Big Apple Buckets had a chance to catch up with Marist Head Coach Chuck Martin and talk about how he expects some of his players develop as well as his expectations for the coming season.
Big Apple Buckets: What parts of Adam Kemp’s game do you think he needs to improve at to help this team take that next step?
Chuck Martin: I think he’s got to rebound the ball a little bit better. Not that he did a poor job, he averaged close to 8 rebounds a night and he’s the second returning rebounder in the MAAC. So it’s not like he was awful but for him to become an elite player and for us to get to the top of the league he’s got to rebound, he’s got to go get 10 rebounds a night which he’s capable of doing. He’s at 7.8, close to 8 a night so he’s got to figure out a way to get two more rebounds. If he can do that, I think that his offense has come a long way but I think that if he can rebound the ball a little bit better and establish himself in the low post more consistently, I think he’s a heck of a talent. I think all the coaches in the league would agree, that they would love to have him. He has developed into one of the best centers if not top two in the MAAC.
Big Apple Buckets: Isaiah Morton was impressive in his first season stepping into the starting lineup, where do you see him improving as a sophomore?
Chuck Martin: He was tremendous, man. To ask a freshman to come in and start from day one is tough enough let alone come in and start at that position, the point guard position. Everything was new to him, offensive sets, spacing philosophy, defensive schemes so every day when he got on the court was a learning experience. I think that the game will slow down for him more as a sophomore. He’ll be familiar with our offense and with our defensive schemes but he is very, very, very talented.
He’s great in transition, he understands he has to get better with his decision making and he has to get better defensively. Those are the two areas where he’s got to improve: decision making and defense. But he’s a tremendous talent, he’s really really good.
Big Apple Buckets: As your tenure at Marist has continued, we have seen your team push the ball more in transition, do you anticipate playing even more transition basketball this season?
Chuck Martin: Absolutely. We get bigger, longer, more athletic kids. We’re going to push harder, we’re going to run harder. But the one thing that I like is on the nights where we couldn’t run we became a better half court offensive team which was really exciting for me. You want to get out in transition but if you can’t for whatever reason if it’s one of those nights, can you play half court basketball and we were able to do that. It was fun to watch our guys grow in the month of February and really execute in the half court as well.
Big Apple Buckets: People in the MAAC took notice when Marist went 6-3 in February and won a game in the MAAC Tournament after struggling in January, what do you think was the key to that turnaround?
Chuck Martin: I just think they were young, they were freshman. I think people remember the 7 out of 9 wins last year, they remember the month of January where we lost 8 in a row but they forgot about the six wins in December. We were .500 in December. We have not lost a game in the month of December at home. So we did some good things before February, the month of December was good to us, especially at home. January was not as good and February was tremendous. And I just think when you start two freshmen and two sophomores you just ran into a wall. You just ran into a wall in January and it took them three to four weeks to make the adjustment of college basketball which they did in February and really took off.
I think we were pretty good in December, I thought the schedule became a little bit tougher in league play because people know you they know your tendencies, they know what you want to run. Our young guys did not understand how to make adjustments when other teams made adjustments quick enough or fast enough so it took us three weeks to educate these guys on this is what happens know. People know you’re a driver, they’re going to play in the lane. People know you’re a shooter, they’re going to close you out hard and now you’ve got to make an adjustment to their adjustment, and it took us a little bit longer than we wanted to get these guys to learn that but thank God that they did, they learned it at the end of January and then took off in February.
Big Apple Buckets: What are you looking forward to most when you get to have your first official fall practice?
Chuck Martin: I think I’m most excited about what this team is going to look like defensively, that first official practice. What we’re going to look like defensively and how we’ll be able to generate offense through our defense. That’s the one thing that really excites me. When we have our first practice, having all 13 scholarship players on the floor and physically looking at how much bigger, stronger and quicker we’ve gotten in recruiting. And really seeing we’re going to be a really good defensive team and we’re going to turn our defense into offense that’s what I’m looking forward to.
Big Apple Buckets: What are the three keys to this season, the three things that will be the difference for your team to have a successful season?
Chuck Martin: I think we have to eliminate distractions, I think that’s one of the most important things in any really good program at any level in any league. The teams that eliminate distractions are the teams that are most focused on the task at hand and those distractions can be academic issues, off the court issues, in the locker room: I think distractions is number one. You have to have energy every day, you have to bring unbelievable energy and enthusiasm to your team. I think understanding our roles, guys buying into their roles, really buying into their roles and understanding who they are. I’ll give you another one the last thing is really have no fear; have no fear of the challenge ahead of us have no fear of opposing teams and then just going out there and let it all hang it out on the court and see what happens.