Penn Freshmen Interviews: Part Two

October 17th, 2007
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Penn enters the 2007-08 season having won 3 straight Ivy League titles and coming off a 13-1 Ivy League record. However, the Quakers must replace 3 starters including 2-time Ivy League Player of the Year Ibrahim Jaaber. A strong incoming freshman class ensures Penn will be solid for years to come. Jon Teitel interviewed four members of Coach Miller’s first ever recruiting class: Tyler Bernardini, Remy Cofield, Jack Eggleston, and Harrison Gaines.


Part One Yesterday: Tyler Bernardi and Remy Cofield


Jack Eggleston, 6-8, 215, Noblesville, Ind., St. Thomas Aquinas (Fla.)


1. What lessons did you learn from your own championship experience (winning district titles in 2006 and 2007) that you can bring to Penn’s own conference championship team?  High school is certainly not the same kind of pressure situation as the NCAA Tournament, but playing for a title helped elevate my level of play and my intensity, so I just need to try and match that intensity during every game at Penn.


2. What insight has your dad (Tom, who played one year of basketball at Dartmouth) given you into Ivy League basketball? Not too much: he prefers to let me figure things out on my own, and just urges me to play hard and do my best to be successful. 


3. Any chance you will play lacrosse at Penn, and what is it like being a 6'8" lacrosse player? I considered playing lacrosse at Penn, but it is doubtful that I will do that.  I have not played lacrosse for my school the past two years, and since the college basketball season is so long, the overlap into the lacrosse season would probably kill any chance I had.  My height advantage over shorter defenders was very nice, as I would be able to shoot over the top of them.


4. How close did you come to going to Columbia or Princeton?  I went to Princeton the summer before my senior year: they have a great campus and great academics, but I was not a fan of their style of play or the basketball environment.  I also went to a camp at Columbia, but since they had so many players returning to school, they stopped recruiting me.  Even so, it would have been very hard for me to say no to Penn due to their own dominant athletic teams and excellent academic reputation.


5. What made you choose Penn over schools like Stanford and Wake Forest? I expressed an interest in those schools due to their great athletic/academic combination, and sent out some letters and game tapes, but did not have any real contact with them: it was more of a wish list.


6. Are you worried about getting playing time in the years ahead with four other forwards already on the roster? I am actually living with one of them right now (Cam Lewis), and have spent some time on the court with Brennan Votel and Andreas Schreiber getting to learn their game, but I have not seen Justin Reilly yet.  While I do not match up in every way with every player, I feel I can compete and have a shot to play as a freshman, although the only opinion that matters is that of Coach Miller.  I am not going to go out and score 30 points/game, but I can rebound, take a charge, play some defense, and do whatever else I can to get on the court and help the team.  My jump shot has improved a lot over the past month, due to my many hours of taking shots every day.  I have also spent some time this summer playing at LaSalle against elite college (Gerald Henderson/Wayne Ellington) and pro (Hakim Warrick/Marc Jackson) competition.  I am still getting used to the physicality of these guys, but I am making progress and starting to feel comfortable playing at this level.  It has also been a great learning experience to battle inside against the big men, even though I still get abused every now and then.


7. Do you feel that your high SAT score (1500+) will make it an easier transition to the rigors of getting an Ivy League education than if you were just the stereotypical “dumb jock”? I am a little worried about the class load, but hopefully I will not have to study as much as I would if I were a “dumb jock”.  I hope to be one of the smartest guys on the team, and from what I hear about Coach Miller’s fairly complicated motion offense, it will make my life on the court much easier.


8. What position do you see yourself playing at Penn?  I am a natural power forward, but I just want to be on the court, so I am not picky.  If Coach Miller wants me to play the 3, then I will improve my ball handling.  If he wants me to play the 5, then I will keep on working hard in the weight room.


9. What was the basketball culture like growing up in Indiana (where you were born) compared to Florida (where you went to high school)? I only lived in Indiana for the first three years of my life, so I do not have a lot of memories.  However, my brother goes to a tiny high school in Indiana, and when they have basketball games with a packed gym and live broadcasts, it is pretty crazy.  The Florida high school sports scene is all about football: basketball is just an afterthought to many people.  Compared to Indiana, the basketball scene in Florida is more athletic, and the environment in Philadelphia is much more physical.


10. Did you get to see Penn play at all last year in person, and what were your impressions? I came up to the Palestra for the Penn-Villanova game, which was great to watch because the whole crowd was going nuts.  I am very excited to be coming to that environment, as it is a lot better than many of the rinky-dink facilities I played in down in Florida.  It was also encouraging to see a guy my size (Mark Zoller) put up 33 points against a premier team like Villanova: it is good to know that you don’t have to be a high-flyer or blue-chip recruit in order to succeed on the Division 1 level.


Harrison Gaines, 6-1, 175, Victorville, Calif., Serrano


1. What lessons did you learn from your own championship experience (3 consecutive league titles) that you can bring to Penn’s own conference championship team? The first title my team won was a real big accomplishment, as our team had not won a basketball title in 20 years.  It was also different than the subsequent title years because we had not won one before, so we were able to sneak up on people who did not expect us to win.  The next 2 years were much harder as we tried to defend the title, because we got the best effort every night from every team.  It taught me to work harder, as you just cannot rest on your laurels and expect to win.


2. What advice has your cousin Sean Burwell (who racked up the 3rd most rushing yards in Oregon history as a tailback with the Ducks from 1990-93) given you about college athletics? He told me that the key is to have good time management skills and spend enough time on my work for class.  He said that since it is college, I can go party and have some fun, but I am there to go to school and play my sport.


3. As one of the top point guards in California, you must have had several schools pursuing you: what made you choose Penn? It is a perfect fit for me, as I always wanted to go to a prestigious academic university (my parents wanted that for me too).  I felt comfortable with Coaches Martin/Miller, and coming from a small town like Victorville, I wanted a chance to live in a big city like Philly.


4. Since the only 2 returning starters are a couple of guards (Grandieri/Smith), do you think it will be hard to get playing time in the years ahead? I have just been trying to work hard this summer, and I am going to do whatever Coach Miller says and try to fit in where I can.  I want to be an impact player from the start, and whatever playing time I get will let me prove that I can be as good as anybody.


5. How do you think you will fit into the Penn offense, and what style do you like to play on the court (drive inside, shoot from outside, etc.)? The coaches said they want to play up-tempo this year, which is how I play.  Coach Miller wants a point guard who can distribute as well as score.  I like to push the ball, but I can also run a half-court set and attack guys defensively. 


6. As your high school’s all-time leading scorer and a 3-time league MVP, are you a shoot-first point guard, and how do you decide when to shoot vs. when to get your teammates involved? I just take what the defense gives me: if they give me the lane, I will drive to the hoop; if they play me tight, I will find my teammates.  I do not go out there trying to shoot first or pass first.  The teams I played on during my first 2 years of high school were okay, but I had to score a lot for us to contend.  The teams I played on during my last 2 years of high school were better and we had more scoring options, so I  did not need to be as much of a scorer.


7. What did you learn from the competition you played against at the Adidas Superstar Camp? It was a big learning experience: since there are not a lot of scripted offensive plays, you just have to go out and get your own.  In doing so, I learned that I needed more moves off the dribble in order to break guys down (which is more of an East Coast style), and my focus on that really helped me improve going into my following season of high school.  When you play against the best, you have to come with it every night, and you just cannot take any games off: you have to have a killer instinct.  Playing against great guys at the camp should help me when I play against great guys in college: they will not show me any mercy, and I will not show them any either. 


8. What did you learn from being a Special Olympics volunteer and a volunteer youth basketball coach? It was really heartwarming to work with the Special Olympics kids, and it made me appreciate the things that I am able to do.  When I would give one of them a compliment, they would break into a smile, and it made me feel great that I touched someone.  The AAU team that I coached was very competitive, and it helped me appreciate the little things.  I got to see the game from a coaching standpoint, which is different then what you see when you are on the court, so it helped me improve my own game.  It was also good that I used my knowledge to help the progress of the kids, hopefully enough to help some of them get to the college level and beyond.


9. Are you and the other Californians (Tyler Bernardini/Conor Turley/Tommy McMahon) going to bring a little West Coast attitude to West Philly?  I am happy to play with anyone from anywhere: basketball is basketball no matter where you come from.  However, it feels good to have some fellow California guys on the Penn team: I have worked out with Tyler a few times, so it is good to have someone from my area who I know.


10. Did you get to see Penn play at all last year in person, and if so, what were your impressions? I went to see the NCAA Tournament game vs. Texas A&M in person.  We almost pulled it out, and showed that we can compete with anyone in the country.  Coach Miller has done great after Coach Dunphy left, which made me feel good about coming here. 


Part One:Tyler Bernardi and Remy Cofield


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