Last Wednesday, the first ever New York City College Basketball Media Day took place at the David S. Mack Sports and Exhibition Complex at Hofstra University in Hempstead, Long Island and LIU Brooklyn head coach Jack Perri and senior guard/forward Joel Hernandez were on hand to speak with the assembled media.
Here were some notable quotes from both Perri and Hernandez on LIU’s upcoming season, one that will likely come with some bigger expectations.
Perri on what an event like the NYC College Basketball Media Day represents – “It is always great to get everyone together. We’re starting off a new season, 2016-17. It is an exciting time so you always want to get out and promote your program and tell everybody about what has been going on. We’re really excited about this year coming up. Finally having a bunch of seniors on our rosters. It should be really exciting. Anytime you get a chance to promote your program, to promote your team, that’s exciting. We have some great tradition-rich programs around here and sometimes we go unnoticed a little bit and this certain helps to give us a little bit of recognition.”
Perri on LIU’s strengths coming into the season– “Our strengths is our front court. I think that’s clear. Our upperclassmen are guys in the front court. When you have an all-league player like Jerome Frink who should be the best player in the league, that certainly helps. We have Nura Zanna, who has as much experience as he has playing, he looks great. He has changed his body even more so he looks great. We have Glenn Feidanga and Julius van Sauers comes in and he looks really good. And a few other guys like Ganlandou Cisse and Kwe Askew. We got a lot of guys in the front court.”
Perri on his opening game starting lineup – “I don’t know. We are in competition every single day. We’re competing. Our guys are doing a good job of that in practice. I’m excited about our youth. I’m excited about our older guys, it’s a good mix. Everybody seems to be on the same page. It’s exciting but I have no idea who is going to start.”
Perri on the mindset of his team going into the 2016-17 season – “The mindset is that it is always a process and last year although we had a winning season (16-15), we talked about in the offseason about underachieving. We felt we had the most talent in the league, certainly starting five wise and we underachieved. I really feel that way and so do our seniors. Our seniors think we should have been more productive and had a better year. I think not having senior leadership last year probably got in the way and talking about some of the things that wasn’t great within the program, we wasn’t cohesive enough. Too much individualized and we really talked about that and our seniors has done a really good job of getting everybody on the same page and everybody only caring about winning a championship. This is their last chance to have a special season. I think they’re ready to really commit to that.
Hernandez on his mindset going into his final season at LIU – “I pretty much just want to be a leader. I kind of know what to expect coming in, so when stuff goes wrong I just want to bring the team together. Last year, we didn’t really have that person to pretty much keep everyone together when stuff was going wrong. I pretty much want to do that with the team. I want to show the young guys the way to go because when I was coming up, I didn’t have anyone to look up to like that.”
Perri on will having senior experience bring to his team this season – “(Hernandez) didn’t have (leaders) when he was young because if you remember those teams when we had nearly all freshman and sophomores, when we have to restart the whole thing after having so many guys graduate. The coaching staff a lot of times had to be the leaders and now when really tried to help Joel and Jerome (Frink) as the two captains on the team this year to really understand and try to become those leaders. To get a little more vocal, to be a little more understanding that there is going to be some bad times for the young guys and lead in a lot of different ways, not only by example but also getting out of their own shell a little bit and focus on everything around them.”
Hernandez on how his game has come from his freshman season to now – “I feel like it has transitioned a lot. I put in a lot of hard work and I’ve matured a lot from my freshman year. I feel like me being more mature and working hard has made me into a better player.”
Perri on what he anticipates his style of play for his team will be like in 2016-17 – “With some of the turnover we had, we are going to be a little bit different. Obviously, with our strength being in the front court, we are going to have to go to those guys, they are going to have to see the ball a lot. So we’re not going to be so much run and gun but where he used a lot of ball screens, there is going to be less ball screen action and a lot more feeding the post, playing off guys in the post a little bit. Don’t get me wrong, in transition, we’ll also be that. You’ll some of our young guys have that ability to play fast, so we’ll still use that as our strength but once again, that quarter-court, you’ll see some different things.”
Perri on trying to re-establish home court dominance – “One of the things we struggled with was shooting. Our perimeter shooting at home was really poor. Now, we weren’t a great three-point shooting team last year, the last two seasons regardless, hopefully that changes this year. I think that really what it is. You’re talking about a team that had no seniors, the year before you had just Gerrell Martin and Landon Atterberry who was only a two-year guy. We’ve been young and we knew that. This year now, we have four or five guys that have been in the program for four years, it’s exciting and I think those guys will take that to heart and we’ll certainly talk about holding our home serve. If we can do that, that certainly make us more effective.”
Perri on what will be the motivating factors in getting another NEC championship – “I think the reality is, I want these guys to accomplish something that they can be so proud of and really leave a legacy that they could be proud of. They have, when you heard from Joel, how much they have mature and how much they have grown, if you asked me if Joel would be a captain after his freshman year, I’ll be a little surprised but he has earned that. He has been a great teammate and he has really matured. These guys have to really focus on staying committed to one another, staying committed to this process of trying to win each day, continue to get better, elevate the freshman that have come in and that are going to have to play some minutes and I think they will.”
Perri on his two freshman point guards – “Our freshman have done a really good job. They are very humble kids. They are talented and smart. A little unique in that they both can come in and have an impact. I’m excited about both of them. Now, the first week of practice, they were throwing the ball all over the place. But they’ve really calm themselves down. They’re eager to learn, they want to come in and watch film constantly which is great. I think they are both cerebral enough and understand, how are we going to this year and I think they get it. It doesn’t have to be about them and I think that’s huge. We you have guys like Joel Hernandez, Jerome Frink, and Nura Zanna, those guys need to get touches, those guys are going to get them the ball. That’s what excites me about those two guys. They are both very different. Jashaun (Agosto) is small but fast and he can really score. He is in impeccable shape, he never gets tired. He can defend on the ball so I’m very happy with him that way. Julian Batts is a tough kid. He has played at St. Thomas More prep school with a lot of top-level talent and he knows what a good shot is. He can play a little ball screen offense and get guys the ball when they need it. He understands the team dynamic. So I’m very happy with both of them.
Perri on his two seniors guards, Joel Hernandez and Iverson Fleming – “As far as a third point guard, you might think Iverson Fleming but Iverson and I have talked about playing him more off the ball and just worry about making shots and being that guy on the wing and Joel Hernandez is going to play some point guard minutes for me. He has tighten up his handle. He is different. He is unique. I always kid around with about Thomas Walkup, the kid from Stephen F. Austin, I don’t why he can’t be that. Physically, he is strong like him. He is athletic, probably even more athletic than Walkup was. He shots about the same. He can make decisions, when he has the ball in his hand and you didn’t see that as much because we had some many guys last year but I’m telling you, he can make some really good decisions with the ball in his hands and you’re going to see that. He is going to have to step up and do that a lot for us this year, play some point, play some four, play some two, play some three, play everything. He might even coach a little bit for me too. We’re really excited about that, throwing that dynamic out there as well.
Hernandez on being asked to be more versatile this season – “I was excited about it. I always been a versatile player. I was always able to play a lot of positions. I just want to do anything that will help the team out. I know I got to step up big time this year and be a leader on and off the court and I’m ready to do that.”
Hernandez on what goals he has in mind for his final season – “First, I want to win the NEC. I want to be first-team All-NEC and that’s pretty much it.”