Bryce Kalsu ’22 (He/Him), Basketball Correspondent
BK: Shifting to an already eventful offseason, and [in particular] the transfer portal and everything that comes with it. In this day and age, how important is it for you to continue selling the Davidson basketball brand, to not only recruits, but to players already in the program?
MM: Well, this is new territory for everybody but it’s even newer for us. You know, obviously Foster [Loyer ‘24] was a transfer on our team, but for the most part, we’ve built our program on bringing in players like Luka Brajkovic [‘22], who got better and better and end up being [Atlantic 10] Player of the Year. That’s what we hang our hat on, that we can take pride in. The transfer portal is now a piece of the equation. That being said, we will never sacrifice a level of talent or a ranking that would ultimately put somebody on our roster who could disrupt the culture or wouldn’t fit into a role that maybe they may see.
BK: Mentioning the developments going on around college basketball, can you speak on the changes within our program? I know that Chris Ford [‘25] has entered the transfer portal, the departure of Mike Jones [‘22] into the transfer portal, understanding he’s also a fifth-year senior. And lastly, the speculation of [Hyungjung] Lee [‘23] and his [future].
MM: I’ll speak candidly about it. But you know, I’d rather leave it to Lee to kind of make the announcement about what his decision is. The unique thing about Lee is that there is an obligation that he has to serve in the South Korean military by the age of 28. I’m not sure if you would have seen this with golfer Sungjae Im for him to get an exemption? For him to have gotten an exemption from the military obligation, he would have to win a major—not get a PGA tour card, not win a pro tournament—he had to win a major. Then there’s the soccer player Son, he won a gold medal through the Asia games, and I don’t know the exact rules. But what he’d done as a soccer player would not have gotten him exemption until he won that gold medal. If they didn’t win that gold medal, he would have lost [millions] because of the military obligation. So that being said, Lee is just wrestling with this because by age 26, he’s got to go into the military, because he has to complete this by age 28. So it’s really unique. I’ll kind of let him be, [because] that’s kind of a unique perspective that not everyone is even aware of […] When you’re weighing something that you can’t not weigh. You have to take advantage of what time you have and his time is going to be cut short.
BK: What are the basketball program’s feelings towards players like Nelson Boachie- Yiadom [‘22] and Mike Jones, these guys who participated in the program for four years, but chose to pursue Graduate Student opportunities elsewhere?
MM: If it’s something that can help their life, their future profession, [or even] help them get the most out of what they have left in terms of eligibility. I mean, we are obviously very much in favor and supportive of them. It’s a little stigmatizing in the fact that they’re a transfer, but they’re getting a degree from Davidson … so I know it’s not a result of them not having the experience that they hoped for when they came to Davidson. [And] certainly we will be following them as closely as we did Carter Collins, Kellan Grady, and Bates Jones this year.
BK: Since we talked last, Davidson has added two more prospects to the already upcoming class from the aforementioned transfer portal. One being Connor Kochera, the 2021 CAA Rookie of the Year from William & Mary, and the other a big man shooter from Buffalo, David Skogman. What is the recruiting process like for these guys who enter the transfer portal?
MM: As far as the process goes, I would think we’re a lot different than many schools in terms of how we approached the transfer portal, if you will […] We don’t waste our time, looking at every kid that goes through. The ones we feel like make sense for us, are guys that we had identified in high school, or we had a familiarity with their high school program or their high school coach, and they had reached out on the kid’s behalf […] We already have a sense for the fit, you see some natural fits in the portal that got to the portal in one way or another, but they’re there. Then you have the ability to use it at your discretion.
BK: Speaking of the connectivity within the program, an unfortunate coaching development as Kevin Kuwik announced his departure to Butler University, can you speak on what he brought to the staff and how you plan to replace him?
MM: Kevin was terrific in so many ways. He cared so much more about people than he did the outcomes of games. Kevin really brought a different voice and some different ideas. I think that in many ways helped us. This might have already been announced, but [10 year head coach at Elon University] Matt Matheny is joining our staff, and Matt is a Davidson guy, somebody who knows our program, knows what works at Davidson College. He’s a Davidson alum who played football and basketball as well as a former assistant. Kevin will obviously be very tough to replace, but I don’t know anybody out there that would replace him better than Matt Matheny.