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By Liz Alper
Videos courtesy goaztecs.com
For videos of Rocky Long’s, Troy Cassidy and Daishawn Dixon’s portion of the press conference, click “read more” and scroll down.
November 13, 2018 (San Diego) - With the Maui Jim Invitational beginning next week, SDSU men’s basketball head coach Brian Dutcher and senior guard Jeremy Hemsley sat down with the media today to preview tomorrow night’s game against Texas Southern. SDSU football head coach Rocky Long, junior linebacker Troy Cassidy and junior offensive lineman Daishawn Dixon also sat down to talk about football’s game Saturday against Fresno State.
“...we’re excited to get on the floor tomorrow against Texas Southern,” Dutcher opened with. I really like their team. They were an NCAA tournament team last year. They have three fifth-year seniors in the starting lineup. Another senior. They have a 7-foot-2 dynamic center that’s averaging, I think, 14 points, 14 rebounds a game, a couple of blocked shots; anything around the rim he’s going to dunk. They have two transfers from LSU that are obviously SEC talent. They have another transfer from Colorado State. They play with toughness. It’s not what they run, it’s that you can just see on tape, and it comes through on tape that they’re very tough. It will be a great challenge for us tomorrow night at Viejas.”
Hemsley is excited to face the Tigers. “They’re a real scrappy team and they play hard. Like Dutch said, they have three fifth-year seniors so they’re a team that has leadership and they have guys who have been through the wars and guys that know how to lead the younger guys. It will be a good game. They’re a team that knows how to fight and I’m looking forward to it.”
How does Dutcher prepare the Aztecs? “We have a saying in coaching that ‘tape doesn’t lie.’ So, all we have to do is show them tape of the opponent tomorrow night and they can see that they’re talented and they play hard and that they’re scrappy. If they pay attention in film then they know what’s in store for them tomorrow.”
How does Hemsley take senior leadership in preparing his teammates? “I just try to remind them that you just need to take things a day at a time. You really can’t look ahead and you can’t try to create something in the future when it’s not even there. So, I think we’ve done a good job of just staying in the moment and just focusing on the practices that we have in front of us and not worrying about the games or any type of matchup that we have in the future.”
Dutcher talked about the emergence of three-point shooting in basketball. “I think that’s basketball now, whether it starts at the NBA level or you see at the high school level that you have to shoot the three to be successful. It stretches the defense, it opens up driving lanes and so we shoot it at every position. Jalen McDaniels: improved three-point shooter, Jeremy: three-point shooter, Jordan Schakel: three-point shooter, even Nolan Narain as a five-man has an ability to shoot the three. Matt Mitchell can shoot the three. We shoot it well from the perimeter, but we can’t live and die on the three. The ability to shoot the three should open up the paint for us where we can attack to the rim and get paint touches and score layups because we can shoot the three. Not because we’re great drivers, but because we’re dangerous from three-point range.”
The first game that the Aztecs will play in the Maui Jim Invitational is against Duke and we all know how powerful they are. Dutcher talked about Duke’s Zion Williamson. “...He’s just kind of a freak of nature type of a player. He’s at 285 and very athletic and the thing that people discount — they always put everything in athleticism; he has work ethic. He is a winner so he plays hard all the time. So, athleticism is one thing but you pair that with a great desire to be successful and that obviously makes him the player he is right now. It’s a long college season and so we’ll see if he continues to get better and better weekly, which I assume he will. They’ll get more defined roles as they move on and it’ll be a great challenge for us to play the top team in the country early next week.”
Will tomorrow’s game prepare the Aztecs to face Duke? “I think the veterans will be ready to play no matter what," Dutcher said. "It’s getting the young guys minutes and game experience so when they step on that stage, they’re prepared. Every day in practice or in games is a learning opportunity so, like I said, I take great comfort that Jeremy and Devin have been through these games. They’ve played great teams and whether it’s tomorrow getting ready to play against a team that’s not named Duke, or next week when we play Duke, I’ll rely on my senior leadership to get the rest of the team ready to play.”
Dutcher talked about the freshman progression. “Well, yesterday in practice we went up and down a little bit in scrimmage. Nate Mensah had a score of like, Jeremy said 13 straight points. We had a real good segment, so when you see segments like that, you get encouraged that he’s getting better and he’s getting more comfortable. He’s still lagging a little bit on the defensive end knowing where his man is, but hopefully that will come with time. Aguek was good. Ed’s getting better. Joel always plays hard. Adam is playing with great confidence. So, they’re all new guys that are, as fast as we want it to go, it’s going to take a while. We’ll get them in games, they’ll make mistakes, we’ll teach to those mistakes then will get back out next week and throw them out there again. I think the encouraging thing is, as they continue to get better our team will get better. Like I said, I have great confidence in my six returning veterans that they’re ready to play at a high level right now. It’s to get the bench developed and to get the guys coming off the bench to come in and not have any slippage when the veterans aren’t in.”
Hemsley talked about an area that has to be improved. “I would say our offense. I know Dutch said a few times that our defense was ahead of our offense and I think that this past week that we improved on our offense. I think we slowed down a little bit, just taking our time and not really rushing things and taking care of the ball.”
The Aztecs hit the court against Texas Southern tomorrow night at 7:00 p.m. at Viejas Arena.
“I think we’re playing the best team in the league this week,” Coach Long opened with. “I know that they lost to Boise State last week, but if you look at them on offense, defense and special teams, they’re the most veteran team in our league and they’re probably the best football team in our league. They’ve proven it over and over and over again as the season has gone on. So it’s quite a challenge.”
Long is disappointed in the performance of the offensive line. “I don’t think we’ve played on the offensive line, which is disappointing. I think everybody is beat up at this time. I think that our offensive line is beat up and playing with injuries and all of that sort of thing. At this time of year, everybody is. But our offensive line has not met our expectation level ... I don’t have an exact reason why.”
Long feels he doesn’t know his team well due to their youth. “I’m not sure I know them very well at all. I think when you have a bunch of youngsters in your program, you’re feeling your way, too. Now I will give you this, they will play hard this week and they will compete, so I think it’ll be another close game.”
Long scouted Fresno State quarterback Marcus McMaryon. “I think their quarterback is the difference in their program because last year they made an amazing turnaround, which means they had some talent in their program. They made an amazing turnaround and the biggest difference was a different quarterback. He’s playing at a higher level this year than he did last year...Now, they also have two or three outstanding receivers, which means if you want to get pressure, there are a whole lot of one-on-one situations out there. You know our philosophy around here; we’re going to take a chance to win the game, which means it’s going to be close and we’re going to have a chance to win the game or we might get beat by 60. That’s the truth. Or, we can go and be those scared little boys and walk in there and play things soft and we only get beat by 35. Gee whiz, that doesn’t seem the way to live life to me. I’d rather get beat by 60 trying to win than lose by 35 trying not to be embarrassed.”
“His stats are really impressive. It doesn’t matter if you play man or zone against him, he completes a very high percentage of his passes. He’s got a couple of receivers that make him look good, too. I mean, he just throws it in the area and they go catch it. But I thought he was a good quarterback last year, too, and he’s just more comfortable this year.
“I think coach (Jeff) Tedford is considered a quarterback guru. I mean, he always has been. I think that him being there really helps the quarterbacks.”
On the Aztecs’ situation at quarterback this week: “Christian (Chapman) is starting at quarterback. Chap’s our starting quarterback, but Ryan (Agnew) will get a couple of series in the first half and then our coaches will decide who gives us the best chance to win.”
Are the quarterbacks to blame for offensive inconsistency? “No, I think the offense has been inconsistent all year long. It was inconsistent when Christian was the only quarterback, it was inconsistent when Ryan was the only quarterback, so that hasn’t changed now that we have two of them.”
Long doesn’t often say games are rivalries, but he thinks SDSU and FSU have one. “The last two years when we had a bunch of juniors and seniors, I think the rivalry meant something to them. Since about half our team are freshmen, I’m not sure they even know—I’m going to tell them about it today— I’m not even sure they know there’s supposed to be a rivalry. But by the time they get to be juniors and seniors, it’ll be a big rivalry. But they’ve got a whole bunch of seniors on their team, so I’m sure it’s a rivalry to them.”
Conversely, Dixon responded emphatically. “Of course, it has been ever since I’ve been here. It’s always been something that we’ve always talked about. ‘You have to win to get the Oil Can (Trophy) back.’ (There’s) such a history behind it. It’s always been a big game.”
Cassidy talked up this week’s game. “I feel this is a big game just for our team. I feel like we’ve just got to focus. We’ve been focused so much on trying to be perfect and I feel that’s taking away from the excitement of the game and what we’re supposed to be doing like really playing for us. We’re supposed to be having fun out there and I feel like if we get back to just having fun and coming out excited, then we’ve got a chance to play with anybody.”
Cassidy stayed positive about the loss to UNLV. “Yeah, it definitely was an embarrassing loss for us, but we’ve got to take a look in the mirror because we’ve just been so complacent being in these close games. Not to say UNLV was a bad opponent, but we played down to other people’s abilities and I feel like we haven’t shown 100 percent of what we can do as a team. If we get everyone playing at that 110-percent level, playing for each other and playing with that excitement, like I said, then I feel we (will) display we will display what we can really do.”
Dixon also took it in stride. “Honestly, there’s going to be those types of games (when) somebody’s playing better than the other team and they come out better prepared, so you just got to take and learn from it. You just got to come back the next week ready to play and be prepared.”
Dixon talked about the challenge facing Fresno State. “Basically, playing smarter than (we did) last year. Be more physical at the line of scrimmage. Coming off the ball knowing what we have to do. It’s knowing our assignments and having energy.”
Dixon praised the younger players. “Yeah, I feel that with our young teammates coming in and stepping in for those big games has really helped a lot. We really put a lot of weight on their shoulders to come in and make plays. Because when it’s their time to step up, we need them to step up. That’s what helped us win.”
Why hasn’t the offensive line been performing well? “Probably we just got level-headed honestly. We thought since we had such a good year last season, it would just be a walk in the park this year. Some of us thought this season would go a different way, but it didn’t. I’m not saying it’s over, but we’re still going to try and get better every week from now on.”
SDSU takes on Fresno State Saturday at 7:30 p.m. in Fresno.