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June 16, 2010

Green looks to build on early success

There are adjustments that each new player at the division one level must make in order to succeed. Adapting to the level of competition and learning new offensive & defensive sets are the norm but another factor must also be considered: the crowd. Most players have never played in front of thousands of people at one time and it was a new thrill that Derrio Green experienced last season for the first time.

Green came to Charlotte as a sophomore transfer after spending one season at Gulf Coast Community College in Florida. Playing in front of large crowds was something Green was unaccustomed to - until his first exhibition game as a Niner when they played against cross-town school Johnson C. Smith which attracted a boisterous 7422 people.

Some of those nerves were exhibited in that game by the soft spoken but confident Green when he missed an easy lay-up off of a steal. "It was a big change," said Green on playing in front of large crowds. "I had to get use to all those fans out there going crazy but after you knock the first shot down or make a defensive play and the crowd goes crazy you kind of get use to it and then you start to like it every night. You want them out there to pack the house."

After some early season struggles from the field Green had his breakout game against one of the largest crowds - if not the largest - he had ever played in front of and it came in one of college basketball's most historic venues to say the least.

Green torched the nationally ranked Louisville Cardinals and the 19221 fans in attendance at historic Freedom Hall. He hit three 3-pointers in a row early and hit his fourth as the first half was ending as the Niners were on their way to giving Rick Pitino his worst home loss ever as Louisville head coach.

At the time Green scored a career high 20 points in the Niners 87-65 victory.

"The Louisville game was big for my confidence," said Green. "They were a top 25 team and it's Louisville, so you always want to play good. Once you have a good game against a team like that you know you can play with anybody in the nation so that was a big confidence boost for me."

Over the next four games Green cooled off a bit as he didn't score in double-figures one time. However he got the flow going again in a win against Mercer as he topped his previous career high with a 23 point outing. He topped it again four days later with 31 points in a loss to Georgia Tech.

Those two performances garnered Green his first Atlantic 10 Player of the Week award.

The Mercer game began a streak of 10 games in a row where Green scored in double figures. In the last three games of that stretch - all Niner victories - Green scored 20 at La Salle, 26 at home over No. 15 Temple, and a new career high of 34 points at Massachusetts.

Green nailed eight 3-pointers at UMass, which was a single game high in Atlantic 10 play last season that was matched by Chris Matthews of St. Bonaventure and Ricky Harris of UMass. His 34 point effort was the highest single game scoring performance in the Atlantic 10 last season. Bill Clark of Duquesne matched Green's output two weeks later in a contest versus La Salle.

He was named Atlantic 10 Player of the Week for the second time after his performances against Temple and UMass.

"It's kind of indescribable," Green said of being on a hot streak. "The shots are going in. Your teammates are confident in you. The coach calls plays for you [and is] getting you the ball. The fans are behind you so all that together helps and it makes the game a whole lot easier than what it is."

He only scored seven points against George Washington but Green hit a big 3-pointer late in the second half to help the Niners win that game. He followed it up with a 24 point performance at Fordham where he torched the Rams in the second half by scoring 18 of the Niners last 23 points in that contest.

His play was critical in getting the Niners off to an 18-5 start. However things stopped rolling for Green and the Niners as they won just one of their last eight games. In that stretch Green only scored more than 20 points once and that came in a home loss against Xavier.

"It's kind of a bad feeling," said Green on going from a hot to cold streak. "I personally felt like I was letting down the team and the fans of Charlotte because I guess they kind of got use to me scoring. Teams were doing different things [against me] like box and one and stuff like that."

The wheels fell off the bus in the first round of the A10 Tournament where the Niners lost to UMass. A visibly frustrated Green scored two points while hitting just one of his seven shots.

"Your ultimate goal is to go to the tournament and we fell short," said Green. "At one time we were solidly in the tournament and I felt like we let a lot of people down."

The collapse resulted in a coaching change as Bobby Lutz was let go after 12 seasons as the head man of the Niners.

"It was a very difficult day," said Green. "It came as a shock. We had just had a meeting with them the day before and we were preparing for the summer and then the news broke that he got fired. It really hurt because you come to play for a school but a lot of people that play sports know you come for the coach because he is the one who is going to let you play and he knows what you can do. It really hurt because I did come to play for Coach Lutz. He's a great coach. I still miss him."

After a three week coaching search Alan Major was named the ninth head coach in Charlotte history on April 12. Another transition period was in store for Green and his teammates with the new coaching staff but things are sailing smoothly according to Green.

"Honestly it's been a pretty easy transition," said Green. "He (Coach Major) came in [and] he established relationships with the players and got to know us on a personal basis even before the basketball was talked about. That kind of helped out. The whole transition has just been easy. It's a totally different way of coaching and going about things but I think the players and the coaches have made the adjustment."

Coach Major introduced Green and the rest of his Niner teammates to that new style during the workouts that were held before the spring semester ended.

"It was probably the hardest two weeks of my basketball career," said Green. "It was very intense. He's very hands-on. He's not going to let you slack. He's going to make you better. In those two weeks that he was able train us and coach us I felt like I got a lot better as a player. I think a lot of the players got better and we got better as a team."

Green has been working on his ball handling and a variety of other things since the season ended.

"I've been working on trying to run the point but I don't think I'll run the point as much this year with Deuce (Jamar Briscoe) and Luka (Voncina) coming in but coach still wants me just in case," said Green. "He said he likes to have two and half point guards so I'm obviously the half. [I'm working on] that and being more solid on defense and just talking and communicating because I think that could have solved a lot of our problems last year [by] just being vocal on the court."

In his first season at the division one level Green averaged 13.1 points and 2.3 assists per game. He led the team with 79 made 3-pointers and 46 steals. He shot 36.5 percent from the field and 31.3 percent from distance.

Perhaps what was more impressive was that Green averaged 15.1 points and 2.8 assists per game in conference play. He tied for ninth in the league in steals (25) and ranked third in 3-pointers made with 44. He increased his shooting percentage to 37.9 percent while he shot 31.7 percent from distance.

One thing that has Green excited for next season is the addition of aforementioned Jamar "Deuce" Briscoe. Briscoe is known as a point guard with a scorer's mentality and his offensive skill-set should offset some of the Niners shortcomings on offense last season.

"I think it's going to help us tremendously on the offensive end," said Green. "It all starts with Shamari Spears. Teams won't be able to double team him from the point guard position and also they won't be able to double from the wing position because An'Juan, Gokhan and Javarris have been really working on their shooting. So that's going to take a lot of pressure off Shamari and the other big's which is going to help us out. As far as me teams won't be able to box-and-one me because we'll have shooters everywhere. People will see what Deuce can do."

Armed with that roster Green thinks highly of his team next season despite having two spots to fill still for the 2010 class.

"I think we have a really good team," said Green. "I think in my mind we have a tournament team and an A10 Championship team. Coach Major is going to come in and tweak some stuff. He's going to get us on the defensive end which is going to equate to more wins and I think the people in Niner Nation will be real happy with what they see on the floor this year."

Until practice rolls around in October Green will finish up first and second summer session while continuing to get better. He also has been watching the NBA Playoffs - although his Orlando Magic were eliminated he still stands behind his team. He even offered a prediction for Thursday night's game seven between Los Angeles and Boston.

"LA Lakers," Green said with brisk confidence.

He also had one more thing he wanted to leave with the Niner fans.

"Thanks for the support last year and we hope to see more of you all out there this year. We're going to make you all proud this year."


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