Catching up with John Becker - Part One

UVM Men’s Hoops head coach adjusting to life after staff shakeup
Published: Sep. 15, 2021 at 10:15 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - The college hoops season is right around the corner, with teams allowed to work out on the court with formal practices resuming at the end of this month. For years at UVM, this time was more about working in a handful of incoming freshmen and continuing to build on pre-existing relationships with returning players and coaches, but there are a LOT of new faces in Burlington this Fall.

“I think that the two transfers we have, Finn (Sullivan, from the U. of San Diego) and Kam (Gibson, from Western Carolina) have been terrific and bought in right away,” said head coach John Becker. “And you know, three freshmen (Michel Ndayishimiye, Sam Alamatu, and Evan Guillory) have been terrific and hardworking. You know with the coaching staff changes, that’s a process that takes time and so we’re fortunate Bryson Johnson’s on board (joining from George Mason), Derryk O’Grady’s come back into the Ops spot, and Ryan Schneider’s been elevated to the Associate Head Coach. And then hopefully we’ll get another assistant on board here shortly.”

The Cats have brought in five new players., but only three have left the program: three-year starter Stef Smith and Vermont-native walk-ons Deng Adiang and Kevin Garrison. All that experience returning should make the transition easier as they work in the new guys.

“I think the stability of our guys, and like you said the amount of time that they’ve been here, has really been helpful,” Becker said. “They’ve been rock solid and hardworking group. I mean my God, all of these guys are in the gym all day long. And so it’s a hardworking, great group of guys, and I think that stability has been really, really important as we’ve kind of gone through a lot of changes this Summer like we just talked about. And so we have great leadership with Benny (Shungu) and Bailey (Patella) and Justin (Mazzulla) and Ryan (Davis). And so they’ve done a good job of keeping us moving forward.”

Becker says its the largest roster he has ever had, but it aslo creates some questions: there are still only 200 total minutes of playing time available per game. Finding the right balance of giving his team the best chance to win every night while not stunting the development of younger players is a puzzle Becker and his staff will have to figure out.

“My challenge this year is gonna be keeping everyone happy and finding the right guys to play,” he said. “There’s gonna be some really good players probably outside of the rotation. but it’s just that weird thing with COVID and everyone getting an extra year we have the biggest roster I’ve ever had with a lot of good players. So practices are gonna be super competitive and playing time is gonna be my challenge of playing the right guys and keeping everyone together. But if we can do that, I think this group has a chance to do something.”

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