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Story by Liz Alper
Videos courtesy goaztecs.com
For video of Rocky Long’s portion of the press conference, click “read more” and scroll down. Women's basketball portion potentially coming soon.
November 28, 2017 (San Diego) - No football game this week, but we got a plethora of coaches at this week’s SDSU athletics press conference: Aztecs football coach Rocky Long, men’s basketball coach Brian Dutcher, women’s basketball coach Stacie Terry, senior guard McKynzie Fort and freshman guard Te’a Adams were all present.
“I think we’ve got our legs back underneath us.” Dutcher opened with. He gave an update on seniors Malik Pope and Trey Kell, who left Sunday’s game against Washington State with injuries. “He (Kell) got off the bus, he was really limping and sore...he got some treatment yesterday so his status is to be determined. I know he’s as tough as they come and will try to find his way onto the floor Thursday. Malik got an x-ray that didn’t show anything but we are getting an MRI today so hopefully, we’ll have a better feel. He also got treatment and I would say his status is also to be determined.”
Assuming he doesn’t have Pope or Kell on Thursday, Dutch gave his game plan. “When you’re relying on freshmen, it’s tough because they’re going through things for the first time. So hopefully Jeremy (Hemsley), Kam (Brooks), some of my veteran players, Nolan (Narain), who’s a redshirt sophomore will step up and continue to lead on the floor if the other guys can’t be out there.”
Asked what he likes so far about his new team: “I think it’s the assists and baskets. We’re getting more assists than we got because we’re sharing the ball and playing the right way. So as long as we continue to share the ball, move the ball, then we’re gonna get quality looks and we’re gonna get open shots. Right now, I think we’re shooting the ball from three pretty good.”
This year, USD is undefeated. Will Thursday night determine who’s the best team in San Diego? Dutcher said no. “It’s who’s the best team that night. Maybe we’re the best team that night, maybe they’re the best team that night, but it’s not gonna say who’s the best team. That won’t be determined till March.”
Dutcher gave a scouting report on USD’s 6’7” redshirt junior forward, Isaiah Pineiro and on USD in general. “Piniero is a strong, aggressive, tough kid. He drives the ball to the basket. He’s a hard guard...they’ve had a lot of good pieces, obviously a lot through the transfer market...it’s not like they’re running new kids out there that are freshmen. They’ve got sit-out kids that have come in and provided great pieces for their team right now...it’s gonna be a real challenge.”
Does he consider them a rival? To that, he gave a small chuckle and said, “No, not really.”
A glaring issue last season was SDSU’s inability to perform with a revolving door of injured players. On Sunday, that changed. Dutch explained why. “Well they played pretty well when I had my two senior captains out of the game. We took it down to the wire....We weren’t able to answer, but we played well enough to win. I like all the pieces on the team. I’m not a six-man rotation.”
SDSU takes on USD on Thursday at the Jenny Craig Pavilion at USD at 8:00 p.m.
Next up, the women’s basketball squad took the podium. “We’re excited to be back home,” Terry opened with. “...we’re excited to lace ‘em back up and play a very, very talented USD team tomorrow. Spent the past two days preparing for them. A phenomenal rebounding team. That’s gonna be the key to the game, if we can keep them off the glass. They’re averaging close to 20 offensive boards a game. That’s going to be the biggest key and just getting back to what we do well.”
Contrary to Dutcher, Terry feels that USD-SDSU is indeed a rivalry. “We’ve been on the short side of that for the past couple of years, so we’re taking this very serious and we need to get after it and compete tomorrow. It definitely is a rivalry game. They’re coached by a great coach and the team plays very hard and they’ve been very successful over the past couple of years, so we need to compete on that level and make sure that we put our best foot forward. And it’s very important to the city...I think it’s cool to play against each other...It’s important to the school, gives us a little sense of pride when we can handle our business and get a win, but it’s gonna be a battle. It’s gonna be a battle tomorrow night and I think they’re ready for the challenge.”
SDSU is better at shooting the ball at beyond the arc than shooting in the paint. Terry addressed some things. “...as good a shooting team as I believe we could be, we need to fine-tune some things and make sure that shooting percentage goes up.”
Last season was, to put it lightly, highly problematic for the lady Aztecs. Coach Terry talked about how the Aztecs turned it around this season. “My juniors became seniors and we brought in a class of freshmen that are really competitive and talented so I think the maturity of our leadership and the addition of our freshmen have just made us a more well-rounded team...we brought in a really good class and I think our seniors are really motivated to make sure that we don’t repeat the last season.”
Fort added some more on what she’s noticed. “Like Coach Stacie said, a big part of it is just buying into it. Like she said, we have freshmen that are able to run and they can sub in for any one of us, so our bench is really deep, so that’s a good thing to have when we’re sitting out. The communication is better...our hustle has improved. You can just tell that we wanna get after it and I think that’ll definitely lead us to more wins than we’ve had in the past, so it’s just a whole different team. We’re trying to become more of a transition team as well so...we’re just trying to have a new identity.”
Fort talked about what it means to her to play USD tomorrow night. “It’s always the most competitive game, I would say, of our preseason...we just wanna be able to beat them this time and they’re a great team...I’m excited to play them. It’s good to play them at home, finally. We’ve always play them away so we should hopefully have an advantage.”
All in all, Terry said the Bahamas experience was fantastic for the lady Aztecs. “I know my job is to win games, but I’m also tasked to make sure these young women have fantastic experiences and grow as young women and I definitely think we did that on that trip.”
The lady Aztecs take on USD on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. at Steve Fisher Court at Viejas Arena.