Let the rebuilding begin
By Bruiser Flint and Robin Deutsch, MassLive, 4/28/1999

It's been about two months since Xavier ended the Minutemen's season in the Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament quarterfinals. After the game, head coach Bruiser Flint expressed disappointment over a season gone astray, and vowed the rebuilding process would begin immediately. Flint recently sat down for an exclusive question-and-answer session to discuss the status of the rebuilding process.

What have you been up to since the Atlantic 10 Tournament?
I've been recruiting.

Where have your travels taken you?
Do you want to know where I haven't been? (laughing). I've been to Iowa, New York, Philadelphia, North Carolina, Texas, New Jersey, Kansas. You name it, I've been there.

Are you looking for a specific type of player?
We have been looking for kids who can score and we're looking for big players. But, to be honest, scoring is more important for us right now. We need to put more players on the floor that need to be guarded. As a team, we are always going to defend and rebound, that is not a concern. We need to become better offensively.

Can you talk about specific players?
At this time I can't. We've had recruits on campus making visits and we're still in the process of having on-site visits.

You attended the legendary Junior College national tournament in Hutchinson, Kansas for the first time. Can you talk about that experience?
Recruiting junior college players is an entirely different process. Because the very best players tend to meet in Hutchinson, most of the four-year colleges wait until the end of the season to actively recruit junior college players. It becomes very competitive, sometimes more so than when recruiting a high school player. Junior college players tend to be more equipped to help a team quicker than a scholastic player. That's because they're older, more experienced and have already played a season or two of college basketball.

Have you been spending time working with the returning players?
Absolutely. We've been holding individual workouts on a weekly basis. The NCAA allows coaches to work with four players at a time for two hours. It used to be only two players, then three. Now we can have as many as four and it's extremely helpful. It allows us to work on both the individual and the team game and get guys used to playing together. More importantly, it allows the coaching staff to work on individual player drills that we hope they'll practice when the coaching staff is not around. NCAA rules only allow these workouts to be conducted during the school year. In the summertime, the players are on their own. You hope they develop good workout and practice habits now and extend them into the summer.

What was your evaluation of the NCAA Tournament?
It thought it was as good and competitive a tournament as college basketball has had in a long time. There were a lot of evenly balanced teams playing against each other. The championship game was played above and beyond all expectations.

What was your reaction to Connecticut winning the national championship?
Connecticut played well. You have to give credit where it is due and Connecticut had a very good team. Just because they are a rival doesn't mean I can't appreciate how talented they were. One of the best things Connecticut does is run and I thought that if Duke tried to run with them, they'd lose. I thought Duke would win, but Connecticut defended Elton Brand well and is as good as Duke in transition.

Can you comment on the departure of Rafael Cruz?
It was simply a situation where Rafael wanted to get more playing time. I wish Rafael the best, he played with a lot of heart for us. I understand that he is interested in perhaps Youngstown State or Robert Morris. I've spoken to him recently and he also indicated that he may wait a few months before making a decision on his future. He knows I'll help him in any way I can.

In the same vein, can you comment on the prospects of former Pioneer Regional star Adam Harrington transferring from North Carolina State to UMass?
At this time I can't, but thanks for asking (laughing).

Provide us with an update on Lari Ketner's play in the various evaluation games held for NBA draft prospects?
Lari played well in the Nike Desert Classic in Phoenix. He averaged a double-double (12 points, 10 rebounds) and was named to the All-Tournament Team. I believed he raised his stock immensely. One of the things Lari talked about prior to him going to Phoenix was his ability to run the floor and rebound. He did that. It was also important for Lari to be in good shape and he was. Now he has to maintain his current fitness level. He made his free throws, which is really important, and he got -- and made -- easier baskets. Lari was definitely helped by the quality of guards in Phoenix. They were able to penetrate better and feed Lari the ball in better position. I've been getting calls from pro teams wanting to set up individual workouts with Lari. There are not a lot of big men in this year's draft class, so I definitely think Lari will be a first-round draft choice. Right now, the NBA has him projected as the 24th or 25th best player in the country and I think he'll project higher come the draft.

Is Charlton Clarke enjoying similar success with his professional aspirations?
Charlton went to the Portsmouth Invitational and played well and also attended a camp in Houston. He is still looking around and evaluating his options, but I know he'd like to get invited to a pro camp this summer. But what's most important for both Lari and Charlton is they are on schedule to graduate. I have impressed upon them not to lose sight of what's important -- a college degree.

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