Jon Teitel continues our season preview series by chatting with Loyola Marymount’s Anthony Ireland about sharing a school record with the legendary Hank Gathers.
You are one of only three returning players in the country who scored at least 20 points and three assists per game, how do you balance your scoring with your passing? It is important to get the other guys involved when I get double-teamed: it is easy to find guys when they are open.
Your non-conference road schedule includes trips to Long Beach State, Pitt, and Valparaiso, which of these three games do you feel will present your biggest test? Every road game is tough so we are just getting ready every day.
You are one of four returning starters this year, how big a factor do you think your team’s experience will be this season? It will be huge…but the main part is to get the younger players on board so that we can become a great team. The seniors will try to take the lead and make sure the freshmen are doing all the little things both on and off the court.
Your roster has players from Zambia, Nigeria, and Croatia. How have you been able to come together as a team while having so many international players? It is pretty easy to get along with everyone: they all have their own personalities, and at the end of the day we are all just playing the game we love.
What are your expectations for the upcoming season? I could see us finishing in the top-three of the league and definitely making a run to the NCAA tourney. I would love to be conference POY and be as great a leader as I can. I want to leave my legacy on the program.
You play for Coach Max Good: what makes him such a good coach, and what is the most important thing that you ever learned from him? Coach Good can really get on his players but he has taught me the importance of mental toughness: if I can handle that, then the games will just come easy.
In the 2012 CIT Damian Lillard scored 27 points in a six point loss by Weber State. How were you able to pull out the win, and where does Lillard rank among the best college players you have ever seen? Lillard is definitely one of the best players I have faced in college. Our whole defense was geared around stopping him and the game went down to the wire.
In the 2013 WCC tourney you made a layup with 5.9 seconds left in a two point win over Santa Clara. What did you learn from your run in last year’s tourney that you think can help you this year? We have to always be ready and stay together as a team because you never know what can happen in the postseason. The one saying that stuck in our heads last year was “we’re losing, but we’re not losing”: we were down in the dumps but we still have to come out and give it 100% every game, which is how we shocked people in the WCC tourney.
Last year you became the second junior in school history to ever be named All-WCC in back-to-back seasons (Hank Gathers was the first). Do you feel like you are one of the best players in the country? Yeah! I would not be where I am today if I did not have that confidence: that is what great players are supposed to think.
You had a birthday last month, what did you do for the big day? I was actually in the gym that night getting better: there is no other place I would rather be. I got to celebrate with my teammates.