• Joey Jarzynka

Media Day Quotes - SJU's Mike Anderson, Julian Champagnie, Rasheem Dunn, Greg Williams, Jr.

COURTESY OF ST. JOHN'S RED STORM ATHLETIC COMMUNICATIONS DEPARTMENT


St. John’s Head Coach Mike Anderson

Opening statement…

“We’re looking forward to getting back to some normalcy from the standpoint of playing basketball. We’re excited about this team. … [Last year], we didn’t have the depth for the way we wanted to play, but I thought as the season progressed we started finding our identity and that’s big. When you come in [as a first year head coach], you’re creating a culture, a style of play, that guys aren’t used to playing, but I thought we saw it in effect down the stretch. Hopefully, we can build upon that. I told our guys you’re in the offseason, but let’s pick up where we left off. … Now we have some guys that are core players like Greg Williams Jr., Julian Champagnie, Marcellus Earlington and David Caraher. Last year, they were big for our team so this year they’ll be even bigger in bigger roles. … Hopefully, you’ll see a team that’s going to be more balanced this year, but I cannot be here and say that it hasn’t been trying times, especially with COVID-19. Having access to our guys, the testing, the protocols, all the things you’ve got to do in order to get ready and prepare your team. So we’re taking day by day and the kids are doing the right thing, coaching staff is staying on top of it, and we’re going to try and make it as normal as we possibly can.”

On the UConn rejoining the conference, the schedule and the roster…

“Even from a far when I was coaching at Arkansas and seeing the BIG EAST and playing against some of the BIG EAST teams UConn was obviously a staple in the conference, so welcome back. That’s going to be a big challenge for our basketball team to play against an outstanding team coming in [to the BIG EAST] and to open up conference play. This is a different year getting into conference play in December, so coming out of the gates your team has to be ready to play. With that being said, I think every game is going to be a challenge even when we just want to get some games in. … The league is going to be really good. I think having a year under our belt we have a better feel for the league. Looking back on our season last year, we were probably in seven or eight games where it’s a one-possession game. I always talk about the process of creating a culture of winning. Your kids have to come out, they have to play hard, they have to learn how to compete. That’s going to be our mindset this year, having some guys that understand how to finish whether it is making free throws to keep that lead or making a stop at the end. … Rasheem Dunn, I mention him coming back and he will be better this year, Julian [Champagnie] will be better, Greg [Williams] will be better. And I think some of the freshman we have coming in like Posh Alexander. He is going to be an exciting player in our program. Vince Cole as well as Isaih Moore and another guy that I am really excited about is Arnaldo Toro. He’s a graduate [transfer] and has experience as an older guy who can gives that versatility at the forward position. Lots of pieces and now as a coach you have to put them all together.

On being selected ninth in the BIG EAST Preseason Poll…

“Everybody has opinions and the most important thing is how we feel about ourselves. … I don’t take it personally. At the end of the day, all it tells me is that is where the checkmark goes. As I always tell my guys, it is not the start of the race. Even as we look at our team last year, we came out of the gates playing well in the non-conference schedule and then got to the conference schedule and we got popped upside the head. It took us a while with injuries and all that, but I thought at the end we were playing well. … It is just someone’s opinion and all it means is that we have to continue to work and prove that we can be the best team we can be. We have some work to do, as everyone else I’m sure. It hasn’t been a usual summer, even up until today I don’t think I

On the status of Vince Cole…

“He is doing some rehab right now and hopefully within the next week we can get him started. We haven’t had a chance to have him out on the full court for a serious amount of time to know what he brings to the table, so hopefully in the next week or two we can get him out.”

On the newcomers that have stood out…

“I just like what [Arnaldo] Toro brings to the table. I think he brings maturity and will do whatever it takes to help the team win. He brings a calmness, the experience factor. I think he is going to be really, really good in what we do. ... I think Posh [Alexander] for a freshman has a lot of confidence and plays with a lot of grit. And Isaih Moore has his moments, so we’ve got a lot of guys who will add to the guys that we are bringing back who were here last year.”

On how the team will replace LJ Figueroa and Mustapha Heron…

“Well, I think obviously those guys brought a lot to the table. Their experience was big, but I thought this past year with the emergence of a guy like Greg Williams he became our best scorer shooting the basketball. Rasheem Dunn, he is in for a big year, this is his senior year and he is a fifth year guy. I think he has had a pretty good offseason. Marcellus Earlington, we saw him come on [last season]. I think it is going to be a contribution of multiple guys. We didn’t shoot the ball well [last year], but I think having a guy like Vince [Cole], I think Isaih Moore gives us an additional forward, so we are going to be a team where hopefully some guys can give us double figures. You can’t look past what Julian [Champagnie] did his freshman year. Going down the stretch in the last ten games this guy almost averaged a double-double. I think that he is hungry, he is humble about it, and he is looking forward to this year. Our job is to try and put a team out there where there are multiple guys you have to worry about. The easiest team to guard is a team where you have two guys that are going to do all the scoring. My best teams have been where you have multiple guys on any given night that can get you 25 and we saw it last year. We saw Marcellus [Earlington] had one of his best games against Georgetown he played well and Greg Williams against Creighton he went off. Julian [Champagnie] had a game against Villanova where he went off. So we are going to have a bunch of guys who are hopefully capable and people are worried about. But to me the biggest thing is our defense has to continue to play at a high level for us.”

On John McGriff and the team’s guards…

“I’ll tell you what, he’s been practicing really, really well. The thing I like about this team right now is the competition that’s in practice day in and day out. I always talk about having four, seven, eight guys. It can go up to ten. It can go up to eleven. Granted, they’re going against each other, but I just like the competitive nature. John is a guy that can handle the basketball, he’s gritty on defense and gets into guys the way I want to play. I’ve got more guys that fit what we’re doing. … I love the competition each and every day in. All that does is rise our team up to another level.

On Josh Roberts and how he’s progressed…

“Last year, Josh Roberts was very good for us early on. He got hurt during the season. He hadn’t done much in terms of the conditioning part. I was worried about him when he first came back and of course was a little shy with his shoulder. But here last week, Josh looked like the Josh of old plus probably 10 pounds. He’s a little bit bigger and he’s still playing athletic. I tell you what, I like it because with the competition now he’s starting to do some things that I envisioned him doing last year. Josh is practicing hard, he’s playing hard. I just think the competition will make him better. We’ve got guys now that you’ve got to fight for those minutes and I think that will help our basketball team.”

On Rasheem Dunn and the team’s depth…

“[Rasheem Dunn] is set up to have a really good year. He’s really been working extremely hard and I can see it in his shot. Last year, a lot of guys backed off of him and I think he’s going to make people pay regardless. We know that he can get to the basket and I’ve challenged him to become an even better defensive player and distributor of the ball. I think the other guards that are here are pushing him too. In terms of our team, I think the depth factor that we didn’t have last year is really going to take effect this year. Even as this team starts out, we’re going to have to find our identity even if it’s different from last year, but I know how we want to play. Again, we have good guard depth when you think about John [McGriff], Posh [Alexander] and Dylan [Wusu]. I haven’t said much about Dylan, but I love what he brings to the table. He’s a guy that has a motor. He can give his body, he can rebound, he can do so many different things. If you think about Marcellus [Earlington] and you think about Dylan, their body types are very similar and they’re going to punish some people. Then you’ve got Vince Cole and Greg Williams Jr. Greg’s confidence is at an all-time high right now. Then you go to the forwards — Julian [Champagnie], Marcellus, Isaih Moore, Josh [Roberts], Arnaldo Toro. Again, we’ve got guys that at any given time they can come out and can provide some depth for our basketball team. The biggest key for me and my staff is getting all of these guys on the same page.”

On the team’s defense last year and what the team has been working on to improve their offense…

“We’ve got some players in here. We got some better players this year. You’ve got to have some guys that can put it in the hole and not only that but also guys that can create and make it easier for other guys to score. As I’ve said, we’re going to be a much more versatile basketball team. I thought at times teams just packed in on us and made us shoot jump shots and we didn’t shoot it very well. I think this will be a different team this year given the fact that we’ve got to make shots. I think we’ve addressed some of our needs through the recruiting part of it. The other part of it is the guys that got experience. You’ve got to think back, Marcellus [Earlington], Greg [Williams], Josh [Roberts] and all of those guys. We didn’t have [Mustapha Heron] for most of the year because he was hurt. [LJ Figueroa] was a permanent guy. Then of course we saw the emergence of Julian Champagnie. So now we’ve got more guys to go with those guys. Those guys have a year under their belt now. They know what it’s like to be starters in BIG EAST games. They know the competition that’s going to take place. Rasheem Dunn, David Caraher, that was their first year [at St. John’s]. Now, I have to lean on those guys to show the new guys coming in what’s expected, the expectations defensively and the expectations offensively. I just think this team has the makings of a really good basketball team.”

St. John’s Sophomore Forward Julian Champagnie

On his confidence level coming into his sophomore year...

“I would say that my confidence level has went up from last year. Coming off of the year I had, I feel like I can bring a lot to the team and I’ve just been working on my jump shot and leadership skills. I want to be a better teammate to everyone around me. I feel like as a team, we’ve improved a lot and we’ve been improving on what we started last year.”

On staying home to play at St. John’s

“I feel like playing at home was a big plus for me. Just knowing my surroundings and being comfortable where I’m at. Playing at Madison Square Garden has always been a dream of mine and to make that come true is honestly a blessing. I feel I was more comfortable, especially playing with a guy like [Rasheem Dunn] who’s from Brooklyn, from the city, we were relatable and stuff like that. It’s been to my advantage, being able to play home.”

On adding Posh Alexander to this year’s team…

“I’ve known Posh since I was in eighth grade, so I’ve known him for a while now. I’d say for himself coming onto the team, being from New York and knowing a lot of the guys himself, I feel like he can have the year he wants to have as long as he wants to put the work in. I feel like he has been putting the work in. I think being home will be another advantage for him, being comfortable and just being to go out and being like ‘Ok, I’m from here’. He can do a lot of things that a lot of kids aren’t able to do, so I feel like him staying home and his presence will be felt as long as he puts the work in.”

On how he feels about this year’s BIG EAST Preseason Poll…

“Personally, I’m not really a guy to look much into politics and preseason polls or stuff like that. I don’t really expect anything from anybody. Opinions are opinions and that’s just what it is. The only thing I’m really worried about is that we ended last season really well as a team and I would like to pick up where we left off. That’s how we come into practice every day and put the work in and continue the hard work.”

On who has stood out the most out of this year’s newcomers…

“I wouldn’t want to put anybody above anyone else. Everybody has come in and has done what they have to do. Isaih [Moore] and Vince [Cole], they’re a little older so they kind of get certain things about college. Posh [Alexander] and Dylan [Wusu] have been excellent, they’ve all been good. They’ve all come in and have picked up on what coach wants us to do well and I feel like they’ve all impressed me a lot.”

On Arnaldo Toro…

“Toro surprised me. He’s really good. For our team, he’s really good because he’s played a lot of college basketball games and he knows what it takes to win. He knows certain things that other guys don’t, including myself because he’s older than us. [Arnaldo Toro] is a piece we needed.”

On what he wants to take from last year and translate into this season…

“Regarding last year, I feel like towards the end of the year I told myself to just relax and let things come to you. Me playing the way I did, I credit my teammates. Without having the teammates, I had, I wouldn’t have played the way I did. They gave me the confidence and told me to have the utmost confidence in myself to just go out there and just play. It’s just basketball and if things go wrong, it’s just life. I give that credit to my teammates. This year, I’m excited to see what comes. I don’t know what’s going to come, but I like my team, I like my teammates, so I feel like we’re going to have a good year as long as we play together. As far as me being able to take key shots and make key plays, that’s exciting, but I think all of my teammates will be able to take big shots and make big plays.”

On how he feels coming back to St. John’s with a year now under his belt…

“When it comes to being a year older and a year wiser, everybody that’s coming back from last year, we’ve all taken a lot from last year. In practice, it shows that we’re putting what we learned into play. All of the guys that are coming back, our core guys, we’ve been putting everything we learned into practice. We’ve also been helping the younger guys click onto what we want to do and what Coach Anderson wants to do as a team.”

On if Coach Anderson has changed his coaching style in his second year…

“The only change I’d say this year is that he jumped right into it. He didn’t really waste any time in terms of taking things slow. He knows exactly what he wants to do and he’s going to get what he wants done.”

On what it will be like to have UConn back in the conference this year…

“It’s exciting. Growing up, I watched UConn a lot. I know a few of the players on the team and some of the coaches. Just having them back in the conference is going to be fun. It just adds another team to the list that we can’t wait to play and that we work for.”

St. John’s Senior Guard Rasheem Dunn

On what he worked on this offseason…

“For myself, I feel like I’ve been working on trying to be the best person I can be on and off the court for my teammates. Just pushing everyone to be better than they were yesterday and coming to practice with a mindset and goal. Coach asked us the other day at the end of practice ‘did you compete?’ Just trying to make everyone better, pushing each other, for myself as well I have been working on my leadership skills and jump-shot, you know, being more patient, reading the defense and getting my teammates the ball.”

Would you say you and Greg Williams Jr. have slid into leadership roles with LJ Figueroa and Mustapha Herron gone?...

“I would say me being more experienced and in college for a long time I feel like I can relate to some of the skills that Coach Mike [Anderson] teaches us about how to win games and stuff like that. Also, with LJ [Figueroa] and Mustapha [Heron] leaving, we have a great core coming back with Marcellus [Earlington], Greg [Williams Jr.], Julian [Champagnie], Josh [Roberts], so I feel like they can substitute for the guys who are gone and they stepped up a lot in the offseason, they all worked on their game and I feel like they can help make us a better team.”

On the BIG EAST Preseason Poll…

“I feel like we have been working. Everybody has an opinion and we have been working to get each other better, our team better, including the transfers and incoming freshmen. I feel like we go hard every day in practice to outshine that. We are not really into the polls, or politics, or anything like that, we are just working to be a better team. It makes us go harder every day, but it doesn’t really concern us because everyone has an opinion.”

On the experience of representing his home city in NYC…

“The experience has been good. You know, [Julian Champanie and I] are both from New York so it has been good playing in our hometown and letting everyone support us who has been supporting us since high school and seeing them come to the games. Getting that experience to play on an NBA court which you dream of as a kid, playing at Madison Square Garden. It’s been a great feeling. We enjoy playing together and in front of our fans and supporters.”

On Posh Alexander…

“Posh brings a lot to the table and this team with his passing IQ, his scoring ability. He is a [New York City] kid as well, so I want him to do well, I know he is going to do well. For a freshman, his confidence is at an all-time high, so playing at home for him and playing in the City in front of everyone who grew up watching him is a good feeling, so he will do well.”

On what area is going to be the toughest to catch up on after the lack of offseason work

“I would just say trying to get everyone on the same page. Everyone is on the same page now, but as you know, we have a lot of new guys that came in. Some came from junior college, some came from high school, and another transferred from another college, so you know it is different coming from junior college to Division I not knowing what Coach Mike [Anderson] wants. They have been getting it as freshmen coming in, but you know they still need to learn what it takes to win as freshmen and how hard it is because you are not playing against high schoolers you’re playing against grown men. Like I said earlier, for the most part everyone has been on the same page everyone has been good, so it also comes down to me being more vocal to my teammates, pushing them harder, continuing to push them to be better than what they think they are.”

On if the positive energy from late last season can carry over to this season…

“I believe we have to take that energy into this season because at the end of last season we were all playing together, playing the way Coach wanted us to play. Everyone was playing their role, and we were playing defense, scrappy, fighting, playing with our heart. You see how far we got. For me, it is just continuing to lead the team and push everyone and continue to be the best version of us.”

On if Coach Anderson’s style has changed at all in his second year…

“I would say it’s actually the same. He continues to push us to be better. He always says don’t listen to how he says things, but what he says. You know, just pushing us to be better. He is even more energized, he got everyone right on board and right into it. Every day we come into practice with a fast-paced tempo, the energy is there, everyone likes playing with each other and he likes the team he has this year. He has a lot of confidence in us, feels we are going to do very well and outweigh everyone’s opinions.”

On if he has given any thought to returning to St. John’s for next season after the NCAA’s new eligibility rulings…

“As of right now, I didn’t really give it any thought. Right now, I am just focused on this year and how I can improve myself to be better for my teammates and trying to finish up school and see where this year takes me. Hopefully my decision about next year will be decided soon, but I haven’t given it any thought yet.”

St. John’s Junior Guard Greg Williams Jr.

On his confidence level and offseason workout…

“I feel like I’ve just been getting better every day and try to focus on doing my part on the team. I would say my confidence is improving just because I try to bring as much as I can to the table and improve the team. I definitely have been working and I am looking forward to the season coming up.”

On taking a leadership role…

“I feel like we step into that leadership role to kind of lead the first year and the transfers to bring them like up to speed with what we want to be a part of and definitely have a great core coming back. We added some additional pieces that fit with what we have going on. It’s definitely on us and it’s our obligation to be leaders and to be coaches on the floor and keep everyone involved.”

On Posh Alexander…

“He is electric and he brings a lot to the table. He is very fast, very quick and he sees the floor. He just does a lot of things that add a lot to this basketball team. I am excited for him. This is definitely going to be an experience for him and I am just ready to see him succeed.” 

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