Porter Braswell ’11 is ready to lead his team into the 2010-’11 basketball season. A year ago, Braswell started all 31 games while averaging 6.0 points, 2.4 assists and nearly a steal per game. He enters the season as one of the most experienced point guards in the Ivy League.
The News sat down with him to discuss the upcoming season, the improvements to his game and the state of Ivy League basketball.
Q First things first, are you ready for the basketball season?
A Yeah, I think I’m ready for the season to begin. With all of the workouts since we came back to school, it kind of gets you prepared mentally and physically ready for the season. It’s a really long, grueling season and being a senior and having done it three times before, I kind of know what it takes mentally and physically to get through a season that’s as long as the basketball season. So I’m ready personally. As a team, I think we’re getting there. We’re definitely ready for our first game, but there’s still a lot that we need to work on throughout the course of the season. Hopefully we’ll peak at the right moment which ideally would be peaking right as the Ivy basketball season begins.
Q What are some of the team’s goals for the season?
A Coming into every season, the ultimate goal is to win the Ivy League Championship and go to the NCAA tournament. All the small goals build up to that big goal. More specifically, I think this year we’re going to put a much bigger emphasis on pushing the ball up and down the court. You’ll see us getting out into transition a little bit more than what we have in the past. I think we’re going to rely less on set plays and more on a general motion. So like a lot more passing and cutting and kind of getting back to the basics. We’re trying to do the basics really well which is something that a lot of teams overlook. We’re putting a big emphasis on it so far in the preseason.
Q Last year, your team was led by Alex Zampier ’10, who averaged 17.4 points per game. What are you going to do to replace the scoring and leadership that he provided?
A With the guys on our team right now, it’s not going to be a problem replacing the scoring and things like that. There are more chances now for people to step up and make plays, and we have the players to step up and make the plays. We did lose a big part of our offense, but we feel that we have the people to replace that. Alex was great for us, but I think this year we have the pieces. Just because one player left, it doesn’t mean that we’re going to suffer. I think we have the potential to be better than what we were last year.
Q You and Michael Sands ’11 are the only two returning players that started every game last year. What do you two need to do to lead this team?
A I think the biggest thing is being vocal and talking on the court. For a lot of people who are going to get playing time this year, it will be their first time getting significant minutes. People will be nervous at first just trying to understand the pace of the game and learning our offense. It’s one thing to do it in practice and another thing to execute it in the game. I feel like we have a lot of people who are going to step up this year and get a lot of minutes that they haven’t had in the past. I think the biggest thing for Mike and myself is to work everyone through that. I think the biggest way that we can do that is to communicate and be the vocal leaders on the court. If we’re on the same page, everything runs a little bit more smoothly. Since we’ve had the experience in the past, I think that the responsibility falls on our shoulders.
Q What parts of your game did you work on during the offseason?
A I’ve worked a lot more on my shooting from the outside. I think one of my weaknesses and one of the things that I’ve been scouted for traditionally has been that defenses lay off of me and stop my penetration which then leaves open the perimeter shots. When I would come off of ball screens, defenders would normally go under the screen and try to contain me. One of the things that I’ve been working on is making the defender have to go over the screen. So that in doing so, that will give me lanes to the basket. But in order to make a defender come over the screen, I have to more consistently knock down jump shots. So, working on my shot, coming to a jump stop as it hits the rim, trying to control my speeds and changing speeds are probably the biggest things that I’ve been working on.
Q Last year, you finished 10th in the Ivy League in assists. Do you see yourself this year as more of a distributor or a scorer?
A Kind of both. As a point guard, my number one job is to distribute the ball. I see myself more as a distributor. With that being said, I’m more effective as a distributor if I can score because then you have to take into consideration that I might score on you, so you can’t drop off of me and take away my ability to distribute. So while I’m more of a distributor because I’m a point guard, it’s important that teams respect the fact that I can still score. Otherwise it will make being a distributor much more difficult.
Q Last year the nation was enthralled by Cornell’s run in the NCAA tournament. Does their Sweet Sixteen berth bring more credibility to the strength of all of the Ivy League teams?
A I don’t think Cornell makes every team in the Ivy League appear to be a better team. I think Cornell had an unbelievable season, and I think that the Ivy League as a whole is better. But I don’t think it’s better because Cornell is great. I think it’s better because we’re getting better players. This year, Harvard is tremendous. Last year, Cornell got all the publicity and rightly so. They were by far the best team in the conference. With that being said, Jeremy Lin of Harvard is now in the NBA. So, we have players in the Ivy League who are really good. I think that Cornell going to the Sweet Sixteen has brought more credibility to the Ivy League … Just because Cornell had a great season, that doesn’t mean that the players on any of the Ivy League teams are better … Harvard had Jeremy Lin. Cornell had an unbelievable season. Princeton had a great season last year and they’re all coming back this year. I think last year the Ivy League could have gotten two teams into the tournament. Cornell got in and I think Harvard and Princeton both had good arguments for getting into the tournament. It was exciting to see two teams and three teams potentially getting national recognition.
This year, I think that the league is as wide open in terms of teams that can win as it has been since I’ve been here. Since I’ve been here, every year Cornell has gone to the tournament. It was kind of expected that Cornell was going to go undefeated or lose one games or maybe two games in the Ivy League. So if you lost two games, it didn’t look good for your chances to get into the tournament. This year, in my estimation, the team that’s going to win might have three losses. It’s really exciting that the league is going to be competitive.
Q Last question, why should the average fan come and watch you guys play?
A I think the average fan should watch us play because I think the basketball environment is really great. The whole atmosphere is really loud and we’ve had great crowds in the past. The fans have been awesome at Yale, and they really make our team go. They get us motivated. I think that this year we have a lot of exciting players. We have a couple of players who play above the rim and show their athleticism. You can go to UNC, Duke and the top schools in the country, and we have some of the athletes that you’ll see at those schools. It just makes for a really exciting atmosphere. I think this year we should be really competitive. Personally, I think basketball has a great atmosphere and the average fan would have a great time.