his first year since returning to Greensboro, Mike Dement's
Spartans won 12 games, but struggled mightily on the road. If
past history is any indication though, Dement who built winners
at Cornell, UNCG in the mid nineties and SMU, will have his team
back above .500 in no time.
Siegel (CHN): How does this year's schedule compare
to recent seasons in terms of difficulty?
Mike Dement (MD):
It is definitely the most difficult since the first year of
Division I in 1991 when we played as an independent. We play a
Division I schedule and with 3 ACC teams, a Big Ten team and two
Conference USA teams plus a bracket buster opponent. There is no
room for error. We better be good right out of the gate and
throughout the year. There is no time to come along. I worry
about momentum and confidence but the schedule should definitely
prepare us for anything the top teams in the league can show us
size and strength-wise. The games we have with programs that on
paper look more like us seem to all be on the road. We have to
learn to steal some of those
CHN: How will you deal with the losses of your lone senior?
MD: We had one senior on roster last season (Devin Boddie)
who did not play much until late in the season. He gave us a
nice spark in the last couple of games but because of injuries
he was never healthy enough to be in there much.
I think this is a big year for Ricky Hickman. He has worked hard
off-season on a lot of things and I am hoping he has a great
year. He put up good numbers for us last season but if he
commits himself to the
defensive end and rebounds like he can, he will have a great
year, help us win more games, and he will have a real chance to
continue to playing after he leaves UNCG.
will the strengths of this yearís team to be?
We have 8 players returning that started at one time or another
last season and each played extensive minutes against a tough
schedule. Hopefully that will pay off with some of that
experience carrying over. Obviously two of our strengths come
from having two all-conference players returning in Kyle Hines
(1st team media & coaches) and Ricky Hickman (2nd team media,
1st team coaches) to build around. David McClenny was named to
the All-Freshman team as well. If he can play this year as he
did in the last 4-5 games of last season, then he can be a real
strength for us as well.
CHN: How bout weaknesses?
MD: Our defense -- or lack of -- was our weakness last
season, as was rebounding. We had some inconsistency shooting
the ball the last third of the season both from the floor (with
the exception of Kyle Hines) and from the free throw line.
We also have to find ways to win games on the road - it was a
real weakness last season.
CHN: Talk about one or two of your guys that stands out
as being an unheralded leader and contributor?
Dwayne Johnson would be that player. As our only true
scholarship point guard he played a lot of minutes and was at
times our best defender. He improved his shooting from his
freshman year and we will need him to continue to get better.
Ironically in a couple of key wins, Dwayne was the one that hit
the big shot or free throws.
Kevin Oleksiak probably falls into that catergory as well. He
really improved statistically from his freshman year to last
season, particularly early. A late season injury set him back
and we missed his offensive production, which I think also cost
us some momentum going into the conference tourney.
CHN: What should
we expect out of the incoming players. Who will make the biggest impact?
have 5 new freshmen who I think as a group can be a good lineup
as a five down the road. It is always interesting to see who
will emerge as a rookie season goes on. Ben Stywall has the most
experience having played at Fork Union as a prep last season. He
can play both the 3 and 4 spots I think. We will have to decide
how to best use him from a position
standpoint. He is as excellent rebounder, and we lacked that
last season. So if Ben rebounds, he will play.
Omar Jones has looked good in workouts. I call him a "6". He can
play the 3, 2 and 1. He needs a lot of weight gain and strength
but he is very good in the open court and can score.
Kendall Toney attacks the basket well. He plays and competes
hard and wants to be good. It might be hard to keep him off the
floor especially if he gets the attitude of wanting to be a
Mikko Koivisto can really shoot it. He has a quick release and
can get really hot from the outside. I like his size as a 2/3
man and I think he is a tough kid.
Pete Brown is big with long arms in the same mold as Kyle Hines.
Playing against Kyle each day in practice will be a great
learning experience. He blocks shots and has a good touch and if
he becomes as explosive as Hines he will be a very good player
in the SoCon.
I like the group and we need some of them to step forward and
challenge the others
CHN: Are you pretty well settled with your starting
lineup? If not, what should we expect to be the biggest battles
for a starting position?
MD: We do have a number of players returning that played
a lot of minutes, but I hope the freshmen will challenge a
couple of positions. We just didn't play defense the way we
needed to in order to win last year. We scored plenty of points,
but we didnít get it done on the other end of the floor and we
didn't rebound well as a team. If the newcomers or the guys that
came off the bench last season will be great defenders and
rebounders, then they will take over some minutes. Hopefully
that type of competition at practice will raise the level of our
play throughout the year.
CHN: Thanks Coach.
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