Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Q&A with Matt DeBoer

A special thanks to senior-to-be Matt DeBoer who graciously agreed to answer a few questions about his journey as a player, and his expectations for the coming season. My questions are in bold, and his answers follow. 

You were more of a role player as a Sophomore, but you became probably the most consistent shooting threat on the team last year as a Junior. What spurred on the change?

As a sophomore, there was a bit of a log-jam at the positions I can play. We had big contributors, like seniors Danny Rodts and Brad Schnyders, and then-junior Brian Haverdink who was beginning to develop into a guard that played great defense, took care of the ball, and made smart decisions on offense. With Trent Salo going down to an early-season injury, I was given an opportunity to have some minutes, and I had five or six good games to start the year, scoring in double digits a few times in a row in December. However, I did seem to have an issue with confidence as the conference season began, especially as I got into a rut of turning the ball over too much. I would let my head hang and not be able to get over it.

When Trent did come back, somebody in the rotation had to fall, and it ended up being me because of my turnover issue. Through my diminished role as a sophomore, I learned a lot from guys like Haverdink, Schnyders, Rodts, Salo, and Schuster. The coaches also continued to support me and made sure I continued to be dedicated to the program, especially Assistant Tim VanDyke, They made sure I stayed dedicated and kept working. As a junior, I came back as a more confident player, ready to play. I think my ability to score was always there, and when I learned to take care of the ball better and not hang my head so much for mistakes, better things started happening for me individually. Coach showed a lot of confidence in me by putting me in the starting lineup early in the season and then playing me a lot. The guys trusted me and got me the ball in spots where I could score.

What would you like to continue to improve upon as an individual heading into next season?

I am trying to put on some weight so that I can improve my positioning in the post offensively, improve my rebounding, and improve my ability to guard in the post. Along with putting on a little weight, I am trying to improve my foot quickness through different exercises so that I can improve my perimeter defense and close-outs. I also am looking to become more comfortable shooting the three, and hopefully provide our team with a bigger threat from the 3-point line next year.

You're a guy that has run the gamut of organizational roles. You were an end of the bench/JV player in year one, a sort of a tenth man in year two, and a valuable starter in year three. What sort of advice would you give to one of the younger players who perhaps isn't getting all that much playing time early on?

Everybody provided me with great support while I was a JV player and through my limited role my sophomore year, so I hope I can provide that same support that I received to a younger player. A lot of times Calvin has great junior and senior players, and quite often younger players don’t get the playing time that they want. I will tell younger players that come in the same position as me that it’s not out of the ordinary as an underclassman to not play right away. The best thing to do is to go to every open gym that you can ready to work as hard as you can, and always place yourself opposite the best players on the team so that you can guard them and improve your game. Also, a young player has to commit himself to improving his strength in the weight room. Calvin has great facilities that need to be taken advantage of. The college game is bigger, faster, and stronger. Somebody that dedicates himself to improving his strength in the weight room and working as hard as he can in open gyms and other leagues will be rewarded.

The team will be pretty similar next season after graduating just one player, but do you feel extra pressure to be a leader now that you'll be a senior?

I think that Dave, Tommy, Powell, Adam, and I will all be ready to lead in every way that we can. We’ve all been through a lot in our three years here, and I think we have seen and figured out what needs to be done to be successful. We are pretty hungry right now already in the spring, and everybody is working really hard both on the court and in the weight room. The great thing about our team next year is that we built so much experience for so many guys last year. Tyler Kruis has stepped up and has become more vocal as a leader. Mitch Vallie, Jordan Brink, and Mickey DeVries will all be back next year and all of them have experience and know how hard we have to push ourselves to win in the MIAA as well. I believe we will all feed off of each other and push each other to have a great season.

What was the mood like last year as the team went through some rough patches? Was it ever difficult to "buy in" when the results didn't play out as you had hoped?

There were some times where people did get discouraged, and it was almost impossible not to. However, our leadership was great all year. Brian Haverdink really kept everything in perspective for us all, and guys like Dave Rietema stayed really positive and made sure everybody kept moving forward and worked at improving. We knew it would be tough when we lost Mitch and Mickey, two big contributors on offense and defense. However, we also knew we still had a good team and there could be no excuses. After the home loss to Albion in early January, things were really not looking good, but we got it together and won 7 of our next 9 conference games to at least put us into the conference tourney.

I believe we were able to do this because of strong leadership and the fact that we did continue to buy in to what Coach was saying. Our offense got a lot more efficient as the year went on, and we seemed to embrace our roles on the offensive end. Everybody played within himself on the offensive end, in the second half of the year especially. However, there are a lot of improvements that we need to make for next year. Especially on the defensive end, we need to buy in better to the system and do things right so that we can trust our teammates. Especially in our defensive system, this trust is so important, and we need to improve things like close-outs and help side defense.

What will adding Jordan, Mitch, and Mickey back into the mix mean for the team?

We missed these three players badly last year. People often ask me who the big recruits are coming in for next year. While we may have good recruits coming in, I always first answer that we have these three coming back next year. They are almost like new players in the sense that they did not really play last year because of injuries. Jordan is a great all-around player. His poise and confidence on the court as a freshman made him fun to play with. He makes everything look effortless and has great touch from the outside and around the basket. Mitch is strong, a great rebounder, and has developed 3-point shot that we desperately missed last year as only Havs and Jordan Mast were really consistent from beyond the arc. Mickey DeVries is also strong, can finish inside, and provides much-needed height and rebounding. These three players will do big things for Calvin basketball next year.

In your mind, what would a successful 2012-13 campaign look like?

I think 20 regular season wins, an MIAA title, and a trip to the NCAA tournament will be difficult but definitely possible. Then, if we can get into the Tournament, anything is possible. We have a lot of experience coming back and a lot of guys are really hungry for success. Tommy, Powell, Adam, and I have lost to Hope in the MIAA tourney every year we have been here. We know the road to any titles will probably go through Hope. They always have a great team, but we are going to do everything we can to ensure that we get an MIAA title of our own.

I'll give you the last word. Is there anything else you would like to add?

It is pretty amazing to be able to play small-college basketball in a place where a lot of people care how we are doing and support you in every way that they can. It is great to have the facilities that we have, the coaches, the parents, fans that come support us every night, and even web sites like this that show an interest in how we do as a team. It is tough to play college basketball along with being a student here, but it is all worth it. It is a dream come true to play college basketball and to be able to do it with a great group of guys.

Again, I can't thank Matt enough for taking me seriously his time and willingness to answer my questions. It's awesome to hear the perspective of the student athletes.

Thanks Matt! 

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