Is it a little strange to think that you're going to be an upperclassman now?
Yeah, it's a lot different. I don't have all of the excuses like "Oh, he's young" or "He still hasn't learned it yet." Now, everything is on me. All of the pressure is on Jeff, Pierre, Erek, and I because we've been here.
Do you feel like you guys have enough experience even though you have just one senior in Jack Brownlee?
Oh yeah. A lot of people don't get the minutes like we did our freshman year. They usually get those in their sophomore year. Jeff, Pierre and I have started basically 80 percent of our games. I think we're ready. We've just go to go out and do it this year.
What are you focusing on this summer in terms of your game?
Just about everything again. I'm getting a lot stronger from what I was last year. I've been working on my outside game. When I dislocated my finger, it kind of put me back a little bit.
When did you do that?
About three weeks ago. I popped my shooting (index) finger. Erek (Hansen) went up for a dunk, and I tried to block it. I hit the backboard, and it popped straight to the left.
I've been trying to get back from that. It takes a lot out of you when you have your two main shooting fingers taped up. It's hard to get shots up.
Pierre did that last year. Maybe he can give you some advice.
Yeah. He was lucky that it was his middle finger and his ring finger. I've got the index finger and the middle finger.
What are your expectations for this year, personally and for the team?
As a team, I expect everybody to be out there playing as hard as they can. That's what we've thrived on these past two years .We've outworked everybody. That's kind of been our staple, especially with our junior class because that's the way that we play. We battle and hustle trying to make sure that the team wins.
Personally, I just want to do whatever I can to help the team win.
What do you think your role will be on this team?
I feel like I'm going to be the presence down low that is going to bang and do his job rebounding and get putbacks and knock down the jump shot when I'm open and play off of Pierre and Jeff a lot.
Do you feel you guys will be better defensively? That was a problem area at times last year.
With Erek in the middle, that helps a lot because anything that comes to the basket usually is going to get blocked by him. And we have a very athletic team. We're going to be able to keep people in front of us. We don't have the small guards that we've had in the past. On the defensive end, we're strong, and we're going to be one of the more athletic teams in the conference.
You guys have been through more in two years of college basketball than most players go through in a career. Do you feel that this program is finally ready to move past that and put all of the off-court nonsense behind you?
Very much so. All of the guys on this team want to be here. They want to work as hard as they can because they know what they can achieve.
By working as hard as we can, I know we can achieve what our goals are.
How hard has it been to go through that stuff?
It's just life, I guess. You just get used to it. You get odd things thrown at you. It's how deal with it and how you persevere that determines the type of people you are. We could have easily quit last year. To go 6-4 in the last 10 games of our Big Ten schedule, that's tough to do when you have six guys that are playing. We could have easily went 8-2.
The thing that I like about this team is that everyone is together and willing to work as hard as they can. We're going to be tough team.
There were a lot of rumors flying around about you last year. Did that bother you, and how did you deal with it?
I mean, before I came here, (people said) I was a wasted scholarship. So, I've heard everything.
I take it all with a grain of salt. If people want to go on the Internet and start writing stuff...If they can't say the truth, why get on there and write that stuff? We're looking for support and all we get is negativity.
We all know that the majority of fans are out there supporting us. We appreciate that so much. The negative fans, we'll just take them with a grain of salt because we're going to stay together.
Do you guys feel like you have something to prove to the public?
Very much so. Nine and seven and fourth in the Big Ten is not it. We want to be fighting for that championship. We want to be going to the Sweet 16 and beyond; the Final Four. That's our dream. We've all been dreaming about that since we've been growing up. When you're a little kid shooting at the Y, you're always thinking that there's three seconds left and you have the last shot at the Final Four.
Is anything less than the Final Four a failure this year?
Yeah. Very much so. It's always going to be that way. We have the ability. We have the attitude. And we have the desire. We'll see how far that takes us.