Q&A with Sophomore Guard James McCann


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Courtesy: Jimmy Gekas/Sideline Studios

Averaging 7.5 points per game to go with his team-leading 43 assists and 21 steals, sophomore point guard James McCann has developed into one of the key components on the 2011-12 UC San Diego Men's Basketball team. Fifth-year Head Coach Chris Carlson is quick to sing the praises of the local product out of La Costa Canyon High School in Carlsbad. "James is a great floor leader and continues to grow and get better," says Carlson. "He has turned himself into a very effective player in our league and we expect great things from him in the future." With the CCAA season nearing its midpoint, McCann took time to discuss his playing style, this year's Triton team and some of his off-court interests.

Q-At 5-foot-10, you're middle-of-the-road in the general population, but in the basketball environment, you're typically the shortest player on the court. What's that like?

McCANN-I'm usually not going to be able to use my height as an advantage against my opponent so I have learned other ways to be successful. I use my quickness, basketball IQ, coordination etc. to be successful on the court.

Q-Basketball-wise, in what ways, if any, have you found your height to be an advantage?

McCANN-Aside from a lot of people underestimating me, my height helps me to be more shifty and elusive by being lower than the man guarding me.

Q-You've shown no fear driving the lane. What is your thought process and what are you trying to do when you get into the paint against some of the big front lines in the CCAA?

McCANN-My first thought when I get into the lane is how can I score. More often than not though I am able to draw two or more defenders and find an open man, so I am always keeping my eyes open for any option.

Q-What kind of responsibilities does Coach Chris Carlson expect his point guard to manage?

McCANN-Coach expects me to be a guy he can depend on as an extension of the coach and a leader on the floor. Some of my responsibilities are to take care of the ball, initiate our offense, defend, and make plays for others as well as myself.

Q-Along with doing the majority of the ballhandling typically comes the expectation of being a team leader. Is that a role you're comfortable with and how have you grown into that at UCSD?

McCANN-It's definitely a role I am comfortable with because it has been my responsibility since I started playing basketball. It is one of the most important responsibilities a point guard has. Since I arrived at UCSD not much has changed for me since high school in terms of being relied on heavily as a ballhandler.

Q-In what area do you feel you've made the most progress between your freshman and sophomore seasons?

McCANN-I think just having a year to learn the differences between the high school and college game has helped me the most. I've become smarter and better at being able to make adjustments depending on how other teams are playing.

Q-Talk about where your team is at this point in the season and where you think it can be by the end of the year.

McCANN-We are 5-6 right now and struggling a bit as of late but in no way am I discouraged. We have been practicing and playing really hard, we just need to tighten up a few technical things. Our goals haven't changed at all since the start of the season and I fully believe we are going to have a successful finish.

Q-When this team needs a big bucket, who is the guy you're looking for? Who's the most physical player on the team? Who's the team comedian, the player who keeps things light and relaxed in the locker room?

McCANN-We have a lot of guys that can score so I wouldn't say I'm necessarily looking for a certain guy, more along the lines of whoever is hot at the time. I'd have to say  (Justin) Brue is the most physical guy on our team because often times he is going against guys with a couple inches on him yet he does more than hold his own. Tyler (McGrath), Mackenzie (McCullough) and I all have lockers next to each other and are usually the ones trying to keep the mood light in the locker room.

Q-Your back-up is Matt Bailey, another sophomore, who also plays significant minutes. How do your games differ and how do the two of you help each other?

McCANN- If Brue is the most physical guy then Matt isn't far behind. He uses his strength both offensively and defensively to his advantage. I can't usually out muscle my opponent like he can so I have to make better use of angles on the court. I think just competing in practice every day with Matt has really helped me develop as a player, and I'm hoping that I've done the same for him. 

Q-What's it like playing for Coach Carlson? What makes him different from other coaches you've played under? What's his "go to" coaching cliché?

McCANN-Coach has been very important to my development as a player since I arrived here at UCSD and I've really enjoyed playing for him. He really stresses the defensive side of the ball, which is an area where I think I have greatly improved. I also really like how he is always trying to help his players off the court as well as on the court.

One of his most famous "go to" coaching clichés is when he makes a questionable call during practice his only response is "life on the road."

Q-You have two older sisters who both played collegiate soccer. Was soccer part of your upbringing and how did you end up playing basketball?

McCANN-Soccer was a huge part of my upbringing. Not only did I attend countless number of games but I also started playing at a very young age. I played for a nearby club program called Surf since about age seven and stopped playing my freshman year of high school. I only started playing basketball in seventh grade and been in love ever since. Because soccer and basketball are in the same season in high school I chose to stick with basketball, but who knows maybe I can use a fifth year to try and play for Coach Pascale at UCSD?

Q-Who do you consider the top three point guards in the NBA today? What do you admire about each?

McCANN-I think I would go with Chris Paul, Deron Williams and Derrick Rose (spoken like a true Boston hater). Each of them are successful in different ways but are similar in that they all have complete control over their respective teams and are the ones making big plays when their team needs one.

Q-You've listed the L.A. Lakers and San Diego Chargers as two of your favorite professional teams. How would you analyze the latest moves by both teams?

McCANN-It's been a bit rough lately because both teams have struggled: the Lakers getting swept by Dallas and the Chargers missing out on the playoffs. I would say that both franchises need to make significant moves to become championship contenders.

Q-Outside of sports, what do you enjoy doing with your free time?

McCANN-I love being around the beach when I am not in the gym. I grew up here in San Diego so I have been around it my whole life. I also really like to travel and hope to do more of it when I graduate.

Q-You're an economics major and although you still have another two years-plus before graduation comes around, have you given any thought to career options at this point?

McCANN-That is still a little far off for me so I haven't put much thought into it. I think business school may be an option.

Q-This is still a very young UCSD roster. Given that, what would you like to see the team accomplish this year and what do you hope to have on your basketball resume when your collegiate career is completed?

McCANN-We are still pretty young but I think we do have experience so there is no limit to what we can do this year. I believe we are going to make a run into the tourney. It's too early for me to be thinking about the end of my career. Right now I am just focused on winning. 


Previous Q & A Articles

Emily Osga (Women's Basketball) December 19, 2011

John Butler (Men's Water Polo) November 28, 2011

Lauren Demos (Women's Volleyball) November 8, 2011

Cory Wolfrom (Men's Soccer) October 26, 2011

Ellen Wilson (Women's Soccer) October 1, 2011

Brian Donohoe (Men's Water Polo) September 4, 2011

Roxanne Brunsting (Women's Volleyball) August 19, 2011

Jon Pascale (Men's Soccer) August 4, 2011

Jon Pascale (Men's Soccer) August 4, 2011

Vincent Nguyen (Tennis) July 1, 2011

Patti Gerckens (Softball) May 26, 2011

Blake Tagmyer (Baseball) May 11, 2011

Theresa Richards (Women's Track & Field) April 27, 2011

Austin West (Men's Tennis) April 17, 2011

Drew Lawyer (Men's Crew) April 11, 2011

Keith Okasaki (Men's Golf) March 26, 2011

Matt Herman (Men's Swimming & Diving) March 12, 2011

Hanalei Crowell (Women's Water Polo) March 5, 2011

Camille Gaito (Softball) February 23, 2011

Tim Shibuya (Baseball) February 8, 2011

Carl Eberts (Men's Volleyball) January 31, 2011

Neda Nguyen (Women's Swimming & Diving) January 24, 2011

Amy Bianchini (Fencing) January 14, 2011

Lauren Freidenberg (Women's Basketball) January 3, 2011

Christian Hatch (Men's Basketball) December 24, 2010

Blake Langland (Men's Swimming & Diving) November 27, 2010

Sarah McTigue (Women's Soccer) November 8, 2010

Brandon Yee (Men's Soccer) October 11, 2010

Bryce Madsen (Men's Water Polo) September 23, 2010

Annette Ilg (Women's Soccer) September 9, 2010

Ricci Luyties (Women's Volleyball Head Coach) August 24, 2010

Kevin Messey (Head Athletics Trainer) July 7, 2010

Dan O'Brien (Baseball Head Coach) June 18, 2010

Christine Merrill (Women's Track & Field) June 14, 2010

Vance Albitz (Baseball) May 11, 2010

Erik Elliott (Men's Tennis) May 3, 2010

Kelly Fogarty (Women's Track & Field) April 23, 2010

Liz LaPlante (Women's Tennis Head Coach) April 15, 2010

Kirby St. John (Baseball) March 24, 2010

Dan Perdew (Men's Swimming) February 28, 2010

Calvin Ross (Men's Volleyball) February 20, 2010

Nicole Saari (Softball) February 4, 2010

Brad Kreutzkamp (Women's Water Polo Head Coach) January 18, 2010

Tyler Acevedo (Men's Basketball) January 4, 2010

Dr. Cliff Kubiak (UCSD's Faculty Athletic Rep) December 18, 2009

Chelsea Carlisle (Women's Basketball) December 9, 2009

Carianne Cunningham (Women's Swimming) November 23, 2009

Elena Inouye (Cross Country) November 6, 2009

David Morton (Men's Water Polo) October 28, 2009

Juan Pablo Carillo (Men's Swimming) October 19, 2009

Sara Spaventa (Women's Soccer) October 10, 2009

Karen Reis (Women's Volleyball) October 2, 2009

Daniel Pavitt (Men's Soccer) September 23, 2009

Daniel Anderson (Cross Country) September 11, 2009

Peter Gresham (Men's Water Polo) September 2, 2009

Alexia Zatarain (Women's Soccer) August 24, 2009

Elaine Chen (Women's Volleyball) August 12, 2009

Jared Kukura (Men's Soccer) July 30, 2009

Dawn Lee (Former Women's Soccer Standout) July 8, 2009

Rob Mamula (Director of Athletic Performance) June 18, 2009

Garrett Imeson (Baseball) June 8, 2009

Leon Baham (Men's Track & Field) May 21, 2009

Kristyn Lesovsky (Softball) May 8, 2009

Kazumi Negishi (Men's Tennis) May 5, 2009

Laiah Blue (Women's Track & Field) April 16, 2009

Ryan Andre (Men's Crew) April 2, 2009

Josh Tanner (Baseball) March 24, 2009

Anju Shimura (Women's Swimming) March 7, 2009

Stephanie Bocian (Women's Water Polo) February 20, 2009

Lauren Chastain (Softball) February 5, 2009

A.J. Maulhardt (Men's Basketball) January 28, 2009

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Frank Fritsch (Men's Volleyball) January 5, 2009