With the season fast approaching, we sat down with Fairleigh Dickinson head coach Greg Herenda and junior forward Mike Holloway to talk about the upcoming season:
Q: Being a New Jersey guy yourself, tell me what it means to play for a New Jersey school and what drew you to FDU as a school and basketball program?
Holloway: FDU is a good school, and they were in rebuilding when they recruited me. I thought, why go somewhere out west or down south if I can be part of something big in my own backyard?
Q: As a freshman, you finished with all-NEC rookie honors, and your stats improved even more last season as a sophomore. What have you focused on in the offseason to improve once again?
Holloway: I have definitely worked on my stamina in the offseason, that is something I have put an emphasis on. Also, I have worked on playing away from the basket a bit improving my jump shot.
Q: Two years ago you were on an NEC championship team as a freshman. Entering your junior year now, you are entering that leadership role. What did you learn from your last two years from older guys on the team that you will use to help guide the younger guys?
Holloway: One major thing I learned from older guys the past two years and I am trying to pass down on to the younger guys is this: Every game you are not going to have your best performance. What is important is that you don’t get down on yourself and learn from your mistakes and improve off of them.
Q: This will be your third year in the conference. Which NEC opponent is the toughest team to play on the road?
Holloway; Definitely Mount St. Mary’s’ Knott arena.
Q: Your first game is against Seton Hall and you will be playing one of the top players in the nation at your position (Angel Delgado). You also play some other high-major teams during the non conference. How do these games help your development?
Holloway: I just like to look at these games as opportunities. These guys I am competing against are the best in the nation at what they do, and to compete against them I am able to prove myself and take advantage of every moment.
Q: Tell me what it means to be a member of FDU’s 2017-18 team.
Holloway: I honestly believe that this is the best FDU team I have been on since being a part of this program. The combination of young guys and veterans is going to allow us to come together as a family and play team basketball, we have big goals.
Q: When you entered your first season at FDU in 2013-14, you took over a program that hadn’t had a winning season in seven years. What were some challenges you faced and how have you overcame them to win the NEC and make the NCAA tournament two years ago?
Herenda: I did have some obstacles to overcome when I arrived here at FDU. However the key for myself, along with the coaching staff, was to look forward and to not dwell on the past. Moving forward I was able to surround myself with good people on my coaching staff. From there, we were fortunate to recruit good kids that were good students and could play basketball. We got lucky with some good under-the-radar recruits, but we believe in ourselves and work hard with our goal to win the NEC return back to the NCAA Tournament.
Q: How do you yourself, along with the rest of your coaching staff, deal with transfers as the NEC was heavily impacted this offseason?
Herenda: In order to be a part of college basketball it is important to understand transfers are a major part of the game today. It started when kids would switch AAU teams, then transfer high schools and now it has spread to the college level. It is a way of life, sadly, I think we have to continue to move on and put a team together and grow a culture kids will love and get them to stay.
Q: New Jersey college basketball is on the rise: Seton Hall, Monmouth, Princeton and Rutgers are on the rise along with a few other mid majors. How does this impact aspects of coaching such as recruiting? Also, it must improve your program from a competitive standpoint as you play a few of these teams.
Herenda: The more good players that decide to stay home in New Jersey for college, the odds are we land some of them. We have done a good job recruiting locally here in Bergen county, the more competitive it is locally, it is harder to win. But it also promotes kids to stay home and build from within. One fun way to look at it is local fun rivalries develop between ourselves and other local NJ schools.
Q: Stephan Jiggets spent a majority of the time at point guard last season. Darian Anderson has proven his capability in the backcourt. Has he made the transition to point guard fully this offseason or are you going to look to some younger guys?
Herenda: This season we are going to look to share point guard among a few different guys. We have options. Freshman Jahil Jenkins has been showing some promise, you have Darnell Edge and of course Darien Anderson who is a competitor and will play hard and effectively in any position I put him in on the court. So we have a three-headed attack at point, which is important in a guard-oriented league where you need a good perimeter to win.
Q: Addressing last season’s struggles: Losing one of your more important forwards Earl Potts from a team last year that struggled quite a bit on the offensive glass, what steps have you guys made this offseason to improve that?
Herenda: The answer to that is simple. We need to make more shots on the offensive end. But we did have a rebounding problem on both ends of the court. Part of it was Kaleb Bishop and Mike Holloway both got a little banged up last season. This season we have both of them back along with a freshman named Elyjah Williams from Evanston, Illinois.
Q: Tell us about some newcomers on this year’s team and the impacts you can see them making.
Herenda: As I already mentioned, Jenkins is a lightning quick guard, and Elyjah Williams gives us flexibility as he can play well at the 3 or 4. We have Tyler Jones, who played prep ball at The Peddie School. He can make shots and guard on defense well. Noah Morgan from Mount Vernon High School in New York is a forward with an old school type of style, then we have a very talented athletic transfer who will sit out for one year in Xavier Malone.
Q: Two years ago after losing a tough NCAA Tournament play-in game, you said in the press conference you had the third-youngest team in the nation. You lost some guys from that team two years ago, but how do you look at the experience from that year and see its importance of this year’s success?
Herenda: We definitely have some good experience returning. Mike Holloway and Darnell Edge are very good, and Anderson returns with tremendous numbers. The young guys on this team have really infused some great energy as well. The NEC is so competitive, we started 8-1 last season in conference play but then lost a bunch of close games where we couldn’t make plays. I think it is going to take some time to come together with five new guys on this years team, but I think by conference play we will be battle tested and ready.