When you talk about seniors, Ryan Cook is another young man who I would say is a success story in and of itself. Ryan came to us as a walk-on, has done a really good job and earned a scholarship. So he was our second-leading scorer on the team last year at 12.6 points a game, which is quite impressive. He’s really one of our best athletes. He’s terrific at having what I consider to be [a short-term] memory playing this game. If he makes a mistake, it doesn’t devastate him. He’ll realize it, and then try to make up for it on the other end by playing hard and with effort. So I really think he’ll have a good year as a senior.
Brian Neller, who was our third-leading scorer on the team, I think he can have another good year for us. I think he’s one of the best shooters in the conference. The expectation of Brian last year will be the same this year. He’ll do whatever we need him to do, and that’s shoot the ball, but take better shots – knowing when he has a good shot, and knowing when he doesn’t have a good shot and passing it. [We’ll need him to] use screens effectively and just be able to knock down those shots. If he can do that and defend, he’s really going to make a major contribution to the program by doing those things.
You're bringing your top player back in Chase Plummer. What do you expect from him as a junior?
Chase, without question, did a terrific job as a sophomore. I had envisioned Chase doing what he did last year this year, as a junior. So to me, he’s ahead of schedule. I think there’s no question that he can be one of the premier players in the America East Conference, but he’s had some very big non-league games for us. He’s a gamer. He understands what it takes to play in big games. I think that he’s had a phenomenal career at UMBC. He certainly proved that this past year, averaging close to 17 points a game and seven rebounds a game. I just think that’s terrific. Of course, Coach Monroe would take that as a junior, those same numbers. That would be great. If he does better than that, it’s icing on the cake.
I’ve never been great for saying how many points a player can average. I just don’t know that off the top of my head. I certainly didn’t tell him I expected him to averaged 17 points a game, but we set a goal for him to be a double-figure scorer and a double-figure rebounder. I think he superseded those expectations last year. He’s one of our captains, and I think he’s done a tremendous job filling that role for us. We’re definitely excited for him and we feel that he can have another outstanding year as a junior.
Which players really took advantage of offseason practices?
Well I think a lot [of players]. You can go down the line with that. But I just think obviously, the two freshmen that were here, because we didn’t have the whole team on campus. The two freshmen, obviously, were here. And Brett Roseboro. Those guys did a really good job of working together and playing against each other. And really, there are times they just went out on their own and just got shots up and really practiced. I was impressed with all three of those guys that were here. Of course, Will Wise was another young man who caught my eye. I would say he was here the early part of the summer. I was really extremely impressed with the improvement and progress that he made when he was here for the first half of the summer.
Obviously last season started out rough with Chris de la Rosa leaving the team. What else went wrong?
I think when you lose a young man like Chris, that’s 17 points a game and an all-conference player. You’re losing a great deal of experience, and then Joey Getz goes down with an injury and Jarrel Lane goes down with an injury. That kind of sets you back a bit because those guys are contributing. It’s time for other players to step up and show. I look at it as an opportunity for you to show what you can do. I think what happened with the guard position kind of hurt us a bit.