So how are you feeling going into this season?
I am feeling good. I worked really hard this summer and this is the best I’ve ever felt since I’ve been in college. Last summer I had problems with my knees but my knees and everything feel great now and I’m stronger than I’ve ever been.
I know you worked hard this summer, what was the typical day for you like?
I would wake up around 9:30 a.m., get some breakfast and then go to class. Classes would end and I’d get some lunch and be at the gym by 1 p.m. That’s about 90 minutes before workouts began, so enough time to do some stretching and get treatment and do some foam rolling, just getting my body ready. Then I’d lift weights and then the team would work out together. Then, after practice, when my legs were really tired, I’d do some extra leg workouts. Then I’d get in the ice bath. I hate the ice bath. I’m not sure I feel it doing any good, but you gotta do it. We had study hall some nights, so those nights I’d go to study hall around 6:30 or so. Then home and just relax and sleep.
What did you work on most this summer?
I worked on my foot speed, my quad strength, my hamstring and calf strength, a lot of lower body exercises to get my lower body to be able to take on a long season and hopefully a lot of minutes. I didn’t feel like my body wore down last year. Actually, it may sound crazy, but I felt like my body got stronger about the middle of season and was good to the end and that is why I feel like I played better down the stretch. But I only played like 18 or something minutes a game last year, and I am hoping I play 25 or more now.
Did you put on weight?
Not really. Going into last season I think I was like 192 and I am about 195 this year. In the summer I got up to 205, but I lost that weight quickly as we started really practicing and even though I lost the weight I feel bigger, stronger, really ripped. So I lost that extra weight but I don’t feel like I lost any strength.
What aspects of your game did you focus on?
Just being more able to knock down open shots, three-pointers but also mid-range. In our offense, you can get a lot of assists in driving and kicking, so I also worked on coming off down screens and tight curls and being able to read whether to go to the rim or kick it down to a big man or to take the lane and then kick it to a shooter.
You stayed in Albuquerque almost the whole summer, right? Did you do anything fun?
Not really. I really understand now that summer is when you put in the most important work. It is when you get better and stronger. I did decide to take one road trip back to Arizona. We had a weekend off and so I just woke up one Thursday and drove back to Arizona to see my mom. I surprised her for her birthday and we went to dinner and movie. It was great. She is doing great. Still working as a corrections officer there.
We are talking the day before your first exhibition game and you’ve just found out you’ll be starting that game. How’d you find out you’d be a starter and how does that feel?
Coach Alford pretty much told me three weeks ago that he was going to go with 4-guard rotation, with me playing, at times, the one and the two and the three and, sometimes the four, and that I need to be ready. He told me that was what we were going with until you show me otherwise. He can still go with a traditional lineup, but he is going with this and I can’t say I am not happy about it. It feels good. (NOTE: Demetrius scored 22 points in that exhibition)
So what new challenge does that present to you, knowing you are going to spend some time at the forward spots?
My biggest challenge is just to remember to hit the glass over and over. Every single shot goes up I need to hit the glass. My mentality before was to find a body for a second or two but then when the big man gets it to go. But I am one of the big men now. But it also means that if I get the rebound, I can go. Coach lets us do that. Any one of our four guards who get the rebound, we are gone. So, I am more excited to rebound now because when I get the ball I can go, which leads to open assists and layups.
We talked about this before, but it really seems like you bought into the team concept last year for the first time. What does that mean?
It was about me putting myself aside and being in this program with two feet. Being happy for my teammates, being juiced about a pass or excited about plays that I was not involved in. In the past, I was happy but I was also concerned about doing my own thing. Last year, I was invested in the entire team and that was a great feeling, being here in this atmosphere and really playing for the school and for the fans and for my teammates and not for myself. Growing up it was all about me, me, me. Me before the team in everything. It took me a while to adjust to being another type of player, someone who doesn’t think of himself as any better than anybody else, just somebody focused on trying to fight to win and fight to keep playing.
Last year New Mexico was picked to win the MWC but this year people view UNLV and SDSU as superior. You cool with that?
If you look at it, we are in same position as last year. Because even though we were picked to finish first, we weren’t ranked and UNLV and SDSU were. So, we are underdogs again and that is fine. We will just have to go the tournament in the Virgin Islands and remind people we are still on the map.
Who is going to have a breakout year for the Lobos, and you can’t say Demetrius Walker?
I think Cam (Cameron Bairstow) is going to have a big year for us. He’s going to surprise some people.
You live with Kendall Williams, another kid from Play Their Hearts Out. He got some preseason love, named first-team All-Conference.
Tony (Snell) too, I think he was second team. They are two guys who are going to really carry the scoring load for us and draw attention.
And you are getting very little attention.
And that is FINE! I was a sixth man last year and people saw I could play that role but now I’ve got to find my role with the first team. If I do that, maybe people will notice. Maybe they won’t. I’m fine with whatever as long as we win.