Editor’s note: While on vacation in Seattle for the holiday weekend, I called up Newton head coach Rick Rasmussen to talk about how he thought summer went for the Rams’ basketball team. Rasmussen talks about the Rams’ new style of play, how this team compares to his most recent final four team and if they’re a high school copy of the Golden State Warriors.
The Covington News: Talk a little bit about how you guys adjusted your style on the fly and how your team played in the summer leagues.
Rick Rasmussen: We knew we were gonna be really quick and we knew that we had lots of scoring options. We get the ball down the floor so quickly with all of our guards that we knew that it would be best for us to put pressure on the defense by playing more uptempo. It’s probably the fastest team I’ve had at Newton in the 11 years, probably faster than any team we had when I was an assistant for seven years. We’ve got great passers and great transition scorers. We’ve got guys who can shoot the three. We’re certainly playing to our strengths when we push it as much as we can. As long as that’s what’s best for matching up with the team that night.
CN: You guys finished with a record of 30-2?
Rasmussen: Yeah, 30-2. That matches the actual season of my 2009-2010 team that went to the final four and won the region.
CN: Do you feel like this team can be as special as that team?
Rasmussen: I think offensively we’re a better team. Defensively, rebounding and toughness inside we’re not where that team was. So we’re more explosive offensively and we’re not as good of a rebounding team yet. I think depending on who we play and how many bigs the other team has on the floor and all we’ll adjust our lineup. But with the four-guard lineup we’re not as big and not as strong inside defensively. That’s our area of weakness that we’re gonna keep working on.
CN: Going into the season, of course it’ll be a long time from now to October/November, what is the thing that you guys need to get right to be that team that can win the region, or that team that can be a No. 1 or No. 2 seed?
Rasmussen: I think we’ve gotta sure up our inside defense. We’ll lift weights and do workouts and try to get a little more physical, a little tougher inside. We’ve gotta be physically tough. If you’re gonna advance in the state tournament you’ve gotta be tough. We had guys like Donovan and Malik last year that were very tough guys, tough customers and they could defend guys that were bigger than them, so that’s certainly something we wanna work on. We wanna work on getting stronger in the offseason like I said, lifting weights and doing workouts, getting a little defensive edge to us. We’re a really good pressure team but the back of the press and the half-court defense have gotta sure up.
CN: I know you’re an NBA fan and we’ve talked a little bit before about the Warriors and things like that. Watching you guys play, I feel like you guys remind of the Golden State Warriors where you’ve got four guards who can shoot and handle the ball, and you’ve got that rim protector in Josh. Is that kind of how you feel you mold your team after?
Rasmussen: I think the returners we had and the newcomers we have are what caused our team to play to the style we are, but it does remind me of the uptempo style of Golden State and the different shooters and the flexibility of different guys. We’ve got multiple guys who can score in double figures on a given night so it’s gonna be tough to matchup on us. We just gotta try to impose our will on the tempo of the other team. If we get a team, like Cleveland was, that’s very strong defensively and you can’t run they limit your chances to get in transition. That’s where we have to adjust and find a way to still get good shots and score well and that’s where we’ve got to be versatile. The deeper you go in the region tournament and the state tournament the more you’re gonna find teams that are so good defensively and have so much athleticism inside that they’re gonna try to impose their will on you and that’s where we’ve gotta really improve in being versatile so that if a team doesn’t let us run we can adjust and still compete at a high level in that situation.