ZS: It's clear that shooting the basketball is the signature component of your game. You've been able to become a 20+ PPG scorer with a majority of your points on three-pointers and deep jumpers. What do you attribute this to?
NJ: I Definitely attribute it to shooting the basketball every single day. At practice, outside of practice. Consistently. I was told by one source that I was the best shooter in Florida. That's a prestigious title given to me and I don't want to lose that title.
I devote half of my practice time and training time to shooting. All types of different shots, situations, on and off the ball. Shooting is my strength so people often tell me to work on my weaknesses which I do and continue to do until they become strengths. Still, I always make sure I work on my shot above all to master it and make sure I never lose it.
ZS: How would you describe this team's identity? Molding 12 different personalities and guys from various countries on one functional unit, how do you guys all buy in?
NJ: I would say the theme of this team is character. Everyone has character, everyone brings their own unique style to the team and is accepted for what they can do on the court. There are no ego clashes or concerns over who gets more minutes or shots. Because we have this attitude, we bring a fully rounded team on both sides of the floor.
ZS: What are some of the key principles coach (Derrick) De La Grana has ingrained in you guys and how do you apply them on a day-in, day-out basis?
NJ: The principles Coach D has ingrained in us is: help side defense, communicating loud on both sides of the floor generally because we are too quiet at times. On offense, swing the ball and get a couple passes in the offense before attempting to score. We find the right shot. Box out a body, grab the rebound and then push hard and get up the court fast to result in fast break opportunities.
ZS: What are the expectations for this year's squad? Where is the bar set? What do you ultimately hope to accomplish when all is said and done this season?
NJ: Well what we hope to accomplish, and really the reason why we all play, is to win. No one plays especially competitive basketball at a high level wanting to lose or being okay with a loss here and there. That's not acceptable at this level. We hope to accomplish victory and eventually go deep into the playoffs and conclude it by winning the SIAA tournament.
So yes, the expectations are high. You've got one of best point guards in the 2018 class in Nathan Mepandy and one of the best big man in the country in 7-foot-2 Zach Brown and one of the best shooters in the country in myself. That's a deadly 1-2-3 punch. With all of the off-the-court incidents that happened with Zach, it now falls a lot on Nathan and myself to hold our team down and be the leaders.