Coach Bob Bender Interview: Part II

Bob Bender welcomes several new faces to this year's basketball team. They are off and running to an exciting 5-1 start, which has Bender excited, but with still a lot of work to do with his young team. Here is what the Husky coach had to say about each player on his 2001-02 roster.

Guard C.J. Massingale:

"We moved C.J. to the two-guard permanently. We don't ask him to be the back-up point anymore. That is going to help him as the season progresses. Right now, he is on a very positive path to probably putting himself back into the starting lineup. He is a scorer and a defender. What he has the knack to do, and it is what we need from him, is not just be a scorer from the perimeter and the three-point line, but to penetrate and move without the ball. When he does those things, he becomes less predictable. Experience-wise, I think a good example of what he means to us was down the stretch at San Diego. It looked like we had the game completely salted away if it weren't for him making free throws. So with him coming in as a sophomore to do that at the end of the game, is what we need."

Forward/Center Jeffrey Day:

"He gets better every game. He has been a player who has moments in practice like he is really making great strides, and then there are some days where it doesn't come along as easily. That is typical of big guys in their development. But right now, everything is on an upgrade. He is athletic. Two things we have told him to concentrate on to keep his role simple is to play great defense and block shots, which he has done, and to rebound the ball. He has done a wonderful job of rebounding the ball. He gets big rebounds for us, maybe not the numbers yet, but gets big rebounds. Against San Diego, I think that was his breakout game offensively. He was aggressive and looking for his shot inside and even the perimeter jump shot a little bit. We need for him to continue to be a presence inside because he can block shots. We need for him to keep working hard to get the ball in scoring position and not be hesitant to shoot it."

Point Guard Will Conroy:

"Everything that has been positive with Curtis Allen's play has been a result of Will. Will has pushed Curtis, competed against him, made Curtis a better player, and at the same time has made Will a better player and made us a better team. He is willing to do anything it takes. He is a true point guard, not afraid to run the team. He is not intimidated by whoever he is playing against. Against San Diego, Andre Laws was just having his way with everybody. We put all kinds of different people on him. Finally, we went to the bench during the timeout and said, ‘Who can guard this guy?' And Will was the first one to say, ‘I want him.' So we put him in and let him do it. That is the confidence he has. He is a very vocal player, which has been good for us because he is not afraid, even as a freshman, to speak up."

Guard Charles Frederick:

"His role has yet to be determined. We are looking forward to having him though, even if its take a little while to get his basketball legs underneath him, and get the terminology and be comfortable with all of the different parts of our system. He is extremely quick and can pressure the ball and can push it in transition. That is what I think he will be able to do. We are going to bring him in RIGHT after the bowl game and get him started. It is too risky for him to practice now because, if he were to get hurt, that would be just terrible."

Point Guard Curtis Allen:

"Every aspect of his game has improved. That is the thing I am most proud of with him. I remind him constantly that, of all the things he should keep in mind, you don't want to be the same from year to year. You want to be able to look back and see how much better you are. I told him not to compare himself to other point guards. Your comparisons have to be when you play them and on the big picture when all is said and done. That is what I think he is doing. He is a stronger player, and that has helped him. He plays hard on both ends of the floor. The confidence we have in him allows him to be aggressive. Even though he is not a freshman anymore, he is the best example of a player you have to give a little bit more of a free reign to. He might make mistakes sometimes but, in the long run, as long as we keep winning, the turnovers will go down but that aggressiveness will stay. He is really developing into more of a leader, not a vocal leader, but an example leader."

Guard Erroll Knight:

"He made a big impact right away, since the first day of practice. Unfortunately, he missed almost two weeks of practice when he had his knee scoped. That time missed is starting to show a little bit now. He got off to a great start in Fairbanks, played well up there, and justifiably made the all-tournament team. He has struggled a little bit recently and some foul trouble has limited his minutes. He is a multi-talented player that we don't want to be predictable. We want him to shoot the three, but we don't want him to be just a three-point shooter. We want him to attack the basket, but we want him to be able to pull up to. We are going to continue to put him in some tough positions. I think that is what he needs early on. Against San Diego, we started him on Laws, which was his toughest assignment so far defensively and he got in some foul trouble. Against Mexico State, we will probably put him and their leading scorer and we will see if he can guard that guy. He had a tough time of it his first time in that role, but we are going to keep putting him in that situation because we have confidence that he will be able to adjust."

Guard/Forward Josh Barnard:

"He is the calming influence on this team. Six games into the season, there is no doubt that in close games, when things aren't going well, and certainly at the end of games, we need him on the floor. He makes plays. He makes the right decisions. We need for him to shoot the ball more. He has struggled shooting the ball but, for a really good shooter, normally you can work out of that if you shoot it more. He is just a smart kid. He was shooting the ball well against San Diego. He knocked his first three down. When we needed a shot at the end of the shot clock, when we were building our lead and taking control of the game, we got the ball in his hands and he made a shot fake right to the basket instead of just settling for a jumper. He is another guy that is emerging to be a leader on the floor. More importantly is that the guys are looking up to him and wanting him to make decisions because they have a lot of confidence in him."

Forward Doug Wrenn:

"I couldn't be more pleased with where he has gotten to this point, considering the amount of time he has been away from competitive basketball. With all the attention and all of the pressure, I think he has handled it well. Second halves have been a problem for him, which is a result of getting used to high-level competition for 40 minutes. You can't simulate it and it takes awhile to get back to it. But when he is fresh, like in the first 10 minutes against San Diego, he just dominated the game. He has fulfilled every role that we have asked. We told him that he needed to score for us in different ways and he has done it. We have also put him on some difficult match ups defensively. For a guy that people look to offensively, it is good to know that he will accept that challenge of being in a stopper role."

Forward Grant Leep:

"Here is a kid that really does exemplify what an intercollegiate athlete should be. It seems as though everybody wants instant gratification and, when it doesn't come, they question things or they give up on it. He has never done that. He just kept on working and now he is being rewarded and we are being rewarded with what will be a great senior year. He is our undisputed leader and captain, voted on by his teammates last spring, and all of his hard work and effort has just established his leadership even more. He is scoring the ball in different ways for us. When David Dixon establishes an inside present for us and when Grant is the other inside guy, really, it makes the defenses have to spread. Everything we have asked of Grant, he has always done and even more now. He is more confident and that is nice to see. We are benefiting as a team, which is good for him, he deserves it."

Forward Mike Jensen:

"He has glimpses at times that show us how good he is going to be. It is just a consistency issue now. We need for him to be more aggressive offensively. I like the way he has rebounded and the way he has defended. He can really shoot the ball for a guy his size. I told him before we played San Diego that the first time he catches it and is open, to face the basket and shoot it. He got an open look at a three at the top of the key through ball reversal. People won't play him out there and we need for him to shoot the basketball. We have to get him to finish around the basket. He is getting a little ahead of himself in that he is so unselfish and is making one extra pass that is probably not called for. We need for him to go ahead and shoot it. He's got a great attitude. His last year in high school certainly was not the way he wanted it to go. But I think he has handled it well. He has kept it in perspective and used it as motivation. At the same time, he knows that it is a matter of timing and getting his rhythm back and getting used to competing day in and day out. He is on an upswing, but we have to keep it like that or those lulls sometimes happen where you see a big guy not progress quite as fast."

Note: Just after this interview, Mike Jensen suffered a separated shoulder and will miss the season.

Center David Dixon:

"It is a credit to him what he did during the off-season, the dedication and the commitment. It has changed his game completely. He is playing well over 30 minutes a game for us. If you would have ever told us that we would be able to play David 36 minutes in a pretty high-paced game, there would be no way. But that is where he has brought himself to. He completes plays because of his fitter build. David has always been a great kid to coach. He always does what you ask him to do, and he is doing it even more this year. He is a good teammate because he is very even-keeled. He can help guys who are struggling to keep things in perspective for other guys. What he is doing is invaluable. During the Pac-10 season, we might name him as another captain because he is earning it. I don't know that he is seeking that distinction out, but his leadership has been tremendous. I don't know why it is the nature of basketball that big guys don't normally get into that role, but David certainly has."

Guard Sterling Brown:

"We need to get Sterling some minutes because he can play. We just haven't been able to do that for him and David Hudson. What they do in practice for us proves that they should be on the court. It is just a matter of finding the minutes. He is a shooter, a scorer, and probably understands motion offenses as well as anybody we have. He has had a bad ankle and, if he gets hurt and he is not able to go on a consistent basis, we will seek a medical redshirt for him."
Next Up: Recent successes for recruiting in-state

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