Brennan praises player development in annual Chalk Talk
The AU Men’s basketball team held their annual open practice featuring an interview with head coach Mike Brennan and open questions from the audience
AU men’s basketball coach Mike Brennan spoke to parents, students and fans at the team’s fifth annual “Chalk Talk and Open Practice” on Saturday, the first opportunity to see the 2016-2017 team.
If there’s one thing that Brennan made clear when addressing the crowd inside Bender Arena, it's that he has placed player development over winning.
“Their progress and development is more important than immediate wins and losses,” Brennan said during the Chalk Talk of last year’s team, which lost 15 of its first 17 games. “Even though we were losing and losing, we kept getting better and better.”
More specifically, it was the team’s freshman last year, Delante Jones, James Washington, Andrija Matic and Lonnie Rivera, who now as sophomores have a year of experience under their belts moving forward and can lead the team.
“They were thrown into the fire last year,” Brennan said about his sophomore class. “They played a ton of minutes last year which is rare, nevermind playing a bunch together. We did that on purpose to get them the experience they needed.”
This year’s freshman class could be in for a similar ride. The class is composed of just two players, point guard Sa’eed Nelson and forward Mark Gasperini, but both are expected to be serious contributors.
“They’re gonna play and they’re gonna play a lot,” Brennan said of the two freshman. “I’m not afraid to play freshman and I like what they’ve shown so far.”
While the development of his younger players has been crucial, Brennan credited his seniors, Charlie Jones, Jalen Rhea and Leon Tolksdorf for creating an atmosphere of hard work and dedication.
“Our seniors have separated themselves and done a terrific job,” Brennan said about his team's preseason thus far. “Our younger guys have sort of followed as much as they can and maintain high levels.”
Brennan also addressed the team's non-conference schedule during the talk, which opens with two tough games against Sweet 16 teams from last year’s NCAA Tournament in Maryland and Texas A&M.
“It always seems great in June and July, not so much in October,” Brennan said. “You want to compete against the best teams in the country playing in those big arenas. It’s a great environment to play in and it’s a great learning experience. They let you know what you need to work on, you learn from it, and you try not to be the same team.”
For this year’s non-conference schedule, the Eagles have six home games compared to just five in the last two years combined, a nice change of scenery for a team that often plays away games.
“It felt like we were always on the road the last two seasons,” Brennan said, “That’s not necessarily a bad thing for building a program, but it certainly is nice to have much more home games.”
Brennan ended the talk by discussing the rest of the Patriot League. He cited how teams like Lehigh and Boston that are led by upperclassmen will be tough to beat.
“There is much more competition,” Brennan said. “The difference from the best team to the worst team is very minute.”