Simmons discusses personnel, areas to improve

During Marty Simmons’ segment of the Missouri Valley Conference men’s basketball coaches’ conference call Tuesday, the University of Evansville head coach discussed some of his players and key areas he’d like to see the Aces improve this season.

Full audio for the entire conference call can be found here. Below are the highlights from Simmons’ segment:

On shooting guard D.J. Balentine, the MVC’s leading scorer last season, and Balentine’s continued improvement: “He certainly had an outstanding season for us, but I think he’s a real driven young man (and) wants to get better defensively, rebounding. He did a terrific job of getting to the free-throw line. Just the overall leadership, he’s not on the floor as vocal as he his off the floor, but he’s just taking the role as more of a leader.”

On Mislav Brzoja, a 6-foot-4 Villanova transfer who will be eligible to play this season after sitting out the 2013-14 campagin. Brzoja is currently in Croatia playing for his country’s U-20 national team: “He’s really a good all-around player, a good versatile player, can play anywhere from 1-4, shoots the 3, good passer; a strong, athletic kid who has a lot of experience.”

On Willie Wiley, a 6-7 junior-college transfer from Vincennes University: “We have not been a good offensive rebounding team and he adds to that with his length. He’s got good hands and he comes from a program that’s had a lot of success. … He’s a terrific kid and someone who wants to be really good. I think he’s gonna bring a different dimension to our basketball team.”

On Taylor Stafford, a combo guard who transferred from Eastern Arizona College: “He can shoot the 3 off the catch, off the dribble. He’s really quick, really athletic, someone that has a terrific attitude and wants to be good.”

On trying to develop leaders on last season’s young team, and continuing that process this year: “We certainly tried to cultivate it. We have a small group of young men that we meet with weekly, just talking about it and encouraging it in different ways, but certainly addressing it. It’s not an easy thing. We probably don’t have any natural leaders; we’ve got a lot of guys that certainly can lead by example, but (not) the voiceful, emotional type of leader that I think’s important for teams to have. We’ll continue to work on that, but I think somebody will certainly come forward.”

On what Simmons would like to see the Aces improve from last season, when they finished 14-19:  “We’ve just gotta have a better mentality; we’ve gotta be harder-nosed, and that includes rebounding. That starts with the head coach, down through the staff and to the players. We’ve gotta be harder to score against.”

“Offensively, just being a more consistent shooting basketball team. I think at times, we shot the ball very well. Other times we didn’t. We’ve worked really hard here in the offseason. Guys are getting tons of shots up. I think that’s an area that will be better for us than in the past.”

“Being stronger with the basketball, not turning it over.”

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