Cougar of the Week: 02/05

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Cougar of the Week: 02/05

Photo by Jonathan Edelman

Photo by Jonathan Edelman

Photo by Jonathan Edelman

Photo by Jonathan Edelman

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Photo by Jonathan Edelman

Photo by Jonathan Edelman

David Mercier (’17) of Milford had his starting center spot in question in the beginning of the year with the arrival of Monmouth University transfer student and former Division I athlete Vuk Baletic (’17). However, Mercier has retained his spot, and has shown great improvement this season. Averaging 10.2 points on 49.7 percent shooting and 6.0 rebounds, this Milford man has been seen and heard throughout the NEWMAC this season. He spent some time with THE SCARLET to talk about his improvement in play, how the season is going, and playing alongside his high school teammate Joe Atkinson (’17).

Scarlet: Your point totals, rebounding totals, and field goal percentage have all gone up from last season. What has been different about this year in that regard?

Mercier: I think the experience that I got last year is making a huge difference, and I think some of the work I’ve put in during the offseason, during the summer and everything is really making a difference too.

Scarlet: What did you work on most during the offseason?

Mercier: Mostly just trying to gain weight. I came in last year, and it was a shock to see how big all these guys were, and playing with guys that are around your height but just a lot stronger than you are. And adding the weight I did has helped, especially down in the post area.

Scarlet: Have you changed your mental approach at all?

Mercier: I think I’m starting to realize that I just gotta have fun. If I take things too seriously, I don’t enjoy it as much, and having fun is the most important part.

Scarlet: I understand that transfer student Vuk Baletic plays your position. Did that push you a little more to keep your starting spot?

Mercier: Yeah, I guess you could say that it pushed me a little more because I definitely want to play. But getting a kid like Vuk is only going to help our team, and that’s the overall goal: to just win and be good as a team.

Scarlet: Did you feel that motivation to keep your spot early in the season? I understand you scored 23 points against Fitchburg State in the first game and followed it up with 16 against Wentworth Institute of Technology.

Mercier: I did not come into the season thinking I was gonna score as much as I had, but when the game’s just going, and it’s flowing, you don’t even realize what’s going on. It’s more of, maybe not me scoring individually, but it’s the group that’s making plays, and it just happened to be me [who scored].

Scarlet: What do you think has led to your teammates finding you more often? Your field goal attempts have pretty much doubled from last season.

Mercier: Well, I think just playing a year together. We lost two seniors from last year, but overall, we’ve had the same group, and playing together has really helped, and we’ve learned how each one of us plays, so it’s easier on the floor.

Scarlet: I saw MIT had a 7’3 player. How have you dealt with the physicality of opposing teams better than last season?

Mercier: Well, especially with MIT, they’re big across the board, and I never really played against kids that were taller than me before, ever. But, having Vuk around is definitely helping myself because I get to play against a kid who’s taller than me, who’s stronger than me, and it’s just pushing me to get ready for game situations when that’s gonna happen.

Scarlet: Do you feel like you’re more prepared for that physicality before games?

Mercier: Yeah, I would say I’m pretty prepared. I would say the group as a whole is pretty prepared for every game.

Scarlet: How would you assess the talent of this year’s team compared to last year?

Mercier: Talent wise, I think we’re about the same as where we were last year. It’s more of us having the experience and knowing how to play against these teams. I know at this point, as a group we all feel like we should be better off record-wise than we are. We’ve played hard in one half it seems almost every game. We haven’t really put a whole game together yet, which is frustrating.

Scarlet: How do you feel personally compared to this time last year?

Mercier: I’m more frustrated this year, because I feel like as a team, we can be better than our record is. And last year, a lot of guys were young. You don’t know what you’re getting yourself into, and this year, we knew what our league was going to be like, and feel as though we should be better.

Scarlet: So last year it was hard to get frustrated when you didn’t know what to expect?

Mercier: Right, and now we have expectations, and we’re not falling short, I don’t want to say that. But personally, I think we should be better off than we are.

Scarlet: What has the team done well so far?

Mercier: I think we’ve actually played defense really well this year. We go through spells offensively where we can’t score, and it’s kind of put more pressure on our defense, and then when we come down to the other end of the floor, it’s take any shot we can get, which isn’t always the best idea. But when you’re stressing on offense to get a bucket, it’s kind of tough.

Scarlet: What aspects have the team looked to improve on other than offensive dry spells?

Mercier: That is our biggest problem, but other than that, I feel like…

Scarlet: Maybe that’s the significant one?

Mercier: It is the main one. Other things, I can’t think of right now. I’m just focused so hard on our offensive troubles.

Scarlet: What has the team been doing in practice to try and remedy this?

Mercier: Today we actually had a really good practice. We’re getting at each other, which is good. When you play with the same kids, you know how they play. It’s just not translating to games.

Scarlet: In what ways did you get at each other?

Mercier: Our intensity in practice, I’ve just never seen it. We’re so intense at practice, and we get chippy at times, we get frustrated at each other, but we’re all a family and we know that. It’s still fun.

Scarlet: Are you sensing that people are more vocal with what they want from each other than on your first year on the team?

Mercier: I know especially with the younger kids, we didn’t really say much last year. It was more of we tried to listen and soak in as much as we could, and now we see things and, we’ll speak our mind sometimes. And the older kids know that sometimes we have an idea of what we’re talking about, and I think overall it’s good for us that we can be honest with each other about what we see and how we feel about what’s going on, and it’s only gonna help us.

Scarlet: I understand that associate head coach Steve Manguso was your head coach in high school. What is it like to see his role change?

Mercier: It’s been completely different. In Milford, he was the head coach so he’d have all the say. At games, he would be just as animated as Coach Phillips on the sidelines. But seeing him sitting down and being quiet at times is just different. But having him here has made the transition a lot earlier.

Scarlet: It must also help to play alongside your high school teammate Joe Atkinson at Clark. He has flourished in the starting point guard role this year.

Mercier: Yeah. The thing is with Joe, he’s always looking to pass, which in a point guard is what you want. But there are times he just passes up open shots that it frustrates me because he can make shots and all that, he just doesn’t take them. I don’t know if it’s a confidence thing or what, but he’s definitely playing at a different level this year.

Scarlet: Do you think he’s being more aggressive with his shot this year?

Mercier: Yes. At times, he’ll take open shots, but other times he’ll revert back to what he’s always done, which is pass first.

Scarlet: It worked for your team in high school, though (Editor’s Note: Atkinson and Mercier led Milford High to the Central Mass. district title in 2013).

Mercier: Yeah [laughs]. It did. It really did.