January 27, 2011

Q & A: Jason Bucker, Director of Basketball Operations

IUPUI has a lot of great men and women on their athletic support staff, and Jason is no different. At the first travel-destination (Oxford, Ohio), he sought me out to give me his number and information so those of us making the trek to games would never have to worry about anything. As someone who spends tons of time watching film and getting to know the Jaguars in general, I figured he would be a perfect person to do a little question and answer segment to review the first half of the season. So let's get to know Jason a little better, while also examining what has already happened this year.

Student On Sports: What is your title, and how exactly do you help the team on a day-to-day basis?
Jason Buckner: I am the Director of Basketball Operations. My job is to support the coaches and make it easier for them to focus on the recruiting and coaching. Mainly that includes the film exchange program with other schools (we get video on our opponents from teams that have previously played them) and some online programs. We also do some statistical analysis in regards to line ups, efficiency, and tempo. Coach Hunter normally has a good feel for what's going on but if he's on the fence about something or its a close call, statistics can be a tipping point. But as coach says "Film doesn't lie and film will expose you" so I think the more important work is being done with film. My position is an opportunity to learn from our coaching staff what the film is exposing. On the road I'll handle some travel and logistical duties with Coach Whinrey and Ethan Sumner, our head manager.

SoS: If there was one game from any time in the season so far that affected the team the most behind the scenes, positively or negatively, what was it?
Jason (blue shirt, far right) is hiding behind
student manager Ethan (red shirt) at UMKC.
Jason: This past Thursdays UMKC game. Maybe because its the freshest in my mind but that game is really forcing us to make an honest evaluation of who we are as a team. I think playing Top 10 teams close and feeling somewhat accomplished because of it enabled our players to think some of losses we had were kinks that would work themselves out as the season progressed. I think...well I hope that now that we're half way through conference they are realizing that the only way we are going to accomplish our goal of winning the conference tournament is by our team doing right. Right by themselves in truly fulfilling their individual potential by putting forth their best effort and right for the team since we have a great group of guys that I know in their heart of hearts want to see their senior teammates go out on top. Nobody wants to be flying back from Sioux Falls thinking "If only I would of...". We certainly have the potential to be Summit League champions, time will tell.

SoS: How has the crazy travel schedule benefited/cost the guys morale and mental preparation?
Jason: I think its been fine. From a scheduling stand point I think we learned a lot about ourselves quickly in taking some of the games we did as opposed to playing a less challenging opponent and winning some games purely off of athletic ability. Travel also allows a team to bond and avoid some of the distractions at home, friends, family, girlfriends etc. By the end of December we all were joking how we felt like an NBA team with our travel schedule but we also played against some NBA-caliber players and top notch teams and in the majority of cases held our own. Thats a lot more exciting then playing at home and fluffing our schedule. That being said I think everyone is appreciative of this stretch where we are sleeping in our own beds 14 of 16 days.

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SoS: At the halfway point of the conference schedule who is your (from IUPUI) MVP, Sixth Man, and Biggest Surprise?
Jason: MVP: Alex Young... he's really getting into his groove offensively, there's more clips of him with defensive intensity and getting deflections. When he takes what the defense gives him and we play as a team AY is really a difficult guy to defend especially when he's heading toward the basket.
Sixth Man: This is going to sound corny but I think all our guys on the bench have found ways to contribute as a "6th man" in different games depending on match ups and what Coach Hunter wanted accomplished. Sometimes that guy is Donovan or it could be PJ or Espo or Smooth or Mitch...
Biggest Surprise: I think that our freshmen have all been able to contribute for the amount of minutes they've played this far. I know all 3 wouldn't mind more time on the court and with continued growth they are really going to be exciting to watch as upperclassmen.

SoS: What do you anticipate being the most important improvement, as a team, that needs to be made moving forward?
Jason: Continue to do more of what we do well while we improve on what we need to work on. We're 307th in FG% Defense and 255th in 3FG% Defense. It'd be nice if we improved on our defense, which in a large part just takes will and effort.

SoS: How can you best explain IUPUI's extremely low number of assists, but equally low fouls and turnovers?
Jason: Assists are probably our best marker of how offensively successful we were as a team in a particular game, regardless of how many total points we scored. We have clips in edits where we whip the ball around like we're a national championship team. Again we're capable, we've shown it, we just need to see it more consistently. I think the lack of fouls has to do with our system, which is an added benefit not many commentators mention about our type of defense; it keeps players in the game. We've been one of the top 25 teams in that category the last three years. Our low number of turnovers has more to do with our pace of play. I'm guessing you'd see some correlation between pace and turnovers in general (*braces for correction*) but I think it certainly applies to this team. That being said Ashworth and Stephen have been solid at taking care of the ball dating back to preseason and we rate high in regards to getting the most out of our opportunities to score.

SoS: Who is our point guard?
Jason: Depends, Stephen Thomas, John Ashworth and Alex Young all get opportunities to initiate offense and create in our system. Defensively we can use all our guards and wings up top to pressure the ball in our press and half court defenses.

SoS: Has the defensive mentality shifted much from last year to this year? Has it shifted much from non-conference to Summit League play? In game?
Jason: I wasn't here last year so I can't really compare seasons but to win the league tournament we will have to be better defensively. We've made some strides and shown flashes but we really need to focus and take pride getting stops.

SoS: Will Alex Young return for his senior season? (Please say yes.........[Sorry Alex]...)
Jason: Beyond my pay grade to know such things. I will say he is a great player to watch and if you're a student at IUPUI or a basketball fan in Indianapolis you should take the opportunity to see him play in the Jungle or Conseco. Selfishly, I hope there are more of those opportunities next year.

SoS: Will anyone from the Summit League beat Oakland? Force over time, even?
Jason: Oakland's a great team to watch play the game but they still have to come to our house. I don't think we should lose another game at home but thats just me, thats an achievable goal for this team

SoS: Anything else you'd like to add?
Jason: Its always good to see you and your compadres on the road Mr. Hadley

We'll be at Western Illinois this coming Saturday to watch IUPUI take on the Leathernecks for the second and final time this regular season. Thanks again to Jason for his time, and every single last thing he does for us in the Red Zone, the players, and the coaches.

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