In my interview with Gonzaga's star guard, Blake Stepp, I was able to catch up on everything from his now-healthy knee to his nickname, Elvis.
Zagirl: How much more can you do this year with a healthy knee compared to last year?
Blake: I can do a lot more. Being able to actually move and jump a little bit better is going to help my game a lot and, hopefully, turn into a lot of help on the team. I am able to play better defense and run the floor, which will help a lot.
Zagirl: How do you see the backcourt's capabilities without Dan Dickau?
Blake: I think we're going to be all right. Definitely Dan was an awesome player; he did everything for us. Winston and I will be able to step up and play more at point guard. We will probably be faster than when we played with Dan. We won't score as much, but we will look inside for that. We will be fine, but it might take us a few games to get used to it.
Zagirl: Which do you prefer playing, the 1 or the 2?
Blake: I prefer the 1. Coach Few might not see that, but I played point guard all the way through high school. If I had my choice, I'd probably play point guard, but I'll play whatever he wants to put me in. As long as I'm on the floor, it is ok with me!
Zagirl: Is it harder to score while playing point?
Blake: No, not really. In our offense, you bring the ball up the floor and you have the opportunity to shoot whenever you are open. Coach Few gives me the green light pretty much whenever, so it is not as hard. Maybe a few times when we need to go down-low or when we are not looking to score from the point. Most of the time it is pretty much the same.
Zagirl: Do you believe that the loss to Wyoming last year motivated this year's team to work harder?
Blake: Definitely, because Zach has never lost in the first round, and Cory and I too. Freshman year we went to the Sweet Sixteen. Last year was a bit of heartbreak, but I think it is definitely in the back of our minds. I haven't watched the game, I just think about the bad feeling. I went 1 for 13; it was one of my worst games ever, so it definitely sticks in the back of my mind. Hopefully, we will maybe see them again, probably not, but it would be great.
Zagirl: Are there any particular games you are looking forward to and why?
Blake: The Maui Invitational. I want to play Indiana really bad, because I have a friend who plays for them. He played on my high school team. We were talking a lot of trash this summer. We could play three really good teams in that. It's going to be fun. It's also in Hawaii!
Zagirl: Can you compare this year's team to last year's?
Blake: This year's team is more well-balanced; where last year Dan did pretty much everything for us. We have a lot of people who can do a lot of different things inside and out. It is going to be a total different look, but I think it will work well for us.
Zagirl: Is this team ahead of last year's in any way?
Blake: I think this year's team might be a little more offensive-minded. Everybody on the floor can score, where as last year Anthony and Alex weren't much of offensive threats; they were more defensive players. This year everybody is looking to score. Like I said before, this year's team is more well-balanced than last year's.
Zagirl: What did you work on this summer to help improve your game?
Blake: This summer was a big break-through for me, having that I could actually play, where as the last two years I had knee injuries. I worked on my all-around game. Ball handling and shooting were the two biggest things I had to work on to step up and play a lot of minutes. It was a great summer, being able to go home and work on basketball as much as I wanted and not have to worry about my knee.
Zagirl: What is a personal goal of yours you would like to accomplish this season?
Blake: I really want to get at least three triple-doubles. I was pretty close once. I think if the ball bounces right on the rebounds, I should be able to get enough assists and points to get one. I remember Luke Jackson got one last year and there are only like 15 in the Pac-10. That is one of my personal goals, as well as lose as few games as possible.
Zagirl: What are the team's goals and expectations?
Blake: We haven't really talked about it, but I think every year it's getting to the [NCAA] tournament without having to win the league championship to get there. Also, getting a high seed, which we might not get anyway!
Zagirl: What do you think of your nickname, "Elvis?"
Blake: [Laughing] I've seen it on the Internet and some of the guys called me it my freshman year. Nobody's ever really called me it randomly, but it's all right, I guess.
Zagirl: How is the guitar coming?
Blake: Slow. Cory still plays, but I haven't practiced in awhile. I have a few songs I'm trying to work on, some Dave Mathews stuff. I'm not very good; Cory's a lot better.
Zagirl: Final question. I understand your dad was your coach in high school. Who is tougher your dad or Coach Few?
Blake: Definitely Coach Few! My dad could be hard sometimes, but Coach Few gets after us pretty good!