Q&A with Bob Burton, Part III

Bob Burton is entering his fourth year as men's basketball head coach at Cal State Fullerton. At 48-41 in his three seasons to date, Coach Burton has a .539 winning percentage, second best of any Titans' head coach, trailing only Bobby Dye (109-78, .583) in the 1970s. Burton has more wins in his first three Titan seasons than any of his Div. I predecessors.

This interview is a continuation from Part I and Part II.

TitanCentral.com: Do you feel the newcomers biggest obstacle right now is coming in and getting to know your system?

Bob Burton: Yeah, I think that adjustment is really huge. They are all feeling themselves out a little bit. At this point I don't care about them competing against each other, I just want them to learn what's going on.

In addition to basketball there's a lot of other adjustments, everything from being away from home for the first time, to apartments, to classes ... That's why during this first part we go really slow and try to focus on teaching. They'll have plenty of time to compete and show us who the best players are.

TitanCentral.com: Okay, let's talk about the transfer from the Pac-10 program Washington State. Josh Akognon led the Cougars in scoring his sophomore year. Is is as good as advertised and what does he mean to the program?

Bob Burton: He is such a huge get for us, it's incredible.

You look at this team, and we're really optimistic on how we are going to be this year, but it's amazing we are going to lose only two guys next year. Yes, you're losing two great players in LB and Justin but you really kind of fill one of those spots with Josh coming in.

Josh can play the point or he can play the two so he and Marcus Crenshaw are going to be great together.

Josh is a proven player so you're not wondering, "Geez, I wonder how he's going to do in the Big West?" Here's a guy who got over 25 in the second half against UCLA. Against Washington he had something like 27 and hit the game winner so you're not going to worry about him being nervous at Riverside. [laughs]

And he was probably the most excited guy about having Bobby Brown coming back, outside of me, because now he is going to get a chance to play against LB everyday. He knows LB's a legitimate pro prospect and he has aspirations in getting to the NBA as well. He's a great attitude guy, a very high basketball mentality.

TitanCentral.com: Obviously he's now just starting classes but he has to be tired after practicing and playing for Nigeria in the FIBA World Championships.

Bob Burton: I literally told him, "Don't come around for a couple weeks." He's missed a week and a half of school and he has been playing seven days a week since the beginning of summer. I think he's had enough basketball and he's redshirting.

He hasn't even been in the gym with our kids yet. He says he wants to practice next week [which is now last week] but I want him to get hungry again and enjoy himself so we'll see.

If the guy from Nigeria makes the layup he would have played against the US but I was kind of rooting for him and against him. I wanted to get him here, back in school, but I also wanted him to have success.

TitanCentral.com: How did Cal State Fullerton become Akognon's school of choice?

Bob Burton: We heard he was going to transfer from Washington State. The problem was not with the coaches, he liked it there, but it was the style. He really wants to play at that next level.

He had been talking to St. Mary's because that's up by his house in Petaluma, which isn't too far from Moraga. Then we got a release to talk to him and we just recruited him. We really got on this hard, got him in here right away.

He came down and and liked it here, loved our players. I think if you asked him he would tell you what sold him was the style, the way we play. Especially when he watched Bobby Brown shoot it every time [laughs], "Hey, this might be a pretty good place to come."

Also, the fact that kids who want to get to the next level might say, "Geez, they've been there three years and they have one guy at Toronto in the NBA and another guy, a guard, making these tours and has a chance to go first round." So it's not like we're hidden here.

TitanCentral.com: Let's talk about another guard who I was very impressed with at first viewing, Marcus Crenshaw. How were we able to land this kid?

Bob Burton: Another interesting story. Before we started recruiting him Marcus came out here with Scott Cutley when Scott had left Kent State.

Marcus is an offensive-minded guard. His junior year of high school he led the state of Michigan in scoring. Kent State has a great program, great coaches but apparently they run a lot of sets and he felt, kind of like Josh did, he needed a more up-and-down system.

His goal at that time was to transfer back to a junior college and play. We weren't recruiting him because we had Bobby Brown coming back and we were okay. What we wanted to do was recruit a freshman point guard to fill in there.

When it became apparent that LB had a chance to go to the NBA, we panicked because we had no experienced point guard. With that, we knew about Marcus, Scott was one of his best friends and we knew he loved it here.

It's kind of funny because the only one who was really recruiting him were St. Mary's and they were in pretty deep. He had already decided he was not going to play at the junior college so he could play three years. We then jumped in and recruited him really hard.

TitanCentral.com: He sure seems to exude a lot of confidence on the floor...

Bob Burton: Sure, he's a cocky little guy [laughs]. He thinks he's going to win and he has won all his life.

When he was out here with Scott I remember saying to one of my assistants, "Man, I wish we could recruit him because I really like him." He's a basketball guy, he's opinionated, he's cocky and I love those kind of guys. You have to have that type of attitude and swagger. Not arrogance but a belief in yourself.

TitanCentral.com: Another player I want to talk about is Chris Minardo. Some of our fans have already written this guy off, "He's too slow, he's too skinny, etc" and some believe he has no chance to contribute this year let alone in the next three years. Care to comment on this?

Bob Burton: Well, obviously I think he can play and he has a real chance. His worst enemy is himself. He just puts so much pressure on himself and he wants to achieve. But this is a legitimate 6-9 sophomore so he still has three years to go.

The big thing for his is to get stronger and can he defend aggressively? He's not a low-block player but I knew that when I recruited him. What I liked about him was that he could really shoot it, he's smart and he's very athletic.

So I disagree. I like dealing with 6-9 skilled guys and if he can gain some confidence I think he will contribute for us.