). It's a Coach Sendek specialty. They're going to struggle with it but we are here to help them. The guys that are going to know (the scheme) are the guys that are going to play."

DD: What in your mind are the keys for the team to finish in the upper echelon of the Pac-10 and go back to the NCAA tournament?

DG: "I think we have to rebound defensively better than we did last year. That will be a big key. I think we really have to be an under ten turnovers a game team – we really have to take care of the ball. We did OK in those (categories) last year, but this year we have to be tops in the conference. We are going to have to shoot the three pretty well. Last year we did a pretty good job, but this year we have to do even better."

Jamelle McMillan

Devils Digest: Derek Glasser talked about how the culture has changed since he got here. That back then there was almost an acceptance of at least playing hard. Have you felt that change in culture too?

Jamelle McMillan: "I would say so. Playing hard is huge on our list and Coach Sendek is big on that and we respect that and when you do that hopefully the outcome goes in your favor. We have a lot of guys who take that to heart and we have a lot of guys who know the importance of that. More often than not things will go your way if you take that route and you trust in what Coach Sendek is telling you to do."

DD: Players have been asked if the expectations are lower this year because the team lost James Harden and Jeff Pendergraph to the NBA and players have been saying that the expectations this year are just the same or even higher. Would you agree with that?

JM: "Most definitely. You never want to lower the bar in anything that you do whether it's on or off the court. Obviously it is a tremendous loss, but we have to move forward. It's not something we can think about. Guys have to step up, positions 1 through five, every night. That's the bottom line. Guys are looking forward to it. We have a great group of talented freshmen who can help us out. Roles have changed and will have to be embraced by every individual on the team. It will be interesting to see what happens."

DD: Last year there were so many games where you and Derek were on the floor at the same time and the team has had success when that happened. With the new makeup of the team do you anticipate to see this combination even more this season?

JM: "I think so, and it's something that we both look forward to. We both talked a lot about it, worked a lot on it in the off-season. It's important to get a big contribution from each of us, as well as all the other returning players. I feel that everybody knows what to expect from everybody else at this point. Hopefully we are able to carry our weight as individuals. We know that the coaching staff will be there to support is 100 percent. We'll see what we can get done."

DD: Having five freshmen on the team, do you feel that the team will have to wait a while until it can find its identity?

JM: "It's interesting because I came in as a group of five (freshmen) and now I'm the older guy. So just in being in that experience I know how I felt, how my peers felt coming in. The structure of the team is similar and I think we are more athletic to be honest. It's a situation where the learning curve has to be (adjusted to) quick. We can't wait around for it because we need a contribution early and we need it to be consistent. I think we have guys that are fully capable and are looking forward to it. The main thing is that they are working hard. Obviously some of us have been here, we know what it takes. Whatever we can do to help (the freshmen) that's what we are going to do and we'll do this together so we can come up with the type of season we can be very proud of."

DD: I know you're a Seattle Supersonics guy through and through. Not only do they become the Oklahoma City Thunder a few years ago, but James Harden gets picked by that team with the third overall draft choice. Is that kind of hard to come to grips with?

JM: "When it first happened it didn't dawn on me, but when I really thought about it…James did a great job and was very smart in what he did (declaring early for the draft). He earned his position to be on that roster. He has had a great summer league and off-season. For him to be a true SuperSonic (smile) it's good to see. But Thunder that doesn't even fit, it doesn't look right. I'm proud of him and he has done amazing job for us. I wish him the best of luck with the Super…Thunder."

DD: How often did Sendek call a set play from the bench?

JM: "It depends on the game and the flow of the game. Sometimes it's needed, but I'd say 65-70 (percent). It's a deal where Derek and I have to be on the fly, recognizing situations being in the game. It would be wise for us to take a little more initiative of that this year and see how things are going, what is working in matchup situations. It's something we'll have to be aware of because Coach Sendek can't see everything. Communication is essential, whether a play was called or not. We have to know what he was thinking at the same time."

DD: Can you run those same plays this year?

JM: "With our personnel, our athleticism, we are going to keep the floor spaced and look to be in full attack mode for 40 minutes. I think we have the same type of guys who can play the 2,3, even the 4. That's the beauty of the offense, you don't know which a guy is going to be where, and it doesn't matter. That makes it much easier for us to learn it. Make sure that you pick your opportunities wisely and take full advantage when they are there."

DD: You obviously are hearing a lot of questions that start with "now that you don't have James and Jeff…" Has that become almost a chip on your shoulder to prove that you can have the same success without those players?

JM: "I don't think they really have anything to do with it. I think that we as individuals we know what we are capable of being together, especially us five (returning) guys. It's a function of putting each other in a position to be successful and not forcing Eric (Boateng) to be 16 feet from the basketball like Jeff was or forcing Rik (Rihards Kuksiks) to split a double team. He shoots the ball, so give him the ball at the three-point line. We have to believe enough in ourselves and each other to get the job done. We've come together in the pre-season, we've done a great job of that and we don't feel that there's any drop-off from last year, regardless of who's on the roster. We feel like we can get it done."

Thanks to Erick Menkhus and Jack Leary who assisted with questions for Derek Glasser. Other members of ASU's media outlets participated as well in the questions for Jamelle McMillan)

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