Jahlil Tripp, a junior forward from Brooklyn, recently spoke with me after yesterday’s practice in Stockton. Tripp is averaging 10.9 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 2.9 APG, and 1.7 SPG while shooting 51.3% from the field. He leads the Tigers in rebounds, assists, steals, and field goal percentage. Pacific (13-16, 3-11) was off to a good start to the season with a 10-5 record after preseason play but has had trouble with the teams in the West Coast Conference. The only wins they were able to grab came against Portland (twice) and Pepperdine. I talked with Jahlil about this season’s struggle as well as what he has learned from his head coach and 14-year NBA veteran, Damon Stoudamire.
Arden Cravalho: Hey Jahlil, your team has been in a slump recently dropping five games in a row (@ Saint Mary’s, @ BYU, @ Santa Clara, Saint Mary’s, LMU). What has been going wrong for the Tigers in that stretch?
Jahlil Tripp: Most of it’s due to self-inflicted wounds. We haven’t been sticking to the game plan and had trouble executing down the late-stretch. Our team needs to be playing hard the entire game.
AC: Which team in the WCC you have played this season has been the toughest for you? Which player has given you the most trouble?
JT: Gonzaga. They are at the top of the league every year and they always have a loaded roster. As for the player, Jordan Ford lit us up both games we played against the Gaels. He definitely has given us the most trouble for sure.
AC: Pacific lost the first matchup at Gonzaga, 67-36, all the way back in the beginning of January. What went wrong in that game and what needs to be different in the upcoming matchup against the Bulldogs?
JT: I actually got out of the game with two quick fouls so I had to sit for a while. I remember also that we were tied with Gonzaga for the first ten minutes of the game but we got out of sync and just let it get away from us. We just need to stick to the game plan and we’ll be fine.
AC: You are one of the more versatile players in the WCC. Can you describe your game to those Gonzaga fans who may not know your playing style?
JT: I’m a player that can do it all. I can play the point, shooting guard, even the 3 or the 4. I can guard multiple positions. I can grab a rebound and quickly run the break. I try to get my teammates involved and I can be a playmaker too. When my team needs a quick score, I can get that bucket. Like you said, my game is very versatile and that is needed in order to make it to the next level. I’m not just a one-dimensional type of basketball player and I’ve been like that my whole life.
AC: You mentioned making it to the next level. Damon Stoudamire (1995 PAC-10 Player of the Year and 1996 NBA Rookie of the Year) has a lot of experience as both a player and a coach on all different levels of competition. What has been the important thing he has taught you as your head coach at Pacific?
JT: How to carry yourself. If you get to the next level, you got to be focused 100% of the time and can’t take a second off. Know your role and hone your talent with continuous practice.
AC: Pacific is returning 9 players for next season who played serious minutes this season. What does the future of the Tigers look like?
JT: We have a young group with a lot of talent so our future is looking good. We’re going to use that to our advantage because not a lot of teams are in the position that we are in with all of our returning players. Also, we added a couple of pieces for next season with new recruits coming in (Johnathan Salazar and Isaiah Hawthorne). We didn’t have a great regular season this year but our team is going to continue to get better and make strides in the West Coast Conference.
Thanks to Jah for talking with me before his Pacific Tigers welcome the #1 team in the country, the Gonzaga Bulldogs (27-2, 14-0). Gonzaga is looking for their 19th straight win. It should be a packed house at the Alex G. Spanos Center in Stockton.
*Arden Cravalho is a senior at Gonzaga University... Follow him on Twitter @a_cravalho