At 10 a.m. Tuesday, talk with Vince Alexander, coach of the USC-Aiken men's basketball team, about the 2009-10 season.
Chris Gay: Vince, thanks for joining us today. I know you've got a lot on your platter. So I appreciate you sharing your time. Before we dive into the basketball questions, I want to know what you do to get away from the stress of coaching basketball. And I know it can't be playing golf, because I've seen your golf game.
Vince Alexander: Ha ha. You are correct, it's not golf. I like to get with my family and go to the outlets and shop with my wife and children. Go out for a nice meal and just enjoy time with tem.
Vince Alexander: Team, I mean. Early in the morning.
Chris Gay: Before the 2007-08 season you had a lot of new faces and outsiders didn't really know good your team would be. Then, USC Aiken went on to have a record-setting year. Does this year's team sort of have the same feel?
Vince Alexander: Yes, it does. We have a lot of new faces. They have gelled very quickly and I think that they play very well together. It is fun watching them!
Chris Gay: USC Aiken took the College of Charleston in overtime after throttling Southern Wesleyan. What did those exhibition games say about the Pacers?
Chris Gay: Make that took the College of Charleston to overtime.
Vince Alexander: I think it says two things, it said that we come a long way since preseason, but we have a ways to go still.
Chris Gay: In those exhibition games, Casey McMasters stepped up big one night. Then, Byron Faison came up huge in the other contest. Does that speak of the well-rounded nature of this squad -- that someone different may step on a game-to-game basis?
Vince Alexander: I believe that it does. I think that we have several guys that are capable of having big nights.
Chris Gay: USC Aiken lost all five starters off last season's squad. Who are some of the new guys who will play key roles for you this year?
Vince Alexander: Byron Faisob, Re Nelson, Michael Technow. A lot of familiar faces to Pacer fans will get their chance as well (Mark Brown, Seth Leonard, Casey McMasters, Rashad Flowers).
TheChairman: Coach, how is the team dealing with the loss of Javonte?
Vince Alexander: There are good days, there are bad days. Often we think about the fact that he would have been here this year and how good that would have been. We continue to focus on trying to move forward.
Chris Gay: Two years ago, you took USC Aiken to the Division II Tournament. Last year, the Pacers advanced to the Sweet Sixteen. Seemingly, the next step is the Elite Eight. What does USC Aiken have to do to take that next step and get to Springfield, Mass.?
Vince Alexander: I think we just have to take each game as they come. Play as hard as we can. Let things fall as they may. We are going to work hard to try and be in the mix at the end of the year.
Chris Gay: Going back to Javonte Clanton, he only played one season at USC Aiken. But what kind of impact did he have not only at the school, but in the community as well?
Vince Alexander: We think Javonte had a great impact on both the school and the basketball program. He was a tremendous young man that gave 100 percent in everything that he did, classroom or on the court.
TheChairman: Coach, ASU is obviously having their best run in a long time. Does it help or hurt USCAiken to have their biggest rival also their closest?
Vince Alexander: I think it is a great rivalry. They have a great program and we look forward to possibly playing them four times this year if we do what we need to do.
Chris Gay: The Augusta State at USC Aiken regular season game drew 3,500 people last year. What does it say about basketball in that area when you have that kind of interest? Also, how much more fun is it coaching when there's people hanging from the rafters?
Vince Alexander: I think that Augusta and Aiken are two of the best teams in all DII basketball. It is very nice to play in front of such great crowds. We have become accustomed to playing in front of great crowds the last two years.
JM88: Your team looked very impressive in its two exhibition games, beating Southern Wesleyan by 34 and taking CoC to overtime in their gym. As a coach, how much stock do you put into exhibition games?
Vince Alexander: I think that you do put some stock in to every game you play. Our goal is to get better every time we step on the floor no matter who we are playing.
Chris Gay: Obviously, Augusta State and USC Aiken are expected to be good again. What are some other Peach Belt teams to watch for? And what's a team that could surprise some people this year?
Vince Alexander: Clayton State will be improved. You need to watch out for Lander and Francis Marion. I think they can surprise some people. Francis Marion has a whole new team.
Chris Gay: As USC Aiken has risen to the next level, I'd assume so have expectations. Does that change your coaching style any in your approach to the team, knowing that you're leading a top-25 program?
Vince Alexander: No. We work every day as hard as we can to improve. We take nothing for granted.
Chris Gay: Chris Commons was a special player, winning conference player of the year both seasons he was in Aiken. What it's like not having him on the floor?
Vince Alexander: We are a different team without him. Not that we are not a good team. Chris gave us that inside presence that every coach dreams of having. I think we have some guys that will play well for us inside, however we are a litle different team now. Our strength is in our guards.
Chris Gay: Have you spoken to Chris since he signed to play overseas? How's he doing? And when does he plan to come back and finish up his degree?
Vince Alexander: I speak to Chris every week. He is planing to take some classes this summer. It is his goal to be done in the next year. He will get it done.
Chris Gay: Your guard play seems to be a major strength this season. How special is Byron Faison and Re'Mon Nelson going to be?
Vince Alexander: They are both very good players. I think that they will be very special together on the court.
TheChairman: Where did Josh Dollard go?
Vince Alexander: He is currently working out with professional teams. He has signed with an agent. We expect him to join a team very soon.
Chris Gay: Guard Casey McMasters flashed signs of brilliance on the court last season. What does he need to improve upon to become that consistent, high-caliber player? It seems to me he could easily become an all-conference player.
Vince Alexander: I certainly think he is capable of being All-PBC. However, I believe that he needs to get stronger, which I think will help him tremendously.
Chris Gay: Because of the losses of guys like Chris, Kingsley Oguchi, Brian Egwuatu, Cordaryl Ballard, etc., is there any concern about the loss of leadership? Or is that something the guys who were underclassmen have taken upon themselves?
Vince Alexander: I think that Casey and Seth have done a tremendous job of leading our team. They understand what the expectations of our program are and they have passed that along to our newcomers very well.
Chris Gay: With USC Aiken playing quality non-conference opponents in November and December, how much will you learn about your team early on? And what do you expect to gain from those contest (besides wins)?
Vince Alexander: I think we will learn a lot about our team. We expect to gain some valuable experience of playing on the road and against quality DII opponents. We will know a lot come Holiday break. Hopefully, all good!
Chris Gay: What is the status of Kyle Cannon, the transfer from Oklahoma who could be a tremendous impact guy for the Pacers?
Vince Alexander: Kyle is working on some academic things he needs to take care of in order to continue to play college basketball. He is a great kid and hopefully one day he will be a Pacer.
TheChairman: You've had a few D-1 transfers, do they find you, do you look for them? How does that happen?
Vince Alexander: We just have various contacts. People we know typically call us and then we start the process.
Chris Gay: A couple of more questions and then we'll let you go. First, what will it take for USC Aiken to be successful this season -- and I assume success will mean the Pacers will back in the regional with a shot to go to the Elite Eight?
Vince Alexander: We just need to improve daily. We have to shoot well, rebound and defend. I see this team getting better every day. We have great leadership and our guys are progressing well.
Chris Gay: Finally, what's your scouting report on Life in tomorrow night's season opener?
Vince Alexander: Very quick, very athletic and press the whole game. They are ranked 23rd in the NAIA Division I. It is a good basketball team and it will be a great first test for us. We are looking forward to it and hope for a good crowd!
Chris Gay: Vince, thanks for chatting with us. All the best this season. And a reminder to everyone that USC Aiken plays host to Life at 7:30 tomorrow night at the convocation center. For more information, go to pacersports.com
Vince Alexander: Thank you so much. We are looking forward to a great 2009-10 season!
Chris Gay: This chat has been closed.