Damian Arsenis takes a timeout with Bryant University's standout South Australian senior guard Corey Maynard.
After a dominant performance at the U20 Australian Junior Championships (AJC) in which he was awarded the Bob Staunton Medal as Most Valuable Player (an award previously won by NBA players Andrew Bogut and Patty Mills), 6’3” point guard Corey Maynard has played an integral role in the revitalisation of the Bryant Bulldogs' college basketball program.
Maynard controlling the tempo for Bryant - Courtesy Torrey Vail via Bryant University Athletics
Set to graduate after the 2013/14 season with a major in Management and a minor in Sociology, Maynard has been a consistent, steady force since his sophomore year when he averaged 11.4 points, 4.8 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game. As a senior through his first 13 games, Maynard is averaging 10.7 points, 4.5 rebounds and 5.1 assists per game, with season high outputs of 22 points against Navy and 8 rebounds with 10 assists versus Vermont so far.
Maynard is a versatile all-round guard who can run the show but also score when needed. With a tough and physical on-court presence, he can play lock-down defence and rebounds exceptionally well for his size and position. He has a bright future ahead of him both for this season with Bryant and also once he graduates ahead of turning professional. One could say that Maynard is in fact a bulldog not just by team, but also by nature.
The Pick and Roll's exclusive interview with: Corey Maynard
Damian: You represented South Australia in the AJC, however I believe you played most of your basketball in growing up in Melbourne. Is that right?
Corey: I was actually born in Adelaide (South Australia) but my family moved to Melbourne (Victoria) when I was just in grade 2. I then lived in Melbourne up to Year 10 and played most of my junior basketball with the McKinnon Basketball Association. My family then moved back to Adelaide when I was in Year 10 where I then played for Sturt at U18 and U20 level followed by 2 years with Sturt in the Australian Basketball Association (ABA). When I headed to college, my family moved back to Melbourne. Adelaide is where most of my close friends are and my Dad still works there and commutes back and forth to Melbourne.
Damian: I believe that you have an extensive Australian Rules football (AFL) background within your family as well?
Corey: Actually, AFL was my number one sport growing up in Melbourne. I played football all the way through until I moved back to Adelaide. I actually played in the TAC Cup after being picked up by the Sandringham Dragons. However when I moved back to Adelaide I grew out of football after I started enjoying some success with basketball. I ended up choosing hoops over football as I enjoyed it more and ended up doing very well at junior level. I went on to represent South Australia Metro at the U20 AJC and we were leading the title favourites Victoria Metro by as many as 20 points in the gold medal game. Victoria Metro were loaded with talent, featuring Anthony Drmic, Igor Hadziomerovic (both at Boise State), Chris Patton (UC-Riverside) and a number of others. We also had a pretty good team that included Peter Hooley (Albany), however in the end we choked. Most of the standout guys from that are now all over here in college also.
Damian: That’s a lot of talented names you have mentioned there. So how did you end up at Bryant? Most Australians back home would have no idea about Bryant, whether they had a basketball team or even where they are located.
Corey: The school is actually located in Rhode Island and is a really good business school. Claybrin McMath who is a red-shirt senior also happens to be one of my best mates from Adelaide in playing with Sturt even though he is 1 year older than me. He red-shirted his sophomore year due to a knee injury and as a result we will now graduate together. As a good mate would, he put in a good word about me with the coaches, so they invited me over.
I had around 10 schools to choose from as a result of my good performances at the Australian Junior Championships, including Oral Roberts, Gardner-Webb, Wichita State and Portland to name just a few. Essentially I was keen to attend a school where there was already an Aussie I knew whilst I also was keen on studying management. I visited Bryant with my mother first, and had planned to visit other schools as well, but once at Bryant it just seemed to fit every category I wanted to fill and right there and then I decided to tell the other schools I was no longer interested.
Bryant was nobody on the college basketball landscape at the time I committed. The team was really bad, going 1-29 in the season immediately prior to my arrival. Whilst as a freshman the team was better than that, the following year we only won two games all season. For me personally, when healthy, I was dealing with the lack of team success alright as I was playing with confidence and doing quite well in averaging around 13 points per game. I had a 22 point and 8 rebound performance against Arizona that year, but the very next day I rolled my ankle badly and ended up missing pretty much the rest of the year. Sitting back and watching the team struggle was painful; we just could not score.
As a team we slowly improved and came together in my junior year. Really, last year was amazing in comparison to my sophomore year! We already had a really talented rookie the previous year returning, and the team had gained some experience. Our scoring issues were addressed and we can now compete with some of the best teams going around.
Maynard gets to the rim against North Dakota State - Courtesy Tom O’Brien via Bryant University Athletics
Damian: This year it seems like it is all coming together.
Corey: Yeah definitely – we have got it all together and kept rolling.
Damian: So now into your 4th and final year of college, Bryant is now towards the top of the Northeast Conference ahead of conference play. How does that sit with you?
Corey: I believe that we had the number 1 out of conference schedule in America, so we have done really, really well. We opened against Gonzaga but we also played Harvard, Notre Dame, Ohio State and South Dakota State. Take out these losses to great teams, and we are 7-2.
To put our success as a team into perspective, when I first arrived I remember playing against a Division III school in my freshman year and there were just 22 spectators there including the scorers! Our gym holds up to 3,000 people, and we would only get 500 or so people to conference games. Now that the team is successful on the court, we regularly turn away around 500 people as we are sold out! The team was really bad the year before I arrived; that’s kind of why I committed to Bryant too. I knew I could land at a mid-major school, but I didn’t want to just float around and go to a perennial mediocre school. I wanted to attend a school that wanted to improve and go from being terrible (which Bryant was) to develop into a very good team, and not just sit somewhere in between. I knew I could help the team, but it would also help me as an individual in being a person that was able to help turn the program around. I knew I was not going to be the only one to turn it all around, but I wanted the challenge to contribute towards that.
Damian: That sounds like a brave move that is now paying off! With the early season success, what are the expectations for the season ahead for both the team and yourself?
Corey: We are definitely still adjusting to the being the hunted as opposed to doing the hunting! We want to win the NEC and head to the NCAA tournament. Anything short of that will be considered a disappointment for the team, but also for me personally.
Individually, I always thought it would be nice to score 1,000 points over my career; however I made it hard for myself due to missing 15 games in my sophomore year. I have been an honourable mention NEC twice so far in my career, so maybe it would be a nice finish to make an all-conference team by the end of the year. However I would not stress about it as I have never been one to worry about any such awards.
Really, the overall aim is to just continually improve, both individually but also the team. If we do that, then good things should happen.
Damian: ESPN has Bryant pencilled in in their NCAA tournament bracket as NEC champions right now, so here’s hoping that Bryant can in fact go all the way. What would you consider your strengths and the areas you need to focus on improving? Who does your game most resemble as a comparison?
Corey: Leadership and toughness are definite strengths of mine. I also have an ability to defend all guard position from 1 through to 3, and a general ability to just make my team mates better. I do however need to keep working on developing a consistent three-point shot. However I guess you can say I’m a jack of all trades and a master of none!
In the National Basketball League (NBL) I think I would be comparable to Adam Gibson, whilst in the NBA I would like to think I am somewhat similar to Chauncey Billups. Billup’s big shot-making capability is something I like to pride myself on. Both players are both pretty big and solid guys who have a strong defence presence on the court too. I would like to think that we all have a similar ability to influence a game without really having to score the basketball.
Maynard pushes the tempo against North Dakota State - Courtesy Tom O’Brien via Bryant University Athletics
Damian: Your statistical performances over the past 3 years have been pretty consistent; averaging around 10 points and 4.5 rebounds per game and shooting at around 45% - but I noticed your assists are up this season so far around 5 per game. Help me understand your role on the team . . .
Corey: We had a senior point guard last year who was really good and is now assistant coach with us this year. We both shared the point guard role over the last 2 years, but this year the responsibility of running the team is entirely mine. I am enjoying that a lot more as that is my natural position. I enjoy having the ball in my hands and that is one reason why my assists are up this year.
Damian: First there was McMath, then you, and now a host of freshman including Bosko Kostur and Declan Soukup – 4 Aussies on the roster this season! Is Bryant trying to emulate the success of Saint Mary’s College in tapping Australian talent?
Corey: I think that a lot of schools are trying to emulate the success that Saint Mary’s College have enjoyed in the past in recruiting talented Australians. It is so hard to win over here and it is very competitive. Teams are always looking for an edge and we Aussies are viewed as an appealing bunch as we put our head down and work hard and generally don’t come with any egos in tow. The Aussies before me have left a legacy behind and hence why colleges are looking at harnessing that connection with Australia and our talented players.
Four Aussie Bulldogs: Declan Soukup, Claybrin McMath, Corey Maynard and Bosko Kostur - Courtesy Bryant University Athletics
Damian: You also recently had the rare chance to play at the infamous Madison Square Garden in New York, a game that went to overtime again Delaware. How was that experience?
Corey: While it was disappointing to lose what was such a great game, it was the best thing I have ever done. I have played on a few junior Australian teams, gone on overseas tours, and last season we opened at #1 Indiana at Assembly Hall. However playing at Madison Square Garden was the best experience I have ever had in playing hoops. It was just so surreal, looking around and seeing all the seats, all the people, the retired NBA jerseys in the rafters. I didn’t think that anyone such as me, from a place called McKinnon could ever do that. Just standing around and looking at the ‘Jumbotron’ it really did feel like it was a dream.
Damian: So, where to next for Corey Maynard? Are you going to stick with hoops and look to go professional, and if so, where do you see your options?
Corey: Playing basketball professionally is definitely the next step I would like to take. I’d love to land in the NBL back home in Australia or in a nice country in Europe. I understand it may be hard to land in a league high in stature straight away over in Europe, but Spain or Germany would be very nice if it could be arranged. Having said that, I have been away from home for quite some time, so playing in the NBL would be quite nice. To live back in Australia would be awesome, and playing for the Melbourne Tigers, a second Melbourne team or for the Adelaide 36ers would for me be a dream come true.
Damian: And we hope that success does come for you and the rest of the team this season. However it would be nice to see you play back home in Australia at some stage.
Corey: Either way, if it is at home or in Europe, I will be doing something I love.
Damian: Thanks Corey. I really appreciate your time and on behalf of the Pick and Roll team, we wish you the best of luck for the rest of the season ahead.
Corey: Thanks Damian, really appreciate it and I look forward to catching up again soon.
A select number of Bryant's games featuring Australian's Maynard, McMath, Kostur and Soukup can be watched live online for free via NEC Front Row.
You can follow Corey Maynard on Twitter: @coreysw1sh