"Big Dance" Interviews: Old Dominion's Frank Hassell and Kent Bazemore

    
March 11th, 2011
Earlier today CHN writer Jon Teitel spent some time with two of the key players for the CAA Tournament champion Old Dominion Monarchs, guard Kent Bazemore and forward Frank Hassell. Hassell was named Most Valuable Player of the conference tournament while Bazemore is the CAA Defensive Player of the Year, and they hope to surpass last year's second-round showing in the NCAA Tournament.

Jon Teitel: Your nickname is "Tank". Who gave you the nickname and how do you like it?

Frank Hassell: I love it, as I even have a "Tank" tattoo on my arm. I was at the free throw line a few years ago, and the fans started screaming "Frank the Tank" because that was the name of the character in "Old School". As a big guy who plays very physical, I think it fits me quite nicely.

JT: Your uncle Leroy [Virginia's first African-American Supreme Court Justice] passed away in February. How close were you to him, and how proud are you of everything that he accomplished?

FH: My family is really close, so I got to see him during Christmas, and as always he encouraged me to get into the weight room. He would send me letters during the season saying how proud he was of me, and he would come see me when we played on the road at VCU and Richmond. I am very proud of him: he was a great man who will be missed by everyone.

JT: You got to work out with four-time NBA All-Star Bob Dandridge last summer. What did you learn from him, and how much did it help you this season?

FH: It has helped me a lot. When Bob called me I did not even know who he was, so he told me to Google him, and after a few minutes of searching I realized how amazing a player he was. We worked real hard on my agility, and he gave me more confidence on my offensive game outside the paint. We would argue about small stuff, as we were in the gym together several mornings each week for 2.5 hours at a time.

JT: You were named CAA Tournament MVP after scoring 22 points (8-9 FG) in a five-point win over VCU in the title game. How were you able to play your best when it mattered the most, and did you feel like you were "in the zone"?

FH: I felt like the basket looked pretty wide. I thrive in the big-time atmosphere. I worked hard all summer, so it would be a waste to punk-out in the biggest game of the year. A lot of teams this year would double-team me, but VCU let me go one-on-one because my other teammates on the floor have been playing so well.

JT: You had 15 points, eight rebounds and three steals in a second round loss to Baylor in last year's tournament, after which you promised your dad another trip to the NCAA Tournament. What did you learn from last year's tournament that you think will help you next week, and what did your dad say to you after you beat VCU to make it back to the NCAA tourney?

FH: Last year's tourney was a great experience, as it had been a goal of ours to get there as much as we can. Our first time there was just a shock, but this year we think we can really beat some teams. My dad loves the NCAA tourney and always talks about past games that he saw. After the VCU game he just came up to me with tears in his eyes.

Kent Bazemore

JT: You were named CAA Defensive Player of the Year earlier this month. What did it mean to you to win such an outstanding honor, and what is your secret to being a great defender?

KB: It was a heck of an honor to even be mentioned as a great defender. Winning that award was one of my goals coming into this season. My coaches always keep me in the rights spots and have taught me how to guard different kinds of players and get into the passing lanes.

JT: Your team has won 13 of its last 14 games. Do you feel like your team is playing its best basketball of the season right now?

KB: Yes I do; there is no question. We had a bit of a rocky start entering conference play, but knew it was just a matter of time until we got it together by believing in ourselves.

JT: You were 10-14 from the field in your last two wins, but only 4-15 from the free throw line. Are you worried that teams might try to foul you late in the game to force you to try and beat them from the charity stripe?

KB: It is just something that happens. I am kind of used to that, but I will get in the gym and keep on practicing.

JT: You had 13 points and seven assists in a second round loss to Baylor in last year's tournament. What did you learn from last year's tournament that you think will help you next week?

KB: It is a game of possessions. Something you do in the 1st 5 minutes might affect what happens in the last five minutes. All you have to do is do one more thing better than your opponent.

JT: I know you are not a fortune-teller, but what seed do you think you will get and what kind of team do you think you would match up well against?

KB: I have no idea. The guy to talk to about that is ESPN's Joe Lunardi! I think we should get a higher seed than last year (#11). Notre Dame is having a heck of a year, so I think the whole country would enjoy seeing us play them at some point!