Visiting Japanese media have plenty of questions for Gonzaga coaches Mark Few, Tommy Lloyd

Gonzaga coach Mark Few addresses the media, Friday, March 16, 2018, at Taco Bell Arena in Boise. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

Rui Hachimura wasn’t the only one getting grilled by Japanese television crews Tuesday. Bulldogs head coach Mark Few and assistant Tommy Lloyd had to parry some questions about their star forward. Some of their thoughts:

On Gonzaga’s goals for 2019:

Mark Few: “We want to have a great regular season, we want to win the conference and the conference tournament, and then hopefully work our way through the NCAA Tournament and get back to a Final Four, and see if we can finish off that last step and win a national championship. That’s the goal. Obviously, Rui is going to be a huge part of that. The next step for him now is to take on a major role, and night-in and night-out be a guy we can count on.”

On Hachimura’s biggest jump in 2017-18:

Tommy Lloyd: “From a technical standpoint, where I really saw the tables turn for him this year is where he started to understand how to seek and maintain contact. His first year, and in the first 10 games or so this year, Rui didn’t really establish his physical presence on the floor. He was always receiving contact instead of initiating contact. Once he learned to start hitting first and using his body, that’s where he really took off the second part of the season.”

Mark Few: “His competitive spirit. He’ll tell you that’s what I’m on him about every time I see him. Being a winner. Taking ownership. Whatever it is, whether he’s playing me in ping-pong or playing pickup with the guys or shooting with his teammates. And I think he’s taken huge strides, just as a competitor instead of just playing.”

On what went into his decision to not test the NBA waters:

Tommy Lloyd: “The biggest thing Rui and I had talked about in our conversations was, if he was mentally ready for the change and the challenge of the NBA and he decided that one more year would benefit him. Our focus here has been providing Rui a foundation that allows him to have a long NBA career, not just to make it to the NBA. One of the things people in Japan don’t understand is that this is the first time, really, a Japanese player has done this. He’s really a pioneer. The baseball model is one where Japanese players have come and had a lot of success. But those guys are professionals for 6-8 years sometimes before they come over here. They have families and are used to that professional life.”

On what he has to show NBA evaluators this season:

Mark Few: “His shooting – they’re going to want to see it get better, and it already is better. The competitive aspect – just being nastier and tougher and at times even a little more selfish. These are all natural steps. He’s right in the middle of the process and progressing very well.”

On expectations for Hachimura:

Mark Few: “I expect him to be one of the best players in college basketball. That’s the hope. That’s his next step. Maybe we’re not going to judge that on every game, but over the course of the season I think he’s going to show physically – and more importantly for us, mentally – that he’s confident and willing to take on those responsibilities. Willing to take big shots and willing to live with missing big shots. That’s what great players do, and just move on. I think he’s going to be part of a really good team, and hopefully have a great lifetime experience for himself that he’ll remember when he’s done playing in the NBA.”