Q&A with Loyola coach Jimmy Patsos
Each new season was better than the last for the Loyola men's basketball team during Jimmy Patsos' first four years as head coach.
That changed last year, when the Greyhounds -- who finished 19-14 in 2007-08 -- struggled to a 12-20 season and a tie for seventh in the MAAC.
This season, Patsos is counting on three impact newcomers -- plus several notable returning veterans -- to help bring the Greyhounds back to their winning ways.
Power forward Shane Walker (6-10, 211 pounds), combo guard Robert Olson (6-4, 175) and center Julius Kavon Brooks (6-9, 215) compose Loyola's 2009 recruiting class. Walker, a Montrose Christian graduate, is eligible to compete after sitting out last season as a transfer from Maryland. He appeared in 24 games for the Terps as a freshman. Olson, who participated in the Charm City Challenge at the Towson Center last spring, led Georgetown Prep to a 17-7 record as a senior. Brooks averaged 15 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks during his senior season at Page High in Greensboro, N.C.
Sophomore small forward Erik Etherly -- an Alexandria, Va., native who played AAU basketball with Team Melo -- will sit out this season after transferring from Northeastern.
Patsos spoke with Recruiting Report recently about the Greyhounds' incoming class.
Isaac Reid transferred to Gannon where he could play right away. JoJo Muvana transferred. But yeah, we recruited an inside player when we got Shane Walker. When you take a transfer [it’s tough for a program] to have that guy sit out the entire year. We did it with Gerald Brown [Providence], Omari Israel [Notre Dame], Jamal Barney [Providence]. But it’s difficult in that year. I could have brought someone in -- not someone as good as Shane Walker -- but someone who could play right away. But Shane chose us and we were very lucky to get Shane Walker. When you take a transfer, it hurts you because you’re minus-one already. But we actively went out and needed an inside player and we needed a wing. We got Bobby Olson early. He was a really good player at Georgetown Prep. So we signed him and knew we had a big guard coming in and that was good. We had Shane Walker coming in, and we wanted one more guy and waited on him to qualify. At Loyola you have to be a good academic student. We got [our guy] from Greensboro, N.C., Julius Kavon Brooks.
How did you get involved with Brooks and how will he fit in?
We’ve replaced Brad Farrell and Dan Ficke with Kavon Brooks, who I think will start at the 5. ... Tulsa offered him. UAB offered. Some ACC schools were looking at him in the spring, and he chose us. Shane Walker, I think he has a chance to be a tremendous player in this league, and Bobby Olson, who will play substantial minutes for us. And then I have another kid, J’hared Hall, who we would’ve liked to redshirt last year. But he played a little and went overseas last summer. He played on a team with Sean Mosley from Maryland that went on a foreign tour to Europe. Brett Harvey played [with Team USA] at the Maccabiah Games and won the gold medal with [Tennessee’s] Bruce Pearl as the head coach. Those two guys got better in the offseason.
How did you get Olson to commit so early in the process?
We’ve known Georgetown Prep because we’re from down that way. His father played tennis at Maryland and John Lucas was one of his teammates. [Lucas] was as good a tennis player as he was a basketball player. [The Olson’s] knew us from the Maryland days. He’s a really good kid with really good grades who’s a really good player. When you’re a good player with good grades, you can come right now. [We said,] ‘the scholarship’s yours,’ and he took it.
What will be expected of Olson and Brooks as a freshmen?
Olson and Brooks will make freshmen mistakes, but they’re both a little bigger for their positions. Bobby’s a 6-4 guard and Kavon’s a 6-9 inside player. They’re both ready to contribute. Now, they’re freshmen. I like guys freshman to sophomore year making the big jump. Whether it’s here or Gary Williams and the Maryland family, it’s all about getting guys better. That’s why I’m excited about J’hared Hall. And [Jamal] Barney’s going to have a better year. So we’re hoping that as long as [the freshmen] can contribute, [we'll be] good.
What did you see from Shane Walker last year in practice and what will his role be this year?
I like Shane Walker a lot. I think he’s mature. He tore his ACL in February so we didn’t see him the last month of practice, but he’s all healed up. He’s a guy who’s long and athletic and smart, in my opinion. Those are the three things we look for: long, athletic and smart. He’s gifted physically and talented. He knows the game, and he grew up a lot [since leaving Maryland]. At our level, he’s going to make some mistakes. At the ACC level there’s no time to make mistakes. But we have him for three years and I suspect he’s going to be very good.
How does he stack up with some of your other transfers in the past?
I’d say if he’s getting 10 rebounds, 10 points per game, it would be a successful year. I don’t think he’s going to be an Andre Collins or a Gerald Brown. We have to be careful. Andre Collins played in a lot of big games [at Maryland]. He played against Steve Blake and Juan Dixon in practice. Gerald Brown was on the last Providence team to make the NCAA tournament. He was a player who was in the top seven or eight [in the rotation]. Gerald Brown played minutes. Jamal Barney didn’t play many minutes. For him [it was a tougher transition] than Gerald Brown. It’s not the same for Shane. He has three years. But Andre Collins was really ready to go. He was a really good player ready to go. Shane’s not there, but he’s going to help us and start and be a good player and play tons of minutes. There’s going to be some good and some bad. But we have him for three more years, which is great.
Etherly will sit out this year due to transfer rules, but talk about how you landed him the second time around after recruiting him in high school.
They don’t miss you ‘till you’re gone. The grass is always greener. Erik Etherly is extremely smart, and I’ll take guys back. I don’t hold grudges. Erik is an extremely bright kid and a great kid. He went to Boston on an Indian summer weekend when it was 80 degrees and the Boston Red Sox were in the playoffs. So how do you think his visit to Northeastern was? It was 80 degrees and you can see Fenway Park from Northeastern’s campus. I would say there was a little bit of excitement there. It’s a good place to go to school, but nobody cares about college basketball in that town. ... So he got his release and met with his parents and wanted to come. I loved him the first time around and I loved him the second time around. I’m from Boston, so I understand all the factors.
But he’s glad to be home and glad to be in a basketball area. I think that Erik found out that it’s a college hockey town that doesn’t have a lot of room for college basketball. Baltimore [is a great basketball city] and Maryland is a great college basketball state. Todd [Bozeman at Morgan State] has been successful, we won 19 games two years ago, Fang [Mitchell at Coppin State] is obviously the dean, so we’re getting more attention in the city. Erik Etherly called me and said ‘I love the place and should have come [originally]’ and that was about all that happened. So we’re very fortunate to have him back. He would’ve helped us last year, but I’m really happy to have him back.
What will your rotation look like this season?
We’ll go with a nine-man rotation. Tony Lewis is probably 10, Paolo Ivis is 11 and Garrett Kelly is 12. Josh Wiegand will redshirt. He’s got good upside. Tony Lewis, he’s going to be good. He’s going to compete for minutes. He just has to stay healthy. J’hared Hall is 9. He’s behind [Jamal] Barney. Bobby Olson is 8. He can play the 1, 2 and 3. Jawaan Wright is 7. Brian Rudolph is 6. He’s a starter that’s our 6th man. He started the last two years. We liked to pick one star to come off the bench. That leaves Kavon Brooks starting at the 5. He’s very long and athletic. He played very well in the Carolina state all-star game in July. Then we have Shane Walker at the 4, Anthony Winbush at 3, Barney at the 2 and Brett Harvey as the 1-man who can shoot it.
So I’m excited about having nine guys who can play a lot of minutes. We can press and run, we’ve got a lot of shooters, we have better size, and like I said, we’re in shape this year. We’re coming in this season with healthy players, all smart players that are all on the same page of Loyola basketball right now. Last year we weren’t all on the same page. Two years ago we won 19 games, 18 the year before and 15 the year before that. Last year I’m not sure we were on the same page and I take full responsibility. This year we’re on the same page.
Baltimore Sun photo by Gene Sweeney Jr. / Feb. 26, 2009