How do you feeling going into the season?
I feel good and I feel confident. The team looks good and the chemistry is there and I think everyone is excited for the year. I think a lot of people have stepped up their games and that is going to make a difference. Personally, I just feel a lot more confident and comfortable in the offense and knowing what I have to do.
How do you see your role this season?
Well, I’ll be starting rather than coming off the bench but otherwise pretty much the same. There will be a little more of a demand for me to be the guy who scores more and facilitates for others more. Obviously, Jared (Cunningham) left for the NBA and somebody has to step up and fill that scoring, but I think it isn’t going to be one guy. The points and stuff will be spread around to the whole team. But I do need to pick up my game and play better just like everyone else. If everyone chips in we can fulfill out goals.
What was your summer like?
Really, I tried to make it feel like my summer was still the school year. I kept that routine, had classes and workouts, tried to make my thing feel year-round. I did go down to Los Angeles for a bit. I worked out with some cool people down there, and played in the Nike Pro-Am against NBA guys like Reggie Jackson and Paul George. That was good, trying to play against guys like that polished my game. They are extremely athletic and go hard every play and never take plays off. You see what it takes. It was a good experience and I went hard. I didn’t even go home (to Santa Barbara) even though I was so close. I never took a break.
Were there particular aspects of your game you worked on most?
Not one thing but everything. All aspects I needed to perfect. I felt like the most important thing was to get in better fitness shape because I am going to play more minutes with Jared gone. I want those to be quality minutes. I am also a little stronger than I was last year. I feel stronger. We got a new strength and conditioning coach at Oregon State and he’s great and helping me get more flexible and stronger.
Your coach, Craig Robinson, praised you recently, said your development “has been what I think will transcend this team. He is easily the best guy on the team.” What is he talking about?
He’s talking about my work ethic. I’m an upperclassman now and the pressure is there to play the role of a leader and go hard every play so we show the freshmen how things are supposed to be. I’ve been doing that and I think that is what Coach was talking about.
I think the casual fan would say there is a lot of pressure on you, both to lead the team and fill some of what Jared did. Is that fair to say?
From the outside looking in it might look like more pressure, but that’s not how I see it. There is an opportunity for me and for the team but I don’t see that as pressure but as a challenge. It’s an opportunity, really. I am going to have more freedom on offense and that will present an opportunity to play the way I think I can play. So, it’s not pressure, it is an opportunity.
Last year so much of your offense was about Jared, what is it going to look like this year?
It is going to look a lot different. We are capable of having a different leading scorer every night. Angus (Brandt), Ahmad (Starks), Devon (Collier) and Eric (Moreland) are all offensively a lot better than they were last year. Everyone has the kind of game now where they could be our leading scorer in some games. I think also we are going to more of an inside-out type of team this year. Devon looks really good and really worked on his post game. Angus’ post game is good and we have Eric too. So we are going to be an inside-out kind of team for sure.
You have any personal goals, like points per game you want to average or minutes played?
I don’t really have any goals like that and I think as a team we aren’t about setting big goals anymore. In previous years we set big goals like making the NCAA Tournament, but I think we got a little ahead of ourselves. Now we have small goals we are trying to achieve that will lead to something bigger, like playing harder each night. I think that’s the way it should be.
Maybe this is a strange question, but can you guys draw inspiration from Oregon State’s football program?
For sure. We are kinda in the same spot as the football team to start the year. They weren’t picked to win many games but they have surprised people, shown they are better than people thought. Also, having the football team winning makes Beaver Nation much more excited about other sports. Football starts everything off.
What Oregon State player is going to surprise people this year?
I’ll give you two. The first is Angus. His confidence level is really high, and confidence for him is a big thing. When he is confident he plays well. He is making shots now, inside and out. That guy can shoot it. He can score around rim. He’s just playing really well. The freshman I would mention is Jarmal Reid. He is doing really well right now. He has adapted to the college game really quickly and he’s a small forward who is strong and can finish at rim. In practice, he goes down and battles Joe (Burton) inside and if you can battle with Joe as a freshman that’s a good sign.
People who read Play Their Hearts Out will want to know how your dad is doing and how your relationship is. Can you give us an update?
We have that father-son relationship and it is still really strong. I call him all the time and get his opinion. His opinion is still important to me, not just from the standpoint of a father but as a coach who knows my game. He is going to try and get up here (from Santa Barbara) for as many games as possible. To be honest, it is just going to come down to what we can afford. If I win the lottery tomorrow, then he is going to be up here for every game. Right now though the plan is for him to come up here for a stretch where he can see like five games. Then he’ll see me when we go to L.A. and to the Bay (Area). As far as how he is doing, he’s coaching again, working with some kids and that he loves that. I know how my dad is. He can’t stay away from basketball. It is a blessing for him to be able to coach again and help kids. That’s what he wants to do and he’s good at it.
Last two questions: How is school and how is your golf game?
I’m on track to graduate this spring and then I will apply to graduate school here, maybe something to do with video production and photography, which I really love. My golf game is not good. I didn’t play all summer. I went to the driving range and while I would not say my swing is ugly, it is not where it used to be.