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Q&A with Ricardo Patton – Part II

Offseason goals and Tony Nixon's role next season

Thursday afternoon, I sat in with Northern Illinois men's basketball coach Ricardo Patton to talk about a variety of topics. You can find part one of our conversation here.

The second part of our conversation is below. Patton and I were talking about Xavier Silas, who is training in San Francisco. Check out the weekend edition of the Chronicle for that story. Patton said that junior center Sean Kowal would be joining Silas for a five-week stint in San Francisco later this summer. That's where we pick up our conversation for today.

John Sahly: Is Kowal one of those guys that needs to improve his strength or toughness?

Ricardo Patton: I think his strength and conditioning. And then just playing against quality players, not that he didn't face quality players, but conditioning to play against better and better players. The more experience he can get off those lines, I think the better player he'll become.

Because last year, in all fairness to him, was really his first year of playing [college] basketball. Going back to Colorado, he didn't play a lot. I think he needed to get in game conditioning.

JS: And then [Michael] Fakuade came along and did pretty well at the end of the season.

RP: Fakuade did a nice job, but he had redshirted, played in the program. They're different players, Fakuade's a little more agile, can step out and play in the high post a little bit. He’s a little bit of a different player. He's a guy that needs to have a great summer because he created some identity for himself in the conference.

JS: A guy like Tyler Storm, what are some of his goals for the offseason?

RP: Tyler had some good spots last season. I think it was an eye-opening experience for him to play against quicker, stronger, more athletic players and trying to convert to a small forward. Hopefully he learned some valuable lessons and at least has an idea what it takes to play Division-I basketball and convert from maybe a power forward to a small forward.

JS: Do the expectations for [Mike] DiNunno rise?

RP: He's a marked man. I think every coach in the conference has a great deal of respect for his ability and the players in this league respect him as a competitor. But, the best thing that he's got going for him is that he loves to play the game. He loves to practice. A guy with that attitude and that work ethic can't help but get better.

JS: Do you have enough guys on this team with that attitude and that work ethic?

RP: I think we're getting a group of guys where enthusiasm will become contagious. We've got enough guys that I think understand now where they have to go to first of all get playing time and help this team.

JS: Is [incoming freshman guard] Tony [Nixon] on campus?

RP: Tony is here for orientation and we'll be here officially moving into the dorms on Saturday. Summer school starts on Monday.

JS: How much of a benefit is it to have him on campus now?

RP: I think it's a benefit for any player who is able to come in during the summertime and get acclimated to the campus, to the community. Guys like to mark their territory in summer when they play. I think that guys kind of get all of the junk out of their system in the summer.

JS: What do you envision as Tony's role next season?

RP: I think that the sky's the limit for Tony Nixon. He's a guy that I think will be able to make big shots for us. Because that's his M.O., he's going to be closely guarded. This summer he'll have to spend a lot of time working to move without the basketball. He'll have to get his shot off a lot quicker at this level because guys can close out a lot better and a lot quicker. Those are all things he'll have to learn and hopefully he'll learn some of that this summer and certainly this fall.

He's a big guard, which is what I like. If you look at some of the guards we've had in the past, particularly on the wings, they've been small guards, Michael Patton-size (laughs). And that's not just on our team but also on a few of the teams in this league. But I think when you can start adding guys on the wing that are 6-5, like an Xavier Silas, like a Tony Nixon, I think it makes for a good recipe.

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