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Summer Q&A With Coach K
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DetroitRocket Offline
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Summer Q&A With Coach K
8/11/2020 | Men's Basketball

TOLEDO, Ohio - Toledo Head Coach Tod Kowalczyk and the Rockets' men's basketball program finished three weeks of workouts last week. We sat down with Coach Kowalczyk to see what he learned about his team as he looks forward to the 2020-21 season.

Q: Can you talk about what you have learned about your team during this summer's workouts for the upcoming 2020-21 season?

COACH KOWALCZYK: I think having nine workouts this summer gave us a really good gauge of what our strengths and weaknesses are. We were able to see what we have in the program and what our recruiting needs are for the future. I think it was very clear to us that we are going to have a good team. We addressed our needs from last year, and now we're longer, more athletic, more skilled and certainly deeper. I think quite a few of our new guys have a chance to really affect our program and make an impact right away.

Q: What was it like to be able to come together after being apart for such a long time due to the pandemic?

COACH KOWALCZYK: That was a big thing for us. When the NCAA came out with the July 20 date to bring players back on campus for workouts, my first reaction was don't bring them back. We had a Zoom call with our team and they disagreed with me. They wanted to be back on campus. They were bored at home and needed to be around their teammates.

Q: How does it feel to have two veteran guards like Marreon Jackson and Spencer Littleson leading what is expected to be a very deep backcourt?

COACH KOWALCZYK: It gives us a good comfort level having Marreon and Spencer back to lead us. Our biggest weakness last year was our backcourt depth and those two were the only guards we could depend on every game. I'd like to think this year's team will have a lot more options with the return of Keshaun Saunders and the addition of freshmen Jamere Hill and Ryan Rollins. Jamere and Ryan are both really talented players and are well prepared to play on the defensive end.

Q: Can you update us on the status of sophomore AJ Edu and redshirt freshman Mattia Acunzo after they both sat out last season due to injury?

COACH KOWALCZYK: AJ and Mattia are both healthy and ready to go. AJ really expanded his game over the last year. (Associate head coach) Jeff Massey did a great job of working with him on his skill level and (strength & conditioning coach) Brandon Hannum did a remarkable job on his body. He's so much bigger and stronger in his upper body, in particular. Our fans will see a noticeable difference in AJ. I hadn't seen Mattia play in quite a while prior to this summer's workouts, and I told him I kind of forgot how good he really is. He's a good basketball player and understands the game. He's one of the better passers I've been around.

Q: How have junior college transfers Charles Jones, Jonathan Komagum and Seth Millner transitioned into the program?

COACH KOWALCZYK: I think each is doing well and eager to contribute. Jonathan gives us more depth in the frontcourt along with sophomore Luke Maranka. He has a 7-2 wingspan and can impact a game defensively. He still has some room for improvement on the offensive end but understands his role and knows how to play defense and rebound. Seth is an unbelievably competitive worker and can play multiple positions. He knows how to play the game and will provide us with a lot of toughness. Charles is long and athletic and can shoot it and is learning how we want to play defense from a team standpoint.

Q: How has recruiting been affected by the pandemic?

COACH KOWALCZYK: Having nine summer workouts really helped us. We wanted to see what our needs really are and now it is clear what we need. I'm impressed with the recruiting board we have. We are involved with some really good players. Now we just need to have them commit to us. We were able to watch their AAU games this summer, which helped some, but we knew who we were interested in after seeing them play in high school and AAU over the last year.
08-12-2020 04:42 AM
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IamN2daRockets! Offline
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RE: Summer Q&A With Coach K
Thanks Detroit.

In order to have a successful season we will need Acunzo, Milner, and Edu to have big seasons along with expected contributions from Littleson and Jackson. Saunders is an inconsistent player. He was just a freshman and being forced to play out of posOrion didn’t help his game. I expect him to improve as well.

It could be a good year.

Go Rockets!
08-12-2020 06:54 AM
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Rocket75 Offline
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RE: Summer Q&A With Coach K
Does anyone really expect there to be basketball this calendar year? I think there is a chance in January if we get a vaccine. I cannot believe there will be any games in November and December.
08-12-2020 07:14 AM
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pono Offline
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RE: Summer Q&A With Coach K
(08-12-2020 07:14 AM)Rocket75 Wrote:  Does anyone really expect there to be basketball this calendar year? I think there is a chance in January if we get a vaccine. I cannot believe there will be any games in November and December.

i think it is entirely possible. it depends on whether the schools and leagues have a real plan and if the health care system can function fully. you can have small group activities in a coronavirus environment if you are taking proper precautions across the board. now, whether america anywhere can mostly get that together like a lot of other countries have, remains to be seen.

as far as the interview. i thank the lord. this is the first exciting thread starter in weeks. there is actual news on a major UT sports team, based on recent competition -albeit practice/workouts.

great news about AJ and Acunzo. both are really talented guys. watching AJ as a freshman we knew he was good even if he was way too skinny and a little too raw on offense. to hear that he's used the last year to heal, get strong up top and work on his offensive skills is great. ideally, he's a forward who will handle the ball and score at all levels. having maranka with a year under his belt and good reports on jonathon komungum means we might see some bigger more athletic lineups next season -whenever that is. acunzo is fun guy to watch. kid can ball a bit. great news that his foot is finally right. for both of those guys, in the long run, their early injuries, long recoveries, even the limitations of coronavirus, probably was the best medicine for their health and development. if they both stay healthy they will win UT a lot of games over the next few years.

millner will play.

the biggest mentions/omissions are coach k shouting out freshman jamere hill as if he's ready to contribute right away. we know he thinks rollins is great but to impress the coach with your defense right away will get you on the court. the biggest omission would be that he mentioned every player except raheim moss. i don't know what that means. it was reported that he enrolled in late July. but i don't know if he was involved in workouts. his legal situation wasn't determined until mid-July, right?

as i see it so far
guys who will play a lot
AJ
Marreon
Littleson
Acunzo
Millner
Rollins

guys who will play
Saunders
Hill
Komungum

guys who may play
maranka (RS?)
jones

redshirting
shumate
moss ?
08-13-2020 04:03 AM
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Sleepy Offline
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RE: Summer Q&A With Coach K
Will there be students in the classrooms at UT this Fall?

I may be wrong but I thought that Moss was academically ineligible at this point.
08-13-2020 11:16 AM
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pono Offline
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RE: Summer Q&A With Coach K
(08-13-2020 11:16 AM)Sleepy Wrote:  Will there be students in the classrooms at UT this Fall?

I may be wrong but I thought that Moss was academically ineligible at this point.

moss was a partial qualifier with the grades and test scores to play but was short 1 core class on his HS transcripts. so, he can practice and be on the team but not play in games.

not sure what students are doing this fall. still, feels like a lot of institutions are not planning ahead and prepared to function within the realities of the pandemic. hopefully, UT is ahead of the curve.
08-13-2020 09:01 PM
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Basketball Jones Offline
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RE: Summer Q&A With Coach K
My take from the TK interview:

* Guard talent, experience and depth will be very evident with this year's roster. We already know what M Jackson and S Littleson bring to the table. While we like the potential of R Rollins and J Hill, you never know how 1st year players are going to react to Division 1 Basketball. Don't count K Saunders out as being a major factor this upcoming season. He showed enough skill set last year that now with 2 years in the program (including his redshirt season), could begin paying dividends for him.

* Front Court play is a big unknown. We think we know what we got with AJ Edu but that is based a lot on his limited play during his freshman season and what TK has been saying about his potential the past 2 seasons. The same goes for M Accunzo who because of his mysterious foot injury has not seen the court yet, but like Edu has had TK sing his praises for the past year. L Marenka is an intriguing player who I think if he can get stronger has similar skills to L Knapke who we know made himself into a post college basketball player over his 5 years in the program. And finally there is Junior College Transfer J Komagum who sounds like he can help us out right away on the defensive end with his rebounding and shot blocking ability. But it sounds like he will not be an impact, at least initially on the offensive end which may limit his playing minutes.

* A player I'm very excited to watch is S Milner who according to TK will bring a lot of intensity to the court each game. That "junk yard" mentality is an important ingredient to have in developing a take no prisoner type attitude that hopefully rubs off on the other players.

With that said, I am looking forward to the upcoming season if and/or when it begins as I like the make up of this year's team, i.e. experience and skill set.
08-13-2020 10:11 PM
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UTfanBGalum Offline
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RE: Summer Q&A With Coach K
I see the biggest challenge or issue for this next coach K team to be rebounding. I think you must win or break even on the boards to contend for championships. I wonder where the boards will come from? Looks like the best rebounders may be on the bench. I hope it works out. 03-confused
(This post was last modified: 08-14-2020 12:21 AM by UTfanBGalum.)
08-14-2020 12:13 AM
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pono Offline
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RE: Summer Q&A With Coach K
(08-14-2020 12:13 AM)UTfanBGalum Wrote:  I see the biggest challenge or issue for this next coach K team to be rebounding. I think you must win or break even on the boards to contend for championships. I wonder where the boards will come from? Looks like the best rebounders may be on the bench. I hope it works out. 03-confused

true, although coach k has hinted at playing 2 bigs and using AJ at the 4. I guess that would depend on Maranka or Komungam being ready to contribute fully. Coach has said he thinks AJ's true position is a 4 and Acunzo is a 3. However, to get those guys there you need a capable center. Sounds like Millner will play both forward positions and Jones might see minutes at either as well. I imagine staff likes the roster shape w 2 redshirts, 11 guys who can probably help and the flexibility to redshirt 1 or 2 others. Coach usually plays an 8 man rotation but has said he'd play 9 if he had the talent and that 9th guy didn't whine about minutes. I don't know if he'd play 10 like some teams-Kent, CMU- do.
08-14-2020 02:56 PM
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Sleepy Offline
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RE: Summer Q&A With Coach K
(08-14-2020 12:13 AM)UTfanBGalum Wrote:  I see the biggest challenge or issue for this next coach K team to be rebounding. I think you must win or break even on the boards to contend for championships. I wonder where the boards will come from? Looks like the best rebounders may be on the bench. I hope it works out. 03-confused

Willie Jackson will be sorelry missed on the boards. He had a way of always being in the right position to grab the rebound.
08-14-2020 11:57 PM
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pono Offline
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RE: Summer Q&A With Coach K
(08-14-2020 11:57 PM)Sleepy Wrote:  
(08-14-2020 12:13 AM)UTfanBGalum Wrote:  I see the biggest challenge or issue for this next coach K team to be rebounding. I think you must win or break even on the boards to contend for championships. I wonder where the boards will come from? Looks like the best rebounders may be on the bench. I hope it works out. 03-confused

Willie Jackson will be sorelry missed on the boards. He had a way of always being in the right position to grab the rebound.

I'm honestly mixed on Willie. Yes, he was a great defensive rebounder and could will a couple offensive muscle boards here and there when you needed it. At the same time he had concrete feet on defense most of the time and was an inconsistent finisher. Actually, his mid range game was a real strength and overlooked. I can't say how Millner will stack up as a replacement, although he brings a similar good mid range game and toughness, but I think AJ and Acunzo will fill some of Willie's minutes with more offensive flow.
08-15-2020 04:37 AM
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utrocks84 Offline
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RE: Summer Q&A With Coach K
(08-15-2020 04:37 AM)pono Wrote:  
(08-14-2020 11:57 PM)Sleepy Wrote:  
(08-14-2020 12:13 AM)UTfanBGalum Wrote:  I see the biggest challenge or issue for this next coach K team to be rebounding. I think you must win or break even on the boards to contend for championships. I wonder where the boards will come from? Looks like the best rebounders may be on the bench. I hope it works out. 03-confused

Willie Jackson will be sorelry missed on the boards. He had a way of always being in the right position to grab the rebound.

I'm honestly mixed on Willie. Yes, he was a great defensive rebounder and could will a couple offensive muscle boards here and there when you needed it. At the same time he had concrete feet on defense most of the time and was an inconsistent finisher. Actually, his mid range game was a real strength and overlooked. I can't say how Millner will stack up as a replacement, although he brings a similar good mid range game and toughness, but I think AJ and Acunzo will fill some of Willie's minutes with more offensive flow.

I think sometimes a player having the right mindset to rebound is important. Willie made it his passion to rebound not score. If Millner, Jones or another player accept that role UT could be fine on the boards, you don't have to be 250 lbs to succeed.
08-15-2020 03:35 PM
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IamN2daRockets! Offline
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RE: Summer Q&A With Coach K
Just wondering why we would RS Maranka if rebounding is a concern?

There’s a lot of talent on this team. Hope we can apply it. I would prefer a 10 man rotation even if 3 to 5 minutes of PT is rewarded.

Go Rockets!
08-18-2020 09:20 AM
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pono Offline
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RE: Summer Q&A With Coach K
(08-18-2020 09:20 AM)IamN2daRockets! Wrote:  Just wondering why we would RS Maranka if rebounding is a concern?

There’s a lot of talent on this team. Hope we can apply it. I would prefer a 10 man rotation even if 3 to 5 minutes of PT is rewarded.

Go Rockets!

coach said they'd love to redshirt him, but it depends on how much they think they can get out of komungum. maranka is very talented. more athletically gifted that boothe or knapke and has a great foundation as long range shooter. however, he has had limited real competition. the thinking is he could be great as a 5th year senior. so, if you can redshirt him once you will get more out of him overall. that was the plan last year but then AJ got hurt. if komungum is good for 15-18 minutes a game at the 5, AJ can play 30-32 min a game and also slide over to the 4 for stretches here and there alongside komungum. if maranka is better, he will take most of those 15-18 minutes and not redshirt. neither is probably good enough to split all the center minutes so AJ can solely play the 4. even though AJ is more of a 4 than a 5, he's still likely our best 5 man.
08-18-2020 11:08 PM
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IamN2daRockets! Offline
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RE: Summer Q&A With Coach K
Thanks Pono!

Great input
08-19-2020 08:56 PM
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Rocket75 Offline
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RE: Summer Q&A With Coach K
Charles Jones is not on the roster. Does anyone know why? All the other new players are listed.
09-18-2020 09:51 AM
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Basketball Jones Offline
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RE: Summer Q&A With Coach K
(09-18-2020 09:51 AM)Rocket75 Wrote:  Charles Jones is not on the roster. Does anyone know why? All the other new players are listed.

TK on his Pod Cast a couple of weeks ago mentioned that he was the one new player that was taking time to adjust to Division 1 Basketball, but that it was not surprising with Jones coming from Junior College. If true, it frees up another scholarship for the 2021 Recruiting Class.
(This post was last modified: 09-18-2020 02:00 PM by Basketball Jones.)
09-18-2020 01:56 PM
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RE: Summer Q&A With Coach K
Without Jones there are 12 scholarship players. This opens up the possibility of the team getting a midseason transfer who would redshirt the rest of this season and the first part of next year. Coach K has already done this a couple of times.

There is some talk of the NCAA allowing players to play a few games and not lose their redshirt year. (This is of course allowed in football) Any ideas of who would be the best UT redshirt candidates?
09-18-2020 02:25 PM
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Basketball Jones Offline
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RE: Summer Q&A With Coach K
(09-18-2020 02:25 PM)Rocket75 Wrote:  Without Jones there are 12 scholarship players. This opens up the possibility of the team getting a midseason transfer who would redshirt the rest of this season and the first part of next year. Coach K has already done this a couple of times.

There is some talk of the NCAA allowing players to play a few games and not lose their redshirt year. (This is of course allowed in football) Any ideas of who would be the best UT redshirt candidates?

TK also said in his recent Podcast that in a perfect world he would love to redshirt Luke Maranka this season, who because of injuries to Edu and Azunzo last season was forced into action last season. However, TK said he is not sure he can redshirt anyone because of COVID and how it may impact the roster througout the season. Another possible redshirt is Division II Transfer JT Shumate who mentioned when he signed that his preference was to redshirt this season. Again with COVID, that might not be practical.
(This post was last modified: 09-18-2020 09:47 PM by Basketball Jones.)
09-18-2020 09:46 PM
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pono Offline
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RE: Summer Q&A With Coach K
so i guess everybody grows an inch and gets 5 pounds up or down whatever makes them look better.

the rotation is gonna look something like

jackson, littleson, edu, milner, acunzo

russel, saunders, hill, maranka/komagum

jones was an outlier

shumate and moss are redshirts
09-19-2020 01:51 AM
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