Murray State coach Steve Prohm took some time to talk with me ahead of Saturday’s 1 p.m. game against UE at the Ford Center.
This actually isn’t the first time Prohm will face the Aces. Before becoming Murray State’s head coach, Prohm served as an assistant for the Racers team that beat UE in the BracketBusters Challenge during the 2010-2011 season.
How do you game plan against UE? “They’re tough to prepare for. Coach Simmons does a great job with their halfcourt offense and their motion. They have so many different types of screens — back screens, flare screens, pin downs, staggers — that your guys have to be totally locked in and totally sold out to defending for 40 minutes and defending the whole shot clock. They’ve got three really good perimeter players in (Colt) Ryan, (D.J.) Balentine and (Ned) Cox, so we’ve got to do a good job on them, and they’ve got some other guys who can hurt you. It will be a great test for us.”
What can you take away from your last meeting against UE (Feb. 2011 during BracketBusters)? “We’ll go back and look at that a little bit to see what things we did well and what things we didn’t do well — see if there’s anything we can use for this weekend. But at the end of the day, that’s two years ago. Their players have changed a little bit. Ryan and Cox are still there. (Lewis) Jones is still there. There’s three or four guys left. But the makeup of our team is totally new, outside of two guys, maybe three. We just have to stay in the moment and stay focused on this team, but you can learn some things.”
Is this just a return game from BracketBusters or part of a series between Murray State and UE? “It would be a good game to get on the schedule because of the distance and the location. It’s a good rivalry because it’s two good basketball programs two to three hours apart. Maybe down the road in the future, but this is just a return part on our portion.”
How does this year’s team compare to last year (started 23-0 and made the NCAA tournament)? “We’re trying to play the same. We lost three very good players — three really good seniors (Donte Poole, Ivan Asa and Jewaun Long) — and then we lost two starters from this team with the Zay Jackson situation and Latreze Mushatt tearing his Achilles. So this team’s totally different. We’ve got two constants with Isaiah Canaan and Ed Daniel who have been here for four years. Everybody else was unproven, so I’m proud of where our guys are right now. But our goals don’t change, and they’re still the same — to win the Ohio Valley Conference, have a great non-conference season and hopefully get into postseason play.”
How much extra attention have you seen Canaan getting from opponents, and how has he handled it? “He’s been good. He’s going to always get everybody’s attention. He’s not going to sneak up on anybody. With his success, really not just last year — he’s had a great three-year run with us where he’s averaged double figures and won a lot of games — he’s handled everything in stride. He’s a better person than he is a player — unbelievable character, great humiliate — so he’s going to take everything in stride. He’s got to be good for us to win and have a special season.”