WEST LONG BRANCH – When last seen, Monmouth was absorbing an emotional loss to Saint Peter’s in the MAAC Tournament championship game in Atlantic City, before the Peacocks went on their groundbreaking run to the Elite Eight in the NCAA Tournament.
Now, with practices underway for the 2022-23 season at OceanFirst Bank Center, everything’s changed, including a younger roster after the departure of six seniors, and a new league with the Hawks shifting to the Colonial Athletic Association. And former Saint Peter’s coach Shaheen Holloway is now in charge at Seton Hall, having invited Monmouth to be his first opponent in the Nov. 9 season-opener at the Prudential Center.
Here’s our preseason Q&A with head coach King Rice:
Q. Anyone or anything surprised you so far in practice?
A. I wouldn’t say surprised, but our young guys are pretty good. Jaret (Valencia) brings a level of athleticism, Jack Collins a level of toughness, Amaan (Sandhu) is so big, Andrew Ball is as talented as anyone. But they’re all just freshmen.
I would say the freshman class is way ahead of schedule. They’re just some really talented kids, and it lifts your level of play.
Q. Jaret Valencia had some offers from big-time programs. How did Monmouth get him?
Jaret is from a big-time place. I know that Rutgers talked to him. I talked to UConn’s Danny Hurley about him and a friend, Frank Martin at UMass, who was recruiting him when he was at South Carolina. Frank’s assistant, Chuck Martin, who played here, and who was the Marist coach when I got here, is my man. Chuck calls and says, ‘you’ve got a scholarship?’ I said, ‘yeah, I got a scholarship, why?’ He said he’s got a kid we were going to take and we’re not taking him. I said ‘you know I don’t do that.’ And he said, ‘no, King, this is different.’ Then (assistant coach) Rick Callahan talks to Chuck, he talks to Frank, he talked to Danny, we do our research.
Next thing you know Jaret is talking about coming here, but they were saying he would be like Micah (Seaborn), where he could come but he might not be able to play the first year. I said ‘how good is he?’ Then I started watching him and was like ‘oh my god, he’s going to come here? Don’t play with me like that.’ So Ricky starts working with our compliance people and start doing all the stuff you’re supposed to do and he’s a qualifier, and he can play, right away. Now everyone’s calling, ‘what did you do? How did you do that?’
A. We’re really missing Jarvis Vaughan (knee). He hasn’t practiced really at all but he will be back soon and that will help us some. We missed Myles (Ruth) the last two or three days. His knee hurts so that’s two of the three main guys who have played in games, done this before. So if those guys are out it’s going to look different, so we are trying to slow down, do a lot of half court stuff so they can learn the concepts of what we do.
I like to run but with limited numbers we tired fast. It will be great once everybody is on the floor. Big Tag (Tadhg Crowley) hasn’t played at all because he hurt his back, so we’re getting it done in practice with 11 guys, 12 guys.
Q. Are leaders starting to emerge?
A. A little bit. I think they are allowing the coaches to do it. I think if Jarvis was playing he could play that role, but since he’s been out he has been trying to talk to them, play that role. Jarvis would play that role.
Q. In recent years you’ve had guys like Deion Hammond and George Papas. Who takes the last shot now?
A. I that we have a lot of options. Shooting it the best right now is Jack Holmstrom, because things are slowing down and he’s seeing what he does best. Jack Collins could be the person, Andrew Ball shoots it like that, we could go with Myles (Ruth) from the free throw line. If you wanted somebody else, you could screen for Jarvis to get the shot. So there will be so many different ways to do it but we will have multiple guys who can shoot it well.”
Q. What’s the impact of having eight games on SNY (SportsNet New York) this season?
A. It’s pretty cool. Ricky told me we were going to be in front of so many more people, and this is why this jump is so big-time. Everybody can say what they want, NEC, to the MAAC, we were one of the best teams – one team was better than us in those eight years. Now a bigger league and a better league, and no disrespect to the MAAC, but this one is different. Now we have to get acclimated to that, and this is definitely help in recruiting. It’s incredible.”
Q. How is Myles Foster doing?
A. I thought Myles foster had one of his best days (Tuesday). We met this morning. Two years ago when he was a freshman he played six minutes, last year he played 12. Well, if you double that again that’s 24 minutes. That’s a gigantic jump. We might have waited until his senior year for that big of a jump but we’re trying to fast forward it to get it going now.
It’s a lot for anybody to now being expected to be the every-play guy, and today was his best day running, rebounding, talking, really tying it all together. His first day was really good and today was really good. Now we’ve got to get it where it’s every day, then it will be every game and that makes us different.
Q. What are fans going to like about Jaden Doyle
A. He can really, really guard. And he’s starting to show his stuff on offense because he’s so athletic. But he is very unselfish and as good as he is he’s better than he thinks he is.
Jaden gets down on himself when he doesn’t do to the level he believe he should be and I am trying to get that out of him.
Q. Tahron Allen’s role?
A. Tahron’s one of our best guards but he ran in and was playing the four spot, and he looked really good at it. He’s been playing attention. That makes me excited, knowing we could play Myles at the five, Taron at the four, play him away from the basket and he could really be a problem for someone. But because of our numbers, that kid jumped in at the four and that changed things. And Jaret, that’s what he is, so we’ll see who ends up being that guys.
Q. How has Amaan Sandhu been progressing?
A. He’ll play and help us this year. He just has to get the speed of this. It’s way faster than he’s used to but he’s so big.
We’re going to get him in better shape and we’re going to convince him that he is seven-feet tall. And that it doesn’t hurt him when he bumps bodies, it hurts the other guy. So just go bump his body and catch it where you want. He has great feet and great hands and is good around the basket. He just gets tired.
Q. What was the impact of Saint Peter’s NCAA Tournament run?
A. Two kids (Hassan and FousseyniDrame) came here and told us they were more excited to beat us (than Kentucky). That was their game. They got us. (Holloway) is an incredible coach and it shows you who he is as a man because they’re playing us in his first game. So that shows you our relationship, friendship.
Their team knocked us off three times. They were the better team. We didn’t even have a handshake line they were so excited. People know what we’ve done and if we get to the (NCAA) tournament one time it’s going to be like, ‘Oh god, look what we’ve done.’ Well, we’ve done that, we just haven’t done one part but we are right there to get it.