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Men's Basketball Q&A: Kameron Edwards

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Kameron Edwards is a redshirt sophomore on the Pepperdine's men's basketball team. He explains what it was like to be out for a month due to a concussion, along with how he feels he has grown as a player while at Pepperdine:

Kameron  Edwards

Q: You were injured for about a month. What was it like having to sit out that time due to your injury?

A: It wasn't that bad actually because last year I had to redshirt due to injury. This year I was hurt for a little bit, but I knew I would be back before the end of the season, so it was a lot better than last year. On top of that, since it was a concussion, I knew there was nothing I could do about it. It was kind of out of my control. It wasn't as bad as you might think.

Q: With your injury being a concussion were you allowed to do anything while recovering?

A: For the whole month I pretty much couldn't do anything. I wasn't even able to take my finals. At practices I just sat around. I could do a little bit of biking, some sit-ups and push-ups but nothing else. It was tough since it was the middle of the season and I felt like I was declining as everyone else was getting better.

Q: How did you feel being back on the court right after you were cleared?

A: I was kind of just thrown back into things. After having to sit out for a month, then going through two full practices, then a game. I was playing within two days of getting cleared. I was out of shape for one, then a little rusty. I wasn't sure if I was completely ready but I had to go with it and do my best.

Q: Did you feel like you had to work harder to come back?

A: Yeah, that's something I had to be careful with. I tried to work a little harder but at the same time I knew I wasn't going to get it all back in one day. I had to be patient. I was only out for a month so I didn't lose everything. I really just had to be patient knowing it will come back.

Q: How do you compare having a concussion to another more regular injury?

A: I think it's a lot worse because you can't do anything. Say if I had hurt my ankle, I could still lift and go to class. But with a concussion you can't use your brain at all.

Q: How do you think your injury affected the team?

A: I think at first when we found out I was going to be out it affected morale a lot. But they also knew I was going to be back. Morale was down a bit but there was definitely hope that I was going to be back.

Q: What is your goal for the remainder of the season?

A: We are just trying to get better every game. Obviously this season isn't going how we would like. We are still trying to learn and improve so we have to come to work everyday. We also know we have a lot of young talent so the years to come should be pretty good. Our mindset is that no matter if we win or lose we have to get better.

Q: Your brother is a senior in high school and has committed to Pepperdine. How do you feel knowing you are going to get to play with him next year?

A: We were able to play together my senior year of high school since he was a freshman on varsity. It was a lot of fun. I am excited. It's a once in a lifetime opportunity so of course I am going to cherish it. It will have its ups and downs but it's going to be a blast. I honestly can't wait. He is a really good player both mentally and physically.

Q: How much have you grown as a player since freshman year?

A: I'd say my biggest growth since freshman year is mentally. I have to say freshman year I was not very confident. I was only a freshman back then, I was the only guy who didn't know a lot of stuff. So practices were focused on me since I would be the one who was messing up. But now I'm sort of a veteran on the team and now I know so much more, which really helps me on the court and my confidence is a lot better this year.

Q: How have you felt being at Pepperdine the last few years?

A: I've enjoyed it overall. I mean just waking up to that view everyday is something to be grateful for. I get to be close home and play Division I basketball.  My family gets to come to all the games and I still get to see my old friends. Going to a great academic and great athletic school has been really nice. I have enjoyed my experience so far for sure.

Q: You have earned Scholar-Athlete awards the last two years. What does that mean to you?

A: It means a lot, especially since I know that's what my parents want. My goal was to keep a 3.0 or higher throughout college, which is pretty tough with our schedule. It takes a lot out of me with all the time constraints but I am happy to be able to keep doing well and get that recognition for it.

Men's Basketball Q&A: Darnell Dunn

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Darnell Dunn, a junior forward and a first-year men's basketball player after transferring here this year, discusses what led him to play for Pepperdine and how he hopes to improve throughout the rest of the season:

Darnell  Dunn

Q: How did you start playing basketball?

A: Basketball has always been in my family. My dad played in college, my uncles and my mom also played basketball. My dad was also a high school coach so I've always been around it.

Q: How were your first two basketball seasons at your previous colleges?

A: They were definitely learning experiences. I played at the junior college level as well as the Division II level so they were both really different. Playing the game is fun, no matter what, but it's even better now that I can play at the Division I level.

Q: How did you choose to come all the way to California, being a North Carolina native?

A: After I had a solid season in junior college, Pepperdine was one of the schools that caught interest in me. I've always liked adventuring and seeing new places so it felt right. Playing in the WCC was also something that I thought would be really cool.

Q: How has your first semester at Pepperdine been going?

A: It's been interesting. It's definitely an adjustment going back to a four-year college after being at a two-year one. The main focus for me has really been the school aspect because it's more intense than what I'm used to. I've also been trying to balance school with my basketball schedule.

Q: What is your role on the Pepperdine basketball team?

A: Right now, my role has been to come off the bench and bring energy and score when possible. Also, to defend and get rebounds.

Q: You used to play with current Lakers player, Brandon Ingram, in high school. Have you stayed in touch with him and gone to any of his games since moving out here?

A: I've been to a few of his games. He's like my brother, we grew up together so it's nice to just hang out with him on the weekends.

Q: What are you looking forward to for the rest of the season?

A: For us to get back on track. We've had a rocky start to the season and we're trying to find ourselves right now with a young team and a lot of new players. We're just hoping to turn this ship around. I know what we are capable of as a team and we haven't shown that yet.

Q: What are your goals for the rest of your time at Pepperdine?

A: My priority is to graduate and get my degree because I know that basketball isn't going to be forever, but I would also like to maximize my basketball potential and see where that can take me.

Men's Basketball Q&A: Colbey Ross

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Colbey Ross is a freshman guard for the Pepperdine's men's basketball team. He's off to a great start, averaging 14.4 points and 5.5 assists. He explains how his adjustment to college has been, along with his hopes for himself and his team this year:

Colbey  Ross

Q: How have your first few months at Pepperdine been?

A: It has been great. My classes and teachers have been really good. I have been trying to adapt and learn my schedule and how to balance school and sports and how to be successful in both. Then, in basketball, it has been great being able to start and just being with my teammates has been the best thing for me.

Q: How has the start of the season gone?

A: Some of the games haven't gone as we planned. We have had some tough ones where we should have pulled out a win. We are learning every game but we still have to fix little things on defense if we want the results we know we are capable of. I feel like I am getting into more of a groove and have more leadership, which is helping my confidence on the court.

Q: What was it like to average 23 points during the home Legends Classic games? And how did both of those games go?

A: It was a fun experience getting to play at home for those games in front of our crowd. My teammates were helping me find plays to be successful and score. I was playing with more confidence and it started to show, I was making more shots and the flow of the game became more natural. We ended up winning one out of the two we played. They were both tough games.

Q: How did it feel to lead your team to a comeback win over Oral Roberts?

A: It felt good but everyone did their part and it was really a team effort. My shot was falling, which helped on the offensive end, but we all came together to get the win.

Q: What was it like playing in and starting at your first home game?

A: It was crazy having all the fans come out to support us. Putting on the jersey and playing D-I basketball was a dream I have always had and just to be able to go out and play has been really fun and cool.

Q: Do you think that summer workouts helped you fit in better with all the guys?

A: Definitely, having 16 other guys competing against each other and with each other and overall working hard together, I feel like that made it easier for everyone to get along and then push each other to become better.

Q: How has your adjustment to college been?

A: It has been good. You don't have anyone telling you to do your homework or having your mom telling you dinner is ready. You have to find a balance of when to do homework, when to eat and then when to get extra workouts in. I feel like it has been good and that I have found that balance and I think I am doing pretty well right now.

Q: What is the major difference between college and high school basketball and how are you adjusting?

A: It definitely is the speed and how everyone out there is so athletic. But I think I have a pretty high IQ for the game so I still understand the game and I feel like it lets me be a step ahead of my competition.

Q: How do you feel you contribute to the team?

A: Mainly by being a leader. I know I am a freshman but stepping into a leadership role and working hard for my teammates to make everyone better. Then doing what the coaches tell me and hopefully help us to get wins.

Q: What are your goals?

A: My goal is to win a West Coast Conference championship. That is a big goal for me. To get at least 20 wins in the season, I think, would be really big for our team. Then just to become a better player. I don't really care about stats or starting or not, I just want to become better and help my teammates win and to have the coaches be able to trust me.

Q: What is it like playing for Coach Wilson?

A: It has been great. He has trust in me but he definitely is on me and is going to continue to be on me to make sure I am reaching my full potential. I am going to work hard for him and do whatever he tells me to get better and learn to look at the game differently.

Q: What brought you to Pepperdine?

A: The coaches had a really big influence on me coming. The location of course, you definitely can't beat it. Then being in the conference we are in and being able to play Gonzaga, Saint Mary's and BYU, which are all great teams. Those are the teams I want to be playing to increase my level of play.

Men's Basketball Q&A: Jade' Smith

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Jade' Smith is a freshman on the Pepperdine men's basketball team. He tells us what he will bring to the team, how he feels about being at Pepperdine and what he thinks about his new team:

Jade'  Smith

Q: How have your first couple months on campus been?

A: My first couple of months of school have been really nice. I am really enjoying college. The Pepperdine community is very welcoming as well with the basketball team. I love the guys. The older guys have been helping me get through classes. They have been motivating me to stay on top of schoolwork, as well as finding time to get in the gym. 

Q: How are you and the whole freshman group fitting in?

A: Colbey, Trae, and I have been able to fit in very well with the team. The team has been very welcoming, which has made it easy for us to fit right in with what Coach Wilson has going.

Q: What are you expecting to get out of this season? What are you expecting of yourself this season and in the future?

A: I'm expecting this season to be a good season because we have the talent to be a great team. As an individual this season I'm expecting to help my team in any way possible whether that's with scoring, getting a stop, and or just bringing energy. For my future my number one goal is to play professional basketball.

Q: A lot of great guards have come from Oakland and your high school. Are you trying to be next in line or live up to those expectations?

A: Of course I want to be known as one of the great guards to come out of Oakland. I definitely feel like I can be next in line. I just have to grind because I know that every player in the league was not just given anything, they worked for it all.

Q: Is there any bond between you and Amadi since you are both from the same area?

A: Amadi is my guy! That's like family to me. He's been watching me play since I was in eighth grade. I'm close to his little brother, we played on the same AAU team. But having Amadi at Pepp, and being able to play alongside him, is a great opportunity for me, because I can learn from him.

Q: Describe your game. What are your strengths and what are you looking to improve?

A: I'm a high-energy guy that can run an offense. I can get stops on the defensive end and push the ball in transition. I can facilitate the ball well and get others involved. I'm looking to improve my jump shot. I want to become consistent.

Q: What upperclassmen on the team do you look up to?

A: I look up to all the upperclassman guys because they all have more experience than I do. They all know more than I do because they've played on this level longer than I have. I have nothing but respect and take in all advice from my upperclassmen. 

Q: Why did you choose Pepperdine?

A: I chose Pepperdine because I fell in love with the campus and of course the view! But the coaching staff is unbelievable. They're a group of genuine guys who want the best for you. I know I can sit down with any coach and talk about something personal outside of basketball. When I came on my visit the team was very welcoming to my family and myself and I just felt like this is best place for me for basketball and outside of basketball.

Men's Basketball Q&A: Matthew Atewe

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Matthew Atewe is a graduate transfer on the men's basketball team. He talks about how his experiences playing Division I basketball have helped him take on the role of a leader at Pepperdine:

Matthew  Atewe

Q: What brought you to Pepperdine?

A: I think Pepperdine was just the best fit for me. I was able to trust the coaches and the coaching staff and I really liked the players. Apart from basketball, just having the opportunity to get a degree in one year from a school like Pepperdine was a pretty big deal for me.

Q: How has Pepperdine been different from Washington? How have you been liking it?

A: The one major difference that I've felt has been the weather. In Malibu, it's sunny every day and that's really nice. This summer, I was here for the majority of August just with the coaching staff and they put a very big emphasis on player development. The whole summer I was able to get in the gym with some of the coaching staff and other guys on the team and develop a camaraderie so we could get better as a team. I think just being around the basketball team has been amazing and I've really loved it.

Q: You have had previous experience playing college ball. How do you feel that experience has been helping you here at Pepperdine?

A: Having been in college for four years, I know how hard you need to practice. I think I can relate to the younger guys and others who are coming in who may not know how it works yet. Just having that experience allows me to be kind of like a leader in that way and help those who are struggling or aren't getting it. For the ones who are, I can just give them advice on things I did and didn't do to help them do better.

Q: How are you feeling about the team and the players this season?

A: I believe as a team we can win a lot this season. I love the excitement we have within the team and the enthusiasm as a whole. Just being successful and making it to postseason is a very big goal of ours and that's what were focused on. Just being able to win and win a lot at a high level.

Q: How has training been so far?

A: Practice has been great. It's been very competitive, which is something you always want. Also, it's been really lively and the guys who just came in have all been super enthusiastic so I've really been loving it so far.

Q: Being one of the older guys, you found yourself to be in a kind of leadership role. How has that been?

A: I think this ties in with the experience aspect but, again, having gone through a lot already has just helped me know what I can do to help the guys who are going through similar things now, including injuries and stuff like that. So basically just showing the guys coming in how to work and how to be a good basketball player and how to be deal with being a college athlete.

Q: Describe your game.

A: I'm able to rebound, score in the post and also just be an anchor defensively. Also being able to block shots and just being all over the place defensively.

Q: Are you excited about your first game?

A: As a team, we're all super excited. Our first game is November 10th against Oklahoma State. All summer and fall we've just been playing against each other so we're definitely ready to go against a different group and hopefully get our first win of the season.

Men's Basketball Q&A: Trae Berhow

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Trae Berhow, a freshman guard on the men's basketball team, talks about his transition from living in a small town in Minnesota to studying in Malibu, as well as his goals for the season:

Trae  Berhow

Q: You're from Minnesota. How has the transition been so far?

A: The weather has definitely been a huge change. Though the summer in Minnesota is pretty hot because of the humidity, it's still been so different. The biggest change for me has been the ocean because in Minnesota all we have is the lakes. It has been nice to get to go to the beach here because everyone is always tanning or chilling on the beach or surfing, which is one thing I definitely want to learn how to do while I'm here. In Minnesota, we go on the lake in boats or go knee boarding which is kind of like surfing but it's also a lot different because you're in the middle of the lake instead of on the beach.

Q: How have you been liking Pepperdine so far?

A: I really love it. Everything here is a lot closer in terms of stores and restaurants because my hometown was pretty small and the only place to get food near me was Subway. Also, I've really liked being on a college campus where I can get food or use the gym whenever I want so it's definitely a lot nicer and it's been great so far.

Q: As a freshman, how has the first month been, in terms of basketball?

A: It's a big change coming in from high school because the workload is a lot more. Before this semester we had summer sessions and so I knew what to expect in terms of the athletics, which definitely helped a lot. I would have to say the biggest change for me was lifting because, in my high school, lifting wasn't as mandatory, which is different from Pepperdine where lifting is really important and as an athlete here if you don't lift, you don't become stronger or a better player. So that was definitely a huge change for me in terms of sports here.

Q: How have you been coping with juggling sports and college academics so far?

A: Academics here have been a huge change for me because, obviously, Pepperdine is one of the higher academic colleges. For the student-athletes we have something called study table which is a mandatory study hall for eight hours in the week where we have to use that time to finish our homework. So that helps a lot because it makes sure we aren't behind on any of our assignments. We even have tutors for our classes, who are really great. I have a couple of tutors and I think even if you feel you're doing okay with your studies you should go to a tutor anyway just to get their perspective on things and that helps a lot.

Q: What do you think of the team so far?

A: I think the team is going to be really good this year. I think the one big thing is that we're going to have to stay healthy. We're going to have a young team based around Amadi (Udenyi), who's one of our main leaders and Kevin (Hempy), both of whom are seniors, and we also have Matt (Atewe), our graduate transfer. So we have some older people to base it around, who have some good experience and can teach some of the young guys, which is going to help a lot. Overall we're going to be a young team but I really think we're going to surprise some people after the year we had last year.

Q: How would you describe the coaching style?

A: At Pepperdine they really preach defense and even my saying is, "Defense wins games," so in that sense we're definitely going to be an up-tempo team. But obviously, we'll slow it down when we have to. There's a lot of competition in practices, which helps because it obviously makes everyone want to work harder and we get better because of it.

Q: What goals have you set for yourself this season?

A: Starting off one of my goals is to be one of the bigger threats on defense and to be guarding one of the best players on the opposing team. Our goals as a team would be to be one of the top three in our conference and hopefully beat Gonzaga because that would be big. I really think we can do it if we make a push in the tournament and play the way we should play.

Q: Are you excited for your first college game coming up next month?

A: I'm so excited. We're going over to play Oklahoma State so the crowd is going to be packed and I think it's going to be their first game too. It's a good team to play and if we can beat them, everyone's eyes are going to open right away so it's going to be a big game for us.

Q: In your bio, you'd said, "A ball can pay for anything if you work for it." Would you like to elaborate on that?

A: I think in basketball if you work hard then it can pay for the rest of your life. Going to the NBA or overseas can be your job and my main goal is to have a good life, doing something I love every day while making money off of it. The ball can do that for people and I think that's amazing.

Men's Basketball Q&A: Elijah Lee

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Sophomore guard Elijah Lee of the men's basketball team played for a homeschool program called HCYA in Houston. He talks about his experience, as well as his transition into college basketball, and how he's looking to improve in his second season:

Elijah  Lee

Q: I understand you were homeschooled in Houston. How did it help your athletic career?

A: I got pulled out in the fifth grade before I went to middle school for academic reasons. Then I discovered a homeschool program called HCYA, which was the Homeschool Christian Youth Association and I fell in love with it. If it wasn't for this program I probably would've gone to public high school. Initially I was skeptical about the number of opportunities I would have in homeschool basketball, but surprisingly, there was a lot of talent in the program that I was in. We even got to travel a lot and play some pretty good teams so I think the exposure I got being a part of that team was amazing.

Q: Why did you choose to come to Pepperdine?

A: I think Coach Amaral discovered me first at a tournament in Dallas and then got the rest of the staff's attention. Finally Coach Wilson ended up recruiting me at a tournament in Las Vegas. I was approached by other schools but I'd have to say Pepperdine was the best and I was most excited about this offer. I knew a little bit about the school from before and I'd always heard good things about it but I didn't really know enough until after Coach offered me. That's when I started doing my research and when I did, I was pretty excited about it, so I think coming here was definitely high up on my list.

Q: How has your experience being a student-athlete at Pepperdine been so far?

A: It's been really great. Last year we didn't have the best season. But personally I wouldn't trade it for the world just because of how I've grown as an individual. I think I learned a lot from last year and I even think it'll help me a lot coming into this new year because I think now I'll feel more comfortable. This is just speaking in terms of athletics.

In terms of academics, I couldn't have asked for anything better, being a student-athlete. I love how small the classrooms are here because I get to have a personal relationship with all my professors and being that there's about 3,500 undergraduates here, you can develop close relationships with the students around here pretty easily. And last season, the older guys did a good job of accepting me and the rest of the freshmen and making us feel welcome so I've really loved it here and I wouldn't want to be anywhere else.

Q: Are you excited for this season? How is the team coming together with so many new players?

A: I am amped for this season. The new freshmen are super enthusiastic and energetic. I feel the same way. We have returning sophomores and we have some great experience with Amadi (Udenyi) and Matthew Atewe, who's a transfer. We also have some players who are older so I think we've got a great mixture of young guys and old guys. We all have a great bond off the court right now and I feel that'll carry over onto the court. We've also got some great talent this year so I'm really looking forward to it.

The guys coming in do have some stuff to figure out in terms of terminology and other things of that nature, but they are picking it up pretty quickly. I think once they get adjusted to all of those little things and just in general, once we get used to playing with each other, we'll flow a lot better as a team. But I'm not worried, I think it'll come maybe after a few weeks of practice when we'll get a better idea of that.

Q: How has the training been going so far?

A: So our coach has always had a winning mentality but this summer was even more so. This summer had a kind of competitive theme. Basically what that meant was that everything we did was something we were competing in, whether it was in the weight room or in the gym. We were competing against each other but just trying to make each other better in that regard. Outside of training we got into our first official practice on (Sept. 30) and they said that that was one of the best practices they've had since they've been here together as a staff and they were pretty excited about that and so were we. We know some things need fixing but that'll come with time. So I'm not worried and I think the positives that've been shown so far are definitely some things to be excited about.

Q: Your first game is in a month, how are you feeling about it?

A: Our first game is on November 10th and the whole team is just counting down days and we just can't wait. I think it's going to be an exciting game. We're going to be going to Oklahoma State, which is a pretty good team, so we're all really looking forward to it.

Q: Are you excited about Blue & Orange Madness this year and how was your experience last year?

A: I am super excited. I can't wait for Blue and Orange and to get a chance to see all the new students that are going to come out, hopefully. We want to get more fans in the stands this year and we're hoping to make a good impression on them as a team so it's definitely a really fun time of the year. As a freshman, it was really exciting because I'd never had the chance to play a college game before and even though it wasn't exactly a college game, it was just a chance to get my feet wet and get an idea of what it would be like to be a college athlete. So I'm looking forward to it this year and I'm looking forward to reliving the experience through the new freshmen.

Q: What kind of improvement do you expect to make going from your freshman to sophomore year?

A: I think maturity is a big deal. Coming in as a freshman, I had a few things thrown at me that I wasn't exactly expecting. Stress and school did play a part in it. Coach Wilson and the rest of the staff did a good job in understanding that the transition from high school to college was a weight on my shoulders. Being able to handle all the academics at Pepperdine wasn't easy because it is not a school to be taken lightly. But just finding the balance of when to get in the gym and when to study as well as how to study was something that I had to learn and I wish I would've handled it better. That being said, I'm glad that I went through it because it exposed me to some weaknesses in my game. So basically I want to learn from those mistakes from last year and improve on how to think in the game instead of just reacting.

Q: Being from Houston, how are you dealing with the hurricane that recently hit the city?

A: Initially I had my flight to L.A. scheduled on the 26th, if I've got the date correctly. Then I had to reschedule it because the storm was hitting earlier than expected, and so, if I remember correctly, I flew out on the 25th instead. Basically, I made it out right in time because it had started storming and later that day, I found out that a lot of the flights were getting cancelled and weren't flying for about a week, so I got lucky. Coming out here and being away from Houston when all of that was going on was kind of disturbing because it is my city and I have all my family and friends there. Coach Wilson and the staff were making sure that I was checking up on them and they were helping me a lot, which was greatly appreciated. Luckily, my immediate family wasn't affected. A few of my cousins were affected by it but fortunately they all handled it well and I kept them all in my prayers and it's all okay now.

Men's Basketball Q&A: Knox Hellums

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Sophomore guard Knox Hellums of the men's basketball team is excited to have started practicing. He tells us how he feels about himself as a player and how the team is mixing together with so many new faces:

Knox  Hellums

Q: With practice just starting, how has it been beginning this new season?

A: Practice has been great so far. I could even recognize myself that our first practice was already one of the best practices. Even coach said it was one of the best first practices Pepperdine has had in a long time.

Q: How are the incoming freshmen fitting in and mixing with the team?

A: Perfectly. Everyone has been working hard and it felt like we gelled very well together. Having the whole team together over the summer was huge since now we know each other's personalities. Our main focus right now is getting our chemistry down even though it feels to me like our chemistry is way ahead of schedule. As the season moves along, I think the freshmen are going to continue to fit in even better.

Q: While the first game against Oklahoma State isn't for a month, what are your first takes?

A: I'm just excited to play them since being from Houston, Texas, a lot of my friends and family from back home are going to be there to watch me play. They are a Big 12 team and they are going to be a big challenge for us but I am sure we will be ready for it.

Q: Blue and Orange Madness is coming up, what do you think about that?

A: I can't wait for that! It's always cool to get in front of the whole school and see everybody and kick off basketball season the right way.

Q: What are some differences in yourself between your freshman year and this year?

A: I feel so much more comfortable and confident, basically I feel like a veteran. I am much better at defensive reads and I know the playbook like the back of my hand. Honestly, I'm just excited to get back to playing.

Q: What parts of your game have you been improving over summer and hope to better in practice?

A: The best part of my game especially from last year was shooting. So I have been trying to shape many other parts of my game, like finishing at the rim and in the paint. Working on ball handling and being able to not only create for myself but also create for others. Finally, I have been working on defense so if someone is quicker than me I'll be one step ahead mentally so I can get the stop. Our coaches said G.I.D. -- get it done -- which has been in my mind a lot throughout the summer while I was working on that.

Q: Being your second year do you feel like you know what the coaches want from you?

A: Yeah, my relationship with them is great. I know exactly what they want out of me and I am willing to give it all for them.

Q: What are some goals for yourself and the team?

A: My goal for our team is to win the WCC championship and go to the NCAA Tournament. That's always been a dream of mine to win a conference championship with my team. Especially now since I'm more connected with the guys, I feel like they are my brothers. I know how bad we all want it. We have been putting in the hours of hard work with 5 a.m. conditioning and summer workouts. I'd like to keep up my shooting percentage and hopefully lead the conference in that but I'm more of a team guy so my focus is to help us win games.

Q: What does being a Pepperdine Scholar-Athlete mean to you?

A: My academics are important to me. I kept a really solid GPA last year by staying focused in school and being behind the books a lot.

Men's Basketball Q&A: Nolan Taylor

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Rising sophomore Nolan Taylor of men's basketball recently took part in the WCC Leadership Summit recently hosted by Pepperdine. After the strong presentations, healthy discussion and debate, he shares with us his experience at the conference and reflects on his freshman year results that will help him for this upcoming season:

Nolan  Taylor

Q: Besides keeping busy with basketball, you recently took part in the WCC Leadership Summit at Pepperdine. What was that like?

A: The leadership summit was a great experience. As a conference we got to come together and create a family atmosphere. It was unique because I was building special bonds and relationships with people that I will be competing against. This summit was important because life is much bigger than bouncing a ball or competing in your respective sport. Life is about changing the world we live in for the betterment of those around us and creating lifelong healthy relationships.

Q: What kind of things did you do at the summit?

A: During the summit we had sessions where we would have JT Thoms from Growing Leaders and Timothy Alexander from UAB, teach us leadership techniques and different ways that we can not only make our team and program better, but mainly how we can impact the lives of many people by being what you want to see and stepping out of our comfort zones. This means making our teammates' problems and universities' problems, our personal problems. Why not conquer and find solutions together? We also did a community service activity where we picked up trash at the beach. In addition, we got the opportunity to personally ask questions to the commissioner of the WCC, which was an eye-opening experience.

Q: What was the most important thing you learned from the summit?

A: There were so many things that I learned, so I cannot pick a favorite. However, there was a question that made me do a lot of self-reflection. The question was, "What are you doing with your influence?" As athletes we are blessed with God-given talents and we are given an elevated platform. It is essential for us to realize that this platform is not about our title, it is about our influence and what we do to add value to the places life takes us. I learned that although basketball has developed me into the man I am today, I want my impact to outline my life, so that I am known for more than solely basketball.

Q: What was the most memorable part of the summit?

A: The most memorable part was listening to Timothy Alexander talk about his life that was full of adversity. From a wheelchair, he gathered a group to fight and bring back the UAB football team, rowing team and rifling team. He was just a complete inspiration to listen to and it was unbelievably astonishing to see what he made out of the many difficult circumstances life threw at him. 

Q: Now back to basketball, you had quite an impressive freshman year. Can you tell us what it was like playing in 24 of 31 games and starting 20 games your freshman year? Did you expect to play and start in that many games?

A: The season was full of struggles. As a team we were in a constant battle with injuries, which made it very difficult to stay positive at times. Personally, I did not know what to expect when I came back after missing a few games, but Coach Wilson trusted in my process of recovering and getting into game shape. However, my main goal was to help the team in any way that I could. Some games it was rebounding, sometimes it was guarding a dominant big in our league and other games I needed to score. It was a blessing to get that experience leading into this upcoming year.

Q: What was the most important thing you learned from your freshman year that you will use for next season?

A: The most important thing I learned this season was to find the good in every situation and season of life both on and off the court. I am honestly thankful for last season because it helped me continue to positively build my character and also forced me to battle through adversity. I truly realized the importance of having a mindset of perseverance and gratefulness. 

Q: Do you have personal goals that you hope to achieve for this upcoming season?

A: My primary goal is to be able to be a more versatile defender. I want to be able to guard all positions. I also want to be a more dominant scorer while shooting a higher percentage from the rest of the field than last year.

Q: What can fans expect this season?

A: Fans can expect the most athletic Pepperdine team in a long time. We will be a very high-energy team that is hungry and ready to win the conference championship.

Q: What are you working on this summer to prepare for this upcoming season?

A: This summer I have been working on having quicker feet, getting faster and more athletic. I have also been working on my shot and ball-handling every day.

Men's Basketball Q&A: Amadi Udenyi

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Amadi Udenyi will enter his fifth year as a Wave after receiving a medical redshirt last season. He talks to us about what his recovery process was like and his goals for his final season:

Amadi  Udenyi

Q: You have plans to come back for a fifth year. What influenced you to make that decision?

A: I think the biggest influence on my decision was that I didn't want to look back 10 years from now and say I quit on myself. And I also didn't want to end my college career with an injury.

Q: It will be your final year as a Wave. What does that mean to you? How has this program and the game of basketball itself affected you as a person?

A: My final year as a Wave definitely means I'm old! But I've cherished every moment of being at Pepperdine. This program has made me a better man and has given me the platform to be very successful in life after basketball.

Q: How are the team dynamics this year? Have you met any of the incoming freshmen?

A: The team dynamic is great this year but I feel like every team I've been on at Pepperdine has had great chemistry and the coaches do a great job at making sure we are a family, not just a basketball team. And yes, I met all the freshman this past month, and I can't wait to get the season started with them.

Q: Over the past four years, what have you learned by being a part of this team that you will apply to your final season?

A: The number one thing that I've learned over my past four seasons would be to give it your absolute all at every practice and game because you never know when it will end. I was blessed to receive a fifth year but if my career would've ended last year with that injury, I would've been devastated because I knew I had so much more to give to my team.

Q: Who or what inspires you to compete?

A: My mom inspires me to compete every day! She works so hard for my brothers and I and shows unconditional love. At the very least I know I can compete for her every time I step on the court.

Q: What was your initial reaction when you ruptured your Achilles tendon for the second time?

A: My initial reaction was I couldn't believe it happened again. But later that day I asked the trainer when was the earliest day I could get surgery and start rehab because I knew I wasn't going to let this injury end my college career.

Q: What was the rehabilitation process like?

A: Since it was my second time doing the rehab process it went smoothly.

Q: Was it mentally difficult to stay positive about recovering from such an incident?

A: It wasn't mentally difficult at all because I have strong faith and belief in God's plan and this is just part of it.

Q: At what level do you expect to play this season?

A: I expect to play at the highest level. I won't use this injury as an excuse at all.

Q: What is your schedule/plan like for the summer both on and off the court?

A: This summer my plan is to get in the best shape possible and be ready for my last season at Pepperdine. Off the court I intend to learn more about the game of basketball because I plan to coach my own team one day.

Q: How is training in the summer different than in season?

A: Summer training is extremely different compared to in season because during the season there are so many games that sometimes it gets hard to work on your game. To get better you have to stay in the training room just to keep your body healthy enough to get through the season. The summer is when you can work on all your weaknesses and get your body in shape to prepare for a great season.

Q: What kind of things are you working on with your weight training coach and your head coach?

A: With Coach Young I'm working on strengthening my lower body and just becoming more explosive overall. Because I am a fifth year, I am working with Coach Wilson to learn to be an overall leader. I know everyone on the team will follow my lead, especially the freshmen, so I have to make sure I am a great example for the rest of the team on and off the court.

Q: What are your goals coming into your final season?

A: Because it is my last season at Pepperdine, my number one goal is to win the WCC and make the tournament. All the other individual accolades will come for everyone on the team if we take care of the two major team goals.

Men's Basketball Q&A: Kameron Edwards

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After sitting out his second year as a Wave due to injury, Kameron Edwards is now fully recovered. He remains determined and more motivated to get better so he can lead the team to a successful season in 2017-18. He talks about what his recovery process was like, how it feels to be back on the court and his anticipation for the upcoming season.

Kameron  Edwards

Q: You are coming off a tough season, can you talk about what you went through last year?

A: Last year was really tough, not only due to being injured, but also seeing what our team went through as a whole. It was really hard to watch the team struggle, especially knowing I was part of the reason why and knowing there was nothing I could do about it.

Q: What was your initial reaction when you fractured your jaw?

A: When I first fractured my jaw I was really frustrated because I had just recently recovered from a concussion. I also wasn't sure how it would affect our season at the time but overall it was a frustrating experience.

Q: What was the rehabilitation process like?

A: The rehabilitation process was very slow. For six to seven weeks I couldn't eat any solid food or do any physical activity. But when I finally returned to the court I jumped back into things pretty quickly and felt great. I had only lost a few pounds from the broken jaw so lifting again was fine along with everything else.

Q: Was it mentally difficult to stay positive about recovering from such an incident?

A: It wasn't very difficult. I had the mindset that I was going to come back even better than I was before and I feel that's exactly what is happening. I was able to watch a lot of basketball in my time off and I think it really helped me see the game from a different view. More than anything I've been looking forward to next season and knowing it's going to be a good one.

Q: How long did it take before you felt comfortable being back out on the court?

A: After being able to work out again it only took about a week and a half for me to feel comfortable on the court.

Q: How does it feel to be back out there with your teammates?

A: It's a feeling that I really took for granted before the injury. My teammates are like brothers so being able to grind with them every day is a special feeling that I never want to take for granted again.

Q: Do you have personal goals that you hope to achieve for this upcoming season?

A: My biggest personal goal is to be more of a leader for this team. We have a lot of new guys coming in and this will be my third year here so it's partly my job to be a voice and example that the team can follow.

Q: What can fans expect this season?

A: Fans can expect a very athletic team that is going to play hard and compete every time we are on the floor. We will definitely be a top three team in the WCC again and will be pushing to win a conference championship. They can also expect to see some new faces on the team that will be the next generation of Pepperdine greats.

Q: What are your plans for the summer both on and off the court?

A: My plans for the summer include getting to know the freshmen and other new guys and working out with them. I also plan on going home a lot and spending time with friends and family.

Q: What are your summer workouts like?

A: Summer workouts have been pretty intense. Our 6 a.m. conditioning has included us running on the soccer field and running timed miles. We lift three days a week and those have been going well. Also our practices have very productive and competitive.

Q: What are you most excited about for your junior year?

A: I'm most excited to have friends back from abroad and for them to be able to come to games and see our new team. After two years of being at Pepperdine I feel like I know the ropes pretty well so I want to start enjoying the time I have left here with my friends and teammates and be less stressed since I am adjusted to college by now.

Jeremy Major is a graduating senior on the men's basketball team. He ended his four-year career setting the school's all-time records in assists and games started. He looks back at his career and time at Pepperdine overall:

Jeremy  Major
Q: Looking back over your college career, what are you most proud of?

A: Looking back on my career I would say that I am most proud of the culture change I had the opportunity to be part of. During the time I was getting recruited it was tough to hear people ask me why I was going to Pepperdine since they had been having losing seasons for the last couple of years. When I arrived here, along with some of my fellow teammates in my class, to join guys like Stacy Davis and Jett Raines, it was the start of trying to do our best to change the culture. By the end of my junior year the culture had changed drastically and it felt good to see the student body as well as the faculty feel the same way.

Q: What was your favorite moment of this past season?

A: I would say my favorite moment of this season would be when we beat BYU. We have done it in the past but for how this season was going due to injuries and a lot of adversity it was great to see all of us come together and beat a good BYU team, who was the only team to beat Gonzaga before they lost in the national championship.

Q: Now that a little time has passed, how does it feel to have set the school records for assists and games started? Has that sunk in?

I never had the expectations of breaking any records when I came here. I just wanted to come out each game, give it my all and live with the results. It is an awesome accomplishment and I thank Coach Wilson for having the trust in me as a freshman to put the ball in my hands. What has sunk in, and that's pretty crazy, is that within the last two years, two records that have lasted for 30 years have been broken back-to-back. I'm glad I can be in the same company as my brother and big fella Stacy Davis.

Q: How do you feel about graduation coming up?

It's a bittersweet feeling. College has been an outstanding time and it's a time of my life that I will remember forever. The relationships, the memories, and the brotherhood I have with my teammates will last forever. At the same time, I am thankful that I am graduating and excited that I will hopefully continue to play professionally.

Q: How about for your team? What do you think you'll take away from playing with this team over the past four years?

I took from this year never take anything for granted, whether it be your health, people in your life, or just being able to do something you love. It's easy to get discouraged but no matter how much adversity comes, be thankful for the opportunities you have and do your best to get the most of any situation.

Q: What have you been doing since the end of the season? How has the time been for you?

I have been enjoying these final weeks with my brothers. It's crazy that in a couple of weeks we probably won't see each other for months. So I have just been enjoying my time with them as well as my friends. But I cannot lie: the non-athlete college life is pretty fun, but maybe just a little too much free time for me!

Kevin Hempy, a senior on the men's basketball team, has had an interesting journey with basketball. He spent his first year at Westmont before transferring, first tried to walk onto the Waves' team as a sophomore, and eventually made the team this season, just in time for his last year of college. He talks about what the journey has been like and what being on the team has meant for him:

Kevin  Hempy

Q: So you initially started your college career at Westmont. Did you try to play basketball there too? 

A: Yeah, I spent my freshman year at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, I tried out for the team there following my freshman year but I didn't make it.

Q: Has basketball always been an interest of yours?

A: Basketball has always been an important part of my life and something that I have really enjoyed as well as learned from. I played from an early age growing up and in high school but didn't play my first three years of college. In retrospect I'm thankful for the different experiences I had during that time, but basketball was never too far from my mind and I played pickup when I could.

Q: Between transferring here as a sophomore, trying to walk on the team, and then trying again and making it shortly before this season, what did you do in between?

A: Between not making the team as a sophomore and then making it my senior year, I studied abroad in Heidelberg and Africa, so for the first part of that time I didn't play any basketball, but toward the end of last school year I began to think about trying out again this year.

Q: What did you work on improving during this time and what do you think ultimately made the difference?

A: My sophomore year, one of the reasons I didn't end up making the team was a lack of strength. So I tried to improve on this in preparing to try out again, but also feel that just getting older definitely helped with that as well. 

Q: What led you to make the decision to try again?

A: I decided to try out again in the midst of a conversation with a friend here at Pepperdine, Michael Veloz. He encouraged me not to worry about the potential of failure but to focus on pursuing the things I enjoy in life. I knew I loved playing so I decided to go ahead and give it another shot.

Q: How was this whole process overall for you?

A: The process of trying out and joining the team has been a great experience. The people involved in the program -- from the players to coaches and everyone else -- are all talented and quality people and that's made it very enjoyable and really worthwhile.

Q: What does it mean to you to be part of this team now? What has the experience been like?

A: Being a part of the team means a lot to me, Pepperdine in general and basketball are two of my favorite things and I feel very fortunate to have the chance to merge them together. Also, it's just a great group of guys on the team. 

Q: You got to play some important minutes at Pacific recently. What was that like for you? 

A: Playing at Pacific I noticed that the pace of play and physicality was elevated a level even just from practice. So it was a good learning experience for me and I'm very thankful for the chance to play. 

Q: What's your major and what's the plan for post-graduation, if you have one right now? Does basketball factor into the plan at all?

A: I am majoring in sport administration here at Pepp. I'm unsure as of now what I want to do after graduation but if basketball is able to factor into it in any way I would love that. 

Q: What has your whole Pepperdine experience meant to you?

A: I'm definitely very glad I ended up at Pepperdine. I'm really thankful for the different things I have gotten to try here, but more importantly the relationships and people I've gotten to know while here.

Pepperdine senior Jeremy Major became the men's basketball team's all-time leader in assists last week, surpassing the old record of 450 set more than 30 years ago. Yet the season has also been a challenging one for the team as a whole, plagued with some tough injuries. Major reflects on his recent accomplishment as well as his senior year:

Jeremy  Major

Q: So you're now the school's all-time leader in assists! How does that feel? 

A: It is a great accomplishment but more than anything I thank the man upstairs who continues to bless me throughout my life. I also thank all my former and current teammates that I've played with because without them this accomplishment wasn't possible.

Q: What does setting that record now officially mean to you?

A: In terms of my career at Pepperdine it does mean a lot to have set this record at this amazing university. It feels great to leave a positive print on the program before I depart. 

Q: What was the moment like for you right after setting that record?

A: The moment was more of a realization of like, man, I really just broke a record that has lasted 33 years. I called my mom and my bro Shawn Olden right after and just spoke and enjoyed the moment with them. It was awesome. 

Q: This has been a tough season with injuries, what's kept you personally and the team going strong? 

A: More than anything just staying positive throughout it all. I believe everything you go through in life is for a reason. There has been a lot of adversity and the challenges really tell you about yourself. 

Q: How hard has it been to lose Amadi Udenyi to a season-ending injury? 

A: It has been really tough without Amadi. That is my brother on and off the court and to not have him around has been hard. But it is always good to see him in good spirits when he comes around because he brings a different type of energy to our team. It really hasn't set in yet that this was my last year playing with him, but I know it will once it's all said and done. What is crazy is he has a very good chance of becoming the all-time assist leader next year as well! We've been close ever since we've gotten here so he's like family to me. He's been through a lot when it comes to injury, but I am glad that he will be able to return next year and continue his dream.

Q: How are you helping the young players get better? 

A: It's been awesome. I do my best to understand that they are freshmen and just try to teach the young boys as much as I can. It has been fun, though, on and off the court with them. They are really good guys that make it exciting to come to practice every day. Between Knox (Hellums) and Elijah (Lee) they make me laugh almost every time I am with them.

Q: What are you looking forward to for the rest of this season, especially since it's your senior year?

A: I am looking forward to us just competing and playing as hard as we can. If we do those things each game I can live with whatever the results are. But I am also going to just enjoy these final moments.

Men's Basketball Q&A: Amadi Udenyi

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Amadi Udenyi is a senior point guard on the Pepperdine men's basketball team who will soon move into the program's all-time top 10 list for assists. He talked with us about how much he looks forward to the season, coming back from injuries and being a leader:

Amadi  Udenyi

Q: How have you prepared for your final season at Pepperdine?

A: It is my final season, so I want to enjoy every moment I get with the team. I don't want to leave with any regrets. I want to have fun with it.

Q: What role do you play among your teammates?

A: A leader. I like to be a vocal leader on the court. When things are going wrong, I want to work with my teammates and make sure everybody stays together. I want us to work together to get things right. That is the biggest role I have as a leader.

Q: You have a big milestone ahead of you as you get closer to the career top 10 list for assists. What does this mean to you personally?

A: I want to thank my teammates. I would not have this without them making shots. I think this shows how much I appreciate my teammates. It also shows that Jeremy and I are putting in the work. Since freshman year, we both came in and made shots and had each other's back. We formed a great chemistry and got to know each other better.

Q: How will it feel to knock your head coach out of the top 10 list? (Marty Wilson is currently 10th)

A: I haven't really thought about that. I just know, when I come back, I can tell him, "Coach, I'm better at passing than you."

Q: What do you attribute this achievement to?

A: Being a great point guard means that you are playing for your teammates. You can't have a selfish mindset worrying about your own, but it's about the team's success. If you keep that in mind, then you'll be a great point guard.

Q: You had a serious Achilles injury as a sophomore, and you came back as a junior healthy and with a great performance. What helped you to heal so fast?

A: Staying in the training room as much as I could to get lots of treatment. I had a meniscus tear as a freshman that put me out about three and a half weeks, and from that I learned that when you get rehab, you are treating your entire body, not just where you are injured. So I want to stay as healthy as possible.

Q: Did you think you would be this good of a player immediately after the injury?  

A: I believe in optimism. I have that optimistic mindset. Injury is not a setback, but it makes you to come back with stronger body. I never doubted that.

Q: What is your goal of this season? How do you look to end your Pepperdine career?

A: First, to have fun. The goal for our team would be to win a WCC championship. This team will shock a lot of people, because we have a strong core group and our freshmen are fitting in really well. We are well prepared for the season. For my past seasons, we spent preseason as a building block, to get to know each other really well. This year, our team chemistry has been amazing from the start, and that really helps on the court.

Elijah Lee, a freshman point guard on the men's basketball team, ranked as one of the top 50 seniors in the state by last year. Transitioning to basketball at the collegiate level, however, is a whole new ball game for him. He talks about how the transition has been, what he's expecting for Friday's season opener, and what he's hoping for this season:
Elijah  Lee

Q: What is your background with basketball and what led you to Pepperdine?

A: I've been playing since I learned to walk. I came to Pepperdine because I genuinely felt that this was the place that I would have the best opportunity to grow spiritually, athletically and academically. I loved everything about it!

Q: How are you feeling about the first game coming up on Friday? What is your goal for the game?

A: Overall I'm just really excited for it. For our first game the focus right now is honestly just to win.

Q: What do you expect from yourself this year/season? Are there any goals you're setting or things you want to work on?

A: There will never not be something I want to work on. I'd love to tackle everything all at once, but realistically I have to focus on a small number of things at a time. This year I want to run the team with poise, limit turnovers, make my teammates better, get in the paint and knock down open shots. 

Q: What has it been like learning from the two senior point guards? 

A: It's honestly been a blessing having Jeremy and Amadi to play against in practice, and with them in games. They bring unique things to the table, and share their wisdom with me. Neither of them care to let up in practice. It reminds me of my older brothers when we were much younger. They wouldn't take it easy on me because they knew it would make me better. 

Q: What have you taken away most from the seniors and older teammates?

A: They're teaching me patience. I can't allow the other team to speed me up.

Q: Has it been an easy or difficult transition for you with your first year here on the team, and who or what has been helpful to you in this transition?

A: It hasn't been extremely difficult, but it wasn't as easy as I thought it would be. My family, my teammates, my coaches and myself have been helpful. Although it's extremely hard for me to be away from my loved ones, they do a great job of keeping in touch, whether it's a text saying that they love me and are proud of me, or a call to update me on what's going on at the house. My teammates have become like brothers to me, so my relationship with them makes it a lot easier on me. My coaches do a great job of treating us with respect, and showing that they care about us as people and not just players. And lastly, I say myself because I realized that it's essential to find peace within myself, and the decision that I made in coming here.

Q: What is it like being on a team with a lot of freshmen? 

A: Repetition, repetition, repetition. Due to the lack of experience on the collegiate level, practices are detailed, and the terminology, plays, etc., must be continuously repeated. We are really dialed in, and I think I can speak for all of the freshmen when I say that we want to learn as much as we can as fast as we can so that we can make life on our coaches a little easier, and enable them to trust us in the game.

Q: What do you like most about being on a young team?

A: The future. Seeing the damage that we can do at our young age makes me excited about what we'll be able to accomplish in the future. Also, building a bond with a group of guys early on, and having that bond sustain throughout a potential four years is an exciting thought.

Q: How has the team experience been for you so far - what do you like about your teammates?

A: As I mentioned earlier, we are all like brothers. Having a good off-the-court relationship makes playing with each other on the court 10 times more exciting. The chemistry is great, and selfishness isn't a factor. We all just want to win ... whatever that means we have to do. I love everyone's unique personalities. Those are my guys.

Chris Reyes is a newcomer on the men's basketball team - but it will be his first and only year with the team. After graduating from Utah, he came to Pepperdine to pursue a master's degree in learning technologies and utilized the NCAA's graduate transfer rule to be able to join the team and play during his first year here. He reflects on his time at Pepperdine and being on the team so far, and how his unique situation is shaping his experience:

Chris  Reyes

Q: What led you to come here to Pepperdine as opposed to somewhere else?

A:  I chose to come to Pepperdine because it is so well known around the country for its academics and its location. I also wanted to be closer to my family.

Q: Is it different playing here at all compared to Utah? If it is, how so?

A: Right now it is hard to say there's a difference between the two schools because I haven't had the chance to play a game here in Malibu. But there were some stories that I heard from some of my teammates that said Firestone gets pretty loud. And just by looking at the gym you can see that it can make for a great place to play.

Q: Do you think you bring a different perspective to the team being a graduate student and having transferred in?

A: I do think I bring a different perspective to the team being a graduate student. I feel that being a part of a couple of great teams and playing with some great players, that I bring some experience to this team being that we are a young team. 

Q: What are you looking forward to most this season?

A: I'm really looking forward to conference play. Based off what I've been told about the conference is it gets pretty crazy. And coming from a larger school, that's exactly what a player wants to hear.

Q: What's your background with basketball? 

A: Well I started off my college career at Saint Mary's College of California where I redshirted and had the chance to play with a really good point guard -- Matthew Dellavedova -- and also had the chance to travel with the team to the NCAA Tournament. After spending a year at Saint Mary's I spent a year at Citrus College. From there I was recruited to play at the University of Utah. In my first year I was a part of the starting lineup of a great team. We made it to the NCAA Tournament as a fifth seed and made it to the Sweet 16 where we lost to Duke. My second year at Utah I became more of a role player on yet another great team, finishing second in the Pac-12 standings and making it to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

Q: How is graduate school going, and how is it balancing being on the team and being in graduate school?

A: Balancing grad school and being on the team hasn't been too bad. I've been juggling a crazy academic schedule and athletics for the last eight years of my life. And coming in I understood that this is no longer undergrad and things are going to be a little more difficult. But so far I've really enjoyed both sides and am grateful to be here.

Men's Basketball Q&A: Lamond Murray Jr.

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One of the seniors on the Pepperdine men's basketball team, Lamond Murray Jr., defines his goals for the final year, and how he has prepared for it. He had a great junior season, and the preseason All-WCC selection looks forward to making his last season even better. Murray describes this year's team with great enthusiasm:

Lamond  Murray Jr.

Q: You had a big junior year, and how do you hope to expand on that in your final year?

A: I am working on other aspects of the game that I usually don't do. So it's a lot of dribbling and ball screens. I've been working on that all summer. Plus definitely being able to hit the open guy and to be able to distribute the ball more.

Q: What is your mindset going into your final season?

A: It is my last year, but I am going to have fun with it and enjoy it. I have to make sure that I bring it every time we play.

Q: How has head coach Marty Wilson influenced you?

A: Coach pressures me every day in practice and pushes me every day, trying to make me a better player and a better man on and off the court.

Q: What are your expectations for you, and for your team this year?

A: We're planning to surprise a lot of people this year, because, even though we have a young team, we have a strong core group of guys. We have great chemistry this year. It is probably the best chemistry we have had over the four years I have been here. It's exciting.

Q: What did you do to prepare for the season during the summer?

A: I was working out every day, and had a trainer, doing strength workouts and basketball workouts, and who made sure I was eating right. He also made sure I was staying consistent. When the first game comes, I will be ready.

Q: How does the team look so far?

A: We are looking really good. Lots of freshmen are stepping up and doing a lot of things that aren't expected of them as freshmen. Our seniors are looking good and looking polished, so we are going to be really great this year.

Q: How are the new players fitting in?

A: They are fitting in really well. The chemistry we already built in such a short amount of time is really good. They feel it, and we feel it. They are learning really quickly. Through every practice, we are getting so much better.

Q: Now that Stacy Davis has graduated, you will be getting most of the attention. How does that make you feel?

A: With that, I am just trying to get better so that it doesn't affect my game. The key is also getting many of my teammates involved, so that a lot of the pressure is taken off of me and it is spread throughout the team.

Q: What is your plan after graduation?

A: Whatever God lets me do, whether it's basketball or my major.

Q: Is there a moment that you look back at, and wish you had done differently?

A: Nope. Everything happens for a reason.

Men's Basketball Q&A: Jonathan Allen

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Jonathan Allen is a senior walk-on on the Pepperdine men's basketball team. He has a leadership role in his team and he is looked up to as a great teammate. As he spoke to us, he reflected back on the past three years at Pepperdine, and told us his aspirations as a basketball player and as a person who is pursuing career in sports:
Jonathan  Allen

Q: Tell me about your experience here at Pepperdine.

A: I wouldn't trade my time at Pepperdine for anything. This place has not only blessed me with the opportunity to continue playing the game I love while getting a prestigious education but it has given me some of the most significant friendships I have ever had in my life. The community I have been able to build here has become like family to me. That's what makes this a special place.

Q: You're from Tennessee. What made you choose Pepperdine, and what is your favorite thing about Pepperdine?

A: I always wanted to come to California for college because it is the hot spot of the industry I have always planned to pursue. I chose Pepperdine specifically because of certain educational programs they have that coincide with my aspiring career. When I was recruited here to play basketball as well and that all worked out I knew this was where I belonged.

Q: Your dad is a pastor, and your brother is an actor. What influences did they have on you growing up?

A: My family means the world to me. They have had a significant impact on shaping the person I am today. My dad has always set a Godly example for me to aspire to and has been a consistent rock for me to lean on for advice and wisdom. My father is the most intelligent and knowledgeable man I have ever met so having him, as a readily available resource, has been invaluable. My older brother is one of my best friends. He also lives in L.A. so having him so close has strengthened our relationship greatly. Being a few years older than me he has been a great role model just a few steps further than me in life and always pulling me along. I appreciate the example he has set for me as a Godly young man diligently working on his craft.

Q: As a walk-on, how have you motivated yourself to continue to play basketball? What are the challenges of being a walk-on?

A: My love for the game motivates me. I've never needed anything more than that. I am thankful for any opportunity I have to get out and play the game I love, whether that be competitively for school or just messing around recreationally. I had that privilege taken away from me because of injury. That year that I physically could not play solidified that appreciation in my heart.

There aren't many challenges of being a walk on. Our coaches are very fair and reward hard work. If you work hard and have the talent, you'll play.

Q: How has the team developed over the years you've been here?

A: Our team has come a very long way. This year will be very unique for us because for the first time our experience is in the guard spot, which hasn't been the case in the past. This is a change that we are excited about as a senior class because it is conducive to a more athletic and faster-paced style of play, which is always fun.

Q: How has basketball shaped your life?

A: Basketball has always been my everything. I've played this game my entire life and invested countless hours, days and years into it. It has taught me some of the most valuable lessons in life like hard work, dedication, selflessness and perseverance. It has given me some of my best relationships that I know will be lifelong. It has allowed me to travel to places I otherwise would not have the opportunity to. Needless to say, I owe this game a lot for all it has given me. That is why I would never do the game the disservice of not going 100% during any chance when I am so blessed to play.

Q: I hear that your teammates and your friends look up to you, do you consider yourself as a leader? If so, what do you try to do as a leader?

A: I just try to be an example that my teammates can exemplify. Always do the right thing, humility to do any job that needs to be done no matter what, respect others, be considerate and selfless, and genuinely care for others. Not because of any desire to be seen as a leader or to have some title but because those are the efforts that I know I can contribute to make this team successful.

Q: What are your personal and team hopes for your last season?

A: We would love to make the NCAA Tournament.

Q: As a sport administration major, what do you wish to do after graduation?

A: I am studying to be a sports agent so after graduation I plan on starting my career in that industry, whether that means more school or starting an internship, I am not sure yet. I will just continue to take it day by day and trust God's plan. He's gotten me this far.

Jeremy Major is a senior on the men's basketball team and is on track to set the school record for assists - a record that has stood for more than 30 years. He attributes his success all to being part of such a great team, and reflects on this, as well as what he's been working on recently:

Jeremy  Major

Q: What did you do this summer?

A: I interned for State Farm. I was connected with that through Carmel Stevens who played basketball here a long time ago. I was there for two months and what was really exciting was being part of a project aimed at marketing to college students. I loved getting the chance to do that because it's something I want to do ultimately -- I'm an advertising major -- but I also got to think about how to appeal to my own demographic so it was a really cool opportunity.

Q: How about basketball-wise, what did you do this summer?

A: I worked out like crazy preparing for the season! I was here for two months over the summer playing and then I also went back and forth between L.A. and Pasadena, my hometown, working with a trainer to stay consistent with it. So yeah, I was definitely working really hard this summer.

Q: So you're on track to set the school record for assists, which is a record that has stood for more than 30 years. How does it feel to be in that position of setting this school record, which is a big deal?

A:  To be honest, when I first started here my freshman year I never thought to myself I'd be breaking any records. So being in this position now is something that is definitely really big for me and really special. But on the other hand, I couldn't have been getting those assists unless we had great scorers on the team, so I think most of it is all them, you know? I'm all about being giving and just focusing on the team effort, so it's all about needing all of them to get the baskets -- it's more about them than me if anything. Without them I wouldn't be in the position to get this record, so I think that's what's really great about it. It's not just me, it's the whole team.

Q: Is this something that you think will influence the way you play this season? Is it weighing on you at all?

A: I don't think so, I've always been about putting others before myself since day one, and so going on the court I'm all about supporting the team and whatever helps them to do well helps me. It's just naturally how I've always played and so it's how I'll keep playing.

Q: How is it now being a senior on the basketball team? Does it change the dynamic at all?

A: Oh, it's definitely a different role. Freshman year I came in and guys like Brendan Lane, Stacy Davis and Jett Raines put some of us who are now seniors through the ropes and now we're sitting here with all of these new freshmen so I feel like the roles are kind of reversed for me now. It's definitely both a vocal role and leading by example. I think being a senior we have a different perspective for the game so it's all about using that to help these guys out and get them through.

Q: How it is having to be a leader on the team especially with a lot of new young players this year?

A: It's actually a lot of fun, and it's easier to be in this role when we have group of guys who are actually listening, responding and applying what they're being told. They're a group of great guys and they are really ready to learn and very eager, but also really smart. They definitely put the work in so it's just been fun. We spend so much time together not only on the court but also off the court so there's just a great bond there too.  

Q: How are they fitting in? Has it been challenging?

A: They're fitting in really well. It just works out because they've done such a great job just coming into the system. A lot is demanded from them right off the bat, but as seniors we're able to help them get through that process. It's not really all that challenging trying to be a leader for them but I'm sure it's challenging for them to learn the speed of the game and having to react more quickly in the game than what they were used to in high school. But we're truly a family here and probably spend like four to six hours every day together so the chemistry is always there on the court, and at the end of the day we're helping each other get better.

Q: What has been one of your favorite games or moments now looking back so far on your time playing basketball for Pepperdine?

A: One of my favorite games, even though we lost, was when we played Gonzaga my sophomore year. They were a highly ranked team at the time, and it was the most crowded I've ever seen Firestone Fieldhouse! For us to be right there and so close to beating them -- we lost by 2 -- which we hadn't done in a long time -- to be that close, and have a huge crowd cheering us on, it was just an amazing moment. Seeing the different atmosphere and culture of Pepperdine and people wanting to come out to the games and support us, it was great because everyone really came together - not just the team but the Pepperdine community as well. That was just such a great moment.

My other favorite moment would be when we won at BYU my sophomore year. We were in front of 16,000 students just going crazy and that place is crazy in general to play in because the atmosphere is just so fun with the bright lights and the personality of the crowd. It definitely gets you more hyped up for the moment and it was just such a fun, crazy atmosphere so it's definitely something that stands out in my memory.

Q: Do you think being part of the team all this time now has shaped or changed you in any way?

A: It's definitely shaped me, without a doubt. Looking back and reflecting, when I came in, Coach Wilson put me in a role as the starting point guard and I always felt like I was going out there not knowing what was going on and just hoping for the best. But now, going into senior year, knowing what pretty much to expect, what's expected of me, having a plan, being prepared and all that, I definitely think I've learned and grown a lot. I just see the game now from a totally different perspective but at the same time I'm just able to enjoy every game. Being in class and the busyness of college, it can definitely be a toll and can sometimes be hard to keep the passion alive when you have all this weighing on you. But when you get to senior year you just sit back and reflect and realize what a great time it has been, and you just have to soak it all in one last time and give it your all. I think also just the group of guys I've been around and the family we've become, it's definitely also shaped me in a way and my experience here, so I'm just really thankful and it's been great!

Q: What are you focusing on this season?

A: For the team, I just really want to get us to 20 wins, also make the NCAA Tournament, and truth be told I just really want to beat Gonzaga. We've beaten every other team besides them, and we've been so close. We've been close twice -- under three points! So yeah, those are my three goals for us this season.

Junior guard Jeremy Major was a huge offensive force for the Waves' men's basketball team during the WCC Tournament last week. Major tied a career high with 28 points vs. USF, and put up an impressive eight three-pointers in two games. Major is up to sixth on the Waves' all-time assist list and is on pace to become Pepperdine's all-time leader next season. Major reflects on the WCC Tournament and tells us how the Waves are preparing for the next step in their season:

Jeremy  Major

Q: How are you feeling upon the completion of regular-season play?

A: I feel like we had a pretty solid year. We were able to reach a lot of our goals. We had some injuries on the team that hurt us, but I'm really happy with the year we had. We may not have ended the way we wanted in the WCC Tournament, but I truly feel that we gave it everything that we had and ended up having a great year.

Q: What do you enjoy the most about playing for head coach Marty Wilson?

A: Coach Wilson has such a competitive nature, and that is something that I really admire about him. Even in practice he wants us to be competing all the time, he's even more fired up than we are at times, but that energy that he has is contagious and causes us to perform to the best of our abilities.

Q: What is some key advice that Coach Wilson has given the team that has stuck with you this season?

A: Coach Wilson has taught me the importance of trusting my teammates more than anything. I think we have all learned that having trust and accountability for each other is crucial to playing well as a team. We definitely play our best basketball when we are able to completely trust each other.

Q: You played two outstanding offensive games during the WCC Tournament. What were your thoughts going into the tournament? Did you have a specific mindset or goals that you hoped to achieve going into these game?

A: I just wanted to be aggressive, that's what my teammates expect from me no matter when or where we are playing. I don't think that I played any differently than I normally do. I want to give it my all at all times, and I can live with whatever the results are as long as I know I am putting all that I have into the game. If I am able to help my teammates like I was able to in the tournament, that's just an added bonus.

Q: You are up to sixth on the Waves' all-time assist list, and are set to become Pepperdine's all-time leader next year. How important is this accomplishment to you? What would it mean to you to break this record?

A: To be honest, it's exciting, but it's not something that I have focused a lot of my energy on. I don't really think about breaking records at all. However, it is cool knowing that I am able to tangibly leave my mark on the Pepperdine basketball program. I think it's awesome that I lead in assists, because it's good to know that I am making the game easier on my teammates, and I'm able to see my teammates score more and help them do so.

Q: What are your thoughts/hopes regarding postseason play? What do you believe the team will be able to accomplish?

A: Whatever tournament we get into, we will of course want to come out with a win. We are well-prepared, and all we can do is give it our all -- but we are absolutely hopeful for a championship title.

Q: What does the preparation process look like for the team as the prospect of a possible postseason tournament approaches?

A: We don't have an opponent to specifically prepare for until the tournaments are announced, so we're just trying to stay in shape. We are running our offensive plays, watching film, and trying to best determine how we can get better in preparation for postseason play. We are trying to keep it light but still stay focused on our end goal, which will hopefully be a championship.

Seniors Stacy Davis and Jett Raines enjoyed a successful Senior Night last Saturday with 35 combined points in an 88-76 win over Santa Clara. With the help and leadership of Davis and Raines, the Pepperdine men's basketball program has greatly progressed from the time they came in as freshmen. A huge milestone came when Davis surpassed Dane Suttle for the top spot on the Waves' all-time scoring list, while Raines is close to 1,000 career points. The seniors head into their next game against Loyola Marymount this Saturday with an undefeated record against the Lions. With only one game remaining before postseason play, Davis and Raines reflected on their time spent as Pepperdine student-athletes:

Stacy  Davis Jett  Raines

Q: How surreal is it that you only have one regular-season game left in your senior year?

Davis: It's pretty crazy -- it's hard to think about at times. I remember coming in as a freshman and thinking, man, I'll never be a senior. But here I am four years later, and time has just gone by crazy fast. I've been taking the initiative of trying to enjoy these last couple of months that I have as a college student -- but more importantly these last couple of weeks as a college athlete playing for Pepperdine University -- so I'm trying to take advantage of that.

Raines: I'm not sure it's hit me yet, even Senior Night it didn't really hit me. I'm not very sentimental in the moment, so I'm sure it will take a while. But just looking at it, it's pretty crazy to think about. It's been a long four years -- but playing-wise if you think about game-to-game it doesn't feel that long. This season is really flying by. I'll have to see -- maybe in the summer it will hit me more.

Q: How has the program evolved since your freshman year?

Davis: It has evolved tremendously. The dynamic of the group of guys that we have is completely different than freshman year and I feel like this year's and last year's teams are probably the most cohesive groups that I've ever gotten to play with not only as a college athlete, but also as a basketball player. I've really enjoyed playing with the guys that we have now; I love all of them to death and I would go to war with all of them. That just makes this season even more memorable -- playing with guys that you genuinely have a good time with and love.

Raines: Our culture changed a little bit. When I was a freshman, we had some people who were a part of the dead years when we weren't doing very well. Once they left we were able to have fresh minds and I think that's a big part of it. When you're playing in an environment with leaders where it becomes okay to win very few games, it doesn't help you much.

The next year, when I was a sophomore, we had Brendan Lane. He had a better attitude toward winning and we all clicked more as a team. People like Brendan set a really good example for the character that we'd like to have on our team. I learned a lot from him and then our coaches started recruiting people that had similar personality and player traits as we did. Once we were all clicking, people came in on visits and they saw how comfortable we were around each other and they wanted to be a part of it. It just kind of grew as a culture and we set the example for where we wanted the program to go.

Q: What is your biggest takeaway from being part of the men's basketball program these past few years?

Davis: The biggest takeaway for me is that as an athlete, you're held to a higher standard. That's sometimes looked down upon, but I feel like it's a blessing in disguise because it allows you to hold yourself to a standard that most people don't hold themselves to -- and that is something you can take with you for the rest of your life. That's a mentality that you'll instill in yourself, that once you're done playing, you'll always hold yourself up to that excellence because that's just what you've been accustomed to. I think that is the one thing I can take away from being a college athlete in general but more specifically as a Pepperdine athlete because our campus is so small and inclusive that we are definitely put under a microscope. That's not a bad thing -- I think it has definitely helped a lot of guys mature faster.

Raines: One thing that's changed my perspective is just in terms of you and your teammates being on the same page -- it's pretty powerful. No matter what your outlook is on the game, if you all want to achieve the same thing, then success is attainable. There's not one way to win every game -- but if you and your teammates are on the same page and working hard, you're going to achieve some great things.

Q: Looking back, what moment stands out to you?

Davis: Breaking the all-time scoring record -- that will be something that I never forget. The ovation that I got, I've never felt so much love in my whole life from a bunch of people that I've known for years. It was honestly overwhelming. I was a lot more emotional than I let people on to be, but I was extremely emotional and proud of the accomplishment. Also senior night -- going out there and getting a W for all my seniors that are graduating.

But I think the best moments I've had have all been off the court just with the guys hanging out. I've really enjoyed the camaraderie that's come with being a Pepperdine athlete. Those will be the memories I'll take with me the rest of my life.

Raines: In my junior year winning away at BYU -- that was a big moment for me because they do not lose at home very often. We were having a pretty good year and this win showed me what we were capable of and what we had accomplished so far. In retrospect, it was one of those wins that was like, hey, I don't think we could have gotten this win a few years ago. So that was a big one for me -- especially in front of their 20,000 fans.

Q: What's next?

Davis: I'm going to continue to play basketball for however long I can, whether that be in the NBA or overseas. I just hope to keep inspiring people to live out their dreams and possibly come back to Pepperdine to speak. Also, I hope I leave a lasting impression on my classmates and the Pepperdine community. I feel like I definitely have achieved a lot -- going beyond the stereotype of what a typical student-athlete is -- and it will give people an example of why you should get to know someone and not judge a book by its cover. So what's next for me is just continuing to play basketball and continuing to inspire people through the game -- hopefully being able to make an impact wherever I'm at.

Raines: I'm going to try to continue to play overseas.

Firestone Fieldhouse was packed on Saturday night for an exciting men's basketball game against Gonzaga that kept fans on their feet until the very end of a bittersweet 69-66 loss. After scoring a season-high 27 points against Portland, senior forward Stacy Davis contributed 26 points against the Bulldogs with a career-high five three-pointers. He moved into fourth place on the Waves' all-time scoring list. Davis commented on the incredible atmosphere of the game, how they were able to come so close to beating the top team in the WCC, the components that affected the outcome and how the team is preparing for the next road games against Saint Mary's and Pacific.

Stacy  Davis

Q: What was it like playing in front of a sold-out crowd that was so vocal and energetic?

A: That was probably one of the more amazing feelings that I've had being at Pepperdine. Just seeing the support that we had from the fans -- especially when the Gonzaga team came out for warm-ups and they booed them -- to be quite honest, that was the first time I've ever seen our crowd do something like that.

It just felt really good because we finally had the support system that we thought we could always have throughout the season. I definitely think it helped us play because we had that extra motivation and the crowd was into it. So that was by far one of my favorite moments as a Pepperdine Wave.

Q: This is the second year that you've come within a few points of beating Gonzaga at home. How does it feel being neck-and-neck with such a good team that has great players?

A: Despite what everyone has been saying as far as congratulating us, at the end of the day we lost and it only feels so good to come in second and finish that close. That has happened quite a number of times with them -- so at this point, at least for me, I want to win. It was a little bittersweet. I was glad to see that we fought and played our hearts out but I definitely wanted to win so I can't say that I'm content with the result.

Q: Going into the game, what was the game plan and did you have to make any adjustments?

A: Our game plan was different than the first time that we played them. We were more aggressive as far as attacking the ball in the post on double-teams and on our closeouts on defense. But throughout the game nothing really changed, we stuck to our defensive principles and for the most part it worked.

We held them to 69 points, and they have been averaging in the upper 70s, so we did our job defensively. Just some shots that we usually knock down weren't falling that night, and the ball just kind of rolled their way. And that's just how it goes; there's going to be a winner and a loser and you have to accept whatever outcome you get as long as you left it all out there on the floor. 

Q: You made a few comebacks throughout the game and were able to get within three points with 8 1/2 minutes left and two points toward the end. What little changes could have altered the overall result of the game?

A: Overall I think we fought hard. There wasn't anything that we did poorly; we all played hard and at the end of the day they just played better than us. They made a couple more shots than us, a couple more free throws, and that was just how the ball fell.

Q: How is the team preparing to face Saint Mary's and Pacific on the road this week?

A: We're taking it a game at a time. We had the day off on Monday to recuperate and get our minds off of basketball to focus on school for the day and rest our bodies, but we are going to attack these next two opponents aggressively in our game plan and in our practices. We're going to play aggressively these next few days of practice and come out in strong in Moraga to get a W at Saint Mary's -- and then go from there and get a W at Pacific.

After a big win against BYU on Saturday, the men's basketball team improved to 9-0 at home and moved into third place in the WCC. This is the best home winning streak for the men's basketball team since the 1985-86 season. Freshman forward Kameron Edwards had a great game against BYU -- contributing 13 points and nine rebounds. Edwards commented on the team's home record, improvements made this season and goals moving forward as the Waves travel to San Diego on Thursday for their next game.

Kameron  Edwards

Q: You've been able to maintain a 9-0 home record so far this season. What does this say about this team?

A: It definitely says that we love having our family and friends coming out to support us. It just shows that we play with a lot of energy in front of them and have more fun when we are playing at home.

Q: How was the team able to come out on top against BYU in such a close game?

A: We all stayed poised. We knew it was going to be a battle from the beginning. We knew it would come down to the last few possessions. Knowing this, we were able to stay composed whenever they got a lead or anything like that, and that really helped us out a lot.

Q: From the start of the season to now -- the midway point in the WCC -- what are the biggest improvements you've seen in the team?

A: We've been playing more like a team recently. We are all trying to help each other out and are worried about the success of the team, not ourselves individually.

Q: As a freshman playing mainly with upperclassmen, what are some things you have learned so far?

A: I've learned a lot about the game overall -- having to think through every play and every possession the way that the upperclassmen do. It's a big adjustment from high school, but I've been doing pretty well and they are helping me out with that.

Q: What are your hopes for the remainder of the season?

A: My hope for the remainder of the season is that we remain undefeated at home, and hopefully we can sweep the second half of conference and not lose any games.