Today, we continue with the second part of our conversation with LIU Brooklyn men’s basketball head coach Jack Perri and senior guard Gerrell Martin from Tuesday’s NEC Basketball Social Media Day at the Barclays Center. If you missed Part One, you can find it here.
Q: What do you think your biggest challenges this season?
Jack Perri: Having so many new guys. We only have one guy who was here from our championship run so it’s really like completely starting over. You’re almost like building a culture all over again and it’s been fun and exciting. It’s being patient. I get it, you got to be patient this year especially early on, we have a monster schedule to start off. Don’t worry about that stuff, focus on getting better, getting better, getting better and then hopefully in January and February, you’ve had your ups and downs and you start getting more consistent and I think we have the right group to do that because it seems like they have a good mentality, at least at this point. We’ll see once playing time gets divvy up and how guys handle adversity.
Q: Gerrell, does it feel like starting over for you when you look around the locker room?
Gerrell Martin: Yes, definitely. I’m just stepping in, trying to be more of a leader. It is kind of new to me. Coach said before the Bryant game (LIU’s final game last year) when I was shooting on the gun that this would be my team and that I would have to lead. It is kind of like I’m watching over my kids almost you know. I do think the talent is there even though they’re youthful. They listen to me. I’m excited just to be with them and actually teach them and just be ready for a great season.
Q: Are you prepared to be a more vocal leader on the court this season?
GM: I definitely think I have to increase my vocalness. As coach tells me after every practice, even if I sometimes have to go hoarse just to get guys going (and) fired up. At the end, it is going to be all worth it. Like I said, these guys listen to me, they want their best interest. They ask me everything, ask me questions about a lot. I’m just happy to help them. I’ve been through it. I’m just trying to get them to the same level that they are trying to get.
Q: Does this team have the necessary skills you feel to play continue to try and play the up-tempo style that you would like to play?
JP: I don’t think we are going to change that. I feel confident. Our point guards we have, Iverson Fleming, who I really haven’t talked about, he kind of stepped up his game this year. He play some last year, he was inconsistent. Really skinny kid. Did a good job in the weight room so he has gotten stronger. He has some ability. He is really making shots consistently in practice right now. Making good decisions, playing fast. I like where we’re at with our point guards. We’re shooting lights out in practice. You wonder if it’s good offense, bad defense. You look at both ways. Anytime you shot at a high percentage, that’s a good thing especially the way we want to play. I’m hopeful we will be a better defensive team. Can’t get much worse. So I’m hopeful we’ll be a much better defensive team, much more disciplined and play the way we want to play defensively. Last year, we had to band aid things with the zone which in the end you look back, it wasn’t as good as we would have liked it to be.
Q: If you guys stay healthy, could you see yourself as the surprise of the conference?
JP: It depends on the development of some of these guys. It is so hard to tell right now. So new with these guys, some of these guys have to learn to compete every single day, every single play, every single drill. So you just kind of building that with some of these new guys but I do think there is talent yet if we are lucky enough to stay healthy, I think we can compete with anybody in our league.
Q: This season, you play a lot of relatively close games in non-conference play. Was your intent to cut travel and stay pretty close to home with this young squad?
JP: Yeah, that was by design. Keep it a little more localized, both academically and also just thinking, let not have these guys fly all over the place. Next year, we will go back to that but this year I wanted to do just more stabalizing. We were put into the preseason NIT. We didn’t know where we would end up. They didn’t tell us when we got into it. St. John’s was our original (pod) and then they change things on the fly. St. John’s and Saint Joseph’s and then playing in the Garden against Stony Brook.
Q: Gerrell, what do you expect for yourself this season?
GM: Honestly, I think I’m going to lead the NEC in three-point shooting. I want to be defensive player of the year. That’s my mindset. I know the offense is going to come but I really want to show that I can really defend and get after it on defense. Like coach said, don’t worry about the offense, that is going to come, just play within the team. But defense has really been on my mind these couple of practices.
Q: What is your overall take on the NEC this season?
JP: A lot of new pieces for a lot of teams. So there is a lot of unknown. You see where some teams were picked because Central Connecticut has a lot of guys returning, because St. Francis (PA) has a lot of guys returning, they are to be picked up a little bit higher. Then Robert Morris has kind of shown that they have been able to be consistent with staying at top so they belong up there preseason. We’ll see. Obviously, Mount St. Mary’s loses a lot. Wagner loses a lot. We ended up having a lot of turnover. FDU did. That is almost half your league having a lot of turnover. I think it will be wide open because of that reason and anybody can really take it home. Whoever is healthy. Whoever plays to their philosophy will have more success than others.