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Detroit’s Ray McCallum talks about winning Roundball Daily.com Horizon League Player of the Year

April 5, 2012 Leave a comment

By: Kels Dayton

It’s all coming together for Detroit point guard Ray McCallum Jr.

The 6-2 sophomore won the Roundball Daily.com Horizon League Player of the Year award Wednesday after a season in which he averaged 15.6 points, 4.5 boards and 3.9 assists per game and led the Titans to the Horizon League championship and their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1999.

Ray McCallum Jr. won the Roundball Daily.com Horizon League Player of the Year award Wednesday. (Mike DiNovo/US Presswire)

McCallum came up big when it mattered most in 2012.

Although his Titans (22-14, 11-7) finished three games back of top-seeded Valparaiso in the regular season, they thoroughly dominated the Crusaders on Valpo’s own court in the Horizon League title game.

McCallum led the way with 21 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, and 4 steals in that game,which may have been the deciding factor in his edging out Valparaiso forward Ryan Broekhoff to win the award. (McCallum received 44% of the vote, Broekhoff 42%). The Titans erased a 27-24 halftime deficit by massacring the Crusaders, 46-23 in the second half of their 70-50 win.

This is exactly what UDM fans had envisioned for McCallum when he signed with the school as a McDonald’s All-American two springs ago.

The point guard from Detroit Country Day received offers from some of the top programs in the country, visiting Oklahoma, Arizona, UCLA and Florida before deciding to stay home and play for his father Ray McCallum Sr. at local Detroit-Mercy.

We caught up with the star guard and asked him about winning the award, playing for his father, and what it means to succeed at home.

ROUNDBALL DAILY: First off Ray, congratulations on winning our Horizon League Player of the Year Award. What are your thoughts on winning this honor, especially as a sophomore?

RAY McCALLUM: Thank you. I’m just happy to win this award and happy that we were able to win the Horizon League championship and make the NCAA Tournament. At the start of the year this was our goal. Actually…it’s been out goal for two years. Unfortunately, my freshman year we came up short…but as a team we got together and we knew that this was what we wanted to do.

We had four seniors on this team and my job, being the point guard… I just wanted to do anything that I could to help my seniors and this team to be able to say that they went out with a ring and a championship.

RD: So how do you view individual awards, do you really think of them as just a team thing?

McCALLUM: Well of course I couldn’t have done it without my teammates. As I said at the beginning of the year, there’s no way that I would get this award without my teammates. If it wasn’t for all of their help then it wouldn’t be possible. It’s really them…they helped me out at times during the season when I might not be playing so well. They kept me upbeat. They kept me going in practice each and every day. I owe it all to my teammates and coaching staff as well.

McCallum could have played anywhere in the country, but he chose to stay home and play for his dad. (Mike DiNovo/US Presswire)

RD: What’s it like to play for your father?

McCALLUM: It’s a lot of fun. He gets the best out of me each and every day…in practice and in games. I’ve gotten a lot better in just two years playing under him and you know, he knows my game really well. So we have a really strong connection on the court. Anytime I’m not doing well, we’ll watch more film or we’ll be in the gym getting more shots up. It’s definitely tough…he pushes me, but he gets the best out of me and that’s what I wanted.

RD: Does he treat you any differently than everyone else on the team?

McCALLUM: I think he treats me tougher than anyone on the team. Of course… being his son, he’s gonna be hard on his son…but I’m also the point guard. I feel like the point guard is like the quarterback. You’ve gotta be on every night. You’ve got to get your teammates involved…you gotta play defense…you gotta score, and you gotta do all the little things to help your team win.

And be vocal. One thing’s for sure, he’s always on me about being vocal and being a leader. And of course he has to be tough on me in practice. He stresses to me how important it is being a point guard because he was a point guard himself. So he knows what it takes.

But it doesn’t bother me that he’s tough on me; I like it.

RD: Coming out of high school as a McDonald’s All-American, did you ever consider going anywhere else?

McCALLUM: Oh yeah. I was looking at four other schools and Detroit made my fifth. I actually took official visits to Oklahoma, UCLA, Arizona and Florida. I was really strongly considering all of those schools. I didn’t make my decision until like the last signing day in April, actually. It was definitely a tough process, but at the end of the day it came down to who I trust the most and who had my best interests [at heart]…and it came down to my father. I just couldn’t turn that down….to get the opportunity to stay home and learn from him and play in front of my family.

RD: What was it like with your father as you were going through that process? Was he kind of pushing you to play for him or did he really just stay out of it?

McCALLUM: Oh, he stayed out of it. He treated me just like a regular father-son…and he never pushed me either way. He maybe had like two talks with me about it. One was earlier in the year and then later in the year. He told me what he thought I could do here….and then basically let me make my own decision. He actually came on a couple of the visits I had to other schools, but he really left it up to me and gave me my space. But at the end of the day, I knew Detroit was where I wanted to go.

RD: What are your goals for the rest of your collegiate career? I know you’re only a sophomore…

McCALLUM: Well, my goals are to try and win the Horizon League championship again and get back to the NCAA Tournament and actually win some games. And to just keep doing what I’ve been doing and just get better each and every year.

RD: How tough was it to play Kansas in the first round of the tournament. Did you think they had that kind of a run in them, to make it to the national championship game?

McCALLUM: Yeah, Kansas was definitely a tough team…they have really good players at all positions. I think we battled with them early and then in the second half they just kind of took over. But their defense was….I thought they played really good defense. They were in front of you all game…put a lot of pressure on you, got in the lanes…with Robinson and Taylor and Withey and all those guys…it was definitely tough. Defense can win you games and I knew that once they beat us, if you looked at the bracket, they could make a run. I definitely didn’t have them in the national championship game…but they had a great team and they made an incredible run.

RD: Wait, you didn’t fill out a bracket did you?

McCALLUM: No, I didn’t fill one out…. I didn’t want to jinx us.

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Roundball Daily surveyed over 3,300 Division 1 basketball coaches and sports information directors in naming the National Player of the Year, Danny Abbott Unsung Hero Award, and the players of the year in each of the 31 conferences. Voting was conducted by email via www.surveymonkey.com.

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Ohio State guard Aaron Craft wins Roundball Daily.com Danny Abbott Unsung Hero Award

April 5, 2012 Leave a comment

By: Kels Dayton

Of all of the awards we have just bestowed on some of the best collegiate basketball players in the nation, this is our favorite. The Danny Abbott Unsung Hero Award was voted on in a survey of over 3,300 college basketball coaches and sports information directors from across Division 1. It is given to the player who most impacted his team’s performance this season, even if his play was not dramatically reflected in the box score.

Danny Abbott was the man. He was an unbelievable athlete, hilarious personality, and at times an unwitting pain in the neck. He could make you laugh for 4 hours straight by saying the same thing over and over. There was never a dull moment when you were around him. Danny’s spirit embodied perseverance, youthful exuberance, and an insatiable enthusiasm for life that touched everyone within 250 feet of him. Abbott died in 2001 at the age of 16, but he could not have left a more lasting memory had he lived 120 years.

Aaron Craft is the winner of the 2012 Danny Abbott Unsung Hero Award. (AP Photo)

With Danny’s spirit in mind, Roundball Daily.com is proud to announce that the winner of the inaugural Danny Abbott Unsung Hero Award is Ohio State University point guard Aaron Craft.

Craft is the perfect candidate for what this award stands for. He averaged 8.8 points and 4.6 assists, 3.2 rebounds and 2.5 steals per game this season, but his impact on the Buckeyes could not be measured merely by those statistics.

The 6-2 sophomore was perhaps the nation’s best defensive point guard, hounding opponents with a non-stop, in-your-shorts relentlessness that embodies the passion Abbott had.

New Orleans Times-Picayune columnist John DeShazer described Craft as “the itch that can’t be scratched, the faucet with the never-ending drip, and the gnat that buzzes around your ear no matter how many times it’s the target of a swat.”

“He’s one of the best lead guards in the nation,” said Kansas head coach Bill Self.

Craft was possibly Ohio State’s most important player as he led the Buckeyes to a 31-8 record and an appearance in the Final Four. Perhaps most fitting is the fact that Aaron’s personality reflects Danny’s, as evidenced in this piece by Sports Illustrated. His father John Craft recalls Aaron playing in the driveway with former Ohio State guard Jon Diebler on the night before a big tournament in his freshman year of high school. (Diebler was getting ready to go off to Ohio State at the time).

“It was 2 a.m., and they were drenched in sweat, going at it as hard as they could go,” John Craft said. “I said Aaron, you’ve got to get up early tomorrow and play, and he said `I know, I’ll be ready.’ It reminded me of when he was in fourth or fifth grade – he was not going to back down, and he was out there trying to prove himself.”

“Both boys and my daughter just work relentlessly,” John Craft said. “If they had to sit out and not do something for two days, they would go stir crazy.”

Nothing could describe Abbott more accurately. And that’s one of the reasons that we at Roundball Daily.com are honored to present the Buckeye point guard with this award.

Craft garnered 39.3% of the vote, and edged out Purdue senior forward Robbie Hummel, who earned 33.5%. Louisville junior Peyton Siva picked up 15% of the vote, while Kansas junior guard Elijah Johnson came in at 5.3%.

Other top responses included Missouri senior guard Kim English, Long Beach State senior guard Casper Ware, Colorado State junior forward Pierce Hornung and Syracuse senior guard Scoop Jardine.

Congratulations to Aaron on an outstanding season and for winning the inagural Danny Abbott Unsung Hero Award.

Danny would be proud, although he’d never stop talking about it.

______________________

Award voting was conducted and votes tabulated by email via www.surveymonkey.com.

Ten Cinderella Teams that could bust up your NCAA Tournament Bracket this March

February 23, 2012 1 comment

By: Kels Dayton

Most people are shocked when they look up at their TV screens in mid-March and see the directional school from a conference they’ve never heard of celebrating a jaw-dropping victory over a big-time power. Think VCU last season. Or Butler in 2010.

It’s part of what makes the NCAA Tournament the greatest sporting event in the history of organized civilization.

But most people never see it coming.

Their brackets are left shattered, irrevocably damaged, almost unrecognizable just days after the Tournament begins. They never even had a chance.

They should’ve visited Roundball Daily. Here, we’ve got all of the resources available to keep your bracket from busting just days after it came into this world.

So, which teams have the best chance to leave you slack-jawed, staring at the television in 2012?

Read below and help save a bracket.

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Other Possible Bracket-Breakers:

Oral Roberts 25-5 (16-1, Summit League)

Davidson 20-7, (14-2, Southern Conference)

Nevada 22-5 (10-1, Western Athletic Conference)

Middle Tennessee State 24-4 (13-1, Sun Belt Conference)

Virginia Commonwealth 24-6 (14-3, Colonial Athletic)

George Mason 23-7 (14-3, Colonial Athletic)


Categories: Featured Articles, News

Jeremy Lin’s story is the stuff dreams are made of

February 15, 2012 Leave a comment

By: Kels Dayton

Jeremy Lin is living the dream.

My dream. Your dream. Any kid’s dream who has ever picked up a basketball.

He’s doing exactly what you think about when you’re young and full of imagination and hope. (Not to mention naivety).

Jeremy Lin has led the Knicks to six straight wins. (AP Photo/Frank Gunn)

I’m gonna play basketball at Harvard. I’m gonna score 30 on UConn, make a name for myself, and make it to the NBA.

I’m gonna play for the Knicks.

I might not play much at first, but when I get my chance…

I’m gonna drop 38 on Kobe, will a struggling team to six straight wins, and drill a game-winning shot at the buzzer to beat the Raptors.

I’m gonna shock the world. My last name is going to be an adjective, the New York Post is going to come up with lame pun headlines for me, and everyone in New York is going to love me like their long lost son.

I’m gonna do something no one has never seen before.

When you’re young and full of hope, you think about these things. You think about coming out of nowhere, being the underdog, and taking the world by storm. You think about doing it your way, on your terms, with all of your talents and capabilities coming out on the biggest stage possible. All of your potential being realized at the exact perfect moment.

That’s exactly what Jeremy Lin is doing, and that’s why it’s more fascinating to watch than an episode of Through the Wormhole with Morgan Freeman.

And the best part of all of this is, he makes you feel like it could be you out there.

It’s not like Lin comes from a background full of athletic Adonises. He’s 6-3, 215 pounds. Jeremy Lin isn’t the biggest, fastest, or strongest guy you’d find at your local gym.

His dad is 5-6 for crying out loud.

Gie-Ming Lin is a computer engineer in Palo Alto, a Taiwanese immigrant who never picked up a basketball until well into his 30s, and a man who inexplicably fell in love with the game while watching old NBA videotapes.

Lin scored 27 points, including the game-winning three with 0.5 seconds left to beat the Raptors on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Frank Gunn)

Kids like Jeremy Lin aren’t supposed to be doing stuff like this.

Asian-Americans don’t make it to the NBA. Kids from Harvard don’t make it to the NBA.

Lin was the California state Player of the Year in high school, but never received a Division 1 scholarship offer. He thinks his race played a part in that, although he can’t pigeonhole exactly why.

So he went to Harvard, earned his degree in economics, and somehow still found time for basketball. He worked and he worked and worked, playing against the toughest competition possible, always finding ways to challenge himself and improve his game.

You see, Lin hasn’t done this with incredible athleticism or an AAU pedigree. He’s done it with hard work and an all-out love for the game.

That’s all you need.

Yet somehow, we forget this. We put up roadblocks like genes or race or competition level. We say we can’t do it when the truth is we just don’t feel like doing it.

That’s why it’s so fascinating when someone comes along and puts it all together, the work ethic and the positive energy and the love for the game. It’s incredible to watch…it’s almost like fate or magic or something out of My Name Is Earl. There’s no real word for it, so we have to make one up.

Lin-sanity. 

Categories: Featured Articles

You can play with the 2002 Sacramento Kings in NBA 2K12, for a price

February 14, 2012 Leave a comment

By: Kels Dayton

When I heard that NBA 2K12 was going to include the 2001-02 Sacramento Kings as one of the classic teams available to play with, I was pumped. I don’t have to tell most of our visitors why. A chance to play with the real 2002 NBA Champions? In a game with mint graphics, incredibly realistic gameplay, and a whole slew of other sick classic teams from the past? It sure beats hooking up the old N64 and firing up NBA Live 2003.

You can play with C-Webb and the '02 Kings in NBA 2K12, but it's going to cost you about $10 and a few headaches. (Photo: http://www.aroyalpain.com)

So I had my momma get it for me for Christmas. I was so pumped I could practically feel Vlade Divac’s warm, hairy embrace ready to burst through my television screen, welcoming me to a world of redemption and nostalgia previously unimaginable. I couldn’t wait to relive the glory days, and watch as the real 2002 champs lifted the Larry O’Brien trophy—even if it was only virtually.

But then I turned on my Xbox.

I searched everywhere for the ’02 Kings, only to find out that some idiot at 2K Sports decided it’d be real cool to deceive everyone and only put the 2002 Kings and the 1990-91 Golden State Warriors in a limited number of copies.

You had to either pre-order NBA 2K12 or be one of the first few hundred people to purchase the game when it came out in October in order to get a copy that included those incredibly awesome classic teams.

For those lucky enough to get one of those copies, they came with a sheet and a code specific to that individual copy which needed to be unlocked in order to play with the ’91 Warriors and the ’02 Kings.

I went from pumped to pissed.

But there was hope. I searched around a little bit and finally found out that some of the codes are still available for purchase on eBay.

Some savvy gamers who didn’t care about playing with these teams had saved their code and made them available for purchase, which meant that you could bid on one of the codes. So, as any fanatical Kings fan would do, I searched for the cheapest one–$10–and had it in my eBay message box three days later.

Was it annoying? Yes. Unnecessary? Of course. But if you really want to play with the 2002 Sacramento Kings in an outstanding video game that nearly tops the pure, unadulterated basketball nirvana that NBA 2K11 was…this is the way to go.

Just go to eBay and search for “DLC Code NBA 2K12” and make yourself the highest bidder. It shouldn’t cost you more than $10. (Look for the international sellers.)

Then pop the code in (Note: you must be online to do this. And you should save the rosters immediately. Again…annoying). I didn’t have a wireless Xbox reciever, so I hooked mine up to the internet via an ethernet cable.

Finally, sit back, relax, and enjoy as NBA 2K12 takes you on a magical journey back in time with the 2002 Sacramento Kings, not to mention all of the unbelievable classic teams already in the game. It’s truly basketball paradise, and finally, one of the most tortured fan bases in the NBA can enjoy a little sun too.

Categories: Featured Articles

LIN-SANITY: The remarkable story behind Jeremy Lin’s remarkable run with the Knicks

February 12, 2012 1 comment

By: Kels Dayton

You might think you know all about Jeremy Lin, the latest smash sensation in today’s minute-to-win-it media climate, where the average attention span lasts about as long as it takes to microwave a Hot-Pocket.

The 6-3 Knicks guard is the first Taiwanese-American ever to play in the NBA, and the first Harvard grad to suit up since Ed Smith in 1953.

LIN-sanity has taken over New York City. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

He has taken the league by storm, averaging 26.8 points and 8 assists in five games (all wins) and becoming the big man on campus in the biggest city in the world. He’s been a trending topic on Twitter, a top Google search, and the subject of rap videos, “Marry Me” signs and bad New York Post puns.

His jersey has been flying off the shelves. New Yorkers have already listed him ahead of Patrick Ewing and Walt Frazier and just behind Willis Reed as the greatest Knicks player of all-time. If you haven’t heard about Jeremy Lin over the past week, you’ve been living under a rock.

So yeah, you might think you’ve heard it all about the kid who grew up in Palo Alto, California, became the state’s player of the year in 2006, and somehow received zero Division 1 scholarship offers. You might think his rise to NBA glory is remarkable because he’s an Asian-American, because he’s from Harvard, and because he was buried at the end of the Knicks’ bench just a week and a half ago.

But Jeremy Lin’s story is remarkable for so many other reasons. His career is the culmination of one man’s strange obsession, one that took Gie-Ming Lin from Taiwan to Indiana, then to California and Massachusetts.

Gie-Ming Lin grew up in Taiwan, where basketball was about as popular as underwater sumo wrestling. But for whatever reason, whenever it passed his eyes, Gie-Ming was transfixed. He had an inexplicable passion for the game, one that millions of people around the world share.

Lin went to medical school, and as ESPN’s Dana O’Neill wrote, dreamed of coming to the U.S. for two reasons: to finish his Ph.D. and “to watch the NBA”. He immigrated in 1977, enrolling at Purdue University and completing his doctorate in computer engineering. It was then that Gie-Ming  finally satisfied his basketball jones. He stared at the television and watched all the greats… Kareem, Bird, Magic, Dr. J and Jordan, as their careers took flight.

“My dad,” Jeremy said, “is a complete basketball junkie.”

Gie-Ming, low right, taught himself the game by watching old videotapes of NBA greats. (Photo courtesy: ESPN)

Gie-Ming longed to lace up his Nikes and play this fantastic game, with the jumping and running and shooting, but there was one problem: He had never picked up a ball in his life. So he poured over old videotapes, studying Magic and Kareem, Larry and Isaiah, teaching himself the game like a scientist who had just discovered a new species.

“I got my hook shot from Kareem,”  Gie-Ming says. He’s 5-foot-6.

Although his chance at basketball glory had surpassed him, Gie-Ming decided that his children were going to grow up knowing the game. He took his oldest son, Joshua, to the YMCA to play pick-up with him, and as soon as they could walk, Jeremy and youngest son Joseph came along too.

Here they were, this family of a 5-6 Taiwanese immigrant, playing together at the ‘Y’. Drilling for hours and learning the fundamentals of the game through their father’s old NBA videotapes.

As O’Neill wrote, “Forget that all of those players on the videotapes had long since retired, that the guy with Kareem’s hook shot wouldn’t hit Abdul-Jabbar’s armpit.”

This was the American dream turned family obsession. The boys loved basketball and like their father, began to develop a thirst for the game that defined them just as much as their success in the classroom.

Joshua became a star player at Henry M. Gunn High School in Palo Alto. Joseph also played there.

Lin is perhaps the greatest player in Harvard history. (AP Photo/Fred Beckham)

And Jeremy? Well, Jeremy was special. He grew to 6-3, had a killer jumper and an innate ability to make plays off the dribble. He could shoot like Larry, attack the rim like Jordan, and ran the pick and roll like it was invented just for him. He was an incredibly smart player, and had developed that unique feel for the game, something not many players have. Like the rest of his family, he was also a gifted student, so when Harvard offered him the opportunity to play Division 1 basketball, he jumped on it.

Lin hasn’t looked back since. He averaged 16.5 points, 4.5 assists and 5 rebounds in his senior season at Harvard, and was one of the main reasons why head coach Tommy Amaker has been able to take the program to heights it had never seen before. In 111 years of playing basketball, Harvard has never been to the NCAA Tournament. They came close with Lin, but were felled by another Ivy upstart, Cornell, which reached the Sweet 16 in 2009. This year, Amaker has Harvard ranked in the Top 25 and on the fast track to an NCAA bid. If the Crimson get there, they will owe a debt of gratitude to Lin, who is undoubtedly the greatest player in school history.

“All the time he was growing up I never thought about Jeremy playing in college or playing professionally,” Gie-Ming said. “I just enjoyed watching him play. I’m so proud of him. I told him my dream has already come true.”

Knicks fans could say the same thing.

He could've been yours, Warriors and Rockets fans. (AP Photo/ Frank Franklin III)

Jeremy signed a rookie contract with the Golden State Warriors in 2010, and averaged 2.6 points in 29 games as a rookie. He was released by the Warriors in December, then cut by the Rockets weeks later. He ended up on the Knicks’ bench in January, but didn’t start to get minutes until head coach Mike D’Antoni noticed that he was working over resident point guards Toney Douglas and Mike Bibby in practice.

“He got his opportunity, and he got lucky because we were playing so bad,” said D’Antoni. “It’s like other teams–why did they pass on him? It’s because they just [didn’t] know. We had an idea he could play, we liked him, and it worked out. The end result of it is, we’re lucky.”

Lucky indeed. Lin’s total of 89 points in his first three starts with the Knicks stands as the most scored by any player in his first three starts since the NBA-ABA merger in 1976. He’s taken an awful Knicks team from the brink of implosion to four straight wins, including a legend-affirming 92-85 victory over the Lakers in which Lin went for 38 points.

It was his NBA baptism.

After admiring all of the greats from the 80’s on videotapes he still owns, Gie-Ming watched as his son out-dueled one of the greatest players of this generation, Kobe Bryant, in the world’s most famous arena. Incredible. Maybe one day some Taiwanese immigrant will teach himself the game by watching Jeremy Lin play.

The Knicks won again on Saturday, defeating the Timberwolves, 100-98, on a Lin free throw with 4.9 seconds left. They are 5-0 with Lin in the starting lineup.

And it all started with a 5-6 Taiwanese immigrant, some old tapes and a dream.

Bet you didn’t know that.

Categories: Featured Articles, News

Exclusive Interview: Murray State head coach Steve Prohm talks pressure, expectations, going undefeated, and the Final Four

January 24, 2012 2 comments

 

 

 

By: Kels Dayton

Murray State is the toast of the college basketball world these days. At 20-0 and ranked ninth in the current ESPN/USA Today poll, the Racers have survived as the nation’s last undefeated team. In the process, first-year head coach Steve Prohm has become one of six coaches in NCAA history to begin his career with 20 or more consecutive wins. It seems as though every media outlet in the nation wants a piece of the Murray State boss. Here at Roundball Daily, we got him. Coach Prohm talks about expectations, going undefeated, and yes, the Final Four.

ROUNDBALL DAILY: You guys are 20-0, No. 9 in the ESPN/USA Today Poll…did you think this was possible when you took the job?

Steve Prohm: (Laughs.) Everybody asks that. I thought we had a good team, but—you know, you probably never dream this scenario. You never dream about being undefeated. But we have a great group of upper classmen that have really exemplified great leadership and toughness, and I knew if those guys really bought in and played together that we had a chance to be very good.

First-year coach Steve Prohm has led the Racers to a school-record 20-0 start. (Spruce Derden/US Presswire)

RD: Are you impressed with just how well you’ve played?

PROHM: Well…you know, we’ve got some very good players. Sometimes people can overlook some mid-majors, but you know, Isaiah Cannan, Ivan Aska, Donte Poole and Jewuan Long, Ed Daniel, those guys are our starters… they’re great basketball players and we’ve also got great depth with Latreze Mushatt, Zay Jackson and Stacy Wilson. So I think we have a lot of talented players. We’ve just got a good basketball team, and that’s why we’re successful right now.

RD: How have you handled all of the extra attention that comes with being undefeated?

PROHM: We just try to be humble and handle everything with great humility. I just talk to our guys about the next thing at hand, and that’s the next game or the next practice, and [tell them] not to get caught up in everything outside–all the distractions. Just focus on the next task at hand. If you can do that and you can stay grounded, special things will continue to come your way.

RD: Do you want to go undefeated? Some coaches say that a loss can take the pressure off and allow your team to re-focus. What do you think about that?

PROHM: (Laughs). No, we want to win every game. Our guys want to win…our coaching staff wants to win. We don’t want to lose. Ever.

RD: (Laughing) Yeah, that’s what we thought. 

Murray State owns three victories over top-35 ranked opponents, including an impressive 76-72 win at Memphis. (Bright House Sports)

RD: Was beating Memphis early in the season big for your team’s confidence?

PROHM: Well, our guys went down there thinking we could win the basketball game. And that was our plan. People don’t realize…we were up 12 in both halves. We were up 10 or 11 with a minute to go. And that’s Memphis’ only home loss this year. So, the way our guys carry themselves and the way that they compete and work, we believe that we can play with anybody.

RD: If you were to win the Ohio Valley Conference regular season championship and then lose in the conference tournament, do you think your team has done enough to earn an at large bid?

PROHM: Yeah, I think we’ve done enough. You know, you’ve got to continue to play well and win games… but I think without any question that with our nonconference resume and what we’ve been able to do up until this point, we are deserving of an at-large bid.

RD: You guys upset Vanderbilt in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in 2010. Does winning that game have any impact on this year’s team? Does it give your guys confidence that they can get back to the NCAAs and win a couple of games?

PROHM: Yeah, I think it does because all five of our starters were on that team that beat Vanderbilt. They were freshmen and sophomores and now they’re juniors and seniors. So I think they believe they can beat anybody in the country, especially on a neutral site.

RD: Being a small program…and I know you guys almost beat Butler in the second round in 2010…but what are your thoughts on what Butler has done over the past two years? Do you use what they’ve done as motivation for your team?

PROHM: We don’t necessarily use what they’ve accomplished as motivation…our guys see [what they’ve done], so they understand that it is possible if you sell out on the defensive end, if you play unselfish, and you buy in and try to max-out your role within the team.

But I think Coach Stevens has done an unbelievable job in his short time at Butler, playing for two national championships. Butler’s always had a very good basketball program, but he’s almost taken them to another level, so it is something that I look at. Especially the way he carries himself and the way he deals with his program.

RD: Do you think your team believes it can get to a Final Four?

PROHM: I think our guys believe that they can do anything right now. And that’s not a cockiness…I just think it’s a togetherness, a brotherhood…I think it’s a commitment to one another and a belief in each other.

RD: Why do you think that smaller, lower-budget programs have been able to compete so well with the big-name, big-money programs over the past few years?

Isaiah Canaan has been outstanding for the Racers this season, leading the team with 18.7 points and 4 assists per game. (Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

PROHM: Well, there are just so many good basketball players out there. And then, you know, a lot of the great players sometimes will leave early for the NBA draft— and that helps, but I just think there’s a lot of good basketball players out there. I mean, Isaiah Canaan is as good a guard as there is in the country and he visited Arkansas State, Tulane, and us. So if you do your homework from a recruiting standpoint and you evaluate the right way, you’re going to be able to get very good players in your program.

But you know the one thing for us at Murray State is that we’ve been good for 60 years. Murray State has as good a basketball program as there is in the country when you look at tradition, facilities, championships, and what we’ve been able to do over the last 50 or 60 years.

RD: Speaking of Isaiah, do you think he deserves more recognition, because I know he wasn’t named as a Wooden Award finalist…?

PROHM: I didn’t know…did they already come out with the finalists for that?

RD: Yeah, they announced the finalists last week, and he didn’t make the list.

PROHM: Yeah, I mean well, hopefully that’s something he can put himself in position for next year. But when you look at what he’s doing and what he’s done for us in the biggest games of the year, he’s as good a player as there is in the country. He’s a special, special talent, he’s a special kid, and he’s got a bright, bright future.

RD: Is he the leader of this team?

PROHM: Yeah, he’s our leader. You know, everybody’s got their own role, but I think on the offensive end, he’s what makes our team go. He’s had a terrific season for us.

RD: What will [forward] Ivan Aska’s return do for your team? (Ed’s note: Aska missed six games with a broken hand.)

The Racers have designs on big things this season. (AP Photo)

PROHM: Well, he provides us with another post presence who can score and rebound around the basket and it certainly provides us with more leadership out on the floor…and also more toughness. This is his second year, and he’s been through it so…and also it provides more depth for us.

RD: What’s the biggest thing you’ve taken from [former Murray State head coach] Billy Kennedy?

PROHM: I think having a balance in your life…having a strong faith and staying even keel with everything that you do.

RD: In terms of basketball, do you mirror his style?

PROHM: For the most part, yes, definitely. First and foremost, we want to be very good defensively. We want to be a defensive rebounding and toughness-type group. Offensively we want to attack in transition. We’ve got really good guards. But in terms of the core of our program, our intangibles, and the values of our program, it’s basically identical.

RD: What would make this season successful from this point on?

PROHM: Success for us is to win a conference championship, get into the NCAA Tournament and then play the best we possibly can and just see where that puts us.

RD: Thanks a lot, coach.

PROHM: You got it.