Basketball: College tips off – head coach Ed Swanson

Head coach Ed Swanson

On first year at William and Mary

I think the challenge is really the unknown, and one of the things I really think any coach has when they take over a program at any level, no matter what sport, is the current players on the team and possibly the resistance — you didn’t recruit them — there’s their style of play, all that unknown. And to the players’ credit on this team, it’s been exceptional. They’ve been a welcoming group of student athletes and have embraced myself, the coaching staff, what we’re trying to do, and the future of the program. And I think we have a terrific foundation here. But everything is different. And change isn’t a bad thing necessarily. The players have handled it exceptionally and I couldn’t be prouder of this group right now.

On familiarity with current players

In my 22 years at Sacred Heart University, you have the opportunity to watch a lot of these players play. [Senior forward] Kaitlyn Mathieu – I had the opportunity to watch when she was up at Worcester Academy, and I liked her from way back then when I saw her — and she obviously chose William and Mary. [Junior guard]Anna Kestler is somebody that I watched play a great deal of AAU basketball. And you can go right down the line; Alexis Hoffsteder, who’s a freshman guard on the team, she chose between William and Mary and Sacred Heart University. So there’s a lot of familiarity with a lot of the players. Individual skill set – [junior guard] Kyla Kerstetter and [junior forward] Jazmen Boone on the wings fit our style of play and what we’re trying to do.

On identity following loss of five players to graduation

Yes and no. I think you’d like to take over a program that has a lot of experienced players, and a lot of those players were successful in another system. So yes, it’s ok that we’re starting off kind of fresh so we can mold them into what we want them to be and how we want them to play. But I think the team’s got a lot to prove and we lost 68 percent of our scoring, which is a lot, 51 percent of our rebounding, and that’s a lot. So there’s a lot of room, there’s a lot of potential and there’s a lot of candidates to make up for that. This team has an opportunity to be a good team – maybe not as successful as some individuals as the past, but a good team. And that’s what we’re trying to focus on right now.

On style of play

Organized chaos is probably a good term. We’re going to try to use the full 94 feet, a low risk high reward type system. We’re not going to give up easy baskets—if you think of pressure defense you think of the Louisville men or something like that. We’re going to be more like a zone oriented, where you don’t need the superior athletes to do it. We’re going to be trying to change things up. I look at it as like a baseball game — if you kept throwing me a 97 mile per hour fastball, eventually I’m going to learn how to catch up to it. So we’re going to switch defenses up a good deal throughout the course of the game, and the team is grasping it well. When we score we’re going to be in one defense, when we don’t score we’ll be in another defense. So for an opposing team, that’s kind of challenging in terms of, ‘oh, we’ve got to go zone offense, we’ve got to go man offense, what are they doing now?’ We’re going to try to cause a chaotic brand of basketball for the other team, meanwhile we’re going to be as organized as we possibly can. So we’re going to use the full 94 feet, we’re going to get up and down the floor, and some of the players have embraced that and it’ll fit their skill set pretty well.

On loss of interior players and expectations of a faster paced style of play

You know [senior forward] Kaitlyn Mathieu is doing a very good job; she had two very good scrimmages for us. [Junior center] Mackenzie Morrison has made significant strides, so she’s going to see some significant time early on. [Forward] Kasey Curtis is a freshman who is coming off an ACL injury, so she’s been back practicing full for I’d say about three weeks; so she’s just slowly getting her rhythm back and that sort of thing. But we’re going to have to share that load inside. I know Emily [Correal ’13] had a terrific year and Jackie [McKenna ’13] had a great year inside, so I don’t know if one individual’s going to pick up all those stats, but I think collectively we have a pretty good group that might be able to share that load a little bit.

On starting lineup and rotations

Well we open on Monday, so I need to figure something out over the weekend. I think we have four starters in place. [Junior] Anna Kestler is going to start at the point guard spot, [juniors] Kyla [Kerstetter] and Jazmen [Boone] are going to be on the wings, [senior] Kaitlyn will be in at the four or the five, and then we have several other candidates for the other spot. That could be [junior center Mackenzie Morrison], [senior guard] Victoria Willems, who people haven’t seen but I think has some potential to help us. We’ll utilize her in different ways. [Freshman guard] Alexandra Massaquel, who’s from Hawaii, has shown some nice things. We’ll probably end up going with an upperclassman over a freshman, just to let the freshmen sit on the bench for the first couple minutes and catch their breath. The history has been that freshmen are sometimes better coming off the bench. But I think when we meet on Sunday, if everybody’s consensus is that we should probably start a freshman, we might do that.

On leadership

I think they’ve all taken turns at different times. The most consistent leaders have been [junior guard] Kyla Kerstetter and [senior guard] Vic Willems, I think, from day one since we’ve got here until today. Many people have shared that job of leadership. And that’s why I think we won’t name captains, because I think sometimes when you name captains the burden falls on two players for the entire season. [Kerstetter’s] been good, [Kestler’] been good, [Boone] — they’ve shared that burden of leadership.

On style of offense

I think we’ve got to play inside out. A big part of our offense will be our defense. Some of my great teams in the past have generated offense with their defense, so I’m hoping that we can rebound the basketball, get the ball into [junior guard Anna Kestler’s] hands as fast as possible and get the ball up the floor to [junior forward Jazmen Boone] and [junior guard Kyla Kerstetter] who can attack the rim. In the half-court set I do believe the post players have got to get touches, and this team, I think –  we scrimmaged Richmond on Sunday and we didn’t score the ball inside. And what happens if you don’t score the ball inside is that if you’re on the perimeter and your shot’s off a little bit you’re going to have those long lulls in your offense where you can’t put points up. This week we’ve put the emphasis on getting the ball inside and that’s how you’re used to playing. You’re used to playing in the backyard with your brothers and sisters and your mother or father is standing underneath the basket and throws it out to you and you shoot it and those are the easy shots, when you’re stepping into the basket. We do want to play inside out. [Senior forward Kaitlyn Mathieu, freshman forward Kasey Curtis, freshman guard Alexandra Masaquel] all have the capabilities of scoring inside, but we have to look inside first and not settle for long perimeter shots.

On zone and man defense

If it’s half-court and the games on the line, last possession of the game, we’re going to be in man-to-man; we’re not going to lose by playing zone. I can live with a kid making a shot off the dribble, a pull-up contested shot. In zone, sometimes you give up too many set shots, and if you’re going to give up set shots, I mean, I can go out there and play right now if you let me hit set shots. If we do play a little zone, that’s after we’ve pressed. We’re going to play in the full court, extending the defense and we’ll play a zone. With the game on the line, you’ll see us play a lot of man-to-man last year, and I think the team has embraced it. Our two scrimmages, I’ve been excited with where our man-to-man defense is, though we’re still trying to break them out of some bad habits, but I’ve been happy where our defense is.

On expectations for season

I don’t know. Come watch us early, but don’t make a decision on who we are early. Come back late, because I think the team is going to get better as the season rolls on, as they get more comfortable in their roles. Somebody’s going to be our leading scorer, you know? So we’ll see how that person emerges in games and gains confidence. The thing now with this team is that mental edge and that ability to fight through things. And I think we’re getting better at that, but we’re still going to be a work in progress. My expectation is the same every year: to be playing our best basketball that first week in March, you know what I mean? I want to keep getting better. I don’t look at standings, even when we’re at the top of the league I don’t look at that. I just look at how we’re playing on a weekly and individual game basis. And hopefully you’re playing your best basketball in March, because it’s a long season, and some great teams will self-destruct on their own. If we can stay the course, continue to get better, and get ready to explode that first week in March when it really counts.


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