Q&A with University of Wyoming Head Men’s Basketball Coach Jeff Linder about the offseason and the new NIL rules

It’s been a whirlwind of an offseason in college basketball with new transfer and NIL rules. Those changes have had an effect on the University of Wyoming basketball program, and UW’s Jeff Linder hopped on a Zoom call with Wyoming News Now’s David Graf to talk about the offseason and some of those changes.
Published: Jul. 4, 2021 at 12:31 PM CDT
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CASPER, Wyo. (Wyoming News Now) - The offseason is in full swing for college basketball, but that doesn’t mean the work has stopped for the University of Wyoming men’s basketball team.

University of Wyoming Head Men’s Basketball Coach Jeff Linder hopped on a Zoom call with Wyoming News Now’s David Graf to talk about how the offseason is going heading into Linder’s second year at the helm, Marcus Williams’ transfer, the new NCAA NIL rules and more.

This interview has been edited for content and clarity.

DG: I really appreciate you taking the time here. I know you guys have had some basketball camps going on down in Laramie this week. Getting to know some of the younger kids who wanna play the game, and you guys are giving them some of those skills. What’s that been like hosting those basketball camps down at UW?

JL: Camp was great. You know, we had a great turnout. I think people were excited that last summer with the pandemic that weren’t able to do some of those things but to be able to get a lotta kids from the entire state that was the exciting thing. You really see how excited the kids are to be able to come to the Double-A and be able to play on that court, and camp’s a big deal for us. I think it’s a big deal in the state of Wyoming. It’s something where we need to really do a good job of and luckily I have one of the best assistant coaches in the country when it comes to running camp with Coach Sundance Wicks, a Wyoming native from Gillette who played for the camp legend Don Meyer at Northern State and so when he has to do three days of camp for four hours a day that’s nothing compared to back in the day when he had to basically eight weeks of camp 24/7 and didn’t make very much money for it.

DG: Well, that sounds like it was a good time then. I’m glad you know you got to know some of the younger hoopers here in Wyoming. The last time we talked you talked about improving as a team. What are some of the things that a coach is looking for during these summer months in terms of improvement for the basketball team heading into next season?

JL: It’s a balance, um. You don’t want to do too much, and you don’t wanna do too little. We’re the one sport that we’ve really turned into a 12-month sport, and so the season really gets long, but it’s also a time to in the summer where, um, you can definitely get better. Everybody says that, but if you have the right type of kids, who really buy into the process of working every day. One in the weight room. That’s a big key for us in the summertime is the guys being in the weight room with Jimmy my strength coach. He plays a huge, huge role in our development. And then, to be able to get the new guys up to speed in terms of some of the stuff that we do. And really tried to make it where we do a lot of 5 on 5 in the summertime. One thing about being in Laramie, as opposed to some places where there’s a bigger population base, is that our guys really can’t just go and play pickup with maybe other guys from other schools or pros that are home for the summertime. It’s really us, and so we try to get up and down a bunch and get our new guys acclimated, which they’ve been here a month. Their heads are spinning, not as much as it was back in early June, and it’s good because back in the old days practice didn’t start until October 15th. And now, you’re able to kinda get these guys in, and so October, that first day of practice, it doesn’t have the same feeling, but it’s good to get these guys up to speed on things.

DG: You mentioned last time we talked about, too, specifically that the team needs to get better defensively next season. What are some of the things that you’re looking for in the summer to help kind of get that defensive improvement going?

JL: To be a good defensive team, you have to have the right habits and it comes down to discipline and effort. Those are some of the things that last year was such a young team. There were only seven teams in the country younger than us and to not have the time in the summertime and really during the school year of not being able to compete and play 3 on 3, 4 on 4, 5 on 5 just cause we didn’t have the bodies. And then you worry about contact tracing and a lotta things that we had to manage amongst COVID, and so I think now we’re kind of back to our normal schedule. Get back to the normal rhythm of a season, and this summer and week we spent a lot of time in terms of just implementing the foundation of our defense. And now that we’ve had guys in the system for a year they have a little bit of a better understanding of what we’re trying to do and now we gotta kinda build on some things, but it really comes down to just building the right habits that come from playing every day and competing every day in practice.

DG: I know the last time we talked Marcus Williams was kind of part of the picture in terms of heading into next season. Was his transfer a surprise at all?

JL: Well, I mean nothing’s a surprise nowadays, but I mean it wasn’t something that we were expecting. It was talked about beforehand, but there are some things that you can control and you can’t control, and all we can do is worry about the guys that are here and worry about the guys, or the players, that want to be at the University of Wyoming and wanna represent the state of Wyoming. We wish the best for Marcus moving forward, but at the end of the day, my focus and energy are on the guys that are here.

DG: You still have a lotta great guys there in Laramie, including my guy Xavier Dusell, who’s someone that you think is primed to look even better next season?

JL: When you have such a young team, especially when we had four freshmen playing at different spots in the season, I mean Graham Ike and Xavier Dusell were as good as any freshmen in our league last month of the season. Even though Marcus got freshman of the year, I mean those two guys were playing at a really high level towards the end of our season. And then Jeremiah Oden’s somebody that played really well early on and unfortunately for him with the way our roster was set up and with how guys kind of got hurt and him having to play out of position. It kind of really impacted him, but he’s a guy that’s had an unbelievable offseason and he’s a guy that I think is gonna take a big, big step in the right direction. And so when you have him, who’s still a freshman, Graham’s a freshman, X is a freshman, and then you add the other returning players, and you mix in Dang Dut a transfer from CSI, who’s a junior college All-American, Noah Reynolds has really played well as a freshman, he’s not your typical freshmen point guard, I mean he’s 6′3 190 pounds and really knows what it takes to compete at this level, which sometimes younger players don’t understand how hard you have to compete. But those are some of the guys that have a chance to really take a big step here in Year 2.

DG: I know the Name, Image, and Likeness deal is brand new. It just kind of happened yesterday here, what is your take on all of this as the head coach at the University of Wyoming?

JL: Well, I mean it’s like anything. You’ve been in sports long enough that it’s constantly evolving. It’s something that probably the NCAA should have been a little bit more proactive back in the day. I think ya know now it’s kind of fly by the seat of your pants, but hopefully we can kind of see where it goes if our guys, just like with any player, if you’re able to generate enough likeness or whatever that means. If your image or name can create then yeah I think you should be able to be compensated for that. There’s a lot of people at this level, especially at that Power 5 level, where there’s a lot of money being generated. The NCAA’s making a lot of money. Some of these kids, even though, yeah, they get full scholarships I mean they’re not able to do some of the things that a normal student can do in terms of, ya know, the ability to go get a job. There’s a lot of red tape that they have to go through, so I think that it’s definitely a right thing to do. But I think also, too, hopefully in time, maybe at the federal level, there will be more of a universal guideline as opposed to just each institution trying to figure it out. But we shall see, I mean cheating’s been going on since the day coaching started, and I’m sure there will be guys right now that are gonna find really creative ways to do that, but at the end of the day at the University of Wyoming, if our players, they have the ability to profit off their name, image and likeness, we’ll allow them to do that and hope that they can. But at the same time, too it’s just kind of figure it out day by day. It’ll be something that continues, so we’ll figure it out, but it’s here to stay, so gotta adapt or die as we say.

DG: As a UW alum myself, I was very happy to see the energy that you brought back into the basketball program this past year. We’re a few months removed from the basketball season. How would you take stock of your own performance as a coach this past year? How can you improve and get better and groom these young men?

JL: Well, I think just as players and coaches we all have to look in the mirror and none of us are perfect. I mean, my players, as I tell them, will never play a perfect game, and I won’t coach a perfect game. Especially in the game of basketball, where it’s going up and down. Decisions have to be made in split seconds. It’s not a perfect game, but the thing we can control is our response, so I think that’s the thing especially as a team that hopefully grows and as we get older with maturity, just understanding that there’s gonna be ebbs and flows in games and one thing that we can control is our response to certain situations. And if we can be a time that could minimize the number of, ya know be the team that makes the fewest mistakes. I think we’re a team that can really pass the ball. We did a great job of not turning the ball over last year. We were top 20 in the country, and so continue to be a team that doesn’t beat ourselves and that’s my job every day to come in and hold them accountable to the things that we wanna be really good at because you can’t be good at everything. And hope that come season I think we have a chance to really be a good team and be a team that the University of Wyoming, state of Wyoming will be proud of and hopefully we can continue to build off of that energy and momentum that we created last year.

DG: The world’s getting back to normal here. You mentioned basketball is a 12-month sport now, but do you have any exciting summer plans to enjoy some of this time off?

JL: No, the thing I enjoyed last summer was that we couldn’t go out and recruit, so we had a lot more time to get outdoors and spend time with our family. And then, I guess the NCAA decided we hadn’t been out enough, so we have to spend five weekends, Friday through Sundays, of June and July out on the road recruiting, so it’s good for us at Wyoming. We gotta get out and recruit. We gotta go see players in different areas, and so for us, we gotta be out and see these guys. We haven’t seen them for almost a year and a half, so summer won’t be quite the same. I’ve had my opportunities to get out and experience some of the good things of being in Wyoming.

DG: Well, Coach, I really appreciate you taking the time. Thank you so much, and I’m sure we’ll talk again pretty soon.

JL: Sounds good. Thank you, David.

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