Holwerda: We have the firepower

Jason Holwerda, 6-5 senior guard from the men's basketball team, sat down with VandyMania to talk about the start of practice. The Chattanoogan has always been depended upon as a defensive stopper... but could this be the year he proves his abilities as a scorer?

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VandyMania: Jason, you're now a senior and about to start your final season of college basketball. Has it hit you yet?

Jason: I think it hit me at the end of the summer, when I realized that this is my team, Corey's team and Dawid's team. In that regard, it's put me in a much larger leadership position-- be more vocal, lead by example and show these new guys the ropes.

VM: Looking at the non-conference schedule for this year, there are a lot of great teams and some tough road games. Talk about this year's schedule and what you think it says about this year's team.

Jason: I think two years ago, we weren't experienced enough and weren't ready to go on the road. This year, we have a lot more experience and we've got guys who have been tested under fire, so I think it's going to be helpful for us, rather than hurt us, when we get into the conference games. I'm really looking forward to it.

VM: What non-freshman is going to be the biggest surprise for Vanderbilt fans this year?

Jason: Julian. I think Julian is going to play really well. A lot of people have been banking on his potential for the past two years and he's really shown a lot this year. He's going to come out ready to play.

VM: Last year the team went through a rigorous off-season workout regimen and everyone gained a lot of size and muscle. Did anything change in terms of preparing for this season?

Jason: It's pretty much the same as last year, just trying to get as big as possible. You can see it just from the guys walking around, David's up to 265 or somewhere in there, and the rest of the guys are doing great. We changed some of our conditioning, but that was just to change things up and keep us on our toes. We wanted to stick with what works.

VM: For the first time since you've been here, you're going to walk out on the court in the first game without Matt Freije. Talk about what it's going to be like without him on the court there and what you need to do to help the team succeed without Matt.

Jason: It's going to be weird walking out there [without him]. We've always looked to Freege to score big buckets and score a lot of buckets, but I think it's a big opportunity for guys like myself and Dawid and the older guys who have been here, we're going to get a lot more pressure to take shots and hit shots, and I'm looking forward to that opportunity.

Holwerda delivers a monster dunk last year vs. LSU. (VUAD / Neil Brake)
VM: You do so many great things for the team, but a lot of people criticize you for not scoring enough. Have you felt a lot of pressure in the past to be more of a scorer? Has that pressure increased this year, heading into your senior season?

Jason: Absolutely. A lot of people just around town, around my home, parents, family - everyone tells me to shoot more - so I've been hearing it for three years. I think the coaches and my teammates have been surprised with me this summer, because the summer and this preseason, I've been shooting a lot and hitting shots. I think the Vandy community is going to be pleasantly surprised when they see me take the court for the first time.

VM: Maybe you'll be the biggest surprise this year?

Jason: (laughing) Could be, but I didn't want to say it.

VM: What are the team's goals heading into this season?

Jason: We're trying to get to the Sweet 16 at least. We feel like we have the firepower. The only thing that could hinder us is chemistry. Last year we had such a bond between everybody - we knew what we were going to do and where everyone was going to be at that moment in time. So, as soon as we come together, it's going to click once practice starts. And when that happens, it's going to be a lot of fun to watch.

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Coming soon: Interviews with seniors Corey Smith and Dawid Przybyszewski, and Part 2 of an interview with head coach Kevin Stallings.

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