Hoops and Hardballs

William S. Paxton covers local college sports for Connecticut Post and the Hearst Media Group.

Part 2 with Sydney Johnson on the Fairfield men’s basketball program

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Part 2 (of three parts) from last week’s interview with Fairfield men’s basketball coach Sydney Johnson:

6. What can you tell us about Keegan Hyland and his future status with the Stags?

SJ: “Yeah with Keegan he is still trying to figure out his options. We have been talking almost once a week. We are letting our guys take care of class and we have limited workouts with them. He’s just trying to figure out what’s the best fit for him. … He’s been better. He’s coming off a surgery. He had a little bit of work done to his hip and he believes this maybe the time where if he heals from this he can finally get back to where he believes he can be.

“I think he ran up against a number of things this year. Obviously, it was a transfer year and he was going to sit out anyway, but his health was an issue. Hopefully for his sake, this one last surgery will allow him to get where he needs to be.”

7. So 50-50 he plays for you?

SJ: “Yeah. We don’t necessarily have anybody in the wings waiting, so we just have to let the process play out with Keegan and have these kind of conversations until we definitively know whether he is with us or not. Whether he’s coming back to Fairfield or he’s going continue his playing career somewhere else and go from there. That’s when I’ll make my last play from there. We are not actively recruiting I will say that much in terms of adding another piece.”

8. If you were to add another piece, I believe you mentioned before that you would rather have a transfer as opposed to adding a seventh freshman. Is that still the case?

SJ: That would make a lot of sense I think to kind of build for the future. We are in it for the long haul and that would be a long term approach.”

9. Can you tell us a little bit about the six freshmen coming in and how they might fit into the mix?

SJ: “Early on we just tried to get bigger and longer, but stay skilled. Our first core group of guys is a lot of addressing that, the height issues and the size, the ability to impact the game defensively and also to be able to measure up when we play out of the league. We’ve talked before that we are facing bigger teams playing the likes of Arizona State, Old Dominion, UConn and Minnesota. We are going to continue to play schedules like that and we feel that we addressed some size issues there and defensive advantages for us.

“Later in the recruiting cycle we’ve added some guards that are going to have to play along side our seniors at times, but also back them up. Again long haul, long-term approach and will be more prominent as sophomores and juniors when we have three key senior guards graduating.”

10. With freshmen forward Marcus (Gilbert) and Coleman (Johnson), do you have two potential explosive wing players, or small forwards?

SJ: “We are going to wait and see once they get here. I like what Marcus can potential do whether as a third guard or small forward. I like Coleman’s versatility. If you’ve noticed, we’re really recruited guys who have (versatility). Of the six players, we have maybe three or four there that can play different positions.

“And then we have (6-foot-10) Josip Mikulic, who even though he would play the center spot, he’s very versatile as well. Lincoln Davis is a really good guard. I think he’s a lead guard. You can hand the ball to him and he can kind of get you into stuff, but he’s versatile, too. Even though maybe those two are more position specific, I think we have a group of six players that can do a lot of different things and it won’t matter if they are a one, two, three or four. It’s just this is how we play ball and you can do play with a lot of different pieces.

“It just makes us a more versatile team, and you saw this year and I know this is a long-winded answer, but you saw this year when teams could play us one way we struggled. But as we improved and we were able to do different things, people didn’t have answers for us. We were not only able to get to the MAAC championship, but get into the CIT and have some success.”

11. Was landing Lincoln late in the recruiting process a big signing for you?

SJ: “Yeah but no more, and I don’t want to take anything away from Lincoln … who is a very good player, but no one of (the freshmen) is more important than the other. We are excited about the group. It’s the core group of them that need to learn from our returners – I can’t stress that enough that our returners are going to set the tone – but than they have an opportunity to continue the momentum that Ed (Cooley) has built here. Twenty wins three years in a row, postseason three years in a row.

“We are going to be challenged to do that this year, but we want that to become a staple of the program as we move forward.”

(Part 3 of the off-season interview with Sydney Johnson will be posted Monday evening at http://blog.ctnews.com/paxton/)

Categories: General
William Paxton