HH: How’s your summer been going? Have you been working hard on your game?
SK: Yes, ballhandling and defense. I believe I’m an OK shooter and OK rebounder. This summer I went to Memphis and played in the Bluff City Classic which is where you play against the NBA players and European players from Memphis….Thaddeus Young….Louis Williams, I played against them. I averaged 32 points and 16 rebounds. It was a great experience. I learned a lot about the upper level and hopefully I can come back and do some of that stuff I did there this year during the season. I’ve been working with the managers on dribbling drills….you know, chairs and two balls. Trying to improve my defense….I want to lead by example this year. I want to do my best to play my role as a scorer and a rebounder. So I’ve been working in the gym constantly on dribbling, that’s my biggest thing….I’m 6’5″ and I want to be able to dribble and shoot. So, I’m just trying to do that and be an offensive threat for the team.
HH: Do you feel like you have something to prove this year as a senior after the team missed the NCAA tournament last year?
SK: Yes, I feel like I have something to prove. Not just because the te am missed the tournament but also because I sat out a lot of games last year and I still have that in me. We lost both of them to Middle Tennessee and I feel that I have something to prove personally as well as team-wise. I feel that with this team coming in that we have so much talent that once we connect and we get together there’s no reason that we shouldn’t be unstoppable. We just have that much talent and I believe that everybody has a chip on their shoulders. It’s kind of like the first year when I was here. Me and Orlando we had a chip on our shoulders because we were picked third or fourth in the conference. I just think that everybody has that block back on their shoulder because last year was kind of a letdown in the sense that we didn’t accomplish our goals.
HH: As far as the new guys, are you pretty impressed with all of them?
SK: Well….I’m going to go down the line. Juan Patillo is a BEAST. He can jump very high, a strong body….a lot like Pett (Steffphon Pettigrew) but he can dribble better. He can dribble like a point guard…he’s a great addition to the team. Khalil (McDonald) is a shooter. He can stroke that ball. That’s what he does best is shoot. Ken (Brown) is a speed demon, he can run really fast. He gets the ball, he gets it out, he pushes it and changes the tempo of the game and he plays great defense. Snap (Brandon Peters) can dunk on ANYBODY. He’s quick, has a good release and he’s quick off his feet. Kene (Anyigbo) reminds me of Pett. He’s strong, he’s a little raw but he’s strong though and he’ll rebound the heck out of that ball. Teeng (Akol) has a big body inside, a long, long guy. He has a bit of ferocity about him now, he’s got some “dog” in him. He’ll scrap for that ball, he’s real rough. He’s got a little jumphook, he’s just real long…hard to get in there with…..
HH: So do you think Teeng will make an impact next season?
SK: I think he will just because of his length. He has the ability to change up shots and that’s a great thing in a player.
HH: Is he a good shotblocker?
SK: He’s an okay shotblocker. He’s not a Jeremy….he can’t just jump out of the gym with it but he changes up shots and you’d much rather have somebody who can change up a shot than just get a foul trying to block one. He stretches those arms out, and he’s already 6′ 11″, and with those arms up it’s hard to shoot over him.He’ll be a major asset on defense and he can score a little bit. He has like a Euro-game and has a little bit of hook shot going and then he can just basically dunk everything. He’s what I like to call the Hilltopper Yao Ming. (Laughs). Then we have Drane (Stephon). The surprising thing about Drane is he has great timing. He might not be able to jump as high as Jeremy but he’s a Jeremy-type player. He can block anything, he just has real good timing, he’s real quick and he knows where the ball is. That’s my thought on the new guys and then we have Caden (Dickerson) coming back. Caden did his thing last season, he was our sharpshooter, I think he shot like 45% on threes. Then Pettigrew who’s a workhorse and is very hard to guard. Then we have Jamal (Crook) who is making better decisions with the ball and has been working on his passing game. He knows how to get the ball to the right people at the right time. Cliff (Dixon) has got consistency to his game and he can be a tremendous rebounder for us and he can also score. He can be a key starter or a great contributor off the bench .. but no matter how you look at it he has a tremendous upside
HH: What about Brandon’s leaping ability? Have you seen anyone that has his explosiveness before?
SK: One of my guys from back home, Randy Culpepper, that plays for UTEP, reminds me a lot of Brandon, but Brandon can jump out of the gym. He’s done stuff that I’ve yet seen done in a game. Even in his high school clips he jumped in the air during the game and put the ball behind his back and put it in his other hand. He just has explosiveness but not only can he jump, he has a quick jump, like you never know when he’s going to take off and that’s dangerous for any kind of player. He has amazing talent and he’s amazingly gifted. He can jump up and dunk on anybody>
HH: Does he have a strong all-around game too?
SK: Brandon is more of a driver than a shooter but he CAN shoot the ball and that’s great but I think that his strength and his bread and butter is driving and dunking on people and getting to the goal but if you leave him open he’ll knock it down from 25 feet.
HH: How would you compare this year’s team with last year’s team overall? I guess you have less experience this year overall but do you think you’re more talented or more explosiveness and athletic this year than last year?
SK: I’d say this year’s team, just from the makeup of it, I think is going to be a faster-paced team as far as game-wise because we have a lot of athletes and a lot of people that are in shape that can run the heck out of the ball. Our bench is loaded. I believe that this year’s team is also more overall talented as a group than probably a lot of the teams we’ve seen at Western from Orlando through last year. I think that overall this team has much more talent….just raw talent. I just believe that this year’s games will just be FUN. I just think they’ll be fun games. We have a tough schedule but I think Coach Mac has done a great job in finding the talent to handle this schedule, along with the returning players, he’s added a lot of other pieces to the puzzle that’s there to make us a championship team.
HH: Do you think the coach will let you run more this year?
SK: I believe that Coach Mac will let us run more this year. Just with the makup of the team….our guards are fast. Ken is quick as lightning, Jamal is quick. From the 5 down…Juan Patillo….Pettigrew can run for days at the small forward position….”Snap”….I mean everybody is in shape already. The makeup of the team is faster…more like a Phoenix Suns team than a Detroit Pisonts half-court team.
HH: Do you have any thoughts on who you think might be the starting point guard this year or is that something you’d maybe rather not speculate about?
SK: The good thing about this team, and as far as the point guard position….I’ll state that it’s going to be a battle…everyday. It won’t be that one out-talents the other….it’s going to come down to heart because honestly the only person who can tell you what he’s looking for in a point guard is Coach Mac. My definition of a point guard is someone who shoots second and passes first….and knows how to deliver the ball to where it needs to go and plays lockdown defense. That’s my definition of a point guard and I believe that we have all of those types. It’s going to come down to who does the best at practice and who lays their heart on the line….and that goes for every position. I think that nothing is really promised to anybody on the team right now just because we’re so talented. I believe it’s going to be a battle every day for every minute that you earn.
HH: What are your thoughts about Jeremy getting drafted? Have you spoke with him much lately?
SK: He came by the house the other day. I was so happy. As a matter of fact I called my mom and I told my mom when I saw his name flash on the screen during the NBA draft and my mama started screaming. She was like “Oh, Jeremy!” But I’m just so happy for him and I think it’s just a great experience for him. I’ve been watching the summer league games and he actually has a chance to do something great. As you know, he was the leading shot blocker and probably one of the highest jumpers WKU has ever seen besides Elgrace. He just has so much upside and the great part about Jeremy is he’s such a humble person and I think his potential has not even been tapped into yet. I think he has so much upside.
HH: Definitely. Now was he expecting to get drafted or did that kind of come as a complete surprise to him?
SK: He said it was kind of a surprise because he was on the phone with A.J. and they were like, “Now they’re down to the last 10.” Then just to see his name flash across the screen it was just such an amazing moment for him and his family I’m sure. But nobody deserves it more than Jeremy. He’s just a complete person….a talented artist….just a great person inside. I know he was super-excited. He said he loves playing in the summer league. I’m just so proud of him and you wish the best for your teammates. And don’t forget about A.J. and Detroit. He has his chance too. It’s just amazing to know that we played with these guys last year and now they’re looking at the possibility of their dreams coming true. It’s just an amazing feeling to know that.
HH: I’m sure you’re hoping next year that you’ll be in the same position too of course?
SK: Oh yeah. (Laughs) I’m definitely hoping that. That is my goal to hopefully hear my name called in the top 30 or 45.
HH: Well, to wrap it up, what are your thoughts on maybe what the fans should expect from the team this season? Do you have any predictions on what you think you guys might accomplish?
SK: I think as far as the NCAA Tournament….I think we can go deep into the Tournament. I think that last year if things had gone a little differently we could have made the tournament and made some noise last year but I believe that this year will be the year that Western could….and I’m not just trying to be funny….but could possibly, actually make it to the Final Four. We have that much talent. We have big-time defenders, we have the pieces of the puzzle….defenders, scorers…Pettigrew, Me, Juan. We have a lot of people that are assist guys, people that are glue guys. People that don’t mind hustling and diving down on the ground for the ball. We have the major pieces….
HH: Chemistry too?
SK: When you ask about chemistry I believe the thing that we need is….we’re all friends right now, but I think we need to develop a bond to where we’re closer than family. When we go on that court we’re fighting together night in and night out….we’re brothers and we have each other’s backs to the fullest. I believe that slowy but surely the chemistry is coming together….the chemistry that makes good teams great. We’re trying to make our team not just a good team, but we want to make our team a great team….one of the most memorable teams that Western has seen.