Rasean Simpson from San Diego. He’s 6-6, he’s a wing player, really athletic, can shoot the ball. With DeWayne and Hubb playing the wings, he’ll be able to help us, but those guys will be the main focus.
You were hoping last year to have Anthony Hubbard, but after his short stay at Iowa, the NCAA made him sit out. What have you seen from him so far?
He’s a man. He’s a grown man. And he played like it. It was good to see him. That [Bahamas] trip was good for us in that guys that needed to play got more minutes. He was one of those guys, being able to get on the floor with those guys. We’ll need him a lot to provide scoring, provide leadership, defense, rebounding. He really, really rebounds the ball well. That’s the thing he did a great job of in the Bahamas. He’s a tremendous offensive rebounder, and he really pushed the ball in transition. He can play multiple positions; he can play the 1 through 4 and provide the same effectiveness.
We talked last year about how 2011-12 could be your most talented team, but that obviously didn’t work out. You also had to face those accusations from South Carolina State and deal with the suspension before being cleared. Overall last year, what went wrong?
Well, I’m just going to say it wasn’t a good year. Clearly, that thing in South Carolina was a distraction. Clearly, the way it was handled by both South Carolina State and the administration at Morgan wasn’t the right way. So clearly that was the case. It would have been better and fairer for them to come out and admit that they were wrong, that they shouldn’t have done that. Jumping to conclusions like that is never the right thing to do. You should always get the information first before you make a decision. That’s the lesson learned. Obviously in my experience and the program’s experience, I’m not saying that was the cause [of the losing season], but you take away the leader, and a lot of times you never know what will happen. But it happened. It’s part of the past, and it’s never going to change now. I just want to go from here and keep it moving.
You lost Bastfield, Thompson, Brooks and Ali to graduation and are bringing in a bunch of newcomers. What are some of the main differences between this team and last year’s squad?
Well, I think that we’ll be faster and quicker. You can always see that. I think we have good chemistry. All those things are important. This group is together. It was a good bonding experience there. We went snorkeling in the Bahamas. Everybody got in the water – guys who can’t even swim. It was a great time. It’s a different group. I’m excited and encouraged by that. Clearly, last year was a tough year for me – the toughest year I’ve ever had as a coach. I think this team is definitely different. You’ll see some different things.
How many games did you play in the Bahamas, and what kind of teams did you play?
We played three games against different teams that play in the Bahamian league there. They were men we played against, and anytime you play against men, it’s always a different factor there. But they were talented teams. I don’t think the competition was … it wasn’t great. So for us to put a team together and just have 10 days of practice, that was good for us, to be able to get on the floor. We won the games by a substantial amount, but that wasn’t important to me. It was important for us to be able to play, tinker with the offensive systems a little bit, run the offense and get in the flow a little differently. We were able to get tape on that and be able to have guys execute. You really don’t get that a lot. In practice, guys know what you’re doing. Playing [actual games] and getting in the flow, all that is kind of important.
Who really stood out to you in the Bahamas?
Well, I think Justin Black did well. And again, he was another guy who had a broken ankle last year. I thought Justin, at the time, was playing really hard and really was putting himself in position to be a really solid contributor last year. You factor [his injury] in as well, though you didn’t hear me talk about it. I didn’t want to make excuses. But he did well there.
Thair Heath, he played last year but he was injured a lot. He came to us and he wasn’t 100 percent. He got his knee really strong now. He was a big surprise over there in the Bahamas. He plays really hard. But it was good for him to get minutes over there, get up and down the floor. He played two games two days in a row, and he was fine. We worked him and are counting on him a lot this year as well. He plays really hard.