After going 2-7 during winter break and many critics starting to question the different aspects of the current men’s basketball team, The Scout sat down with head men’s basketball coach Geno Ford for a one-on-one interview.
AF: How did the team handle the tough stretch of games during winter break?
Coach Ford: I think at the time we didn’t handle it very well. What happens is that there was a lot of frustration of the new guys on the team. We have seven first year players, three seniors that are in different roles than they are used to in the past, and now they needed to step up and be vocal. So for the older guys to really lead it just wasn’t a natural fit and the younger guys didn’t know how to handle that as well. In December we were not a very good basketball team. We played poorly most nights, and the nights we did play well, we lost by a few baskets. That was the killer, losing close games. I thought overall, the guys persevered well and we started becoming a different team in early January.
AF: How has Mason Alwan been such a spark for the team and how come he hasn’t been able to see playing time before this season?
Coach Ford: I think Mason has best job out of anyone I’ve been around in the past 20 years for just sticking with it. He didn’t play that much last year because we had a solid team. This year, when we were struggling as a team, he just kept coming to practice and working. There were several days earlier in the season when he out-worked some of the younger guys in practice. We needed to win, so we thought that putting Mason in there would give us a spark, and he did because he was so consistent. Mason has also been such a great example with his production on the court with his play by taking a charge, getting us a couple of baskets and playing with a lot of heart. So he has earned what he is getting in playing time and has been very effective.
AF: As a coach, did you feel any pressure personally during the tough stretch during break?
Coach Ford: I feel stressed every day! I mean we were awful [during that stretch of games], so besides taking a different route to work every day. It was frustrating because you care and want to be productive. We are in a business that is a result-based business. We had a solid November, we had a horrible December, but now it is about sticking with it. A basketball season is a long season with ten guaranteed games left. So we are by no means close to the finish line. For us it is about finishing strong and building some momentum going into the conference tournament.
AF: How do you think student turnout has been so far this season?
Coach Ford: I thought student turnout was pretty good at the beginning of the season and when finals and winter break started, we saw a bit of a drop off. But, student turnout is very important to what we are doing here. I thought they did some good things promotion wise for the students [Greek Night and President’s Night Out]. Student turnout is essential because that is where the crowd feeds off of their energy. The energy in the crowd does not come from the normal family attendance; it comes from the students. So when students are there it helps. We are the university’s team and we are a reflection of the student body.
AF: Where do you see the program you are trying to build here at Bradley in the next couple of years?
Coach Ford: What we have to do is try and surpass the top established teams in the league. Those are Wichita State, Indiana State and Northern Iowa. Those three have separated themselves from the pack and have been winning on a consistent level. So, for us to be up there with them, we need to start beating those teams. I think in a year from now, it will be the first time that our frontcourt will be the same size as somebody like a Wichita State. We haven’t had enough big bodies like the premier teams have had in the past. I think we will be either the biggest or second biggest team in the league and be able to compete with anyone. I still like this team though and this team can play some good basketball. We don’t want to keep taking a step back so two years ago we were the tenth seed, last year we were the eighth seed. Now we just have to keep winning games and moving up.
For the latest news, scores, and updates, be sure to follow everything Bradley Basketball on Twitter with our Sports Editor @AaronFreem.