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Season preview: CHD interviews UC Irvine SG Luke Nelson

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 UC Irvine SG Luke Nelson about being named conference ROY last spring.

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You were born in England: how big is basketball back home, and how did you 1st get into the sport? It is reasonably big. My dad played professionally so he was the one who introduced me to the sport. I was more focused on soccer until about age 15, and then I began to take basketball more seriously.

You play for Coach Russ Turner: what makes him such a good coach, and what is the most important thing you ever learned from him? He is very intense, which I feel is important in a coach. He instills his own passion in myself and my teammates: defense is contagious for us.

In 2014 you were named conference ROY: what did it mean to you to receive such an outstanding honor? It felt very good to receive that: it just confirms that I put in the work in the right areas to improve my game. I was not 1 of the highest-scoring freshmen but the key is that we won a lot of games.

In the 2014 NIT you scored 13 points in a loss to SMU: what did you learn from that game that you think can help you this year? It was the loudest crowd I have ever played in front of in my entire life. I remember when SMU made a run and I could barely hear anyone else on the court. We came out really strong in the 1st half so we just have to play consistently throughout the game.

Your non-conference schedule includes games against Arizona, Fresno State, and Oregon: which of these games do you feel will present your biggest test? I would say Arizona because it is so early in our season. They are a great team, but we are all a year older and think we are as good as them if not better. We lost badly to Oregon last December and Fresno beat us at the buzzer in last year’s season opener, so there is some personal incentive for us in both of those games.

You have five teammates who are 6’10” or taller: how does all that height help you on offense and/or defense? It is very important for us defensively because Mamadou Ndiaye is so big in the post (7’6″) that opponents are hesitant to drive the lane. I have to play against them every day in practice, which makes me a better player and prepares me to play against other 7-footers.

Your team returns four of its top-5 scorers from last year: how crucial will all of that experience be to your team’s success? It will be huge. Chris McNealy was a big part of our team but we should still be able to have a great year.

What are your goals for the upcoming season, and what are your expectations for the upcoming season? We plan to go to the NCAA tourney and if we do not get there then I will feel like we have failed. We had a good year defensively and our offensive chemistry should be even better this year: I just want to help us win more games.

JonTeitel