MUNCIE - New Ball State men's basketball coach James Whitford spoke with News-Sentinel sports editor Tom Davis about a number of topics at Worthen Arena on Wednesday.
On the plethora of Ball State graduates in high school coaching:
"There are tons and a lot of them have reached out to me. They all love this place. They want us to be successful. That is really exciting."
On quickly establishing recruiting relationships:
"It has been a challenge because recruiting is about relationships. I'm fortunate that I coached in this area for 15 years. Most of my coaching staff has also coached in this area. It's a much different situation than at Arizona, where I basically had never been out West."
On getting up to speed on the Midwest recruits:
"A lot of these kids, we haven't talked to in years, quite frankly, I haven't seen because I've been recruiting predominantly the West coast and nationally. The thing that you have to be careful of when you're in our boat is that you don't have the ability to evaluate a kid over a year, which is really ideal. What you have to do is go above and beyond in doing background work. You have to talk to the high school coaches, the teachers, and the AAU coaches. You have to talk to other college coaches that you know and trust. You have to do more in that area because you're not getting it first hand."
On getting involved in the community:
"This summer and fall that will be a big step for me. I want to legitimately be a part of the Muncie community as absolutely as much as I can. I'm fortunate that I have a great coaching staff so that I can do that and I want to do that. To be involved in the community is important publicly, but personally, it's a passion of mine."
On hiring Brett Nelson as an assistant:
"I went after Brett really hard and I'm thrilled to have him on staff. He has an incredible background as a player. He was a borderline NBA player and has a walk in that life that is really important to bring to the table. In terms of who he has worked with, his tutelage has been incredible. He is so highly recommended. He had a lot of other chances to go places, but he and I kind of hit it off. I've had him on staff for 2 1/2 weeks and he's one of the best assistant coachesin the country."
On hiring Jason Grunkemeyer as an assistant:
"Jason is like family to me. I recruited him to Miami. I know his parents. He's a terrific basketball coach What he brings is a great basketball mind and an incredible human being. He just cares about the right stuff. He has the unique ability to sell me to our players. In any program, there are times when the players won't see eye-to-eye with the head coach. Jason has the unique ability to say 'Listen, I know (coach Whitford) is nuts, but let me tell you why he's nuts.' That's a really important piece."