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Q&A: Hewitt Prepares for Second Year at Mason
Courtesy: George Mason Athletics
Release: 09/20/2012

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Head Coach Paul Hewitt is preparing for his second season at George Mason leading the men's basketball program. Patriot Vision sat down with him to get his impressions on his first year as Mason head coach as well as a look towards the upcoming 2012-13 season. Video from the interview is above, while the transcript follows.

Q: What are some of your impressions of George Mason University after your first year?

A: I think we have everything we need to be a successful basketball program and continue to be a successful basketball program. I love the fact that we have got a very, very loyal fan base. Our students are terrific, the way that they fill up the student section and really bring some energy and electricity to the games and probably the most important thing is that I think we have a nurturing campus and environment for our student athletes. They are asked to do an awful lot, obviously they have to go to class and have got to do well in the class room, which is their main reason for being here but then they also have to get into the weight room and work with our strength coach Robert Handerahan, who does a great job. They have to come to practice everyday. They are pretty much from Labor Day to when the season ends running full time schedules and I think that everyone around here provides a great deal of encouragement for them which makes it again a great atmosphere for them. 

Q: This year's group of freshman is your first recruiting class for the Patriots- what can fans expect from the newcomers?

A: I think in Marko Gujanicic you have a young man that is very experienced. He has played a lot of international basketball for his country Serbia. Patrick Holloway coming out of the WCAC and Paul VI also has experience playing in big time games and finally Jalen Jenkins, the young man out of New York we got late. We were really fortunate to get him. I think those three kids moving forward will provide a nice foundation and core as this program moves forward and we are looking to lose 6 guys in 2014. It is nice to have three guys like Marko, Patrick, and Jalen join our program this year.

Q: As far as familiarizing them with your players, how beneficial are the new rules that allow coaches a limited opportunity to work with their players during the summer?

A: It is probably the best rule change that's been instituted since I have been an NCAA coach, going back to 1988 when I first broke into college basketball. It gave us a chance obviously to work on their game or work on some of the things they need to improve on in the offseason. But I think it also gave us a chance to really give them an idea, the young guys especially, just some concepts how we are going to play this year. And finally, I think it makes the message consistent. They are around us all of the time, we are talking about education; we are talking about the necessity to do well in school and do well in class. I think in years past the kids were always working out, as they will, but sometimes they worked out with people that did not necessarily reinforce the message of education.

Q: The CAA has experienced national success during the past decade. What are your thoughts after completing your first season in the CAA, particularly in the light of the conference changes that have begun to take place?

A: Well, it is a terrific league. A reason why it is been good because you have had some individual programs do very, very well. Obviously, Mason had done an unbelievable job. Mason set the tone in terms of what "mid-major" programs can aspire to. I think that the league will continue to be strong. We have great leadership in Tom Yeager. Personally I think we have got outstanding leadership in Tom O'Connor, our athletic director here. So as we continue to check the landscape of college basketball, I think that the CAA is a great league for us. What we are going to try to do, not only hope that other CAA teams are good but we are going out and scheduling. This year we open up with UVA, we are playing Maryland at a neutral court down at Verizon Center. But I think that the CAA is very strong, and will continue to be strong.

Q: As someone who has coached in the Big East and ACC and has been exposed to top athletic facilities, how was your experience with the basketball training facilities here at Mason, holding practices at the Patriot Center and the RAC?

A: Well I think we have terrific facilities. I like practicing in the RAC, because it gives us some privacy. I love the number of baskets we have at our disposal and also the space, because we tend to so a lot of shooting drills at practices. Obviously the Patriot Center is a terrific home court, and also it is an adequate practice facility. But I think the RAC is outstanding. I have told Tom O'Connor on many occasions that the accessibility and the availability we have to that facility is outstanding. I think it going to help us a lot. It helps us in recruiting when we bring kids in there, show them that as our practice site. They love the fact that we can get in there, use as many baskets as we can. They can work on things; I think it is one of the better parts of our program to have that facility.

Q: The athletic department's Center for Sports Performance initiated a nutrition program, Peak Performance, a sports specific dining experience, this semester? What are your thoughts on how this type of program can help your players on the court?

A: Well, performance is king for coaches. That's what we want out of our players, we want them to perform at a high level, a consistently high level. With Debi Corbatto, Theresa Logan, and everyone over there I think we give our student-athletes a chance to prepare their bodies right to go out and play. Nutrition is extremely important. Understanding what they have to do to keep their bodies fit and energized is very, very important and one of the bright spots for me here at Mason is the amount of energy and effort that we put into helping out student-athletes understand what they need to do to perform at a high level consistently.

Q: The Patriot Center is one of the top arenas in the CAA and has a reputation as a tough place to play for an opposing team. What do you think contributes to that success and how does it compare for you to come of the hostile arenas you've coached in?

A: Well obviously we have had good players here. Last year, the players being Ryan Pearson and Mike Morrison guys that were outstanding players and I think we are going to have another talented team this year. But that student section is great. Doc Nix and the Green Machine and what they do to bring life to the building and I think that combined has brought people from the outside, people from the community.

Certainly we have our Mason alums that come to the game and really support us loyally but I think the atmosphere is a great atmosphere for people who want to come out and enjoy a great college basketball game.