Saturday, October 30, 2010

Catching Up with the Captains

It has been several months since the MIT 2010-2011 captains were announced at last year's season ending banquet, and sophomore guard Mitchell Kates and senior forward Eric Zuk have both spent that time preparing in very different ways for the upcoming season. The blog recently sat down with the two captains to catch-up with them on how they spent their summer, where they see this years team going, and how the new group of freshman look, among other topics.

mitbasketballblogger (MBB): What have you guys been up to this summer?

Mitchell Kates (MK): In addition to a lot of GTL, this summer I played in the Jersey Shore Basketball League and worked on getting stronger. I put on 10 pounds from last season and gained some explosiveness. Aside from basketball, I worked for a start-up that develops extracurricular software for universities.

Eric Zuk (EZ): I worked at UBS investment bank this summer, working in sales and trading. Got a good look at what life will be like after college, which definitely gave me a better appreciation for playing college basketball. I'll take two-a-day practices over a desk job any day of the week.

MBB: Wow, sounds like a packed summer, must be nice to back with your team. Speaking of which how do the new guys look?

MK: The freshman are really transitioning well from the high school to college mindset. Practices in college are a lot more strenuous and physical. The freshman, over the course of the first two weeks, have already made some noticeable improvements. It is important that the upperclassmen help the freshmen throughout the season, especially when the "grind" of practices later in the season starts to wear them down mentally and physically. Josh Dunaway, despite a broken nose earlier in the week, has given great effort in practice. Nick Davis and Tim Donegan have also stepped up as a freshman and they should both give us a great contribution. We also have some other really solid contributors in Will Dickson, Mike Attanasio, Will Watkins, and John Thompson.

EZ: The incoming freshmen are going to provide great depth for us this year. In my four years here, I don't think we've had a team with this many talented players, who at the same time have the right attitude about accepting their roles on the team. With so many new guys it's certainly a process to get everyone on the page, but practices so far have been competitive and efficient. Hopefully the days of only 9 guys suiting up are officially behind us.

MBB: In addition to those new faces, talk a bit about the new coaches on this years staff.

MK: We have two new coaches, Bill [Johnson] and Rob [DiBernardo]. Bill is a great coach because he was in our shoes last year so he has a great perspective on the inner workings of the team. Rob is also a tremendous coach. Rob brings great energy into every practice. Rob gets you to feel enthusiastic about whatever point he is commenting on. It is always exciting to hear what he has to say.

EZ: Rob's been a great addition to the staff. He brings incredible enthusiasm to practice everyday, which really picks up the energy of our practices. He's helped me a lot with my jump shot, and overall has done a great job of evaluating our individual tendencies and offering advice on them. After having Bill as a teammate, he's done a great job of adjusting to a coach's role. He's established a great relationship with the freshmen, as he's someone who's had a lot of success in the program but is still giving back. Having Bill on the staff keeps a lot of the continuity that has been established the past few years.

MBB: Sounds like both coaches will really help out. With all the returning players and the solid incoming class, what are your expectations for the coming year?

MK: This year's team has all of the tools to be a championship team; we just need to stay healthy and clicking on all cylinders. The addition of Jamie will give us a great perimeter threat. Will Tashman has also made huge improvements since the end of last season. Last year we were on the wrong side of several upsets to finish the season. I think we can look to those games for motivation this year.

EZ: With the progress we've made as a program the past few years, we're poised to make a deep run into the tournament. We certainly feel like there is a lot of momentum behind our program, coming from our past successes, the incoming freshmen class, and the support we've had from the MIT community. We've got the necessary pieces, we've just gotta put it together come November, and be able to keep improving every day throughout the season.

MBB: Looks like the ceiling is pretty high on this year's team. People around the country also seem to be noticing, MIT was ranked for the first time in the preseason poll this year (#15). Are there any big games this year that you have circled on the calender, to solidify your place in the Top 25?

MK: There are always games that we look forward to but Coach will not be very happy unless I say that our next game is our most important one.

EZ: Emmanuel, first game of the year. After 4 weeks of beating up on each other in practice, it will be exciting to get out and play someone else. Emmanuel always comes ready to play.

MBB: Looks like everyone is looking forward to the first game of the year. Good luck on the season and hopefully we will have a chance to talk again once the season starts.

Note: MIT opens their season on November 16 against Emmanuel College in Rockwell Cage. Tip is set for 7:00 PM.