Rick Stansbury.jpg

WKU men’s basketball head coach Rick Stansbury addresses the media following the announcement of the cancellation of the Conference USA basketball tournament due to Covid-19 concerns on March 12, 2020.

Men’s basketball head coach Rick Stansbury met with media Tuesday to share his optimism for a 2020-21 college basketball season, and expressed his excitement for the experience and potential he has been witnessing in the early days of practice. 

Stansbury also gave a vote of confidence that school will begin again in the fall, and that with safe precautions, sports will be included in the reopening. 

“We’re all looking forward to school starting on time, we feel good about that, we’re confident about that,” Stansbury said. “It’s kind’ve a week-by-week thing, a day-by-day thing almost, but we’re all hoping so, feeling as good as we can feel right now, but it’s going to come down to what’s going to be smart and safe for everybody.”

Stansbury also touched on how team training is going, the outlook of veteran Charles Bassey and freshman Dayvion McKnight, the potential of scheduling the University of Kentucky in the future, and his latest binges on Netflix. 

“When I tell you this, y’all are probably going to laugh at me, in my whole life, I’d never watched Netflix,” Stansbury said. “I got to watching Netflix for the first time in my life. Sometimes, we’d start at four o’clock in the afternoon and go to bed at six o’clock the next morning, because there was nowhere to go. There's some shows it’s amazing that I’d never known about, like The Office, Stranger Things, Outer Banks. Probably my favorite one was the one with the professor, Breaking Bad.”

Early in the conference, Stansbury discussed the beginnings of practice and his joy at having the team back on campus. 

“First off, it was just good to get everybody back,” Stansbury said. “That’s our comfort zone as coaches and as players, that’s our lives. Never, in my forty years, are you away from your players, or the gym, for basically four months.”

After a strong showing last season following an injury to junior center Charles Bassey, there have been many questions as to how good the team will be in the upcoming season with Bassey’s return, as well as the departure of some key players. Stansbury conveyed optimism about the new season, citing experience as a key factor in what he views as a strong team.

“Having experience is something that’s invaluable, you can’t teach it, only time can cure it,” Stansbury said. “We have a lot of experience coming back, and good players with that experience.”

Stansbury spoke more specifically about Bassey, updating media on the progress he’s making to return to the court by the beginning of next season.

“Charles is doing really well, he’s going through all the workouts, still non-contact, but I was  surprised with where he is at,” Stansbury said. “He’s sprinting really well, he’s still trying to get that muscle developed back to where it was before in that leg. I think he’s doing really well, again, I think just being back around his teammates, that was a lonely three months for him everyday.”

Stansbury says he still doesn’t know the timetable for Bassey’s return to full-contact, but believes he’s on the right track.

“The way it’s turned out, and what we're doing right now, it's probably worked out in his favor that we’re not rushing him, we have plenty of time,” Stansbury said. 

Stansbury also discussed incoming freshman guard and 2020’s Ky Mr. Basketball award winner Dayvion McKnight, speaking highly of the squad's newest player.

“I have zero questions about his heart and soul,” Stansbury said. “He’ll come in here physically and mentally, which are the two things all young kids have to make adjustments with. His adjustment will be minimized as much as any freshman I’ve ever had, because mentally and physically, he’s there.” 

Stansbury also touched on the ongoing discussion around a potential game against UK. Though Stansbury wishes they could find a way to play, he says that he doesn’t take UK’s reluctance as a slight, but as a sign of respect. 

“Naturally, we would love to play Kentucky,” Stansbury said. “Do I understand why they don’t wanna play us? I do. Probably if I’m Kentucky, why take a chance on playing Western Kentucky? I was disappointed we didn’t play, [UK coach John Calipari] and I talked about it, and I think Cal tried to do everything he could to try to get the game to work out, but I do understand. Doesn’t mean I have to really like it, but I look at it as respect.”

 

Concluding the media availability, Stansbury remarked on his confidence for the next season, and how much he likes the team and the people surrounding it. 

“I like our team, I like our people,” Stansbury said. “We’ve had good people in the past, good, high character guys, but from one through fifteen, if you had to draw it up on paper, you couldn’t draw it up any better than what we have right here.”

Reporter Evan Culbertson can be reached at evan.culbertson189@topper.wku.edu. Follow Evan on Twitter at @evan_culbertson.

Evan Culbertson is the women's basketball beat reporter for the College Heights Herald. He previously was a general assignment sports reporter.