The Stony Brook Seawolves are in Europe for the next 10 days, where they will not only take in the sights of Barcelona, Valencia, and Paris, but also compete against some top-flight competition as they prepare for the season ahead. The university is sending Mid-Major Madness regular dispatches on their progress, starting today with a short Q&A from head coach Geno Ford.
STONY BROOK: So this is going to be your third trip with a team. Before getting into the upcoming one, what were those like?
GENO FORD: Yeah, with Kent we went to Italy for 10 days. When I was at Bradley, we went to the Bahamas and did Atlantis for five days. I think at Bradley we probably played too many games. We played four games in five days with the arrival day being the lone day without one. Just with the beach during the day then a game… it’s just not a good combination. The Italy trip was good. We went and played four games in 10 days against some good teams. We went 3-1, winning one of them at the buzzer with a tip dunk. Spain has the best basketball in Europe and this will be a good challenge for a young team. It’s exciting for our team and I’m interested to see how they respond to playing in a game but I’m also excited to see the bonding and them spending time with each other. It’s about the games but it is also about the cultural learning experiences that you cannot replicate without going on the trip.
SB: I’m sure you’ve heard this, but the last time this program went on a trip, they went to March and won the league (2015-16). How important are these trips for building the chemistry that you want to see in those games late in the season?
GF: That is obviously the goal when you enter the season but the best thing about these trips is it gives you a great head start. It’s really come at a good time for us because we are making some changes to our offense. The last couple years, we have either been first or second in defense and first or third in rebounding but the offensive numbers haven’t been where they need to be. This is a much better passing team than we’ve had [in awhile]. This is also one of the more unselfish teams we’ve had. Those things should show up, hopefully come January. These practices have allowed us to put in our offensive system and get the guys some reps. Are we going to look like the ‘92 Bulls in August? Of course not. We are just trying to get some things in and get these guys going. It has given us a great head start and the guys are getting a good feel for it. We have some skill and some much better passing which always helps your offense. Hopefully we can build on the practices we’ve had and it’ll show up on game night.
SB: Some of these games are taken with little grains of salt for reasons you just mentioned. What are you looking for the most in these 10 days and in the three games you play?
GF: Improved toughness, both mental and physical. I don’t want us to be so tied to our shots going or not going in and I want us to be more disciplined offensively. We need to be able to read situations and get the ball to our guys on time and in rhythm to make each other better. I don’t think we’ve done a good job at that. Certainly we weren’t as good offensively in January as we were in November and December. I think the key personalities blend a little better and I’m really looking forward to see if we can carry that over to a game. It’s been great to see in practice and noticeable in practice, but we need to see it in some competition against outside teams, even if they are exhibition games. To be very clear, our goal is to win every game we play. We will start three different starting lineups, everyone will play major minutes and we are going to get guys in and see how they respond under the game lights. We are going to play to win but we are also going to use this as an opportunity to take a look at all of our new guys. Makale [Foreman] was here but he didn’t play, obviously the two freshman, Mo [Gueye] is new… there’s this influx of guys that have shown they’re going to be potentially in the rotation with some of them garnering major minutes and starting. Any time you’re adding new starter minutes, it changes the look of any team.
SB: What about the non-basketball side of it? What are you looking forward to away from the court?
GF: Well, over half of our guys have never been out of the country, so it’s going to be a neat experience for them to see what it’s like. I also think most of them have aspirations of playing overseas when they’re done. We’ve been able to have a good run of placing guys in Europe who have done well, which will help us to continue to place guys over there. It’ll give them an idea of what it’s going to be like if they are able to get a professional contract and live overseas. Also, I think watching guys bond and come closer is always fun. We don’t exactly have a plethora of guys on the roster who speak fluent Spanish so they’re going to have to stay in groups and do a lot of talking. They aren’t going to be able to be on their phones, which is nice because then they can engage with each other, so I’m looking forward to it. I think there’s going to be a lot of positives off the floor.
SB: This is going to be your third trip now. What have you seen these trips do to a team’s chemistry and corroboration come season’s start?
GF: Well, it can really help the team chemistry a lot. At Kent, we were picked like seventh and we won the league that year. I think that the chemistry is the key. We’ll have a much better handle on our team chemistry August 20 on that plane ride home than we did on the plane ride there. It forces guys to spend time together and to interact. Our chemistry has been very good. The bottom line is chemistry is great off the floor but it’s really important on the floor for us to be successful. All of our new guys have come in and done a great job passing the ball. They are definitely amongst the top handful of passers we have and that obviously helps when it comes to getting the guys the ball in rhythm. You don’t really know what your chemistry is until you’re down six and on the road with 7,000 people screaming the other way so it’ll be a good learning experience for our staff and our players to get a little taste of a road game night.