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By Liz Alper

Photo, video and quotes courtesy

January 13, 2017 (San Diego) - With the final game of their two-game homestand tomorrow night against Utah State, Aztecs men's basketball head coach Steve Fisher, sophomore guard Zylan Cheatham and junior guard Trey Kell sat down with the media on Friday.

“We have a big game for the Aztecs tomorrow," Fisher opened. "We’ve got a Utah State team coming in that can score as well as anybody in our league. We need to be prepared to guard hard, guard smart and then be able to attack their multiple defenses. They will throw a lot of looks at us. It should be what you’d expect for most conference games: hard-fought, close, three to five minutes with either team having a chance to win."

Sophomore Indiana transfer forward Max Hoetzel has improved his play since coming to SDSU.  Fisher was proud of him. "When he shoots it, I think it’s going in. So we want him to shoot it. We want him to take on-balance, open shots. He was 4-for-9 in the last game (vs. San José State) and he’s capable of doing that in every game.  ...Max is doing what we thought he would do and we’re hoping that he grows in every part of what he’s doing.”

Fisher updated the media on the team's injuries. “I don’t have any new news to speak of.  Malik (Pope) did a little bit of activity yesterday. What that means for sure, I don’t know. We’ll just see what happens today. Whether he will suit up and have an opportunity to play tomorrow, I don’t know yet for sure. Everybody else is pretty much the same.  . We limited what (Matt) Shrigley did in practice yesterday as a precaution. His ankle is still pretty sore. D’Erryl (Williams) is making progress with his ankle. We limited him also. He’s still pretty sore. Montaque (Gill-Caesar), his back is bothering him a little bit. That’s been an on-going thing, but he practiced the whole time. Jeremy (Hemsley) with his Achilles, or above his Achilles, practiced and it didn’t seem to bother him, so I think we’re in pretty good shape.”

Kell talked about what he feels he improved on most this year. “Personally, I’ve tried to lead by example a lot more this season. It’s just one of those things. I’m not a really vocal type of person. That’s more of (Zylan’s) personality. I just feel that in practice and in the game, I just try to be in the right spots at the right time, say what I have to say and just try to be that person who leads by example.”

Kell, like the rest of the team, misses Pope sorely. “The first thing I think that he can help us with for sure is our rebounding and presence at the rim. That’s the area we’re lacking the most right now, defensive rebounding.  I feel like we’ve done a pretty good job of trying to work around not having Malik. Obviously, we want him out there on the floor, but for about two or three weeks now, we haven’t had him. We’ve just focused on the lineups that we’ve had that don’t involve Malik. When he comes back, we’ll happily accept him back in the lineup.”

Cheatham agreed. “For me personally, he definitely brings us a different dynamic with his overall presence obviously and rebounding. He makes up for certain mistakes that some guys make on a regular basis. For example, he kind of gives me a better opportunity for offensive rebounds because I know we’re kind of interchangeable. If my man outruns me, then he can pick up my man and I can still turn and pick up his. So he gives me that dynamic. Obviously, his scoring presence and shot-blocking and stuff like that. Just to have a guy that you’ve been going to war with all off-season and to not have him on the floor with you obviously brings a different look. But it’s something we’re adjusting to and hopefully we can get him back soon.”

The Aztecs take on Utah State tomorrow night at 7:00 p.m.

Video of the press conference:








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