June 10, 2010
With Spring Quarter at the University of Washington out of the way, Husky senior-to-be Matthew Bryan-Amaning is preparing to return home to London and begin a stint with England's U-23 National Team. After a short spell with that team, he will join the British National Team, which includes NBA players Ben Gordon and Luol Deng, for tryouts. GoHuskies.com caught up with MBA as he prepared to pack up his bags for the summer and head out of Seattle.
GoHuskies.com: Why don't you start by telling Husky fans what you have going on in the next couple of days?
Matthew Bryan-Amaning: "I leave (Seattle) Thursday, arrive in London Friday and have camp with the U-23 Team in Surrey, just south of London. There are about 10-12 of us, we have two-a-days for about a week and then we go to France for a tournament. We play France, Belgium and Luxemburg. Then, I have some down for about two weeks, before I have try-outs with the Men's National Team."
GH.com: Has it always been one of your goals to represent Great Britain in the 2012 Olympics?
MBA: "Definitely, it's just another plateau to reach and play at. Especially with the guys we have on the team: Luol Deng, Ben Gordon -- real talented guys like that. Just being a part of team like that would be amazing. We have a strong team and real good chance to play well."
GH.com: How long have you been friends with Luol for?
MBA: "Since I was a baby, we grew up playing together in the same system. He's obviously older then I am. I did the same thing he did. When he was about 14 or 15, he came to the states to play high school. Just playing with him until then as well as keeping in touch and going to see him in Chicago sometimes- staying acquaintances."
GH.com: How did Ben Gordon get involved with UK hoops?
MBA: "He was born in London. His family moved to the States when he about five and then he went to go school (at Connecticut). His dad actually still lives in London."
GH.com: Where do most of the players from the U-23 team come from?
MBA: "A majority of the kids are over here playing, myself, a couple of my good teammates I used to play with back in London; Justin Robinson -- he's at Rider. Another kid, Ogo Adegboye, he's at St. Bonaventure. We all played together growing up. There's also Ashley Hamilton, who's at LMU. There's guys all over the States playing."
GH.com: What's the selection process like for the U-23 Team?
MBA: "They select us to be the U-23 team personally -- you don't try out. There were a few kids with me back on the U-20 team and it's kind of a stepping stone to where we are now, and to be involved in the National program, even if they're not making it to the men's team."
GH.com: What are you looking forward to most in playing for the British U-23 this year?
MBA: "Being able to play with Ogo and Justin, who I haven't played with since I was 15...seeing how everyone's improved. It's going to be real fun. Obviously, our number one thing is we are trying to go out there and win games. Whether that means I'm a role player on that team, I just want to go out and win."
GH.com: How many tryout and make the National Team?
MBA: "They have a list of 16, they are cutting it down to 12."
GH.com: Are you feeling pretty good about your shot at making the team?
MBA: "Oh yeah! To be able to say I am one of the 12 or so best players in the country at a young age, and while I'm still getting better as a player, it would mean a lot to make it. And if I do make it and play in the Olympics, I am able to play in front of my family and friends...everyone that knows me and has seen me work so hard since I was so young. It would be great."
GH.com: Is England's stature in the basketball realm growing?
MBA: "Absolutely, the amount of players who are playing and getting their education in the States is growing, and it is completely different from when I was growing up. It used to be tough to get out of here and now it more accessible to get to the states and other places in Europe to play. It just shows how development has come along the past 10-15 years. Luol was honestly probably the first main guy to make it, and his getting to the league is inspiration for a lot of kids."
GH.com: With such a busy schedule, when was the last time you were in London?
MBA: "Last summer, just for a couple of weeks."
GH.com: When the Huskies go to California, one of the first places they go is to In-N-Out Burgers. What do you do first when you get back to London and what do you miss the most?
MBA: "There's not one real restaurant, I just like seeing my family. My mom's cooking...I love it and miss it so much. Basically, I just catch up with everybody. It's funny cause when I go home, I'm never at home. I'll be there and spend time with my mom and brother, but if I'm not with them I'm out with my friends just trying to catch up."
GH.com: What's your favorite dish that your Mom makes?
MBA: "She has a lot of dishes. My mom's Jamaican so she cooks a lot of Caribbean dishes. She will have something different every night."
GH.com: After making such huge strides for the Huskies last season, what have you been doing to make sure you keep moving your game forward?
MBA: "I've just been working hard with our coaches. I've had a really good spring and the effort and consistency has been there. I'm trying to work on some other stuff aspects of the game, like be more aggressive, and be more of a scorer especially, with the absence of Quincy [Pondexter]."
GH.com: So does that mean you've been working on developing your face-up game to compliment your back-to-the-basket skills? MBA: "We've been working on catching, hitting jump hooks, doing a lot more face up stuff shooting at 15-17 feet. I'm trying to get that consistent so people will be surprised next year."
GH.com: How will Aziz N'Diaye's presence in the frontcourt affect you next season?
MBA: "He's another big body in there to bang around. He's going to be able to secure rebounds, gives us another shot blocker underneath, which will also help the guards a lot. Just having another big body, bigger than myself, is huge. In high school, I played with guys bigger than myself and going back to those days I was able to worry less and concentrate more. Especially with the makeup of this team, with Isaiah [Thomas] you know what you are going to get. We're going to need someone else -- like how Isaiah was to Quincy -- to help put the ball in the bucket. With Aziz under there, that's going to help me a lot."
GH.com: Looking at the Husky roster, what are your expectations for next year?
MBA: "We're going to have a real positive season. I don't know how far we are going to be able to go, but we just want to play to our potential. We know we have a lot of talent on this team, especially with so many guys returning the chemistry should be good. So we need to be able to bring it from the jump and if that's that case, the sky's the limit."
GH.com: How will Desmond Simmons and Terrence Ross fit in with the team?
MBA: "From what I've heard, Ross is really good shooter and plays good defense, which is exactly the kind of players we need. Obviously, with C.J. [Wilcox] and now Terrence, we are turning into a better shooting team. The trend that Lorenzo [Romar] has already brought in --Bobby Jones, Justin Holiday type players -- from what I've heard Desmond Simmons is the same type of player. A junkyard dog that scraps and gets hustle points -- someone who does anything on the floor that needs to be done."
GH.com: As a player on the team, how much do you follow the recruiting process and how does it affect players on the team when they hear recruits say no to your school?
MBA: "As players we just kind of move on. We have people or we don't have them. We knew what we had, regardless of what people came or not. Regardless we are going to have strong team, a team that is going to be a strong force across the nation. That's just what we are looking for -- being able to compete with every team in the nation. I feel we have the personnel to do that. Looking back at the West Virginia game, in the first half Quincy was in foul trouble, so he didn't play. But yet, we're in the game the whole first half. It just shows the personnel we have already is strong-willed and contains good team chemistry, which is all we need."
GH.com: Do you have any thoughts on the passing of John Wooden, who might have been present at the UW-Georgetown game for the John Wooden Classic back in December?
MBA: "He's such a legend of college basketball. He coached some of the greats, and lived a full 99 years of life. There's not much more you can ask for."
GH.com: What are your thoughts on the schedule that was released earlier? You play in the Maui Invitational and have some pretty good teams on the schedule.
MBA: "We want to be able to go out there and play the best basketball we can. Obviously, that means we are going to need to ready from the beginning of the season, and not take any nights off early. If we do that, it could result in a loss, especially with the amount of good team we have in Maui: Kentucky, UConn, Virginia, Michigan State -- there are so many basketball powerhouses in one tournament -- and we're included. It's going to be a real fun time."
GH.com: Is it too early to think about what winning the Maui Invitational could do for your national perception for the entire season?
MBA: "Just to have the opportunity to play against some of these really good teams is always good for your RPI regardless. You can have a team that isn't playing very good in November and ends up losing and then they go on a winning streak in February and beat some of the best teams in the country. Anything like that can happen, and it just shows how crazy college basketball can be, and how important it is to be ready to go from the beginning of the season."
GH.com: What are your thoughts on the Celtics and Lakers NBA Championship series?
MBA: "It's going to be a crazy series. Ray Allen the other night went off and was ridiculous. It was crazy to see him go off like that, but have the game be so close. The Lakers have a good bond and will be tough to beat."
GH.com: Have you talked to Quincy lately and the draft process?
MBA: "We talked a little bit, about his workouts and such. Everything seems to be going well for him. I am wishing him the best of luck when it comes time for the draft."