Q&A with Mount St. Mary's coach Jamion Christian

(Nicole Sweet-USA TODAY…)
August 01, 2013|By Matt Bracken | The Baltimore Sun

Mount St. Mary’s was a bit of an unknown heading into the 2012-13 season, but that won't be the case this winter. Fresh off an 18-14 campaign that included a run to the Northeast Conference championship game, Jamion Christian’s second Mount team appears primed for a big year.

The Mountaineers return their top five scorers in senior guard Sam Prescott, senior guard Rashad Whack, senior guard Julian Norfleet, sophomore guard Shivaughn Wiggins and senior forward Kristijan Krajina. Junior forward Aaron Brown, sophomore center Taylor Danaher, sophomore forward Gregory Graves and redshirt freshman forward Melvin Gregory also return to the Mount.

Four players transferred after last season – Josh Castellanos (who graduated and will play at Gardner Webb), Christian Crockett, Xavier Owens and Kelvin Parker – but Christian has brought in five newcomers to take their places: Byron Ashe, a 6-foot guard from D.C.; Charles Glover, a 6-foot-1 guard from Bowie; Will Miller, a 6-foot-6 forward from Dallas; Khalid Nwandu, a 6-foot-3 guard from York, Pa.; and Chris Martin, a 6-foot junior guard transfer from Marshall.

Christian spoke to The Sun this week about his veterans, newcomers and more heading into the 2013-14 season.

How much different has this offseason been for you compared to last year, when you had just landed the job?

I think the most important thing is guys understand what I value on a daily basis. That makes it a lot easier to coach certain things. Guys understand how we like to practice and what makes me tick, what makes me upset. Because of that, it’s not as many daily battles. It’s much easier to get the chance to help mentor them and coach basketball.

You’re returning your top five scorers and have four seniors on this roster. What have you seen this summer from that core group of returners?

Well, it’s kind of interesting. Sam Prescott has been out for the duration of the summer. He’s recovering from an injury. So is Rashad Whack. So those guys have been out, and our workouts haven’t looked the same without their explosive scoring. But it has allowed Julian [Norfleet] to really step into a leadership role on our team. He’s done an outstanding job. He’s always been a hard worker, and that’s been true this summer as well. Our guys understand now that we’ve been able to have the success we had a year ago not just because of how we play the game, but really because of how hard we practice as well. They’ve done a great job of that.

What have you seen and heard from Wiggins and Krajina this summer?

Shivaughn, his bench is up 25 pounds from the beginning of summer. He continues to get stronger. His vertical leap is probably up three inches as well. I think he’s become a better athlete. It’s exciting. He’s a guy who can dominate the game on the defensive end because of how he can pressure the ball. He’s really concentrating on just getting stronger and maintaining his fitness throughout the course of the year. He’s done a good job of that. He’s also working on his outside shooting, which has been a real improvement from last year. He’s had a very good summer.

Kristijan Krajina, first of all, is probably the most enthusiastic guy we’ve had. We’ve really worked to give him a more versatile arsenal and really talked to him about the mental side of things. He has a chance to play overseas. Being from Croatia, he’ll probably play 10, 15 years after graduating from here. It’s just mainly giving him the mindset to help him understand that a year from now, he’ll be playing for another team and doing things that are going to be completely different. We’re doing everything we can to prepare him for that after graduation.

Will Prescott and Whack be back for the start of the season?

I definitely expect them back – Prescott in a couple weeks and Rashad back in September. This summer has been all about how we play in practice, and really giving [other players] a chance to understand how to do those things. Obviously with them on the floor, they’re great competitors and talented players that are fun to be around on a daily basis. But we’ve got some young kids here, like Khalid Nwandu from York and Charles Glover from Bowie and Byron Ashe from D.C. and Will Miller from Texas and Chris Martin, who transferred here from Marshall. Without [Prescott and Whack], it’s allowed younger players to get more repetitions. They’ve been able to get a lot more confidence and learn the game at a faster rate than if they were sitting behind those guys. I think it will really help our team to be much stronger. We like to play 10 or 11 guys. Now they’ll get the chance to get an opportunity and really help us. They’re much further along than they would have been with Whack and Prescott healthy.

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