Saturday, April 23, 2011

Interview with Coach Anthony Brown - Las Vegas Prospects

 Results from LV Easter Showdown:
- LV Prospects 15U team wins championship over Houston Hoops 58-57, they are 15-0 with 3 tournament titles
- LV Prospects 16U team loses to Oakland Kings by 8pts in championship game
- LV Prospects 17s lost to Louisiana Future by 10pts in the semi-finals

Anthony Brown Interview – Coach of Las Vegas Prospects
Coach Anthony Brown sat down with me for an interview covering many subjects, UNLV Basketball, AAU basketball, Coach Kruger leaving, the hire of Coach Dave Rice, his assistants, Anthony Marshall, Karam Mashour, Dantley Walker, and many other things. The following is a full transcript of the interview:

R = RebelReign
AB = Anthony Brown

R. April 1, 2011, Coach Kruger announces he’s leaving to go to Okalahoma, what did you initially think?

AB: Wow, well I was actually in Houston for the Final Four when I heard about it because of all the college coaches down there. When I heard about it initially I called the assistant coach Lew Hill, who I had a pretty good relationship with and I asked him if it was true, and he said “yeah”. Later on, I started to think about, I have kids there that played for me, what do they think, what’s going to happen. But it’s double the salary, so..

R: Right, we’re talking millions of dollars

AB: Exactly. Initially shock, but it’s the business of basketball  and he needs to do what’s best for him.

R: What current players for the Rebels were on your team, the Las Vegas Prospects?

AB: We had Anthony Marshall, Karam Mashour both played for me, and are now at UNLV.

R: What kind of relationship did you have with Coach Kruger’s staff prior to his leaving?

AB: The relationship was mainly with Coach Kruger and Assistant Coach Lew Hill, both of them and I hit it off, primarily those two. So in July, they would come out and watch us play, they would watch Anthony Marshall play at his high school and then summer AAU circuit. Karam Mashour was playing at Impact academy on Las Vegas BLVD. They saw him play over there, I got word that he was there, we brought him in with us, and they followed him all July with us.

R: Were they both on your team when they made their commitments to UNLV?

AB: Yes, Anthony Marshall played with me from the 9th grade to his senior year. Karam just played his senior year with me.

R: In the case of Karam, that’s mainly because he was only here his senior year, he was in Israel otherwise?

AB: Right

R: He did pretty good in a couple of tournaments as well?

AB: He did great, he started to get phone calls from Florida, Louisville, UCLA, Stanford; he started getting a lot of inquiries.

R: And your team, who do you guys play?

AB: We’re a traveling team, we play more of a national schedule. In the spring we stay local, Las Vegas is a basketball paradise. You’ll get a lot of teams from Utah, Colorado, Arizona, Washington, etc. In the summer, we do a lot of traveling such as going to Indianapolis for 4 days, Milwaukee for 4 days, come home for the Adidas super 64, then we go to Anaheim for 4 days. In those national level tournaments you see teams from all over the place.

R: What funds all the travel, is that paid by the athletes and their families?

AB: Actually, the athletes have to come up with very minimal amount of the cost. We’re a non-profit organization and we try to get people to donate as a tax write-off,  do a lot of fundraising. Adidas chips in as well. Mainly, the expense that the athletes ad their familes have to come up with is their food when they are out of town.

R: How do kids get to be on the Las Vegas Prospects, do you select them or are there tryouts?

AB: Try-outs, no. For me there is a couple of different things. I have a good relationship with high school coaches in town and they’ll tell me about kids who are good. Also, I was born and raised here and people will call me and tell me about various kids. We have two coaches on staff, Deshawn Henry who is the head coach of Durango and Teral Fair who is over at Cheyenne, they see kids all the time and then we go out and we watch. One of the big things, you’ve heard the expression “soccer parents” who are over-involved running out on the field, etc. We don’t want the soccer parents. If you give us the respect and let us coach them for the 30-32 minutes during the game, 2 hours at practice, just let us coach. We don’t need parents who are over-involved causing fights in the stands or arguing with the refs – that’s not the kind of image we have. There is a lot of factors involved with why we pick a kid to be on the Prospects.

R: Are they just local products, or do you get kids who reside in other states and areas?

AB: The rules state that we can have 3 kids from a neighboring state. We had Craig Brackens, who plays for the Philadelphia 76rs now, he was from Palmdale, CA. We had Luke Babbitt from Reno who plays for Portland right now, Olek Czyk who went to Duke first and now transferred back to UNR, Austin Morgan was also from Reno, and is now at Yale. He was first team all conference in the Ivy league. So they were out of the area players who came to the prospects.

R: Any reason why these Reno players would come down to Las Vegas, is it due to lack of AAU ball in Reno, or why not somewhere closer like Sacramento.

AB: Its an interesting story, we first started with the Reno kids with Luke Babbitt. He was a freshman and was playing in a game in The Orleans. We were watching the game thinking, “oh he’s pretty good”. Then we found out he was a freshman and I thought, we’ll then he’s damn good. So, I mailed him a letter. I didn’t know much about what was going on in Reno. He called me, came down for a workout. We got to meet his parents, and the rest is history. He ended up playing with us from then on.

R: Didn’t he end up being a McDonalds All-American?

AB: Yes, our first one – hopefully not the last (laughter)

R: Do you ever get kids from Findlay Prep?

AB: We don’t, most of those kids are already attached to other AAU teams. Already part of the fold of something else. We haven’t been fortunate enough to get a kid from Findlay Prep yet.

R: Does your team ever play teams with kids from Findlay prep on them?

AB: We would play them, but we seem to never to get matched up in tournament against one of them. I don’t think we’ve ever played a team with Findlay prep players. There’s just too many teams in these tournaments, and the odds aren’t there.

R: I would assume the most frequent visitors regarding recruiting would be UNLV because of the local nature of your program, very easy for them to come observe. What good and bad can you say about how Coach Kruger recruited?

AB: The good, was once they recognized a kid, they go all-in. Keeping the kid on campus, staying in touch with him, building a relationship with him and his family. The bad – they waited so late. What I mean by so late, some of these kids you can recognize by the 9th or 10th grade. If you waited till the 10th grade on a local kid, if he’s really that good chances are someone else already recognized him and started building a relationship and now they would play catch up. The kid may have a chip on their shoulder, why did UNLV wait so long, they’re late to the party. Kind of like Johnny-come-lately.

R: One of the major criticisms against Coach Kruger and his staff was that he regularly lost out on local talent. He really relied a lot on transfer kids, those for whom UNLV was originally a second-option.

AB: I think a lot of kids would like to stay at home. A lot of kids will stay at home and I think Vegas kids are a little different than other kids from other parts of the country. In Vegas everything is open 24 hours, there’s always something to do if you want to do something, it’s a 24 hour town. Even if you don’t go to Jack-in-the-box at 3 in the morning, you could. Our gas stations are open 24 hours, I’ve been to places where they close. Our kids would like to stay because there’s nowhere like Vegas. I think the new Coach, Dave Rice will have a good shot at keeping local talent.

R: Do you coach all the age level teams of the Las Vegas Prospects?

AB: I don’t. We have 17 and under, 16 and under, 15 and under, and 14 and under. So I coach the 17 and under team. Coach Deshawn Henry coaches 16 and under. Derrick Brown and Teral Fair coach the 15 and under. Coach Chris Cook coaches the 14 and under.

R: When it comes to AAU ball, especially the older teams –they are looking to get on D-1 teams, I mean this isn’t rec ball.

AB: Definitely, they are trying to get a free education, be it NCAA division I or II.

R: Most people don’t see it, but you’re in the unique position of seeing these kids through the recruiting period. Would you say if the option is between JUCO or DII which do they choose?

AB: I would say they go JUCO, looking to eventually go D-I. The transfer requirements are different.  Once a JUCO player transfers in they can play right away.

R: How often do you see problems with academic ineligibility?

AB: It happens quite often. The requirements to graduate from high school aren’t the same as what’s required to get into college. And the requirements to get into college aren’t the same as what the NCAA clearinghouse requires to play D-I basketball. So some of the high schools have staffs that are pretty well informed on it, some don’t. Prime example, we had a kid who was going to high school here and we saw his transcript as a freshman and told him you’re going to need to take this math class before you graduate to be eligible. His counselor told him he didn’t need to take the math class, so he didn’t take it. Well, it came down to that math class that hurt his NCAA eligibility.

R: What about prep-schools, do they play on a different circuit?

AB: They play like a high level AAU, they travel the country. Most of  them are boarding schools and are located in the northeast of the country. They can be beneficial to a lot of kids if they are in the right situation.

R: Back to the Rebels, how do you believe Anthony Marshall has improved since he’s left your program?

AB: His knowledge of the game has changed, he has expanded his basketball IQ. His body physically has changed, but his motor is the same. The difference is I am a school teacher. Coach Kruger is an NBA coach, he definitely can teach a lot more than I can. His game has changed and improved in all facets.

R: When Tre’von Willis was suspended / injured Anthony Marshall took the roster spot as a starter and got a lot more playing time. We got to see a lot of what few other players besides maybe Justin Hawkins on the UNLV roster have - ability to create his own shot, drive past defenders to the hoop and finish above the rim. Should that play a lot better in the Dave Rice running offense rather than the Coach Kruger half-court set?

AB: Definitely, more transition will benefit him and his style. That said, when you play that pace and are running up and down for 40 minutes, you have to play more players because its very hard to play that kind of tempo for more than 25 minutes a game.

R: On Karam Mashour, he opted not to take the red shirt his freshman season, and he played sparingly during the season but we were able to see some good things. As a fan, we haven’t seen a lot from Karam - but you have. What can we expect to see next season from Mashour?

AB: A lot of highlights. That kid can fly, he’s a gym rat, loves to work on his game, he has a chance to be really really good. He’s 6’6” 210-215 lbs, runs well, jumps well, plays the game well. I think once he’s overcome the language barrier he’ll do very well - that’s one of the things I dealt with him.

R: How did you handle the situation.

AB: He understands English, but he didn’t understand basketball English. We got him to advocate for himself, it was a good system worked out where he would let me know if he didn’t understand something, as opposed to just running around not knowing what he’s doing. I would pull him aside during a free-throw or time out I’d pull him aside and let him know what I expected out of him, and he understood. The benefit of taking a red shirt season is he would have more time to learn the basketball English, because its different from just learning English, it’s another language.

R: I believe he played for the under 18 Israeli national team, had you seen any of his highlights or know about him before having him play for you?

AB: I got a call about a kid in town who is 6’6” 200 lbs, really athletic; you may want to take a look at him. I said OK.  I go into the gym, and he’s standing under the rim, and he jumps up and does a 360 or windmill dunk, just from standing on the ground. I said, “we’ll take him”.  If  that’s all he can do, and he can do that a couple times a game, we’ll take him (laughs).

R: What’s his vertical leap?

AB: At least 40”. At least. He can fly. And he plays so hard

R: Is there anything he did back in Israel he did to get like this?

AB: I think he’s the only member of his family who plays, he has that Israeli national team experience and he loves to be in the gym, he wants to become better. He’s a pure example of what hard work does, if you love it can keep working at it – it’ll work out for you.

R: As far as upcoming Rebels, I know you also have experience with Dantley Walker.

AB: Yes, he played on our teams his 9th, 10th, 11th grade year, and then in the middle of that year he played on a team closer to his home in Lincoln county.

R: What’s your evaluation of him?

AB: He can shoot the lights out. Another kid who lives in the gym, works hard, getting better at his craft. He can do all of the intangibles you would want of a player.

R: Is he a shooting guard or point guard?

AB: He has a high basketball IQ so I believe he can play point guard at the next level. That said, it’s a lot different from what he’s into now in Lincoln county, passing to his teammates there vs. passing to a Anthony Marshall or Justin Hawkins. I don’t think he’ll be called on to score as much as he does now. He could definitely play point guard.

R: When you have someone like him, who passed Luke Babbitt’s scoring record, most points scored in Nevada in high school – why do you think a lot of D-1 programs were taking a pass on him?

AB: Primarily, his height. He’s 5’10”, and the teams he’s playing against – level of competition.

R: Was he scoring similar type of numbers when with the prospects?

AB: No, in order to score 30 you have to take a lot of shots. Within the Prospects, there’s 10 other kids who can score 20 pts a game as well, so he played more as a team player and distributor as well.

R: Shot percentage-wise, since he didn’t take as many shots, how was he?

AB: Shooter in the building - that kid can shoot it. Dantley played well for us, he’s a good kid.

R: How much scouting goes on in AAU, do people know to guard him from 30+ feet out?

AB: Well you don’t get to see as much in the AAU, because it’s a different level of play. It’s like Jimmer Fredette, everyone went Jimmer crazy. I don’t remember Jimmer as a freshman shooting 30+ foot jumpers. But as he got older, and as the talent around him improved you got to see more of that. As kids get older in the program they get a little more free-reign at things and Jimmer is a prime example, Dantley is a prime example. As a senior on the team my coach entrusts me to shoot that 30 foot jump shoot, as long as you are making them, you can take them. Look around the country, how many kids get to shoot 30 foot jumpers?

R: You’d usually get benched for doing something like that?

R: You’ve paid attention to the Rebels this past season. They had that extremely bad slump in shooting, games where the percentage was 20-30 % and then some games where 3 point shooting was even down to single digits. Did you have any communication or ideas on what that happened?

AB: I think Kendall Wallace was injured, and he figured to be a big part of their plan this season from three. He was going to play a huge roll. And Matt Shaw as well, he had shot it well, you lose him and you’ve lost the two guys who shot it pretty well. So now you have guys like Anthony Marshall and Tre’von Willis who shoots it decent, but Willis was suspended for some time and that played a roll in it. He had a hard time getting his legs back when he recovered. Matt Shaw was 6’8” and he could shoot the three, and with Kendall Wallace, imagine how wide the lanes would have been with two shooters on the court for Anthony Marshall, Derrick Jasper, Tre’von, or Hawkins to run the lane? Those lanes become huge because they can take the 3’s. Without them, instead of buckets we had attempts.  Kendall being healthy this year helps them out.

R: Do you have players on your teams that are giving a good look to UNLV?

AB: Well, it’s like we talked about earlier, people just need to recognized by UNLV at an early age. We have some talented kids. For instances, Julian Jacobs, a 6’3” guard at El Dorado. Plays above the rim, high basketball IQ. He’s starting to get a national buzz about him, so I assume Dave Rice will get in there soon so UNLV’s not 3rd or 4th to the table. The University of Utah has already made an offer to him.

R: When Dave Rice was at BYU, he was known for his recruiting. When Justin Hutson was at SDSU he was also know for recruiting, did you have relationships with them?

AB: I’ve known Justin since he was actually at Cal Poly – the Mustangs, I knew him since back then. I’ve known him for some time so I have a good relationship with Justin. Dave, I know a lot about Dave, I probably know his brother Grant a little better but I am familiar with Dave.

R: Didn’t you have Billy White on your team?

AB: Yes, and Justin recruited Billy, so we definitely had a relationship there.

R: How do you feel about the combination of Rice and Hutson for the Rebels, even without the addition of other potential assistants?

AB: Recruiting, the future looks bright. Definitely will get some players, may not have to get as many transfers anymore, might be able to get these kids on the first go around. But, if you look at SDSU, they also had a lot of transfers on their roster. So it’ll be interesting on how it all works out.

R: With Hutson getting the new title of Associate HC, and getting the bigger paycheck, will he be as much involved with recruiting as he was under Coach Fisher?

AB: I don’t know what responsibilities Justin will have, but a guy who recruits is always busy. Off season, everyone is recruiting so that job never ends. It’ll be interesting to see what Coach Rice does as far as responsibilities.

R: They had talked about whenever the Nuggets finish the season bringing Stacey Augmon in. What’s your thoughts on that?

AB: I was just talking with a couple guys about that the other day, its an interesting hire. Not sure how many kids will be familiar with Stacey Augmon, his time with the Rebels came before all of them were born, but their parents will surely remember Stacey. It will be an interesting move, he’ll bring something new to the table that the others don’t have – that NBA experience, and that’s something that will be appealing to kids. Everyone wants to play in the NBA.

R: In general, what are your players looking for in college to play basketball at?

AB: I think playing time is really important, everyone wants to play. Playing time, style of play. The canned answer now a days from college coaches is “we’re going to run, we’re going to get up and down” because that’s what kids want to hear. How many teams actually play that way - not many. Style of play, relationship with the coach, geographic location.

R: What about television exposure

AB: Well with the internet, cable and satellite, I think everybody is on TV now. So it’s not as big of a factor.

R: You don’t ever hear someone considering a mountain west team, them complain that games are on The MTN vs. ABC, ESPN, or Fox Sports?

AB: Universities try to use it as a recruiting tool, but similar situated programs are basically on TV the same amount of time. Sometimes exposure comes with who you play. 

R: Are kids paying attention to the moves in the MWC, with BYU, Utah, and TCU leaving, and then Fresno State, Reno, and Boise State coming in?

AB: Not really. Its nice because some of those schools have Vegas players and now they get to come home when they play UNLV. More adults follow the conferences changes than the kids. The moves were football moves, most of those teams don’t have great basketball teams, traditionally. Money is in football, so financially its that kind of move. The conference hurts from a basketball standpoint because BYU and Utah historically have been very good in basketball. It may help Utah if kids wanted to get into the Pac-10 but couldn’t get into a UCLA, Arizona, or Washington.

R: Did your kids have any opinions on the Dave Rice vs. Reggie Theus pick?

AB: I don’t think the kids really knew who either enough. Their parents sure. I remember sitting down with Olek Czyk when he was being recruited by Rick Pitino. Coach Pitino said, “Olek, do you want to know about when I was an NBA GM or head coach, any stories about that?” Olek says “No”. Coach Pitino says “Do you want hear about how at one point in time we had the highest payroll of salaries in the NBA, of kids who had played for me?” Olek says “No”. Coach Pitino says do you want hear about the new facilities we are going to build on campus?” Olek says “No”. So Coach Pitino says, “Well Olek, what do you want to talk about?” Olek says “I want to talk about how you figure playing me, I want to talk about the playing style, what do you see me doing?” So kids are more concerned with that. All the other stuff is kind of on the outside.

R: That’s pretty direct.

AB: Exactly, for the kids, I think that’s what they want to know. ‘how do you see me playing, where do you see me fitting in at’

R: I don’t know if its true or not, but do various recruiting coaches are maybe not as truthful with what they are going to do with a kid, as opposed to Coach Kruger’s approach of telling kids how it is – what their strengths and weaknesses are?

AB: I’ve never come across a coach who wasn’t direct. Coach Kruger would tell them how it is, like it or leave it. He’s got the experience, he’s been to the tournament, final four, NBA, he knows what he’s talking about, so he’s very direct.

R: How do you think Coach Rice is going to do?

AB: It’s a situation where he’s a local guy, meaning he played for them and coached for them. I think they should be pretty excited, he walks into a pretty good team, the cupboard is not bare. I think the expectations of his first year may be unfair for him, new coach, kids trying to buy into his system, the fan expectations will be unfair because anything less than the NCAA tournament, we’ll be up in arms about it.

R: Last season we reached the first round and lost. We didn’t really have to struggle to get that bid. Next year, is failure anything less than 20 wins?

AB: We’ll be up in arms about it – and that’s what typical fans do. Anything less than 20 wins and an NCAA tournament and we’ll be up in arms. I think if his first year is very successful he could be in a situation like Tarkanian, he could be here for 20 years. Vegas is based on winning, there’s tons of things people in Las Vegas can do other than watching the Rebels if they aren’t winning. The expectation is unfair, but if he does the right things he’ll be here forever if this is where he wants to be. I think it will work out. The style of play will definitely be attractive for kids around the country to come and play, it happened at BYU and he said its going to happen here.

R: Last season’s point per game for the Rebels were 71.6 PPG, what do you see it being this season.

AB: 70 points per game is still a lot of points. In spite of the fact that Coach Kruger was playing a half-court game. Coach Rice will have to have the team at least 70 points good, otherwise it won’t be exciting. This is Las Vegas, that’s how Tark’s teams did it with the amoeba defense. 70 points is the benchmark. They’ll have to score a lot of points to have exciting basketball. Even in winning, it has to be exciting. People aren’t as interested in the ‘snail-ball’ even if it produces W’s. People want to see transition, dunks, and alley-oops. He has a lot of benchmarks that may be unfair for a first-year head coach, but he’ll do well with the team that he has.

R: Do you feel more comfortable sending your kids to Coach Rice’s program vs. Coach Kruger’s?

AB: We’ll have to see, with Coach Kruger it was a relationship built over time. I’m open to building that relationship with Coach Rice and his staff. We’ll have to wait and see. Like I said I know his brother a bit better than I know him.  My interest is taking care of the kids. Coach Kruger did the things he said he would do for Anthony Marshall, kept on him about grades and made a good situation on the court for him. I would expect the same with Coach Rice, it will be about building relationship with him over time.

R: Obviously, Coach Rice was most recently at BYU. Have you ever had any Las Vegas Prospects go to BYU?

AB: We’ve never had a kid play for BYU. It’s a little bit different situation over there. I’m not sure I have anyone  on the team who is quite ready for that. (laughs) So no, we’ve never sent anyone to BYU.

R: Any final thoughts on what you believe will make UNLV basketball better from a recruiting standpoint?

AB: Like I said earlier, UNLV needs to get to the table first with quality players before all of the national hype comes. Not only that, UNLV can keep local talent if kids growing up are already thinking, I want to be a Rebel, playing for the Rebels is a goal of mine. That community spirit and pride in playing for UNLV goes a long way, and that needs to be fostered in the next generation of basketball recruit for UNLV to be successful in the long-term.

R: That sounds like two good ideas, Coach, thank you for doing the interview and good luck to the Las Vegas Prospects this weekend.

AB: Thank you.


  1. Great interview - thanks for sharing!!!

  2. Awesome interview, more please