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Story by Liz Alper
Videos courtesy goaztecs.com
For video of Jordan Schakel and Trey Kell's portion of the press conference, click "read more" and scroll down.
January 11, 2017 (San Diego) - With a dominant win against San Jose State behind them and a road matchup against Boise State looming, head coach Brian Dutcher, freshman Jordan Schakel and senior Trey Kell took the podium for the first men's basketball-only press conference of the year.
"...We’ve had epic battles with them in the past, buzzer beaters both ways, made and missed," Dutcher said. "...(We’ll) see what we can do to slow Boise down.”
Of course, the question came up on whether or not Boise State is a rival. “Boise has become part of a rivalry type of game because both teams have been on top of the standings for a lot of years, so they’re both upper division teams. I remember not to many years ago, Dwyane Polee hitting a buzzer beater at their place, they were ready to storm the floor. I remember a couple years back Duncan hitting two threes late in the game here to beat us. It’s just been a great series and a lot of really close games. Both teams respect each other. Both teams play really hard. Both teams play the right way. I’m expecting a great environment and a great game come Saturday.”
Kell disagreed. “I don’t know if I would necessarily call it a rivalry. I know, for sure, the games are always going to be close, no team is just going to blow out the other team. It’s a game we always look forward to, as I just stated, the games are always close, they always come down to the last five minutes and those are the types of games we look forward to. They’re a good team, we’re a good team and it should be a good battle on Saturday.”
On how important a road win would be: “Road wins are critical, so to have the opportunity to go on the road and try steal one would be huge for us. We know this is a team we’re going to for sure see twice and in all likelihood three times this year. So this is just round one, it’s an opportunity for us to go steal one on the road. If we don’t get it, it’s not fatal, but it can give us a big leg up if we’re able to steal one. To Boise’s credit, they’ve already got two road wins. They have a real nice road win in their last game at Fresno, they’ve got a win at UNLV, so for them to be 4-1 having played three road games is a tremendous credit to them and their program.”
Dutch scouted Boise State a bit. “They’ve added two fifth-year seniors so they’re experienced. Experience wins games. So to have two fifth-year seniors to go with Chandler Hutchison, the preseason player of the year, gives them a big leg up experience-wise. (Head coach) Leon (Rice) always does a good job. They spread the floor, the really drive the ball, they drive for others, they don’t always drive for themselves, they rebound the ball at a high level, so they’re well-coached. They have a system and a culture that has produced a lot of wins for them.”
Dutcher thinks the Aztecs success is due to players getting more comfortable. “...I think there’s no doubt they’re more comfortable with their roles. They don’t try to do things more quickly...."
Dutch talked about redshirt freshman Jalen McDaniels. “Jalen is still a freshman even though he is a redshirt freshman. But he had a year of hard practice under his belt going against Malik (Pope), Nolan (Narain), Valentine (Izundu), Zylan (Cheatham) and Max (Montana). He got some good experience last year sitting out. Now he’s getting game experience, so now he’s slowly starting to grow his game. When you’re actually getting game-time minutes, it’s different than practice. He’s slowly made that adjustment and gotten more comfortable.”
Dutcher and Kell both talked on the health of the team. “Health-wise, we’re 100 percent. Jeremy (Hemsley) missed two practices last week with either a cold or the flu, we’re not sure. Other than that, we’re healthy, we’re on a three-game win streak, so everyone feels good about themselves when you win three in a row. Hopefully we can build some momentum on that and continue to keep this streak alive..."
Kell echoed: ...At the beginning of the year we always had one or two people down or not 100 percent. Mentally, I feel like we’re the same. We’ve had our bumps here and there, but I don’t think we’ve been in a bad place, but as of right now, the team is playing well, everyone on the team is feeling good about each other, so, yeah, we’re in a good place right now.”
Kell praised the guy sitting next to him, Jordan Schakel. “The first thing that jumps out to you is just how he is the ultimate team guy. He doesn’t worry about minutes, shots, who he’s guarding, he doesn’t worry about anything of that. My biggest example is when we played Georgia, we had him on the SEC player of the year, and he did a great job. He took two elbows to the chin, got right back up and I was his biggest cheerleader on the bench. He’s just someone I can always cheer for, he’s always happy for everybody, so I’m always happy for him. He’s getting better and better every day. You can tell he’s really focusing in on getting better at the little things that the coaches are telling him. He’s always learning, always observant and he’s going to be a really good player in this league as far as a shooter, and he will develop more and more into an all-around player, I believe.”
SDSU takes on Boise State Saturday at 7:00 p.m. You can watch the game on ESPN2.