Paul Hewitt talks future of Mason Basketball

Head coach Paul Hewitt held a meet and greet with members of Mason's Patriot Platoon Tuesday evening to discuss men's basketball news and the future of the program. (Jake McLernon).

Head coach Paul Hewitt has been busy over the past two weeks. So far he has had 1-on-1 meetings with all of his players, met most of their families, contacted the incoming recruits and perhaps added an additional recruit, and has brought in two new assistant coaches.

A rumor recently surfaced that Erik Copes backed out of his commitment to George Washington to come to George Mason. Copes is a 6’9’’ center who first committed to GW because Roland Houston, who was an assistant there at the time, is his uncle.

“I can tell you we are recruiting a 6’9’’ player from Philadelphia named Erik Copes, that’s what I can tell you,” Hewitt said.

Houston’s hiring at Mason was announced Monday, sparking the rumors that Copes would follow his uncle to Fairfax. Hewitt was unable to say if Copes was coming for sure.

Houston, who is Hewitt’s second assistant to be added to the team, spent the last seven years as an assistant at GW. Hewitt likes the fact that Houston has been in the Washington, D.C. area for a while and is familiar with the region.

Prior to Houston, Hewitt brought in Chris Kreider, who spent two years as an assistant under Hewitt at Georgia Tech and his last two years as an assistant at Georgia Southern. Both Kreider and Houston have worked with “bigs” in the past, so Hewitt hopes to add one more assistant coach to his bench who can work with guards before next season.

According to Hewitt, it is vital to have assistants that are able to communicate with international players.

“Chris is bilingual and Roland is trilingual,” Hewitt said.

Krieder is fluent in English and Spanish. Houston, a former overseas player, is fluent in English, Spanish and French and also speaks some Hebrew.

“Yes, we are definitely going to recruit oversees,” Hewitt said.

Hewitt will be coaching the USA Under-19 team this summer in the World Championships in Europe, beginning with the trials on June 17. The competition officially begins June 30 in Latvia.

“I’ll have some free days over there and I’ve already got a couple appointments set up with people who can help us identify talent,” Hewitt said.

Although he will be spending time in Europe, he plans on remaining in close contact with his Mason players all summer. He has already begun texting and emailing his players on a daily basis and hopes to continue building closer relationships.

“It’s important for me that they get to know me, so that when I am away, they’ll know,” Hewitt said.

Not only is Hewitt focused on getting to know his new players, he also deems it necessary to meet their families. He believes this will go a long way in developing team chemistry.

“One of the things Coach Kreider and I did the first week was to get out and meet all the parents,” Hewitt said. “Actually I’ve got two more stops to make.”

On Tuesday, Hewitt will be flying to Tampa, Fla. to meet Mike Morrison’s mom, followed by a trip to Dallas to meet Vetrail Vaughns’ family.

Despite Hewitt’s efforts to reach out to all of his new players and their families, Luke Hancock’s future with the program remains uncertain. According to Hewitt, Hancock was ready to be out the door when Larranaga announced he was leaving and Hewitt was hired. However, Hancock has gradually begun to consider staying.

“I’ve got a way of growing on people, and I think I’m starting to grow on him,” Hewitt said.

Based on his breakout performance against Villanova during the NCAA Tournament, Hewitt says Hancock is expected to be one of the best players in the country, meaning there are opportunities for him to transfer if he chooses.

“He’s a great player and he’s become the face of this program, he really has, I mean making that shot against Villanova has put him on a whole different level,” Hewitt said.

Hewitt and Hancock met for dinner Tuesday night to further discuss the situation, but it remains unclear.

“I can’t tell you what he’s gonna’ do,” Hewitt said. “We’re trying very hard to make sure he understands that he’s wanted here and that we want him to be a part of the program.”

Hancock was not the only player to instantly want out when Larranaga departed. Freshman forward Jonathan Arledge was also ready to transfer, but he has since reconsidered.

“Jon, I guess after about the first week, decided he was gonna’ stay,” Hewitt said. “He’s got a chance to be a real prime player for us.”

Hewitt is looking forward to the upcoming season, and believes the team is ready for success. Although the team is projected to be in the Top 25 to open the season, he said they would not overlook any opponent.

“I like the fact that these guys have experienced winning and know what winning is all about,” he said.

Not only does Hewitt like what he sees on the court, but he is also excited about the support and fan base he has found in Fairfax for the Patriots. He met with members of the Patriot Platoon Tuesday night prior to his dinner with Hancock just to talk basketball.

He promised the Platoon members that he would have a cookout at his house at the end of the season for the students who make the first-team, meaning they attended the most games during the year.

“Because I really do appreciate student support at our games, I appreciate it as a coach, our players I know are gonna’ appreciate it, and we got to keep this thing going.”

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