Q&A with USF Basketball Coach Robert McCullum

With basketball season starting tonight at the Sundome, USFNation.com had a chance to talk with head coach Robert McCullum to get his thoughts on the upcoming season. Read Part 1 to see what he has to say about the trip to italy, The teams injuries, who are the team leaders, and who needs to step-up this season. Only on USFNation.com


Robert McCullum - USF Head Coach(4th season)
Birmingham-Southern College - 1976 B. S. Physical Education
Alabama State University - 1980 Masters in Secondary Education
Major: Education


Part 1:


USFNation.com: What are you looking to accomplish this year?
Robert McCullum: As always were looking to have the best team that we can have. We want team success, we want players to have success individually, and as always we want to represent our university in a first class manner both on and off the floor. Of course that incorporates the academic side as well as the social aspect.

USFN: What did you learn from your first year in the BIG EAST?
McCullum: That it takes good players, it takes a quantity, a lot of good players, and you have to defend well, which we did, that was one of our strengths. If not for our defense we would not have had a chance to win as many games, we would not have been in as many games as we were, were it not for our defense.

USFN: What is the biggest difference in the team going into the season?
McCullum: I think with more quality depth, we have four players that now can say that they have a year of BIG EAST experience under their belt, versus none going into last season. I think our incoming players Solomon Bozeman, Amu Saaka in addition to Jesus Verdejo and Kentrel Gransberry who transferred from Arizona and LSU, two guys that would be starters, just gives us more depth, more options, just a deeper team. When you have those things you have more competitiveness in practice, and nothing brings out the best in players like competition.

USFN: What are you going to do about the center position until Gransberry is eligible?
McCullum: Aris Williams a 6'9 transfer from Valparaiso, he and Melvyn Richardson will share duties at that position.

USFN: How do you assess the team's injuries going into the season?
McCullum: Making progress, and I say that in terms of I guess do to the timing of the injuries. We are optimistic that we will have Chris Howard back by early conference play, and we expect to have Zaronn Caan back prior to that so barring some unforeseen situation we will have a healthy group. Now we already lost Dante Curry for the season due to a ruptured Achilles tendon that was suffered a moth in a half ago. At this point we anticipate being more healthy then last year.

USFN: Why was Howard able to recoup quicker from the previous time he injured it?
McCullum: I don't know, I really couldn't tell you for sure. 

USFN: How was the trip to Italy?
McCullum: It was a great experience, it really was, I'm so happy that our players got to share what one could say was an experience of a lifetime. Only one of our players has gone outside of the United States outside of Melvyn Richardson who is from the Dominican Republic. It was a great experience for them and when you take a team on a foreign tour the opportunity to bond is the most important. That perhaps is the biggest benefit they get, because all those things that your supposed to take for granted over here you don't dare take those things for granted when your on foreign soil. Something like walking down the street by yourself, you're skeptical about of doing that. Your forced to rely on, and trust each other, which is something that is a necessity to have success in team sports. 

USFN: What did the team learn from the trip to Italy?
McCullum: We wanted the opportunity to find or establish a go-to-guy. I thought that was one of the big keys, and Melvin Buckley and McHugh Mattis solidified themselves in those roles. Just to say to those guys that you two of our seniors coming back and we want you to be our go to guys is not quite that easy, they had to win the confidence of their teammates and their coaching staff. Those ten days of practice and the five games that we played over there gave them a platform to that. Melvyn Richardson played better then he's played, and that was valuable game experience for him, and his confidence is higher then it's been. As is the case with Chris Capko, he really got a chance to get his confidence up, and he played well over there. Those experiences will enable them to be better players and that will help our team.




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