Q&A with Basketball Coach Robert McCullum

With basketball season right around the corner, USFnation.com had a chance to talk with head coach Robert McCullum to get his thoughts on the upcoming season. Read on to see what he has to say about recruiting, team leaders, and who needs to step-up this season.

USFnation: What are some of your expectations of this team for the upcoming season?

Coach Robert McCullum: Our expectations won't differ much from every other season. We expect our guys to play extremely hard, to play together, and to have fun while they play. Also to represent the university in a first-class manner. Those are going to be our goals each year. However, this year we also make the move to the move to the Big East, but it won't affect our general expectations.

USFN: How has the move to the Big East affected the program?

Coach McCullum: Well, it is a win-win situation. In terms of the amount of recognition and notoriety we are receiving, the prospects we talk with, and the coaches that now express interest, might not have happen if we hadn't switched leagues. Not to say Conference USA wasn't an outstanding league, but we are clearly able to have a realistic shot to get players we otherwise would not have. It has also enabled us to get inroads into other parts of the country, which was a goal of ours.

Once the decision was made to move to the Big East, we thought it was a necessity to make inroads and get our name out in the North East part of the country. We have obviously been able to do that, one player is from New York and another from DC. Then we actually have a third that will sit out this year that is from the DC/Baltimore area. We also have several prospects in the class of ‘06 that are also from that area. From that standpoint everything has been moving in a positive direction.

How has the move to the Big East affected recruiting?

The fact that we are in the Big East has a positive impact on the way kids view us. The notoriety and the amount of exposure has us in a great position. Everyone strives to be associated with the best, and now we feel we are up there with the best basketball conferences in the country. You look at the tradition over the last 25 years and up until now, we are clearly in a great conference that kids want to be affiliated with. We can now have a more realistic chance at recruiting higher rated prospects than in the past, where in the past the odds would have been stacked against us. USFN:This season who are you expecting to step-up and be a senior leader?

Coach McCullum: Solomon Jones, he's had an outstanding off-season. He started almost every game last year and he only averaged about 6 points a game but he made over 50% of his field goals and nearly led the league in shot blocks. He also put on 15 pounds, he's bigger and more confident from last season. He is much better prepared to take on a lot of the inside scoring that Terrance provided last year.

James Holmes is another senior that has a full healthy year under his belt. Last year was a learning year for him, but now he has another year of experience. We clearly expect him to be a more consistent player this year. The third guy we expect to step up is a fourth year junior, Melvin Buckley, who transferred from Purdue. He sat out last year, he can score the ball he's a very versatile player and we expect him to take up a lot of the scoring. Although this is the first year he has played with us he has a lot of experience from the Big 10.

Who are some of the younger guys that need to step-up this season?

Coach McCullum:There are a number of them, one would be Melvyn Richardson. He's 6-foot-7 235 pounds, front line player we need to score inside and rebound the ball. He will play a role to provide consistency on defense and be a rebounder in the middle.

Also we need someone to distinguish themselves at the point guard position. Chris Capko, who is a walk-on, will certainly get a chance. David Sills will also compete with Chris Howard. McHugh Mattis is probably the team's best athlete and he will probably step in and play right away.

Another guy to watch is Collin Dennis, he missed a number of games last year, but he can really defend and is a capable shooter. We think he will come back and have an even better sophomore year.

To wrap it up, where do you go from here?

Coach McCullum: We are in our fifth week of pre-season conditioning. We get two hours a week to do individual workouts. Also we've been doing a lot of recruiting and we start practice October 15th. We will spend all of next week getting prepared for practice, in terms of the staff getting organized. Then the next two or three weeks we will have recruits on campus and that will be very important. Basically, this is an exciting time to enter the conference for the program and the school itself. The reception from fans has been outstanding and the season tickets sales have really increased. If we can develop chemistry and rebound the ball, which will be key, we will have the chance to surprise some people.

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