Toledo was one game away from reaching the NCAA Tournament
for the first time in Stan Joplin's 11 year tenure.
Despite multiple 20 win seasons, NIT trips, and MAC West titles,
Toledo still hasn't reached the promise land in 25 years.
With just about everyone returning from last year's team, this
could finally be that year.
Shawn Siegel (CHN): What
will the strengths and weaknesses of
this year’s team to be?
The strength of our team will obviously be in our perimeter
players. I think we have some pretty good ones with Justin
(Ingram), Kashif (Payne), Keonta (Howell) and our three
sophomores — Jonathan (Amos), Ridley (Johnson) and Tyrone
We have some versatility, and they are all pretty athletic and
those positions are interchangeable. I’m hoping that our
sophomores will become better players with experience, because
they obviously have some skills and athletic ability. Another
strength we have is inside with Florentino Valencia because he
can score in the post and demand a double team.
Our biggest weakness is our rebounding. Our big guys just didn’t
rebound last year and Keonta Howell should be able to help us in
that area now that he is completely healthy after having some
issues with his shoulder last year. We have to do a better job
on the boards and have a big year from our post players. Tino
(Valencia) and Jerrah (Young) both need to do a better job
rebounding, and we’re hoping Shane Ross can come in and help us
on the boards also.
CHN: Talk about one or two of your guys that stands out
as being an unheralded leader and contributor?
Keonta Howell does a good job for us in the leadership
department. He leads by example and is sometimes overlooked,
but he is someone that is a valuable member of our program.
Kashif Payne is headed in that direction as well and it’s
important for him to do that as our starting point guard.
CHN: Who is ready to take their game to the next level to
replace the seniors?
SJ: I think our three sophomores (Jonathan Amos, Ridley
Johnson and Tyrone Kent) really have a chance to blossom. It’s
hard to say which one specifically because they each have a lot
of talent and potential. They should give us a lot of
flexibility. With their athletic ability, they can rebound and
defend, and I think they bring some toughness to the team.
CHN: What should
we expect out of the incoming players. Who will make the biggest impact?
SJ: Shane Ross is our only newcomer this year and he
should be able to help us on the boards and knock down some
perimeter jump shots. He gives us another big body and I expect
him to be in the playing group and get some playing time right
CHN: Are you pretty well settled with your starting
lineup? If not, what should be the biggest battle for a starting
SJ: We’re going to start Justin
Ingram, Keonta Howell and Kashif Payne in the backcourt with
Florentino Valencia and whoever can rebound the ball in the
frontcourt. The last starting spot will come down to Jerrah
Young, Haris Charalambous and Shane Ross. I think Haris might
surprise some people. He’s lost almost 20 pounds and is in much
better shape this year. We’re also hoping that with Jerrah being
100 percent healthy that he’ll be able to have a better year
CHN: How does this year's schedule compare
to recent seasons in terms of difficulty?
Our schedule this year is the toughest in my 10 years at Toledo
and it may be the most difficult in school history. We’re
playing at the Paradise Jam with a field that includes
Villanova, Alabama, Iowa and Xavier. We also have games at
Kansas, Vanderbilt, Missouri State, Drexel and Oakland and home
games vs. UNC-Wilmington and Detroit. We really didn’t have a
choice with how our schedule turned out and we had to take the
teams that we could. We’re going to have to come out of the
gates playing well, because we’re going to be facing some tough
CHN: Realistically, discuss what your goals and hopes
are for this season:
SJ: Our goals are always to win a Mid-American Conference
championship and go to the NCAA Tournament at the minimum get to
the NIT Tournament. If we could win 20 games with the schedule
we’re playing that should help us accomplish our goals.
CHN: Good luck coach.
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