To prepare for the tip-off of another great year of college basketball, CHD is reaching out to coaches and players around the country to get the inside scoop on what we can expect this time around. Jon Teitel continues our season preview series by chatting with Kansas State assistant coach Chris Lowery about his relationship with Coach Bruce Weber after assisting him at 3 different schools.
In the 1993 NCAA tourney as a player at Southern Illinois you scored eight points in a loss to Duke: what was it like to face the 2-time defending champs? When you win a conference title and get to Selection Sunday you are very happy…but once you find out that you are playing Duke the feeling changes! To draw them was a bit deflating. It was in Chicago and we had some great support there…but they had Bobby Hurley and Grant Hill!
In the 1994 MVC tourney you rebounded your own miss and made a 15-foot baseline jumper at the buzzer in a 2-PT win over Missouri State: did you think the shot was going in? It was one of the few offensive rebounds I ever got in my career. It was also the only buzzer-beater of my career so it was very special.
You worked for Bruce Weber at SIU before moving with him to Illinois, and now work for him at Kansas State: what makes him such a good coach, and what is the most important thing you ever learned from him? The number one thing I learned is to make your staff feel like they are working with you rather than for you. He never makes me feel like I am beneath him: he just tells me what we need to work on and we go do it. We can go through an entire workout without saying a word because we have been together for so long, which also helps our players understand what we expect from them.
In the 2002 NCAA tourney as an assistant to Weber at SIU your team had a 2-PT upset of 3-seed Georgia: how were you able to overcome a 30-11 deficit in the 1st half, and how much of a home-court advantage did you have at the United Center? It was not much of an advantage in the 1st half! They were not a good-shooting team but they made about 7 or 8 threes in the 1st half. Coach called a timeout because he did not like what was going on, and after that we held them in check from behind the arc.
In 2007 you were named MVC COY after leading your alma mater to a school-record 29 wins: what did it mean to you to receive such an outstanding honor? That was a great accomplishment. I bleed maroon even though I am no longer there, and it was a big part of my life.
Your team finished third in the nation that year by allowing 56.2 points per game, and almost upset 1-seed Kansas in the NCAA tourney after only letting them make one 3-point shot all night: what is the key to playing great defense? You have to constantly motivate your players and recruit guys to fit your style of play. You have to establish communication lines early on: you if you have a talkative group then you can be very good defensively.
In the 2014 NCAA tourney Julius Randle had 19 points and 15 rebounds in a 7-points win by Kentucky: what did your team learn from that loss that you think can help you this year? We need more depth: our main big man (DJ Johnson) broke his foot 2 minutes into that game. We also need to score better and be more efficient at all five positions. We had toughness but Kentucky’s length bothered us at the rim.
Your non-conference schedule includes games against Purdue, Tennessee, Texas A&M, and Georgia: which of these games do you feel will present your biggest test? I think all of them will be tests. We are playing some BCS-level teams because Coach Weber is the type of coach who will play against anyone. We had a very young team last year, but since our freshmen played a lot of minutes we feel like they are “old sophomores”.
Marcus Foster led your team in points and 3-point shots made as a freshman: how much pressure is there on him to be a leader this year, and what makes him such a good player? People want to see if he can back it up and he does not want a sophomore slump. The best guys were guarding him last year because he was the best player on our opponents’ scouting report. He is a quiet kid who only thought he would give us 5-6 points off the bench to start his career, but after a closed scrimmage against Iowa we knew that he could score the ball.
What are your goals for the upcoming season, and what are your expectations for the upcoming season? Every year the goal is to be in the top of the league and compete for a title. We want to get out of that 1st round as we move forward with our program by making some noise in the NCAA tourney. We have nine lettermen back so we think it is a realistic goal due to our increased depth, which will allow us to guard the way we want to guard.