By: Richard W. Humphrey
Head basketball coach Larry Brown took the time to meet with media members Monday morning. He’s just completed a morning workout with his team and is excited about what he is seeing. The first item of conversation was last week’s startling and disappointing announcement that blue chip recruit Emmanuel Mudiay had decided to forego his scholarship at SMU and play professionally overseas this season instead.
“I still believe college would have been the best route,” Brown said. “They think it’s the best thing, and I have to respect that. He was truly great. He would have been special here.”
There is no question that last year’s team relied too heavily on point guard Nic Moore, who routinely played more than 30 minutes. As a point guard, Mudiay’s presence would have taken the pressure off the position. Brown was asked about what the backup point guard situation looks like now. He indicated that Ryan Manuel is the top candidate currently.
“We have to get Ryan ready, and I’m confident he can do it,” Brown said.
Keith Frazier is also a consideration as he played some at the point in high school. He also surprising indicated that Ben Moore could figure in the point guard mix. Moore is 6′-7″ and played forward last year.
“He’s as good a ball handler as we have,” Brown said.
“We’ll figure it out. One nice thing is that all our bigs can handle the ball.”.
As for the summer workouts in general, he said, “Basically, we’re just trying to teach them how to play. We break down what we want to do on offense. The nice thing is that we got a lot of people coming back. You can really see a difference in the freshmen that have been here. Keith (Frazier), Sterling (Brown) and Ben (Moore). They’re much more comfortable. They don’t have to think as much.
He was very positive about Frazier, the first and still only McDonald’s All-American to choose SMU. “He comes to every workout. His energy level is way up. When you have a good attitude and you want to be great and you want to get better, it really makes a difference.”
As you move along in a program, the older guys teach the young guys how to do things. And then when that happens, it seems like you can add more things. Defensively, we’re going to try to add more things. Maybe trap a little bit more, maybe go a bit more full court. Maybe zone a bit more For us, it’s playing hard, defending, rebounding and sharing the ball.”
He spoke about his new coach on this year’s staff – Shawn Williams, who started every game last year. “This is one of the best things for our program and me personally is to have a kid that played for you that wants to be a coach. I’m thrilled he’s with us. He’s here early, and he stays late.” .
He’s impressed with what he’s seen of the conditioning of his team. “We have to be in great shape to do what we want to do.”
Markus Kennedy was perhaps the team’s best player over the second half of last season. His improved play was largely attributed to the 50 pounds he lost since his freshman season at Villanova when he weighed in around 300. He has lost even more weight from the end of the year.
“He’s working hard. If he’s in great shape, he could be as good a big man as there is around, because he has the skills and knows how to play. He really seems motivated. He’s been great at practice. Works really hard.
If we want to be really good, we have to be in better shape than everybody. You know we have great depth. We want to play fast. When you got a big in that can run and is in great shape, If we can get him up the court before the defense, he’s hard to guard. I’m confident he’ll figure it out.”
Another player in the post mix is Yanick Moreira, who started early, but had his season sidetracked with a knee injury. Moreira was in Dallas for workouts earlier this summer as he attended class in the first session of summer school. He has now joined the Angola national team. Brown said the painfully thin Moreira had gained weight and looked much improved. He was pleased with the competition Moreira will be seeing as part of the Angolian team.
Brown’s summer is as busy basketball-wise as the regular season. He scuffled through the Atlanta Airport last weekend to watch AAU Basketball in Augusta, Georgia. That’s the glamorous life of a college basketball coach. Between summer workouts and recruiting, his basketball plate is full. He did say he had spent a few days with his family at the beach earlier in the summer. He also made a trip to Scotland to play golf.
“I’d never been to Scotland,” he said. He noted that it was chilly with high temperatures in the low 60′s. ”I was wearing four layers of clothes and was still cold. You look at the locals, and they’d be in short sleeves. I was a wuss!”
Brown’s son L. J. is in Dallas for the second session of summer school, so they are once again living together and seeing each other regularly. He noted his daughter Madison is a junior in high school.
Certainly, the loss of Mudiay is a blow to SMU. He could help any team in America including the San Antonio Spurs. However, this team is still loaded with talent. All the goals that Mustang fans felt were attainable are still within reach. There’s a lot of hard work going on at the Crum Center these days to make that happen.