Ray Harper had a busy day in Birmingham, Ala.
The Western Kentucky men’s basketball coach made the rounds at his first Conference USA media day Wednesday, talking at length with reporters and C-USA’s Digital Network.
The BGDN’s Chad Bishop was in Birmingham today and talked with Harper and WKU women’s coach Michelle Clark-Heard. Chad also gathered reaction from other league coaches to WKU’s arrival in the conference.
Harper took part with the rest of the league’s men’s and women’s coaches Wednesday evening in a C-USA live stream interview session broadcast online.
Among the interesting things Harper discussed during that interview was the progress of junior forward Aleksej Rostov as he returns from the blood clot issue that sidelined him midway through last season.
WKU’s website lists the 6-foot-10 Rostov at 225 pounds. Harper said the Latvia native, who was cleared for full activity July 12, is back up to about 232 pounds.
“If you didn’t know he’d missed the time last year, you’d never know he’d been out,” Harper said. “He’s just a good kid and a hard worker. I think it helps our other guys to not take things for granted. He’s constantly reminding those guys of how quickly something you love can be taken away.”
Harper was asked if this year’s team, which returns four starters, is his best yet, but he said it’s far too early to tell. But he did complement the group’s depth, as well as the familiarity with his dependable seniors.
Harper was asked specifically about several Hilltoppers. Here were his comments:
Senior guard T.J. Price: “He’s the guy that has really expanded his game and has been the best we had all summer. Obviously, he’s always been able to shoot the 3, but now he’s really attacking the basket. He has a mid-range game, and he’s in the best shape of his life.”
Senior forward George Fant: “He can step out and make a 17-footer. Incredible in the weight room. He plays bigger than the 6-7 that he is. He’s a guy that loves the big games.”
Redshirt sophomore guard Chris Harrison-Docks: “Plays with a swag, but a guy – he’s a scoring point guard. He came out of point guard averaging about 27 a game. Typical Butler recruit, really could shoot the basketball. What we’ve really tried to work on is his ability to deliver the basketball and be more of a point guard and score when the opportunity presents itself. He’s brought in and done a great job with that this summer.”
Senior guard Trency Jackson: “Athlete. Probably our hardest worker. He’s a kid who’s going to defend every position and attack. He spent a lot of time in the summer working on his 3-point shot, and a guy I’m expecting to have a big summer year for us.”