Photo credit: Seattle Times – Dean Rutz
In Part II of the Matthew Bryan-Amaning interview, the Washington senior center (above, left) dishes on his experience this summer playing for the Great Britain national team and the experience he gained despite a lack of playing time.
The Brits posted a 6-2 record in the EuroBasket 2011 qualifying games, while Bryan-Amaning averaged 1.0 points adn 1.5 rebounds in four games. He played just nine minutes.
Bryan-Amaning also came clean – sort of – on the reason behind last season’s personal resurgence. He said coach Lorenzo Romar (above, right) challenged him to improve and admitted he felt Romar had lost confidence in him. Confidence is a vital and sometimes elusive commodity for Bryan-Amaning. When he has it, he has the potential of being one of the top players in the Pac-10.
(What do you want to accomplish team-wise this season and what goals do you have for yourself?)
“Team wise just going as far as we can go. We’re starting to gel already. You can see it in open gym and in our individual (workouts). Everything is starting to fall into place and if we gel like this early, we should be good later on when the games start. Personally, I just want whatever this team needs me to do to win honestly. I don’t know what other people are thinking, but I know some of those guys are thinking I need to have a big year. Obviously I was like the third leading (scorer ) on the team last year and with Quincy (Pondexter) leaving they want me to step up in scoring and rebounding. But personally I just want to win games. The more exposure the team gets, the more exposure I get.”
(Do you think about the next level?) “Obviously it’s there, but I’m not worried about it. It’s in the back of my mind. To be honest, we know that if this team doesn’t go anywhere, they’re not going to look at you pretty much. They’ll look at you obviously, but they want winners at the next level. They want guys who make winning their tradition and are a part of winning everywhere they go. So as long as we win games, I’m pretty sure that will take care of itself.”
(You watched Jon Brockman and Pondexter have fantastic senior seasons, do you think about that much as you being your last go-around?) “I don’t think those guys really focused on the other guys before them like they had to follow in their footsteps. I think it was more of they wanted their senior year to be a certain way so they knew that they had to put in the time and effort. And if they didn’t do it, it wouldn’t happen. That’s what you really concentrate on. I’ve been living at the gym – you can ask everybody – since I’ve been back. The first few days, I was jet lagged and tired from having playing so much. But after a few days rest, I was in the gym 24/7.”
(Did you lose weight?) “Yes. I was at 240. I lost about 15 pounds. I’m back up to about 233-234.”
(Did you want to lose weight?) “It happened just because I was basically in another season. For the last six weeks when I was home (in England) we were going like twice a day. We had an hour of shootaround on game days. We’d have a full practice on traveling days.”
(What did going back home and playing for the British national team do for you?) “Obviously I didn’t play as much as I would like and people probably seen that and probably thought I was doing something wrong, but they wanted to play me at the 4 and the 3 and I’m sitting behind two NBA players (Luol Deng and Pops Mensah-Bonsu). So there’s not much I could really do about that. They were averaging 38 minutes a game. Going up against them everyday in practice was just an experience. At the same time when I wasn’t playing, both of those guys were telling me it’s just one man’s opinion. Don’t get your head down. Don’t let it bother you. It’s just one man’s opinion. If he doesn’t want to play just think about how many guys and how many pros are out there and you’re on this team. Just keep your head up. We know everything we’ve done and been doing all summer is going to pay off.”
(And you were on a team that won a lot of games so that has to help.) “Definitely. The Great Britain team, everyone tries to count us out. We haven’t been running as a basketball program that long and they try to set us up pretty much for failure, but we just keep trying to fight back and keep winning.”
(How important is it to make the British team that competes in the 2012 Olympics in England?) “Obviously the Olympics is something everybody dreams of playing, but at the same time I’m trying to focus on myself as well. Obviously what’s going on right now, I’m focusing on myself and trying to have a great year and continue my basketball career past college. And if that means playing pro over here that may mean I won’t be able to play next summer with everything that would be going on. But definitely I hope they (the British national team) want me to come back.”
(Can you believe it’s been four years at Washington?) “It’s ridiculous. I know they say time flies, but it really does fly. I remember the first day I met Darnell (Gant) the first day on campus. He was my roommate that summer. I can remember that as clear as anything. Me being in my last year, it’s my last go-around your last time playing and being around the guys, it just feels weird.”
(Everything you do this season, it will be the last time?) “Definitely. Like the mile. It’s the last time I’ll run the mile.”
(And how did you do?) “Fine. The whole team made it. Everybody that ran it.”
(Has that every happened before?) “I don’t think so.”
(Last topic and let’s get into it. What changed for you last year? You repeated over and over that you weren’t doing anything different and your shot was just falling. But it had to be more than that so what was it?) “Coach got into me some time in the season about just everything. About what’s going on up here [pointing to his head]. About basketball and just my whole life. He was like I need to pick it up pretty much. I don’t know. When I was at South Kent (prep school), I guess Coach Chill (Raphael Chillious) has always shown me that he had trust in me and believed in me that I could do it. I might not get it done straight away, but I’ll get it done. And coming here, I guess, I don’t know, it’s all around you. You hear people talking about this and that. And if you even try not to look at it, people are sending it you. It’s not like I’m able to speak to my mom every day or I’m able to speak to my brother every day or I’m able to speak to friends and family that I grew up with every day. It was kind of just bearing down more and more and I was by myself. It felt like – not saying on his part that it was anything bad that he did – it just felt like he (Romar) lost trust in me. I know that he wanted more then what I was giving him. I kind of just put it on myself that I need to get out of this. I need to do this. I know I’m ready. Everybody else knows I’m ready. I just got to do it. Every since then, as coach says one games rolls into two. And two games rolls into three. And then towards the end of the season, the last month or two months it just started falling into place.”
(It was an amazing turnaround.) “I was just thinking I got to do this for myself, my family, my teammates. Obviously we love the fans and everything they do, but first and foremost, I got to take care of myself. And just coming with that type of mentality that I can do it, I know I can do it and I shouldn’t have any kind of doubts creeping into my head. Hearing people talking about this guy and that guy and your teammates are like you know you’re better than these guys. Hearing that sort of stuff it’s like, it hits you.”
(I hate to keep harping on this, but what changed?) “Confidence I guess. That’s about the only way I can explain it.”