AU 2016-17 Media Day Quotes: Charlie Jones, Jalen Rhea

Selected quotes from seniors Charlie Jones and Jalen Rhea in advance of American's season-opener at Maryland. 

CHARLIE JONES

On Matt Cimino’s eligibility?
"It’s definitely exciting, Matt’s been working hard all preseason.  It’s a little bit of a different situation for him, not knowing if he can play, but he’s kept his head down, been working really hard and coming along really nicely - and he’ll definitely be able to help us out this year."

What did you improve the most during the offseason?
"My shot’s more consistent, I’m more confident with it this year. Hopefully I’ll just be able to step in, and if the shot’s open, take it, knowing that I’ve put in the work to make some shots; also, making plays with my right hand, finishing a little better.  Still can get better in both those areas, but definitely feel more comfortable and confident." 

How’s the three looking this year?
"Good.  I mean, there are some days when it’s not feeling as good. But the days where it’s going in over and over again are more and more than they have been in the past."

On his offseason conditioning and what he worked on?
"I went back out with my trainer who I’ve known for several years from my time in Baltimore out in California - was out there for a few weeks. And I did a lot of conditioning/strength stuff with him as I do every summer. But also, every summer I do focus on my game a lot, and making sure I can make more shots, be more of a force on offense, (so) that teams have to respect me on my home court so I can make the game easier for my teammates."   

Quick thoughts about the Maryland matchup?
"No, just excited for the atmosphere.  Sure, we’ll probably get a lot of hate from the students, but I have a lot of people who actually care about the game that’s going on."

Big home town crew coming?
"I’ve got a lot of family coming. I’ve got a lot of friends who go to Maryland, so they’ll probably be in the stands.  They’ll probably bring up some old dirt on me. We’ll see what they come up with." 

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JALEN RHEA

Thoughts on the NCAA’s ruling on Matt Cimino’s eligibility?
"I’m excited honestly.  I like Matt as a guy and the skills he brings to our team are going to be very important for us to win this year, honestly. He can shoot from the outside, his post moves are getting better by the day. And he’s doing what coach is asking him to do in the post, and he can see and pass.  So he’s gonna help us out a lot this year and hopefully get me a couple threes open too."

What part of your game, whether it was conditioning or technical aspects of your game, do you think you’ve most improved on?
"The most improvement for me was probably my conditioning.  I used to get winded a lot last year, which is part of the reason why I don’t think I played a ton. But conditioning was a big thing and I worked on my handling a little bit this offseason. And then, honestly, the biggest thing for me was confidence, and now seeing the offense for four years, I’m able to help the younger guys know what they’re doing and on top of that helps me know what I’m doing. So I would say just knowing what i’m doing is the biggest thing for me.  

 

I noticed that Pete Carril is here, the godfather of the Princeton offense.  Does he typically come for practices?
"Yeah, he usually comes once a year for a couple of days span, at least for the past two years he’s been here for a couple of days … just kind of doing what he does, just telling people Princeton tricks and tips and stuff. I’m sure he knows what he’s talking about. He wrote a book and my dad actually bought it for me and I read it my sophomore year. That dude definitely knows what he’s talking about and he understands the translation from basketball to life, so I really admire him."

First game’s coming up Friday night.  Butterflies?  Are you excited?  
"I’m excited. I really am. Honestly this is my last go-around and Maryland’s an enormous game. It’ll be a crazy atmosphere and I just can’t wait. I’m excited, nervous a little bit since it’s the first game of the season. But for the most part I’m excited just to be in that environment especially with these guys who I’m getting really really close to now." 

This being your last year, what’s the most desired outcome as the year plays out?
"Early season I just want to see the younger guys pick up because I know how talented they are with Sa’eed and Mark. I just want to see them do well. And then I want to see us compete non-conference. And once conference time comes I want to handle our business and hopefully I can get a second (Patriot League) ring before I head out of here."

AU 2016-17 Media Day: Mike Brennan quotes

Selected quotes from our conversation with American head coach Mike Brennan at AU's media day.

ON EXPECTATIONS
“I don’t think about expectations, to be honest. I like the group, though. They’re working at a high level. Basically every single guy on the team from Delante Jones who everyone knows about to Kevin Brown who nobody knows about, they’re all just basically working at the same level. So our practices — you couldn’t ask for better practices, I don’t think. You can’t ask for much more at this point of the season. That’s why I’m anxious sort of — I’m not anxious to go play Maryland but I’m anxious to get on the court against some other people, see where we’ve got to go next.”

WHAT’S HE LEARNED AS A HEAD COACH
“I’m lucky that we had success early on because I was able to get an extension. And I think that allowed me to do what I did last year which is suffer through the growing pains as opposed to not sticking with the plan and trying to maybe eke out a few more wins here and there and sort of change what you think is best for the team long range. So I had the luxury of doing that. But I’m glad I did it, because they got over the hump and they finished up strong and I think it put us in a good position for this year.”

Brennan said he has a better understanding of the timing of an entire season, what to prioritize. As a first-year guy “I was worried about everything.”

WHAT HE LEARNED LAST YEAR
“Well, I learned the resilience of the group. Believe in young guys. Normally when you have an older group it’s good and you’re trying to get some freshmen in there and they hit the wall naturally. They’re sort of done. I realized that the freshmen can bounce back from that and finish up strong. They’re not necessarily done in the first week of January or second week. They can bounce back. I think that all of our freshmen did that last year and they impressed me.”

HOW DOES PLAYERS’ EXPERIENCE LAST YEAR HELP NOW?
“I think they realize that all the little things we say here on a daily basis in September and October when you’re not winning and losing and everything’s great — they realize the importance of those little things. They know that there’s a difference between winning and losing. So now you have freshmen coming in who don’t necessarily understand that — it’s being sort of emphasized by the guys who’ve been (here).”

ON DELANTE AND EXPECTATIONS  
“Just letting him know it’s gonna be hard, it’s gonna be way harder than last year. Everyone was keying on Jesse (Reed) and they didn’t know who Delante was. So now they do obviously. So just stressing to him that it’s gonna be a difficult year and obviously (for him) to continue to expand his game, score points for us, that’s why everyone says first team (Patriot League) or whatever he is because he scores points. So we just don’t want him to be a one-dimensional player. You gotta get other guys to help you be good.”

ON JAMES’ ROLE WITH SA’EED HERE
“Sa’eed will help James. James — a lot was thrown on his plate last year, too. He struggled. He felt a little down. One, it’s normal to struggle as a freshman sometimes. And two, I think Sa’eed will sort of ease the burden on him a little bit and maybe open things up, make things a little easier because they can definitely play together. … I think he had a great freshman year.”

EXPANDED ROLE FOR LONNIE?
“I wish I was able to get him more minutes last year, and I tell him that all the time. It was just a numbers game. I expect just as much from him as Delante and James and Andrija (Matic). He was around all summer, got back and worked his tail off. He’s had a really good preseason so far. So I’m excited about his progress and he’ll get a lot more opportunity this year for sure.”

BIGGEST AREAS OF GROWTH FOR LONNIE. SHOOTING?
“Yeah, sort of just keep it simple offensively. He really worked on his shooting. (To) be able to make an open shot, make good decisions. He is versatile, so he can sort of do a bit of everything OK. So we’re gonna try to get him to do something well and just build from there. But I think his defense — he’s able to guard perimeter guys and big guys. I’m curious to see it to be honest with you.”

HOW WILL ANDRIJA’S ROLE CHANGE PLAYING THE 4?
“It won’t be so much pressure on him to touch the ball constantly and have to make decisions and it’ll help us be bigger. I think that’s sort of been a problem that we’ve had — personnel, style of play. I’m excited about that, too. It’s different for him so he’s gonna go through some growing pains."

“He’ll be like a bigger 4 — I guess it’s been Charlie. Charlie’s been our big forward. We’ll actually have a big, big forward.”

ON GASPERINI PLAYING THE 5
“Right now he’s the guy. If he can stay out of foul trouble, he’s gonna be out there a lot. Again, I like all that I see. He’s obviously a freshman so he’s gonna be falling down and missing shots and making mistakes and throwing the ball all over the place, but having said that, I like all the tools that he has, I like his work ethic, I think he’s gonna be good.”

DO YOU HAVE A STARTING LINEUP YET?
“Not yet.”

AU 2016-17 Media Day: Delante Jones and James Washington quotes

Here are selected quotes from speaking with American sophomore and preseason Patriot League first-teamer Delante Jones and sophomore James Washington:

Delante Jones

ON PLAYING ON THE BEST TEAM IN DC's KENNER LEAGUE (a team that included Villanova’s preseason All-American Josh Hart, among others)
“It was good to play with them and play a different role because I wasn’t shooting. I learned a lot, worked on my game.”

BIGGEST TAKEAWAYS FROM LAST SEASON
“The first thing I tried to focus on this summer was my body, being in shape, stuff like that. I didn’t think I was in shape at all (last year).”

“I got a lot stronger. I gained probably 15 pounds.”

ON DEALING WITH PRESEASON EXPECTATIONS
“It’s gonna be hard. It’s definitely gonna be a whole new experience. … I’m as ready as I can be I guess but I guess you don’t figure out until you play.”

ON BECOMING A BETTER PASSER
“Yeah I’m gonna have to be able to do that because it’s just gonna be turnovers (if not) — you can’t just play through so many people. You’ve gotta be able to find your teammates. And I haven’t been that good at it. Even in practice in the beginning. Now I’m still working on it. In the beginning it was so terrible. It became apparent. … That’s been a huge focus. Probably No. 1 after conditioning.”

ON LEARNING TO GET TO FT LINE LAST YEAR
“It’s just a process of figuring out how to make my game effective in college. I think toward the end of the year I kind of had a similar game to how I played in high school – I was going to the basket, getting fouled, I could always make the 3. But in college it was just easier once I figured out how to shoot. It was just people were getting me open so I could make shots and it was way harder to get to the basket, and go up with contact and all that especially when you’re tired. So it just took a long time for me to be able to do that.”

FUN FACTS
Favorite food: “I could have salmon every day”
Movie: Takers
Athlete: “Definitely LeBron”
Music artist: YG the rapper

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James Washington

ON CHEMISTRY WITH SOPHOMORES
“I feel like it’s really great because first off, off the court, building relationships just being around them all the time. We all came in together and we stuck together last year and for us to stay together throughout the year is also really good for the chemistry and for the team. But on the court it’s better too because we can kind of play off each other and see where our game is at and just kind of like get a good sense of how we all play together and how we can make each other better.”

ON BIGGEST TAKEAWAYS FROM LAST YEAR
“First off just being mature, the maturity. Coach emphasized that a lot, being able to handle that and being ready first of all for the games because in conference it’s hard. But really it was really good because -- what I’m really taking away from it is that no matter where you start, it’s always where you finish. We started off 0-6 in conference and we played ourselves into a bye and we beat the No. 3 team. So it says a lot. I feel like really it’s to keep getting better because all throughout the year last year we were just trying to figure out our strengths and how can we start winning and how we can get the most out of the season. And as we kept playing and playing and playing -- the more we played -- we started to figure it out and we just kept coming with that same intensity, we just started playing better and better. We didn’t finish the season how we wanted to, but it’s good we responded to how we were playing throughout the year.

“Delante stepped up a lot, and it made all of us pick up off of what he was doing and make us play better together as well. We’re basically just playing off each other and picking up what the others do.”

 

WHAT WERE THE BIGGEST SKILLS YOU WANTED TO WORK ON DURING THE SUMMER?
“My ballhandling first off all because a lot of teams pressure. My shot -- I needed to get my shot more consistent. And really just getting stronger, too. And on defense -- although defense is effort, it’s still something I really was trying to work on during the summer a lot and as well as trying to get stronger.”

Gained 10 pounds of muscle “being down here helped me out a lot”

WHAT DO YOU SEE AS YOUR ROLE THIS YEAR?
“I mean really in our offense everybody -- we’re all moving, we’re all gonna have the chance to handle the ball. So really it’s good because me, (Sa’eed) and Delante, we all can handle the ball a little bit. So that’s good that we have another ballhandler, a person like him that can see the floor and create for others. … really it’s just whoever gets it (in practice).”

IF YOU WERE TO LABEL YOURSELF, MORE SG OR PG?
“Probably just a combo.”

FUN QUESTIONS
Favorite food: Pasta, macaroni, spaghetti
Favorite movie: Inception
Favorite athlete: Michael Phelps
Favorite music artist: Roy Woods
1 country to visit: Italy