Q&A With Coach Gillian

Published 4:30 pm Thursday, November 11, 2010

Note: The following is a question/answer with Longwood head men's basketball coach Mike Gillian, conducted by the LU Athletics Media Relations Department. The first half of the session appeared in the Friday, November 12 print edition of The Farmville Herald. The entire interview can be found below.

What are the goals for the program?

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“The goals for our basketball program don't really change very much from year to year. There are a couple of different ways to look at it when you talk about goals. First are our expectations of how we handle our responsibilities as players, students, and people. The foundation that you have, both individually and collectively, as to how you handle these expectations is a measure of character. I know that we have a group of high character young men in our program and that singular trait will allow us to learn how to do the things necessary for us to be able to achieve success in our basketball, academic, and social endeavors. Secondly, and naturally when you start talking about success, people want to equate your goals with a quantitative measure like how many games do you expect to win. That is skipping to the end result without giving proper respect to the process that goes into attempting to get to that result. What I can say about that, is we are doing a great job right now at giving maximum effort every day, and achieving the goal in doing that is the first step in the aforementioned process.”

What has been the biggest difference in preparing for this season from last year?

“Going into last year we had an experienced group with very few new pieces. They all had a very good idea of what we were going to do, how we were going to do it, and subsequently we spent the majority of our time refining what our whole team already understood. Approaching this season, we have a core group that you can put in that same category, but we do have a large group of new players too. The biggest difference this year will be moving these young guys along as quickly as possible, and getting them ready to play the game at this level, while not taking anything away from the attention necessary for our veterans' continued development. Once we get through the first week of practice is when we'll really be faced with how we best approach this situation.”

What style of play do you envision for this team?

“I know that we would like to continue to play the style we have worked hard to develop over the course of the past five years. We have the right type of players in the program to do so, but how quickly the new guys can adapt to the college game will be a big factor in how good we can be at it. The style is one of applying defensive pressure that makes it difficult on opponents and leads to them making mistakes, and on the offensive end, allows us to play together in a smooth, flowing fashion that produces good scoring opportunities a lot of the time. What it all adds up to, if you do it right, is a style of play that is exciting and fun for the players and coaches, and for Lancer Basketball Fans to watch. Using our first few days of practice as evidence, I think we are making some progress in the pursuit of Goal #1, give maximum effort – which is the first step in us being able to play the style we want to.”

How good a player can Antwan Carter be this season?

“The sky is the limit for Antwan for the next two years. He has matured to the point where he understands how much it takes to actually prepare to be great, which is well before the opening tip for the first game. He arrived at Longwood two years ago with the ability to be a fantastic college player and he has been a most important contributor to our success in that time. With the positive strides he has made, I think it is reasonable to expect great things out of him. Consider the fact that Antwan averaged close to 15 points and nine rebounds as a sophomore last year. In all of college basketball, there were only 21 players who averaged a double-double for the entire season. I believe 12 of them have departed the college game and that leaves plenty of room for Antwan to jump right into that exclusive club.”

Do you see Aaron Mitchell playing a larger role?

“There is no doubt Aaron will play a larger role on this year's team. Like all players coming in, it takes a while to become used to the speed of the college game, the strength of the players, and how well prepared the teams you play against are. For Aaron, that adjustment period was relatively quick but still took him about half the season last year. Once he settled in, he was really good and it showed in his, and our teams', play in the latter stages of the season. He's done a great job in the off-season getting ready for this year; his performance in the preseason has been tremendous, and we are very excited about seeing what he will do once we get started.”

Describe the improvement by Martiz Washington last season, and has that carried over?

“Much like I could talk about with Aaron, once you adjust to the college game you can concentrate on developing your skill-set that gives you the best chance to succeed. A lot of times that means truly understanding what your strengths are and doing that first and foremost. In Martiz's case, he has been someone who could set the tone for us defensively; that has been the case since he first set foot on the Longwood campus and has never changed. He has really started to understand where and when his scoring opportunities are going to come from, and when players get to that point, they play well on offense, and our team plays very well together. In our final 10 games last year, Martiz shot 44 percent from the field and 45 percent on three-point shots, averaging 10.9 points. In that period, there was a four-game stretch where he shot 49 percent from the field, 52 percent on 3's (making four a game), and averaged 15.5 points.”

How important will it be to have Durann Neil back in uniform?

“Two seasons ago, Durann played an important role in our team's performance and the subsequent positive results. He had gotten to the point where he had a clear understanding of not only what he was doing, but what everyone else on the court was doing as well. I believe he completed that 2008-09 season in the top 35 nationally in assist/turnover ratio, quite an achievement. Now that he's completely healthy again and has the advantage of watching the game from (almost) a coach's perspective while not being able to play last year, I think he will be able to step right into where he left off. His understanding of the way we want to play will certainly be important in helping us try to develop that same understanding from our newer players as quickly as possible.”

What is the biggest challenge?

“In the spirit of being consistent with how I have answered some questions in the past, I'm going to answer these two questions together, and answer both of them ambiguously. Our biggest challenge going into the season is probably finding out which of the newcomers, or how many of them, will provide significant contributions. They are all certainly capable of doing something special during the course of the season. Who does what, and when, will depend entirely on how quickly they can become effective competing at this level. With that being said, the one guy who we are looking to for immediate contributions is Jeremiah Bowman. JB is a talented young man who is a bit older by virtue of having been in school and competed at a high level for some time now. For him, it's just a matter of fitting in with our group, which he has done quite nicely to this point.”