By Deepa Arora, Santa Clara University Communications
SANTA CLARA, Calif. - A proven winner with an impressive record of success, Santa Clara men's basketball coach Herb Sendek is looking forward to his second season with the Broncos. In a recent conversation, he shared thoughts on the challenges that lie ahead and what excites him about this year's team.
The Broncos return three starters in KJ Feagin, Matt Hauser and Emmanuel Ndumanya, rotation players Jarvis Pugh, Henrik Jadersten and Kai Healy, and redshirt freshman Julian Roche from a team that went 17-16 en route to finishing tied for fourth in the West Coast Conference standings. Despite having seven players miss more than a combined 70 games due to injury, Santa Clara reached the WCC Tournament semifinals for the first time in six years.
The team also welcomes five newcomers. Guard Matt Turner, guard/forward Shaquille Walters and forward Josip Vrankic are all true freshmen. Senior guard/forward Henry Caruso, who played the last four seasons at Princeton, was added as a graduate transfer. Guard Tahj Eaddy, a transfer from Southeast Missouri, was added to the roster in the summer, but will sit the 2017-18 season due to NCAA transfer rules.
The Broncos play eight of their 12 nonconference games in Leavey Center beginning Friday, Nov. 10, when La Verne visits for the season opener.
What stands out to you about this year's team?
Herb Sendek: "We have a good balance of experienced players and newcomers. Right now, we're at the beginning stages of coming together. Every season is unique, every group is different, and so it's always interesting to see how it unfolds and comes together."
What challenges do you anticipate facing this season?
HS: "There are challenges every day. Some of the challenges we'll face this season are known and relatively constant, but some are random and we'll address them as they present themselves.
"Bringing together individuals from different backgrounds with different goals, and coming together as a team is always a challenge. We have four goals that we try to accomplish on a daily basis: to learn, to improve, to connect, and to serve. If we can accomplish these four things on a daily basis, we're moving in the right direction."
What has your strategy been to improve the team since your arrival?
HS: "I feel it's important to try to stay in the present moment—to try to accomplish our four goals every day. And to try—even though it's cliché, it's true—to honor the process. We want to have a program that we can all be proud of, one that's easy to cheer for."
What do you think that fans will see this year that they may not have seen in previous seasons?
HS: "I think our fans will enjoy our style of play. It will be even more up-tempo and fast paced. We'll continue to take full advantage of the three-point line. Defensively, we'll hang our hat on our man-to-man and I think our fans will appreciate the great effort the guys play with."
You've been at SCU for one year. What is one thing that has surprised you about Santa Clara?
HS: "I don't know if I would say I've been surprised, but I've been delighted to experience firsthand the great spirit of Santa Clara University and the surrounding community. It's a warm, welcoming, and inclusive place."
How is this team going to embody your coaching philosophy more so than teams in previous years?
HS: "It's hard to say. It'll unfold. I try to refrain from comparing one year to the next. This group is the team we have now. It will write its own journal. We'll have the uniqueness of this group and it will be different than all previous ones. And we'll truly enjoy the relationships that are forged because, like I said earlier, we have extraordinary young men on our team."
How would you describe your coaching philosophy?
HS: "We want a program that is comprehensive, one that offers the complete and total package so that our men can become the very best version of themselves, individually and collectively. That includes academics, community service, development, leadership, and athletics. Everything. It's a very broad-based approach."
How do you ensure that your athletes perform as well in the classroom as they do on the court?
HS: "Santa Clara is the kind of university that attracts student-athletes who care about their education. That makes all the difference in the world. When you have someone who wants to earn an education and cares about learning, then everything else is so much easier."
"From our standpoint, we try to provide them with the resources and the encouragement they need. We have a terrific academic support program. We have tutoring available, and we are dialed in to what's happening on a daily basis in their academic affairs."
What advice do you have for parents with children who aspire to play basketball at the collegiate level?
HS: "The best thing you can do is to have fun with the sport. Fall in love with the sport. If you love it and you have fun playing it, then it's much more likely that you'll invest the time practicing. And, receiving the proper coaching is also important so that you develop fundamentals the right way. Students grow so much during their time at Santa Clara."
Students grow so much during their time at Santa Clara. What does it feel like to be a part of that change?
HS: "That's probably one of the most satisfying things about being a coach—watching the transformation of young people. Watching them grow and blossom into a better version of themselves."
Do you have a message for SCU fans?
HS: "I'd like for our community to know that we appreciate their continued support. For those who have come to our games through the years, thank you very much. For those who haven't yet, we invite you to join us. Your support for these student-athletes and for our program is tremendously important. It can really make a difference in their experience, as well as the success of our team.
"Sports have a way of bringing a community together. You just never know what you're going to experience when you go to a game. When you put yourself out there, good things happen. And if you can enjoy the event with the company of friends and family, you can create some great memories. I hope our community will do that and that they'll embrace us in a way they never have before."