I’d first like to thank Reese Mona for letting me use some of his time to let me interview him. Reese is going to be a senior next year at Maryland. He is known for his hard work and dedication to the game. Down below is my interview with Maryland guard, Reese Mona Without further ado, let’s get started with the interview!
Harry Goldstein: How much interest did you recieve coming out of high school?
Reese Mona: Pretty low interest overall from certain schools overall. My first and only offer was from Wagner College in New York. I figured my talent level could play at the Patriot League, so I was looking at a couple schools in there and no one was that interested in me. Then, I got a lot D II and D III schools like high academic schools. I was considering that for a while, but then once I reached out to coach Turgeon and Maryland they told me they had a spot for me as a perfered walk-on. I took that right away and I was extremely happy and excited for that.
Goldstein: Playing at a school like St.John’s, which is one of the best highschool basketball programs in the nation, did you ever feel pressure to perform at your highest level?
Mona: Definently, it’s such a great confrence and school that you are pushed every game with DeMatha, Paul VI, Gonzaga, and Bishop O’Connell. All of those schools have so many great players you go up against you had to bring it every night or else you would get it handed to you. You do feel the pressure performing night-in and night-out in that conference and playing with the players that I did. Like Anthony was my point guard for three years. Playing with players that push you, and you just don’t want to let your teamates or your team down.
Goldstein: Like you mentioned, you played in the WCAC. What was the atmosphere like?
Mona: It was awsome playing in those gyms. It’s kind of why I didn’t want to go to a smaller school because I didn’t think the atmosphere would be much better than those. Of course going to a big school like Maryland is better. Those student sections were awesome, they would fill the gyms. For games agaisnt DeMatha and Gonzaga, during the JV games the gym would already be sold out. It’s pretty awesome to experience. Not many highschool kids can say they expierenced that.
Goldstein: What was it like playing agaisnt Jalen Hands in high school?
Mona: I remeber that game. I was a Senior. It was in California. It was pretty cool to play agaisnt him. He was special. He’s very nifty, and smoothe. Overall, it was just a cool expierence. Just matching up against guys like that is extremely fun for me, and then seeing those guys succeed later in college and in the pros is fun to see.
Goldstein: Is there anyone you try to model your game after?
Mona: Not exactly because my role is like a scrappy player. I just embrace the role of being a hustle guy, diving on the floor, taking charges, and making open shots, and just bringing energy really.
Goldstein: How did you reach out to the Maryland coaching staff?
Mona: Originally, I had a realtionship with Coach Turgeon from the fact of how many players he recruited around me. He’d always be in the gym watching Ant during practice and games. During water breaks, I would walk up to him and say hello. We had small conversations, so he knew of me and knew me a little. I was a senior in high school and didn’t know where I would end up next year. My mom mentioned would you ever want to play for Maryland? I was like definitely and we thought of it.
My high school coach and I reached out to coach Turgeon and just let him know how serious, how interested I was, and how much I wanted to play for the University of Maryland. He responded and was all for it. He said it was a no brainer for someone like myself who works as hard as I do just to have on his team. It was special for him to say something like that about me.
Goldstein: What was it like to play with Anthony Cowan in high school and in college?
Mona: It was awsome. For me, just seeing him grow as a player and person was very cool. One thing I’ll say where he improved the most was being more of a vocal leader. Anthony is more of a shy person and a shy guy. On the court, he would go by his actions, but not as much with is words when he was younger, but just to seem grow as a leader and person was awesome for me. The kid is all about winning. Anthony is all about winning, trying to find a way to win, and you can see it. When he was the leader for his last two years in high school, his senior year, we won the WCAC championship. His senior year at Maryland we won a Big Ten championship. When he’s the leader and running the show, good things happen.
Goldstein: As you have progressed in college, Coach Turegon has been trusting you more by playing you in big games. What was it like to know he has trust in you by playing you against Seton Hall?
Mona: It’s cool to know coach Turgeon trusts me the way he does. He’ll tell me that in person. Before the game he told me he was going to play me. He just said go out there and do your thing, just have confidence in yourself because I have it in you. It’s cool that he has confidence and trusted me. To throw me in any game really when we need a spark or just when things aren’t going our way.
Goldstein: A lot of people don’t understand that walk-ons , like yourself, have to balance school and basketball. What’s that like for you?
Mona: It’s tough, it’s no joke. I will have to do homework on the bus and plane. I’ll have to download things before I get on the plane, so I can do them on the plane. You have to sacrifice many things like taking a nap or maybe seeing some friends. You really have to lock in to do homework, but it’s possible you have to be really good with time management and it’s something you learn more and more as a student athlete of the importance of managing your time and prioritizing what needs to be done.
Goldstein: What’s your favorite Big 10 arena to play in?
Mona: They’re all so awsome. My favorite is probably Michigan State. It’s so awsome. I would say Michigan State because of the atmosphere, but I mean most Big 10 arenas sell out which is pretty cool. But that one is so awesome. At Michigan State, if they make a run you can’t even talk. I couldn’t even talk to Travis or Andrew who were right next to me. It’s just so loud. It’s just a great arena because Izzo has been to six or more final fours, so they love him there and they praise the team. Winning there this year was special; that’s probably why.
Goldstein: You have played with some phenomenal teamates like Kevin Huerter and Anthony Cowan, but out of all your teammates who’s the one you didn’t want to be macthed up against in practice?
Mona: I would have to say Anthony is the hardest to guard because I don’t know many people who are quicker than he is. He’s the hardest to keep in front, so I would say he’s the hardest to guard. You never want to get stuck underneath with Bruno, it’s tough to box him out. Anthony is definently the hardest to guard, he’s the toughest to keep in front because he’s so quick.
Goldstein: What was it like to be apart of Maryland’s first ever Big 10 regular season championship team?
Mona: It’s really special. Ever since I’ve been there that’s something we talked about putting up a banner and to win the Big 10 championship. That was our goal all along, just to accomplish that is really special. It was just fun to go out like that. It was our last game of the year because of coronavirus. Just to go on top like that and for the seniors was really awesome.
Goldstein: How did it feel to score your first ever Division I basket?
Mona: Oh, it was awesome. My parents were there. I was waiting to get that first bucket to just to get it out of the way. You don’t want to be scoreless. It was just cool and too see the way my teammates reacted just shows the bond we all have and how we all support each other. We cheer for them the whole game, and when we go in there, we’re always more excited which is awesome. They’re always more excited when we score then when they do. I scored against Ohio my Freshman year.
Goldstein: What was the teams approach coming into the Big 10 tournament had there been one?
Mona: This year, it was to put the regular season behind us and move forward. We wanted to catch a groove and win the tournament. We came in that day for practice locked in and ready to make one another better because we were improving and we were going to peak in the NCAA tournament and the Big 10 tournament.
Goldstein: Do you guys think you would have won the Big 10 tournament?
Mona: I believe it, for sure. It would have been an awesome tournament. There would have been so many good teams there.
Goldstein: How did you guys react when the Big 10 and NCAA tournament were cancled after you guys had such a great season?
Mona: It was devastating. We had a meeting that morning, and we found out the Big 10 tournament was cancled. Then, coach Turgeon said we could have the day off. He said the next day we will come back to prepare for the NCAA tournament.
Later that day we found out the NCAA tournament was cancled. He sends us a long text and tells us to meet tomorrow. We come into the locker room and everyone is upset. Coach Turgeon gave us an emotional talk. He shouts out all the senoirs and Jalen because “Sticks” is going to the NBA. Then, he thanked and commented every player. It was pretty cool. We talked about our year, the big games, and how many comeback wins we had. We talked about how special this team was. Right now it hurts and is upsetting that we don’t get to play in the NCAA tournament, but we got to share the regular season title which is special for all of us.
Goldstein: Have you and coach Turgeon talked about your goals for the team next season?
Mona: Oh yeah, but not to much becuase we are waiting for everyone to get on campus. We have talked about defending our Big 10 title for next season. They send us workouts to do on our own. The goal is to defend our title.
Goldstein: What would you like to accomplish by next year?
Mona: Me, myself, I would like to become more of a leader. I’ll be a senior. I want to be a teammate who other teamates can talk to if they have a problem. I really just want to become more of a leader. As a team, just to win another Big 10 title. I feel like a lot of people are doubting us this year, and for our team to come together and fight through adversity we face this year will be fun. Honestly, I want to go to a final four.
Goldstein: What was it like to play in an NCAA tournament?
Mona: It was the best week of my life. All the emotions that go into the tournament, and for us to have such a great first game. Belmont, was a really good team. It’s not a team you want to play in the first round because they can shoot the ball and they are just well coached. They are a great team. For us, to have a great game and the way we finished the game was great. Jalen’s dunk was awsome. To celebrate that victory and two days later we have to play LSU;even though, it was a heartbreaking game there was just so much passion in that game, in the locker room, and the week there was so much excitement. It was such a special week.
Goldstein: Would you say your role next season is to become more of a leader?
Mona: Absolutely. Darryl will proably become our main leader. We don’t announce leaders, but for me it will be my fourth year to step and be more of a leader vocally and continue to push guys and make them better.
Goldstein: What have you been doing to stay ready for next season?
Mona: As much basketball and court as we can get in, and doing all the lifts that our strength coach, Kyle Tarp, has been giving us. It’s three days a week. We do those lifts, and other work I can get in. Overall, just doing the structured Maryland lifts.
Goldstein: What has it been like to play at such a prestigeous program like Maryland and for coach Turgeon?
Mona: It’s awesome. Just walking into that gym and the locker room everyday and the Xfinity center is special. Especially me, I grew up in Maryland and being a Maryland fan, and it’s such a great program having a national championship and having another final four. It’s really cool to be apart of that. To look back later in life and be a Terrapin, a Maryland fan, and a grad who played under coach Turgeon and to play under the Maryland basketball program is special. That means a lot to me.
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