Justin Sears ’16 has been a crucial piece for the first place men’s basketball team that remains undefeated in conference play. Sears, the leading scorer against Ancient Eight competition with 22.2 points per game, was named Ivy League Player of the Week for the second week in a row following dominating performances against Columbia and Cornell. The News spoke with Sears to discuss this honor as well as his play all season and the team’s quest for an Ivy League title.
Q You have earned the Ivy League Player of the Week award for the third time this year and the eighth time in your career, the latter ranking as fourth most in conference history. What has propelled you to this level of play?
A My teammates. When Ivy season comes around everyone will be [in it] together, and we sat down and had a meeting. We talked about what we needed to do this year. We don’t want to be in the CIT [CollegeInsider.com Tournament], NIT [National Invitation Tournament] or those other tournaments. We want to be in the NCAA tournament. Everyone’s banded together; Jack [Montague ’16], Javier [Duren ’15] and Makai [Mason ’18] are finding me near the basket. They make my life easy, so I’m getting points at the rim and it’s been effective so far.
Q During the conference season, your points total has improved. What motivates you to play better during the conference schedule? Is it the competition you are facing?
A It is a bit of both. We have a tough non-conference schedule, and we’re no longer facing seven-foot centers that can dunk and shoot the three at the same time. But at the same time, there’s a sense of urgency. We don’t want to waste any opportunities when we go out. I was a little upset with how it went last year with us, so I want to make sure that when we step out on the floor, we treat it like a one-game playoff.
Q What do you think has been the difference in your game from last season to this season, if there has been any?
A I don’t think there’s any difference. I approach the game the same way I did last year, and probably pass the ball a little bit more and rely on my teammates. I’m just staying aggressive and putting pressure on the other team by drawing fouls and attacking the glass; just staying constant with that and looking for my teammates a little bit more.
Q Last season was a breakout season for you, and you’ve garnered everyone’s attention. How do you think that’s affecting the way you’re getting guarded this season?
A It’s a lot tougher. I’m not always getting the same looks that I did last year, and I can’t take two or three dribbles and play one-on-one like I always want to. I just need to use my teammates more. Javier has given the team a different look this year, so now Javier’s able to take the ball to the rim and dish it off to me. Now I’m able to get some easier shots compared to last year, where I had to do a lot of one-on-one and do it myself.
Q During Ivy League play, you’ve talked about how the big men are a little different. Who do you think is the toughest one to go up against?
A That’s a good question. I haven’t really faced everyone because some guys were hurt last year. That was the first time I’ve played Shonn Miller [from Cornell] since my freshman year. Every big man presents a different challenge, so I’m looking forward to it, especially this weekend with [Steve] Moundou-Missi at Harvard and [Gabas] Maldunas at Dartmouth.
Q Going forward in the Ivy League season, what do you hope to see yourself improve at most?
A I think most important is my free throw shooting. It’s at the top of the list. Also, just staying constant with my energy every time I go out and attacking the rim, so we can win the Ivy title this year. That’s the big thing.