Q&A with Rider Head Coach Kevin Baggett

Big Apple Buckets had a chance to catch up with Rider Head Coach Kevin Baggett and talk about his expectations for this season as he enters his first season as a Division I head coach.

Big Apple Buckets: You told me that you would like to have five consistent double-digit scorers, who would you like to step into those roles?

Kevin Baggett: I’d like to say Jon Thompson, Nurideen Lindsey the transfer from St. John’s whenever he becomes eligible whether it be early or late, Anthony Myles, Daniel Stewart, Junior Fortunat our center I really need him to take another step forward. He missed the first 10 games of the year just trying to get cleared with his eligibility but I need him to be more consistent and take [the] next step forward. And some of our freshmen are going to have to contribute as well. We’ve had the luxury of being able to work these guys out this summer, which in the past we haven’t been able to so it was a little bit of a learning curve early for those guys especially coming in.  We’ve tried to close that gap a little bit with this summer so I’m going to lean on those guys to help contribute somewhat as well.

Big Apple Buckets: Daniel Stewart won MAAC Rookie of the Year as a Freshman and improved his game as a sophomore. What do you expect from his Junior season?

Kevin Baggett: I need to see him take the next step being able to play out on the perimeter more. I didn’t think he had a great sophomore year. I thought he got off to a good start, his sophomore year in the beginning and then I thought he tailed off. I thought he was worn down a little bit asking him to do a lot of things. The next progression for Daniel would be to be able to play more on the perimeter, be able to make perimeter shots both to his scoring and I saw something not long ago where he was up pretty high in the country in terms of his shooting or his field goal percentage. Well most of those baskets are around the basket and I need him to be able to step out a little further, to be able to put the ball on the floor a little more because a lot of times the four man are defending him I need him with his quickness and his athleticism to be able to beat those guys a little more being out on the perimeter so that’s the next progression for him. And then getting back, he was a very good defensive player his freshman year, I thought he took a step back defensively this past year as well so I’m hoping that he’ll along with the team will focus on that end and  be a better defensive player for us too.

Big Apple Buckets: What do you expect out of a full season of Junior Fortunat?

Kevin Baggett: In order for us to be good and I’ve said this to everybody, you know that center position, there’s some good centers in our league O.D. Anosike really comes to mind when I think about centers in our league. I need him to be good, if we’re going to be good I need Junior to average a double-double. I need him to average a double in points, a double in rebounds and just stay out of foul trouble a little bit. Last year was a learning curve and missing those 10 games kind of put him behind the 8-ball a little bit but he’s done great this summer he’s been on campus this entire time working on his body, working on his game. He’s a young man that’s really focused and really wants it and I want it for him. So for him if he can average a double-double that would be significant for us because we have to be able to count on that position and count on him to be able to man the middle.

Big Apple Buckets: How do you see your lineup and rotation shaping up this season?

Kevin Baggett: I don’t want to say that because I want our guys to come in and earn it. I know you’d rather have me answer that but my whole thing with our guys is that everything will be earned. I know I talked about those guys and they are our leaders yet to me everything that will be earned will be earned in practice. I’m not playing any favoritisms, I need guys to step up and find leaders and the experienced guys I need them to show it on the court in practice and earn that. These guys are going to earn whatever minutes they get that’s from top to bottom and I just think that’s the right way to go. I think guys get too comfortable when they think that they’re just going to come in and they’ve been the starter. I don’t think that’s fair to the other guys who have been working their ass off to try and cut in to those minutes.

Big Apple Buckets: What are your expectations for the five freshmen that you have coming in this year?

Kevin Baggett: Just to come in and be sponges, learn be ready when their number is called. Not to have the answers but again I do want to play some of those guys and I need those guys to be ready. I need them to listen. I need their ears to be wide open and their eyes to be wide open and just get off to a good start in the classroom because that’s the big part too. A lot of these guys don’t understand that with the freedom that they have now that it’s not really as much to do as they think it is. If they say ‘oh I only have one or two classes today so I got time’ no you don’t have time because your day is structured more on the collegiate level than it is on the high school level. Just letting them understand that I’m going to need to call on them sooner than later because I only have six returning guys from last years team.

Big Apple Buckets: You had a chance to see these freshmen over the summer session, what did you work with them on and who has a leg up on being able to play?

Kevin Baggett: You know what, I don’t know yet because until we get into the confines of really practicing and getting up and down. We did more individual work, just trying to get these guys to break some of the bad habits these guys had in high school and develop some better workout habits and things. We really focused on that more than just team things. It’s too early for me to be able to say. I think they all bring different things to the table, I think they’re all talented in their own way. Now it’s just a matter of seeing how these pieces fit into the broader scheme of things.

Big Apple Buckets:  What are you looking forward to in the first fall practice?

Kevin Baggett: Just getting after it, really getting after it getting our guys focused. Making them understand the sense of urgency, making them understand that we’ve got a long way to go. Some of the predictions that I’ve seen early on, they kinda have us at the bottom, and rightfully so coming off the year we just had and getting our guys focused on the task at hand. Just talking about getting better every day, I’m a big John Wooden fan. John Wooden very rarely talked about championships and all of that over stuff you haveto build up to. He talked more about getting better every day, and that’s the way I want to talk to our guys. Getting better every day in the classroom, on the court as people and if we do that and we get better every day then hopefully that will put us in position to be successful in the end.

Big Apple Buckets: What are the three keys to this season, the three things that will be the difference for your team to have a successful season?

Kevin Baggett: I would say one, first and foremost defensively. If we’re in the upper half of our league defensively I think we’ll have a chance to be in the upper half of the league. Secondly just the scoring part of it, if we’re a balanced scoring team then I think again this will be a good team and a good collective team. Thirdly just the start to the season. People stress the league and those three games in March but just getting off to a good start and having an opportunity to have confidence and build on that early on because again the schedule is tough. We got off to that 1-10 start and that dug really a deep hole for us so if we can stay out of digging ourselves a deep hole I think that will be an indication of where we’ll be in March as well.

2 thoughts on “Q&A with Rider Head Coach Kevin Baggett

  1. Still another nice article on Rider, but why the sudden preoccupation with the Broncos?

    Given all the apparent high-level recruiting at Iona, why isn’t there more speculation about the Gaels possibly looking around in the future for a higher profile conference. Given the big push to corral such a pool of genuine upper-level Div I talent, do you think that Iona will be satisfied with its MAAC status down the road? There has been a lot of speculation concerning the effect of the big bucks being invested in sports at Quinnipiac, but the situation in New Rochelle may be the true story and may bear closer scrutiny. Thoughts?


    1. We will have a lot more on the Gaels coming soon. As far as conference speculation, what I’d note is that Iona seems very comfortable in the MAAC and fits the league’s profile. Of course the same could’ve been said of Loyola (MD). Just not sure where the Gaels could go if they did leave MAAC.


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