Wearedepaul: For the upcoming conference season, what do you expect from the team?
Sammy Mejia: We expect to win. Obviously it's a new conference and everybody has their opinions and thoughts on how we should do but we feel like it's just another season with different teams. We have a chance to be successful and be one of the winning teams in the conference.
W: What do you guys think about the jump from Conference USA to the Big East? Are you excited about that? How does the team feel about the change?
SM: Obviously everybody's excited, especially me. I'm an East Coast guy. I get to go back closer to my family a couple times extra. I just think it's going to be fun. I'm excited about it. It's a challenge, but at the same time, it's a challenge that we feel we're ready and prepared to handle, so we're just real excited as a team to get involved.
W: I know a lot of people are picking you and Marlon Brumfield to be the team leaders this year but if you could pick one player, who do you think is going to surprise a lot of people and have a break-out season?
SM: I think there's a couple of guys who are really…everyone's playing so good right now. I really feel like everybody is going to be a part of the success we have. Everybody's contributing. Everybody's practicing hard. Everybody's looking really solid. The coaches are doing a good job of exposing the things that we do well. I just feel like everybody, as a whole is going to do better.
W: I know you kind of touched on this a little bit, but what is the team's mentality going into the conference season? Has Coach Wainwright at all influenced what your mindset is coming into the season?
SM: He wants us to think like champions. He's made it clear that he hasn't come here just to compete and to be an OK-caliber team. He wants to be amongst the great teams. And he feels like they put us in this conference for a reason and so do we. We believe that we're capable of competing to be one of the top teams in the Big East.
W: Being a junior, I know you have played under both Coach Leitao and Coach Wainwright. How would you compare the two? Are their styles different?
SM: Yeah, they have different styles. They have a different way of practicing, of coaching the practices. Coach Wainwright, I love him. He's a good man. He knows what he's doing and he's respectful to the student-athletes and you can just tell that he's been around the game for so long. I just try to pick his brain and learn as many things as I can from him.
W: So far, and hopefully there's more to come, but up to this point, what would be the highlight of your career at DePaul?
SM: Making the NCAA tournament. That's what it's all about. It's good to have a great season and to be competitive but when it's all said and done you want to be amongst the top 64 teams in the country competing for the number one spot.
W: I know it's a couple years ago now, but what made you choose DePaul? What drew you to the school?
SM: Coach Leitao, number one. He was the main reason why I came here obviously. And the city. I heard a lot about Chicago and he pretty much told me everything I wanted to hear during my recruitment so that alone was nice. I really wasn't a big fan of the green-grass campus life. I really wanted to be a part of the city seeing that I'm from New York, so that was pretty much the main reason why I came here.
Following are notes taken during an interview with Mejia after the California game…
W: It looks like the team looks to you in crunch time to take the big shots, the role that Drake and Quemont had last year...
Sammy mentioned that he's been looking forward to being a leader this year and wants to be the leader, plus he likes the fact that the team and the coaches looks to him for leadership this year. He's watched and learned from guys like Drake and Quemont.
W: The team got hammered at ODU and lost surprisingly to Bradley and NIU, but has beaten teams such as Dayton, Wake Forest, and Cal. Which is the real team this year?
Sammy mentioned that this is a young team that is still gelling together. Sammy had a death in the family in the early part of the year that contributed to some of his early season woes, but he's past that now. As for the ODU game, everyone was really tired after a grueling game at Wake Forest and having to go back and forth on planes within a couple of days. The team was much more focused and well-rested for the Cal game.
W: How is Rashad Woods doing? Is he in the doghouse?
Sammy said no not at all. He works really hard in practice and is very helpful to the team in team preparation. It's just a matter of numbers right now with all the guards in the lineup.
W: What is your impression of Wilson Chandler so far? He seems to try and want to do too much, especially on the offensive end.
Sammy said that Wilson is a really talented player. He's such a talented player wanting to just burst out. He's young - once he learns how to let the game come to him, he'll be all right. He's helping us out in many other areas of the game, especially in rebounding and shot-blocking.
WeAreDePaul.com thanks Mr. Mejia for his time.
Q & A with Sammy Mejia
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