Kevin Bland is in his senior year here at UC Irvine. He was the California Junior College Player of the Year two years ago. Darren Moore is a junior transfer from Citrus College and looks to be the defensive stopper for UCI.
They both sat down with the New University to talk about the season, the big games and Zack Atkinson dunking over Tyson Chandler.
New University: First things first, how do you guys feel going up against USC for the first game of the year?
Kevin Bland: It’s going to be fun to play a top team in the Pac-10 and see where we are at as a team. We are going to try and go in there to get a win.
Darren Moore: Everybody on the team is excited. We are going to be ready for them.
New U: Kevin, what’s the difference between this year’s team and last year’s team?
Bland: We are a lot closer as a team. Everyone gets along great on the court and off it. There is a different style of play. Zack Atkinson is a high flyer, has a nice shot. He can block shots. It’s an element we haven’t had here. We are also better guarding the perimeter guards with Darren and Patrick Rembert. I think we are more athletic this year.
New U: What can we expect with a new backcourt of Kevin Bland and Atkinson?
Bland: Obviously we lose a big inside game without Darren Fells and Patrick Sanders, but I think this one is more exciting for the fans. Zack is going to have two or three dunks a game, which is more than Darren and I had all year last year.
New U: Darren, this is your first year at UCI. What do you expect in Big West basketball?
Moore: I’m expecting to compete. I don’t go in thinking about my opponent. I think about what we can do as a team, and what I can do individually. I’m not going into it to be too surprised. I am just going to do what I do, and help the team out. I don’t put expectations on myself. I just play.
New U: Kevin, introduce Darren Moore to UCI.
Bland: He is going to be our defensive stopper. He has long arms, moves his feet well. [He] could be the best on the team when he wants to, for sure. Offensively, we have a more penetrating offensive, and he penetrates well. He has a good pull-up [jumper] and shoots the three ball well.
New U: What have you guys improved on?
Bland: Seeing Patrick Sanders’ work ethic last year, a lot of guys put a lot of extra time in this summer. Everybody has improved. We lost Patrick and Darren, and everybody understands we need to do a little more. We are all biting for playing time.
Moore: He’s right. Pat set the tone. I think as time goes on we are going to develop even more.
New U: What are the match-ups you guys are looking forward to other than USC and Oregon?
Bland: For me, personally, I am looking to play at [Pacific], my hometown. As a team, we are looking forward to Cal State Fullerton. We were 0-3 against them last year.
Moore: I have a lot of friends in the conference, but I am looking forward to playing Long Beach State the most because my best friend Stephen Gilling plays there. I haven’t played against him since my first year in college at Northern Colorado when he was at Colorado State.
New U: Who won that game?
Moore: He won, by one. They had a guy make a free throw in the last second of the game.
New U: Describe your styles of play.
Moore: I would say unselfish. I like pleasing other people on the court rather than myself. I penetrate in the paint a lot to open up shots for guys like Chad DeCasas. He’ll hit an open jump shot 70 to 80 percent of the time.
New U: So you’re an assists man?
Moore: That’s what I try to do, but I don’t care about the stats. I just want to help the team win. If coach asked me to just play defense I wouldn’t really care.
New U: But aren’t you playing college basketball to make it to the next level? How can you not really care about yourself?
Moore: I see it as, if you do what you need to do to win, everything else will take care of itself.
New U: If you were to compare each others’ play to an NBA player who would it be?
Moore: Kevin kind of plays like Hedo Turkoglu. They have the same kind of jump shot. Kevin has this thing that he does where he’ll stop at the free throw line, pivot like nine times (laughs), and then either shoots or passes. If he shoots, he’ll nail it.
Bland: I was thinking Ron Artest, but he’s a much better penetrater than Artest. You know what, I am going to say Lebron James. He even has a shot like Lebron.
New U: So you’re saying we have Lebron on the UCI basketball team?
Moore: Lebron and Hedo! (laughs).
New U: So you guys are telling me that Zack dunked on Tyson Chandler of the New Orleans Hornets?
Moore: Well, if you took the picture at the right time, then he dunked on him.
New U: Wait, wait. Tell me more.
Moore: Well, Tyson was working out with us over the summer, and during a game someone threw a lob and it just went over Tyson’s hands and Zack caught it and dunked on him.
New U: What will Zack say if I asked him whether or not it was a legitimate dunk?
Both: He’ll say he dunked on him.