Earlier today, TKR was able to get an interview with Marquise Watts, who coached Sam Dower and Cole Stefan for Net Gain Sports. TKR would like to thank Coach Watts and our correspondent for another terrific interview, and we think that everyone will truly enjoy reading it.
TKR: Heading into his senior year, what would you say are Sam's greatest strengths and weaknesses as a player?
Coach Watts: Sam's greatest strength is his ability to get better every single day. It is kind of amazing to watch him every day, and watch him improve in front of you. I am excited to see how he will look when he steps foot on campus next year, but even more excited to see how he looks in 2010. His progression has been really amazing. His versatility is another strength. He can score off the pump fake effectively, and can score with his left hook. He also has range that extends out to the three-point line. He runs the floor very well in transition, and is a much better athlete then many people realize. He can dunk over two guys, or do a tip dunk. He has also become much more fluid in his running and as an athlete.
Sam's greatest weakness is that he needs to get stronger. He needs to put on strength to be able to play at the next level. His body really needs to get stronger to be able to play and handle the everyday grind at the college level. The out of conference schedule that Gonzaga plays is crazy; his first game of his freshman year will be at the Maui Invitational. In his first game he will be going up against one of the elite teams. I have no doubt he can do it for one game, but he needs to be able to produce every game. He is starting to get stronger already, and once he gets with the strength coaches, he will only continue to improve his strength.
TKR: How would you describe Sam as a person away from the court?
Coach Watts: When you first meet Sam he is quiet and shy. But once you get to know him, he is a great kid. He is laid back and easy going and just a great kid. He never once talked back to me, and he will do whatever Coach Few wants him to. Initially he comes off of as quiet, but once you get to know him, you will love Sam Dower. He comes from a great family, and Mr. and Mrs. Dower were a privilege to be around the past three years. They are the real deal as a family, and Sam really cares about their input. What they think means a lot to Sam, and he would not have made his decision without their approval.
TKR: What was your reaction to Sam's decision? Were you at all surprised by his decision to commit?
Coach Watts: I was not at all surprised. He called me Saturday night before he made his decision, and I already knew what he was thinking. The only thing that surprised me a little was the timing of his decision. I thought he might wait a day to get home and then commit, but he chose to do it Saturday night. Sam going to Gonzaga was not a surprise. They have been recruiting him for so long, and he really liked the staff and the guys on the team. It has been a recruitment where they have been recruiting Sam for so long, and the staff really got to know Sam.
TKR: Cole Stefan is also a player for Net Gain Sports, can you describe his game?
Coach Watts: I've been coaching Cole since he was 12, and he can flat out score. He is a 2 guard that can score from unlimited range. This summer, he usually scored our first two baskets of the game, and he was hitting shots from 26-27 feet deep. He is one of those guys, that if he is in the gym he is open and can hit the shot. He was our second leading scorer on the team behind Sam this season, which is impressive for a class of 2010 guy on a team with 7-8 DI prospects. He has also learned to hit the open player when he is double-teamed, and is 6'3 and well built. He can put the ball on the floor and make good decisions, but his strength is that he can score the basketball.
TKR: Who is recruiting Cole the hardest, and does he have any offers yet?
Coach Watts: Tomorrow, at an open gym for Cole, Michigan, Colorado State, Northern Iowa, Drake, and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee will all be there. He already holds 4 offers at this point. Some of the schools that are interested are Minnesota, Washington State and Iowa State. He has already been to Washington State on an unofficial visit and they are coming after him hard. Cole went to the elite camp at Gonzaga, and Coach Few has seen him play more then anybody else, because of following Sam. It is hard to miss Cole play, when you are watching Sam. Coach Few likes guys that can score, and that is what Cole does. Cole is a good kid and embodies what programs are trying to do. Cole will do anything that it takes to win, and he works hard both on and off the court. However, he is probably a more talented baseball player right now. He played on varsity his freshman year, and I think that he hit .480 this past season. He has already done some workouts for the Twins. At this point, he loves both sports, and it might come down to a program that has a good fit for both sports.
TKR: What is your favorite moment that you had while coaching Sam?
Coach Watts: I actually have two moments. The first was at the Bob Gibbons Tournament of Champions at the University of North Carolina. We were playing our first game and it was on the main court at UNC. Sam is usually not a man of many words, but he had a real bounce to his step before the game. Before the game started, he came up to me and said "I feel sorry for the guy on the other team who has to guard me". And then about 4 minutes into the game, he had the nastiest And 1 dunk of the year. He absolutely posterized the guy. Sam is a joker, so he gave the guy this stare down, and then busted up laughing. He then looked over at me and we were both laughing.
The other memory came in the same tournament. We lost a game in pool play that we probably should have won, so that meant we had to win our final game to advance to the sweet 16. Trent Lockett, who is going to Arizona State, was out with an injury, so I went up to Sam before the game and told him that he needed to put the team on his back. Sam went out and scored 17 of the first 18 points of the game. He was hitting his left hook, dunking the ball, and hitting the 3. At that moment I knew he had arrived, and knew how to handle the pressure. From that point on, he played like that the rest of the summer. I'm glad Gonzaga got him, and he was one of my all-time favorite guys to coach.