First-year men’s basketball head coach Mike Lonergan and senior guard Tony Taylor, the offensive cornerstone of the Colonials, agreed Thursday afternoon: The team still needs to get used to Lonergan’s new system.
Taylor and Lonergan spoke to the press in a teleconference after GW was picked eighth in the A-10 preseason poll, and Taylor was named to the Preseason First-Team All-Conference team earlier today, the first Colonial to be named to the preseason first team since then-seniors Mike Hall and Pops Mensah-Bonsu earned the accolade at the beginning of the 2005 to 2006 season.
Taylor said the team doesn’t have a solid feeling for Lonergan’s system so far– but they like what they’ve seen.
“Not so much yet. We’re going to be starting practice Saturday and I think we’ll all get a good feeling of what’s going to happen,” Taylor said. “In the offense that we run, everyone has a chance to score, everyone has a chance to pass to the open man, create the shot for their teammates. It’s a good system we’re going to have to learn and make efficient.”
Lonergan agreed with his guard, adding that his staff of coaches have been hard at work to get ready for the official opening of the 2011 to 2012 season, which kicks off Saturday at midnight.
Pointing to the difficulty of GW’s schedule, recently rated as the second-toughest in the A-10 by ESPN.com, Lonergan cautioned that the team would see its ups and downs over the course of the upcoming season, but that he’s confident in the product that will be put forth on the court. The Colonials just need to get comfortable with his style of play, Lonergan said.
“I think it’s going to take a long time and we’re definitely going to try to simplify things especially at the beginning of the season. We’re still trying to figure out the strength of our team and weaknesses. We have to get a lot of practice time in,” Lonergan said. “It’s going to be a lot of hard work, and that’s what it’s been and I think our coaches and players have been working hard, but we’re definitely a long way from where we want to be. There’s going to be highs and lows.”
Lonergan’s system that will look to reduce GW’s reliance on Taylor, last season’s top-scorer for the Colonials. Thursday afternoon, Taylor was basking in the glow of his first team selection, calling it a “good feeling.”
But Taylor still intends to take the court hungry. Reflecting on the disparity between his first team selection and Slamonline.com’s rating of Taylor as the ‘most underrated’ player in the A-10, it was clear he didn’t want to pay much attention to the talk.
“I feel like I have something to prove every time I step on the court regardless of if I’m the underrated player or the overrated player,” Taylor said. “I have to do what I have to do and that is to win.”
Reflecting on GW’s slot at eighth of 14 conference teams, Taylor admitted he was surprised by the ranking, pointing to GW’s high return rate on last year’s roster and junior guard Lasan Kromah’s impending return to the court as reasons he thought the Colonials should have been ranked higher. The team has something to prove, he said, but they also “like being the underdogs.”
Lonergan was less surprised by the program’s ranking. Last year’s victories weren’t always against teams with winning records, and GW’s struggle in postseason play in recent years influenced their spot, Lonergan said. He’s determined to turn this season around, stating that his two goals for the upcoming season are to make the A-10 tournament and then travel to Atlantic City.
The team’s roster presents its own challenge, Lonergan said. After former center Joseph Katuka’s graduation last spring, and the recent departure of redshirt sophomore center Daymon Warren from the program, there isn’t as much depth at that position as Lonergan would like. The lack of depth, Lonergan said, wasn’t entirely unexpected, but will require a strong rotation of his players to allow them as much rest as possible.
“I mean, Daymon didn’t really play much last year, so losing Joe Katuka was a bigger blow. But we definitely don’t have a lot of depth, but we were going to be a little undersized anyways, so it means we’re going to have to get a lot out of guys like [junior forward Dwayne] Smith, [junior forward David] Pellom, and some of our guys are really going to have to step it up this season,” Lonergan said. “I probably thought we had a little more depth, was inheriting a little more depth, and I like to play a lot of guys, so it’s something we’ll have to address through recruiting.”
Lonergan and Taylor said GW is ready to work hard and push itself to prove that it’s one of the more formidable teams in the Atlantic 10. Taylor said he and his teammates “have the whole season to prove what we are.”
“We’d like to get them back. Starting tomorrow night,” Lonergan said. ” We’re trying to get back to being one of the toughest places to play in the A-10.”