UALR basketball coach Chris Beard & ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt

chris beard

Here’s some insight from Chris Beard before UALR’s NCAA Tournament showdown with Purdue via The Buzz 103.7

On the performance of Roger Woods, the Trojans’ 6’5″ power forward, in the Sun Belt tournament: 

Your best players have to get it done in the month of March, and that’s what Rodger did. He literally willed us to victory, he took the game over for about 12 minutes in the second half and in a basketball kind of way too, I’m not just talking about hitting shots I’m talking about he was making defense rebounds, he had a couple of assists, he was in tune, he was our leader in the time outs. It was great to see. I’ve been really fortunate with this job carrying these 7 players, very appreciative of Steve Shields and the foundation he laid here. Leaving us heading into the woods, we got some real good players. I was really happy for Rodger yesterday [Sunday].

Thoughts on Purdue

They lost yesterday in the Big 10 Championship game to Michigan State. They had a fantastic season. The identity of their team is their big. They’ve got a big seven footer, who will be a draft choice. They’ve got a big 6’10” kid who’s a freshman [Caleb Swanigan] that’ll be an NBA player.

They’re going to pound us, it’ll be the biggest team we’ve played this year. That represents some opportunities for us on the other end, I think we’ve got a little bit of an edge with quickness and maybe guard play so it’s going to be the classic David versus Goliath first round game but you know I like our Davids, we got a little grit to us. We’re tough and I think we’ve been prepared for this too. The San Diego State game early, the DePaul game early, Texas Tech, we’ve played some good teams. Hopefully our guys will have a little bit of experience to rely back on.

On Purdue’s size

The deal is though is they have power forward centers, and we really don’t. We really don’t have a five man on our roster. Everybody on our team can shoot. It’s going to be the classic bill of how far do they going to want to come out and guard us and if we hit shots. On the other end, how in the heck are we going to guard them.

One thing Shawn Long was in our league this year at Louisiana Lafayette, should be a pro, might not get drafted but I think he’ll play in the league eventually. So we got three games of experience playing against a guy like that, Texas Tech got a really big good big guy. San Diego State was obviously huge so it’s not like we are putting in a game plan today to play against our best center of the year, we’ve done this before. We just have to try to and find the balance of how we are going to go about it.

On pushing the tempo

I think there will be some chances to work the fast break cause we got a little bit of an advantage in quickness, but we got to be real careful with that too because we need to limit possessions. I think we will probably do a little bit of both depending on time and score and depending on who we have in the game.

On moving marksman Marcus Johnson to starter

Yeah for sure, normally on our team we’ve never really had a starting five. We rotated around game-to-game but what happened this year was we got on such a roll, I think we won our first 10 or 11 games of the season, and we just stuck with the rotation because guys were getting comfortable, they were being unselfish. Then I think when we dropped our first game we made a change or two. Marcus has always been one of our top players when he comes off the bench or starts.

He really is one of the best stories in college basketball. It’s very difficult to transfer from  junior college to this level and be this good immediately. I think one of the great examples is right down the road at Arkansas their point guard  [Jabril Durham] played junior college at Seminole, where I used to coach, just had an outstanding season this year but it took him a little time to get into the grind of this level. Whereas Marcus from the first game he scored 30 points in the second one division game so it’s been very good having him. I give a lot of credit to his junior college coach Sweet Trinkle in Texas. He really had him ready to play when we got him.

On the difficulty of playing at high altitude

We have to get used to this elevation a little bit. It can sometimes be a factor so I want to try to have a hard practice [on Tuesday] in Denver so the guys get the first grind in their lungs, the kind where it feels a little different. That way come game time they are confident and ready to go.

And here is Chris Beard’s interview with ESPN sportscaster Scott Van Pelt:

Scott Van Pelt: When you realize, “Oh my gosh — we did it?”
Chris Beard: Well, for me personally, it’s just been a 22 year ride through college coaching. Always been a dream to coach a team in the NCAA tournament and just really appreciative of our players getting me here. It’s been a great ride and we’re not finished yet. You know, we have a team that we think can compete in the tournament.
Scott Van Pelt: Now I know you’ve been doing this all day on radio shows all across the country and you probably sick of telling the story, but our viewers might not realize when you get there, you brought in how many new guys this year?
Chris Beard: We are kind of like the melting pot. We should be like America’s team you know. We have 7 returning players and then we went out and recruited 10 new players last spring and summer so we have all types of guys. We have international players. We have junior college transfers. We have four year transfers and we have a freshman on the roster so really the story of our team has been their unselfishness and how they’ve really played for each other and not themselves this year.
Scott Van Pelt: How did you get them to do that? That’s such a hard thing to do especially in the culture of basketball today where it’s AAU and it’s I got to get mine. How did you get that to happen?
Chris Beard: Well a lot of prayer. Every night before I go to bed I pray for my three daughters and I pray for our team to want to be coached. We had some real character guys you know. We have, even though we are a new team playing together, we’re one of the most experienced teams in college basketball. We play all juniors and seniors, and we’re really led by our four seniors you know, some special guys.
Scott Van Pelt: Now you guys didn’t lose much. You’ve got the fewest losses of anybody in the field so you’ve got the experience of winning and the taste of winning so I imagine you expect to win. With that said this Purdue team you’re playing against, they’re different from really anybody I’ve seen in college basketball this year. I did see in the first, they’re just so big. What do you do against them?
Chris Beard: I don’t know. I hope I know about 2:00 on Thursday but that’s what we’re working really hard on right now. We have a lot of respect for Purdue’s program. As a young couch I looked up to Matt Painter, he’s been great to me personally. I’m looking forward to seeing him but I’m not looking forward to playing against one of his teams. They’re one of the biggest teams in the tournament so it’s going to be a real challenge for us but our guys are up for it. You know we’ve got, we don’t have McDonald’s All Americans. We don’t have a bunch of you know polished guys. What we have is a bunch of guys that play for each other and everybody’s got a story and we’re proud to represent our great state and the city of Little Rock and we intend to do so this weekend.
Scott Van Pelt: Right on man. Hey look the prayers have worked thus far and they’ve been answered. What an amazing story. I wish you guys the best. It’s already been an incredible book and we’ll see you at the next chapter when you guys take on Purdue. Enjoy it man. Thanks so much for taking some time.

Get more insight on UALR-Purdue by reading this Buzz 103.7 interview with a Boilermakers beat writer.

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