Oct. 20, 2004
This is the first question-and-answer feature of an ongoing, weekly series highlighting a Boston College student-athlete. This week's featured athlete is men's basketball junior co-captain and starting point guard Louis Hinnant.
Q: How productive have your first several days of practice been?
A: Practice has been really good thus far. Right now, we're just trying to get the freshmen on the right path. We have four freshmen, which is a lot for a recruiting class. We're just trying to help them pick up on the concepts. Other than that, we've got a pretty veteran team, so we're just taking it as we go.
Q: What has Coach Skinner been emphasizing in the first few days of practice?
A: Defense. That's just the way we play. Right now we're just focusing on defense. We haven't really put in too many plays thus far. So we're focusing on the team defense concept and things like that, which is the way we win and the way we play. If we are going to win, that's the way we're going to do it, playing defense.
Q: Speak a little about the four newcomers - Akida, Gordon, John and Sean.
A: Right now, all the freshmen have been playing pretty well. Akida has really been hitting his shots as of late. He's picking up on the plays really well. Sean Williams is just a super-athlete. Gordon brings the defense to the team. He's just a gritty, in-your-face type of guy. And John is a versatile big man, similar to the way Nate Doornekamp plays. All the freshmen bring something different to the team, and we should be able to use them.
Q: On the same topic of freshmen, have you offered them any advice?
A: I always offer some type of advice, whether they like it or not. Being a captain, there is something that I have to do if something goes wrong. If there's something they should have done better, I'll voice my opinion. And, whether they want to take my advice or not is up to them as a player. As long as I feel that I did what I was supposed to do to help them play better, then I'm going to try to do that.
Q: Who has especially impressed you the most in terms of improvement from last year?
A: I'm definitely going to go with last year's freshmen class. Steve [Hailey], Sean [Marshall] and Jared [Dudley] have all really come back a lot better. Last year we saw Jared, basically, as a garbage type of player. He picked up a lot of rebounds and banged out all the dishes. He came back with a better outside game. His ball handling is looking really good, as is Sean's. Sean's shot is a lot better. His ball handling is better. He has slimmed down as far as weight. He's a lot quicker. Stevey's come back and his jump shot looks really well. He's always been quick with the ball. They just look really strong.
Q: Any particular teams or players that you're really looking forward to facing this season?
A: I'm really looking forward to playing Clemson this year. We lost to them [last season]. Also, my best friend plays for Clemson, so I had to hear a lot of that. Sharrod Ford is their star power forward, so I had to hear that all season. So, I'm really looking forward to playing them here in Conte. Hopefully we can put it to them.
Q: And you're leaving for the ACC next season?
A: Moving from the Big East, we've got to go out there and try to beat the ACC teams we play. We've got to make our mark for when we go there, as well as beat the Big East teams because they are really going to be going after us. Talking to some of the football players, they told me they hear that a lot. We've just got to go out there and play as hard as we can. We don't want any letdowns, especially in the Big East this year.
Q: What did you do over the summer to prepare for this season and stay competitive?
A: I lifted a lot of weights this summer to try to get as big as possible while staying quick. I worked on my quickness, ball-handling, and shooting because down the stretch our team really lacked shooting in the tournament. [You spend time] watching film and trying to just fine-tune your game as much as possible. You've also got to stay healthy going out to play pick-up games because it's easy to get hurt. I tried to take care of my injuries, like the fractured wrist I had. I tried to see doctors and things like that so I could come back for the season healthy and not have to worry about injuries. I think I have done that.
Q: How do you stay in touch with teammates over the summer?
A: Well, Craig, Jermaine and I were all back for the second session of summer school along with the freshman class. The seven of us were able to play together. In the first session, some guys were here and were able to play together. Guys play in summer leagues, especially the guys from California. The guys in California see each other a lot. They play on teams together. I think that guys really understand each other's games and as much as we play leading up to practice, it's easy to pick on each other and see the nuances of each other's games.
Q: Is there any area or skill that you've really focused on and where you hope to make significant improvement from last year?
A: Ball handling and shooting. I think by percentages I shot the ball really well, if you go by percentage. But, I don't think I shot it enough, where other teams really focused on it. I was shooting around 45 or 46 percent from three, but people still wouldn't honor it because I didn't shoot it enough. Conditioning, I tried to come into camp in good shape. If you come into camp in proper condition, you can move onto other things rather than trying to get the team in good condition. Foot speed and ball handling are things I worked on in the off-season because that's what we were lacking as a team. It should help us, come game time.
Q: As one of three team captains, what do you see as your main responsibilities?
A: I'm more of the vocal type of guy, energy type of guy. Nate talks to the team, Craig leads by example for the most part, and I try to tell them to bring energy to the team. All sorts of point guards have to be an extension from the coach and that is very important for me to step up and become a leader for this team. So, that's just what I plan to bring to the team.
Q: With seven lettermen and four starters back from last year, what are the goals for the season?
A: We are definitely going for it all. The season is broken down into three parts. First, we want to win our league. Then, we want to go into the Big East Tournament. We have dreams and goals of winning that. Once we get to the [NCAA] Tournament, we want to take it all there. We are not settling for anything other than big things. We are not talking of any losses right now, saying we want to go 21-5 or 23-4 or something like that. We are trying to win every game that we step on the floor for. I think we have the team that can do it. It's definitely a hard task to say that we're going to win every game because that's not likely. But our mindset is that we are going to go out and give it everything we've got every time we step on the floor.
Q: Talk about some of the challenges you are going to face in the Big East.
A: This is going to be a tough league this year. Syracuse still has their two big guns back with [Gerry] McNamara and Hakim Warrick. So they are going to be a tough team to beat. Pitt is always a tough team to beat, UConn as well. They always have a lot of talent. Providence is going to be tough with Ryan Gomes coming back. I think Villanova is going to be a really good team. I think they have really good guards. This league is going to be a lot better than what the outsiders believe it's going to be. But, like I said, we are coming in to win the whole thing.
Q: Explain to those of us who don't play Division I sports the demands and pressures you and your teammates encounter at a school like Boston College.
A: It's tougher than what people think. Between lifting weights, and practice and going to class, after practice you've got to get your homework done, which means staying up late. Then you have to get up at 8 or 9 in the morning in order to get to class, then right back to practice for 2.5 or 3 hours. It's real tough on your body. You wake up in the morning and sometimes you just don't feel like doing anything. But, you just have to do it. Without grades, you can't play. You also have to perform at a high level once you get on the court. I mean, when we signed a scholarship, that's what we signed our life away to. Guys know what they are here for. Guys know that they are here to get their education first and to play basketball second, whether it be any sport--football or soccer or whatever it may be.
Q: You mentioned that you have a very busy schedule, but what part of the day do you look forward to most?
A: Practice. When it's all said and done, every person on any level of sports here, for them to be here they must love to do it. We go through class, we lift weights and somewhere in there you have to find a meal to eat. Once you step on hardwood, you realize that this is what you're here for. This is what you've been doing since you were a little kid. You just try to get away from school and all the other stuff that you have to do in order to be a successful student-athlete. It just kind of takes your mind away from everything else.
Q: What other sports do you enjoy playing?
A: I'm a big football guy. I like to play football. Up until high school I played football. But, my basketball coach wouldn't let me play football in high school. I try to get to every home game that we have. Sundays, you can catch me in my room watching football. Sean Marshall and I play football with basketballs all the time. A lot of the guys on the team really enjoy playing football. I see a lot of the football players at this school wanting to play basketball. I see a lot of the hockey guys playing basketball. Nate Doornekamp, on our team, likes to play hockey. I think every athlete likes to do something other than what they do.
Q: What's been your biggest basketball thrill in two seasons at Boston College?
A: I would definitely have to say going to the NCAA Tournament. With the team we had last year, we were a very young team. My freshman year, when we had a lot of talent on the team, we ended up going to the NIT. Last year's team we weren't as talented as my freshman year, but we worked hard and did what we had to do. We definitely stressed defense to get there. With this year's team, I think it's similar to the (2002-03) team because we have so much talent. We definitely try to stress that two years ago we had a lot of talent but didn't really do anything with it. Again, I would definitely have to say that it was making the NCAA Tournament. There's nothing like it. Just to get on the big stage and finally feel like you accomplished something as a team.
Q: What do you take from last year's experience in the NCAA Tournament?
A: Talent means nothing. Without hard work, dedication, focus, listening and things like that, we can't win anything. Every Division I team is just as talented as we are. Every Division I team has talent - from the first player on the court to the last player on the bench. Every team has talent, but you have to be able to focus and be dedicated to your team and your teammates in order to win no matter what conference you may play in.
Next week: The Athletics Department will feature the football team's starting quarterback, Paul Peterson.