Stansbury focused on ‘little things’ to begin season

Junior forward Justin Johnson (23) puts up a shot during the first period of a basketball game against MTSU at Diddle Arena on Saturday, Jan. 30. The Hilltoppers lost the game to MTSU with a final score of 66-64. Emily Kask/HERALD

Matthew Stewart

College basketball is quickly approaching as teams all across the country will be participating in “midnight madness” events this weekend.

First year Head Coach Rick Stansbury and the WKU men’s basketball team will be kicking things off Friday with Hilltopper Hysteria.

The 2015-16 basketball season ended a little differently than most. Stansbury came to a program with no presence in the backcourt.

Since the day Stansbury took over he has been on the recruiting trail, putting together pieces in order for the Hilltoppers to compete with the best teams on their schedule.

The former Mississippi State head coach has brought in three graduate transfers in Que Johnson, Junior Lomomba and Cleveland “Pancake” Thomas to lead the effort. He has added freshmen Damari Parris, Marty Leahy and Marko Stajkovski to the roster.

The work the Topper coach has put in goes beyond next season as well. According to 247Sports, WKU now has the 10th ranked 2017 recruiting class with commitments from five star big man Mitchell Robinson and four-star guard Josh Anderson.

Although Stansbury has yet to coach a single game, he is already making sure his team is taking care of the little things as this year’s WKU basketball team is looking to have discipline on and off the court

“I think we have made tremendous progress in that area, academically, being on time,” Stansbury said. “Our guys eat breakfast every day from seven to eight thirty. They are gonna get their study table, the little things and the importance of the little things. You know, one minute late means you’re late.”

“I have had no absences, I have had nobody late for breakfast, nobody that didn’t get their six hours of study table,” Stansbury added. “That will carry over to the court.”

Stansbury has stressed that the players have to be accountable for their actions off the court, because when it comes time to step between the lines there is no place for mistakes.

“The game doesn’t forgive you, the game doesn’t wait on you,” Stansbury said. “You have no freedom, no flexibility off the court from me. Do what you’re supposed to do when you’re supposed to do it. Best effort and attitude possible.”

Just like holding his players accountable off the court, he has the same expectations of the team on the court.

“You’re going go to class,” Stansbury said. “You’re gonna go to study table. Defending and rebounding, you got no freedom. The place you have freedom is offensively.”

Fans of the program will get their first opportunity to watch the Toppers practice on Friday, however this WKU team might look a little different from teams in the recent past.

“We are gonna play fast, we are gonna play quick, but at the same time we are gonna defend and rebound every possession,” Stansbury said.

Hilltopper Hysteria begins at 7:30 p.m immediately after the WKU volleyball team’s matchup with the Blazers of the University of Alabama Birmingham.

“[The] biggest thing is accountability; you gotta have accountability,” Stansbury said about his team. “It’s about players first, winning second and then people come.”

Reporter Matthew Stewart can be reached at 270-745-6281 and [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @MES_WKU22.