Besides the FIU 6-7 senior forward averaging 17.1 points per game in Conference USA play (10th in CUSA), 8.3 rebounds in conference games (sixth) and put up another double-double (17 and 10) in FIU's not-that-close 79-69 win at UTEP Saturday.
What part of Los Angeles did you grow up in and how would you decribe it?
"I grew up in South Central. It's pretty tough in some ways. You learn a lot about being disciplined and what you want out of life.
Which part of South Central?
"I stay at 107th and Broadway, the east side of South Central."
What's on your pregame playlist?
"JCole. Kendrick Lamar."
What's something about you that surprises people who don't know you well?
"I like being around kids. I'm a people person, too."
What age kids?
"Probably 4, 5, 6. I've got a lot of nieces and nephews. I teach them basketball and stuff like that. They look up to me, so I interact with them a lot."
Playing on the playground or Nerfhoop, what player would you imagine you were? And when you were imagining you as you, what team would you be playing for?
"Growing up my favorite player was Kobe (Bryant), I looked up to Kobe, idolized Kobe." As for the team: "The Lakers."
Outside of your parents, who's the one person who believed in your basketball dream and goals?
"All my coaches throughout my life believed I could reach this point. I'd say my grandmother. She's been a big influence on me. She always believed I could make it to this point."
Favorite video game?
Now, when you play, do you always take the Lakers?
"Oh, naw, they're not that good. I play OKC."
FIU's still winless in Conference USA, 0-7 after Saturday's loss to conference leading UTEP 69-57. And that does show progress.
Playing a team with UTEP's 15-1 record and whatever stature being just outside the Top 25 gives you, the Panthers didn't quit after a 22-0 run buried them 22-3. Instead of giving UTEP a Saturday walk in the park -- er, gym -- FIU gave UTEP a full 40 minutes of work. The Panthers got the margin into single digits at 24-16, then kept playing the Miners on even enough terms that UTEP never could cruise.
A year ago, FIU got blasted by conference champion Western Kentucky twice by 39, to Middle Tennessee State by 49, to Marshall by 24, Louisiana Tech by 23. The players looked like they'd quit. One player said recently she felt the coaches quit on them.
First-year head coach Marlin Chinn's talent light, something he's hustling to remedy in recruiting. He also lost last year's CUSA Freshman of the Year, forward Kiandre'a Pound, to pregnancy and 5-10 Katrina Epnere to a knee injury after Epnere started the first three games. But whether it's the energy of a new staff, new players such as Tianah Alvarado and Kristian Hudson or just the roster finding some pride, FIU's taking the first step to getting off the carpet.
Acting like they want to do it.