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Husky Men's Basketball

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November 6, 2013 at 12:32 PM

Fifteen minutes with CWU coach Greg Sparling

Greg SparlingHad a chance to talk to Central Washington coach Greg Sparling before the Division II Wildcats face Washington 7 p.m. Wednesday in an exhibition at Alaska Airlines Arena.

Here’s a transcript of the interview.

(After your exhibition with last week Washington State coach Ken Bone noted the disparity in practice times between CWU and WSU before the game. He expects the Wildcats will play much better in the future.) “That’s dead on. With the new NCAA rules of 45 days to practice and we were on practice 14 and that really showed. We’re probably not going to win that game, but if we had equal amount of practices I think the score would have been a little bit closer. I’m not saying we’d go in and win it, but if you look at the SPU-Stanford game, if you look at the Anchorage-BYU game, there’s a big difference in the amount of practices. We’re just feeling our way along. We’re going to get better.”

(What are the Division II practice rules?) “We started (Oct. 15). We have to give them one day off a week and we were on practice 14 going into that game. I’m not sure on the complete Division I rule, but they’re allowed to start a lot earlier. They have a 45-day rule. And the other thing is and I’m not making excuses, but a lot of them will stay around during the summer. We don’t have the resources to keep our guys around for the summer. A lot of those guys are probably working out and doing stuff with their team during the summer. But I think we’re going to get better. The Cougs are going to get better. I wish we played under last year’s rules where we start on the 15th and they start on the 15th and it would have been a little bit closer. Still with their size and their talent, the score would have probably been in their favor.”

(Quick summary of the Wildcats) “We got some returners, but we also got a lot of new faces. Obviously we have Mark McLaughlin who was an all-conference player and was picked first team preseason with the GNAC. He’s playing well right now. I think a lot of people are going to be keying on him throughout the year. We all know he can score and we know he can pass. Now he has put a complete game together. Kevin Davis is a going to be eligible for a full year. Last year we had him for a half of a year and it really showed. I think Kevin is finally maturing and we expect huge things out of him. It’s his senior season. I think he understands that because after he gets done – like a lot of players – he has aspirations of playing overseas. We got Joey Roppo back a guy that played limited minutes out of Monroe for us. We got a lot of new faces. The Tacoma Community College guys Josh Lord and Julian Vaughn. Out of Walla Walla, you got Dylan Radliff. His father played here in the ’80s. We also have some freshman Terry Dawn from Arlington who I think is going to be very good as time rolls on. Our three freshman we threw into the fire into a Pac-12 game. It’s a little different than playing a high school game. They’re getting better. We got a kid Jalen Peake from over here in West Valley Yakima that we like. He’s a freshman. I think he’s going to get better as time goes on. Then we got Mark Rodgers a kid out of California, a prep school, that I think is going to be good as he matures and gets caught up to the speed of the game.”

(Most preseason polls have you guys in the middle of the pack. Is that right?) “I think it’s going to be anybody. SPU has the most guys back. They got David Downs. They got the Simon kid that transferred from WSU. They got a really good mixture. They got the Stockton kid who I really like. I think he’s underrated for SPU. You got Western who has a bunch of guys back and also Anchorage who has the three-headed monster at guards. I always say this – but more than ever this year – with all the travel in the GNAC and the talent, I think it will come down to the last week. I truly think it’s going to be a war up top.”

(How have you developed a pipeline from Tacoma Community College?) “I think it goes back to Carl Howell, a former Central guy. He’s over there. He really helped us get a lot of Tacoma kids. We try to get into Seattle. Eventually, hopefully we want to get more high-school kids where we can develop them over the four-year period or the five-year period. But with our resources right now, we got to go with a lot of the junior-college players and transfer kids.”

(What do you hope to gain from games against Washington and Washington State?) “We really want them to expose our weakness. They’ll get us ready for this tough GNAC schedule. Like it’s no hidden secret WSU absolutely kicked our tails on the boards. So this whole week we’ve been working on the boards. We just want to take a step and get better in that direction. I think we held them to 50 percent shooting. I thought that was pretty good. You take the second-chance points out of there and that shooting percentage drops quite a bit. We just need to slow down a little bit on the offensive end. People are trying to do too much. We need to work together. We had good shots when we worked the ball the around, but a lot of them didn’t fall. Maybe that’s being on the big stage.”

(Do you remember when Seattle Pacific went to Arizona a few years ago and beat the Wildcats?) “Yup. That was great for SPU. That was great for our conference. I’m serious. You hate to say it and maybe people don’t think the same way I do, but when our conference gets an opportunity to play up, for that night and for those two hours I’m a fan of the GNAC and of whoever is battling.”

(Does that win still resonate?) “People still talk about it a little bit, but I think everybody is moving forward. I’m sure SPU talks about it in their recruiting visits and their recruiting material and stuff like that. But I think if you ask coach (Ryan) Looney it’s a new year and they got to get ready for their next opponent whoever it might be.”

(Obviously I ask because you have the same opportunity Wednesday night. Do you bring that up with your guys?) “Yeah we told them about it. They all know about it. It was a day that SPU kind of shocked the basketball world. We’re all human. Anything can happen. We’ve seen plenty of basketball games. We’ve all been in a lot of games. We’re going to go out and give them our best shot. If shots fall and we rebound like we’re capable of, then anything can happen.”

(How do you think the homecoming will be for McLaughlin?) “I think it will be fine. He’s going to have a lot of fans there. I think he’s ready for it. He’s been asked to be more of a leader this year and he’s doing a good job at that. We’ll see what happens when the ball gets thrown in the air, but I know he’s been real excited about going back to play against U-Dub especially in the Seattle area.”

(Knowing his history, how did the first year go with him?) “It was good. He’s back for another year. I think we’re the guys whose been able to keep him the longest. I think he’s comfortable here. I think that’s a HUGE word here. He’s comfortable here in Ellensburg. He’s academically on track to graduate here, maybe at the end of winter. If not he’ll have to take a class in the spring. I think his comfort level with our staff and the university is high. I think he’s really thrived in this environment.”

(Why has it worked for him at Central and not other places?) “I think the big thing is the spotlight is not glaring on him. I think a smaller environment was the best thing for him. I don’t think he wants to be in the limelight. I think he wants to be right here at Central Washington where we get a couple of local papers that cover us. He can be a student. He can make a lot of good teammates and friends for life. He can get a college degree. You hear all of the stories about him when he was coming in, but at the end of the day he’s been – I’m not going to say perfect – but he’s been very good here. He’s been a very good teammate and I can’t emphasize enough he’s on track to graduate.”

(What type of a player is he?) “Boy he can score the basketball. He can flat out score from inside out. He can post up. He’s just a very good guard on the offensive end. If there’s one thing he needs to work on – and he knows it – it’s the defensive side of the ball and he’s making strides at that. He’s trying to get better each day on guarding the basketball.”

(Do you think he can play professionally?) “I think he can. I really do. The scorer that he is, he can make money at the next level. When he gets the opportunity he’s got to make the most of it like we talked about. When the opportunity arises, you got to make sure you’re in shape and you’re doing the right things and good things will happen for him.”

(Thoughts on Washington) “I think they’re trying to still do that high post offense from what I read in the blogs and stuff like that. It sounds like they’re going to turn it up a little more on the offensive and defensive ends. I think Romar made a comment that he wants to get back to where they used to be defensively. I assume that’s when Venoy (Overton) was there and they could really press. Right now there’s a lot of question marks. Right now we looking at the BYU-UW game and they’re playing as well as anybody at the end of the season. Very athletic. Their younger guards are going to have to step up this year. I think (C.J.) Wilcox is going to have a huge year. He’s got a huge future ahead of him. It sounds like just kind of listening and reading the blogs and stuff like that Romar likes his team.”

(Do you have a handle on the new defensive rules?) “(Laughter) I got to watch what I say here.”

(Yes you do.) “It was very challenging for us because we had three starters in foul trouble in the first five minutes of the game. We had to play guys … I don’t know. I have to adjust to it and our players have to. I mean it’s going to be a challenge until they loosen it up for everybody and I mean from Division I all the way down. We’ve had a couple of scrimmages here, closed-door, and how tight they’re calling it is amazing. It’s going to be a challenge for everybody. I hope it doesn’t turn out that it means running a packed defense or a zone defense for everybody because we know how athletic everybody is. If you can’t put a hand on them or you can’t put a forearm on them, I’m not to sure how you can guard them.”

(Are Division II officials getting the same mandate from the NCAA?) “Yup. It goes from Division I, Division II and Division III. They’re supposed to be doing it all the same way. If you touch them, you get one touch. And the second touch is an automatic foul. If you impede anyone’s progress with a forearm shiver that’s a foul. We used to say chuck the cutter, now we got to change our terminology. You got to get your chest in there. They may call a block, but you can’t let people go through the paint without altering their cut or else it’s going to be a layin clinic.”

(I’m wondering is the rule really going to take place when the lower-profile team plays at a higher-profile school. Will the refs really call it tight?) “That’s the million-dollar question. I mean the rough play two years ago. If  you touched anybody in the post, it was an immediate foul. Then as 8-9-10 games went on it got a little looser. All of us coaches in the fraternity are hoping that right out of the gate they call it tight, but as we go they loosen up. Let the kids make plays and let the kids play and not be a free-throw contest. I think that’s whats’ going to happen. For the first couple of weeks, I think there’s going to be a lot of free throw shots. The rationale is the scoring in Division I was at an all-time low. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather watch them go up and down the floor, then watch them at the free throw line.”

(Seems like the NCAA could address the low scoring in other ways.) “For example, we’re a pressure team with full-court press and all of that. But we’ve actually pulled back the reins on that just the way they’re calling the games until they loosen it up a little bit and then we can crank it back up. But right now we’re not doing everything we’ve done in the past just because the way the game is being called.”

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