Sat down with Jeantal Cylla and Mason Jones earlier this afternoon. Seth was there, too, and we filmed both conversations in hopes of bringing a video element to these stories. A couple of takeaways:
Mason Jones says he is in the best shape of his life and appears to be in a great place mentally. He’s at 199 pounds right now and really dialed in. After last season, he visited strength and conditioning coach Dave Richardson’s office and they devised a plan to make him lighter on his feet. That work has shown on the floor, he said. He is embracing all expectations entering this season.
I also asked him about Mike Anderson’s dismissal and how he took that. It hurt him to see the coach who gave him a shot at the Division I level let go. The moment was unreal, he said. He and Isaiah Joe talked afterward and said they were ready for “some unfinished business.” Jones added he did not consider transferring.
Cylla and Jones both spoke highly of the entire coaching staff. Cylla, who has aspirations to play in the NBA, said he is doing his best to be as “coachable and respectful” as possible considering all of the professional experience Musselman, Corey Williams, Chris Crutchfield and Clay Moser have. Jones said his game has skyrocketed since their arrival and they have pushed him to a level he thought he’d never get to.
Jones said Jalen Harris has “went to another level” in terms of his jumpshot. We might wait and see on that. Cylla complimented Harris’ play as a distributor. Both guys commended Desi Sills’ work ethic and leadership. Cylla said he likes the athleticism Reggie Chaney and Adrio Bailey bring, and the other transfers are fitting in well. He added that Jimmy Whitt has a lot of valuable experience and a “great all-around game.”
I was also told that Isaiah Joe has definitely added some upper body strength this summer, which should make him a tougher cover next season. Jimmy Whitt, too, has impressed quite a few people in the program with his skillset.
Cylla: He’s super seasoned, which you would expect from a grad transfer. He talked about not just playing for UNC Wilmington, but also his time playing for the Haitian National team. As Scottie said he wants to try and play professionally so he seemed laser focused on getting better.
Jones: He just looks more fit. You could tell that he was really taking his off-season training seriously. He said at times he would slack off on the defensive end last year and he doesn’t want that this year. He also said to tell everybody that he WILL be dunking this year.
What I liked about the interviews is that you asked them about the progress of other players. I know just like coachspeak, you are not going to get anything negative about guys who are generally their friends, it is still interesting to hear what positives they have talk about.
I requested both players and they were both made available. I asked to talk to Mason Jones because I think he’s going to have a big year and be one of the team’s leaders, and Jeantal Cylla because he’s one of the new guys, very insightful from what I was told and has an interesting story - first in his family to earn a college degree and now working on his second, Haitian background and NBA dreams. I think Cylla can become a leader, too, based on his experience.
Great stuff and thank you! Would love to know what Whitt thinks of this staff and differences compared to the previous one as well. Be great to get Joe’s perspective too at some point this summer. All of it sounds great!
Optimism is a great way to approach the upcoming season. This optimism starts with the team thinking that they will win games. When they do that, future wins will be the norm and confidence will grow. Teams that expect to win are much harder to beat.
The new coach and staff seem to think that winning, despite the upgraded basketball programs in the SEC, will happen this season. Clues about more structured off-season work plans sound encouraging. The emphasis on conditioning certainly will help. A different scheme will replace the “fastest 40” and opposing coaches will have to have a different game plan for the Hogs.
The big questions this season are how will the new coach and staff adapt to the current players? Will team chemistry be good? How will all this new fit in the SEC?
I remain optimistic about this season. The front court players need to make rapid improvement. The team defense should not allow numerous open 3 point shots. We absolutely can not have the horrendous starts and find us down 10-15 points to start the game. The backcourt seems to be the strength of the team again. Joe is a potential all SEC type player. Jones And Sills are good solid players that can make 3’s. Whitt is counted on to be a scorer and play much better in his second stint as a Hog. Harris’ offensive skills must improve. There is enough talent to be an upper tier SEC team if we get on board with the new coaches, don’t have a rash of injuries, and play up to our potential.