Note: This interview was recorded after Rhode Island’s final game in the Cayman Islands on the afternoon of Wednesday, November 23, 2022.
Rhode Island traveled to Grand Cayman on the front shoulder of the Thanksgiving holiday to participate in the Cayman Islands Classic in a field also including LSU, Kansas State, Akron, Western Kentucky, Illinois State, Nevada, and Tulane. For the Rams and 6-7 freshman Louis Hutchinson the tournament offered a unique experience to travel internationally, strengthen relationships, and test individual and team development against stiffer competition from what Rhode Island faced in its first three games. We caught up for a conversation on the Marriott Beach Resort grounds following Rhode Island’s win against Illinois State.
Chris DiSano: If you would’ve asked me a year ago if I’d be sitting on the island of Grand Cayman gazing out at the Caribbean with Louis Hutchinson, I would’ve said “absolutely not,” (both laughing) but here we are on Wednesday afternoon before Thanksgiving. It’s been a good trip out here in many respects. What are your impressions of this trip overall?
Louis Hutchinson: I think it was definitely needed. An opportunity for us as a team to grow and connect, not just on the floor but off the floor. Be around each other more, do things around each other more… get a feel about aspects of guys that you may not have known before. Being able to be around each other in an environment where there isn’t class and different obligations that are in the way. This allowed us to take a deep breathe and all just come together.
CD: What is one takeaway about a teammate(s) you learned that you didn’t know before?
LH: More guys that can’t swim than I thought (laughs). That’s one thing. Some of the guys’ senses of humor, the types of foods they like to eat, what they like to do in their free time – little stuff like that. Especially with a team where eight guys are new, five return, and a whole new coaching staff. So being able to have this opportunity is nice and is going to benefit us as the year goes on.
CD: You all finished 1-2 on this trip, but the most important being the last one which helps make the plane ride shorter. What did you learn from the competition on the floor?
LH: We’re better when we play together, that’s 100% evident. When we trust each other and communicate. Offensively, we’re still learning how to put all of the tools together and I think that as the year goes on, we’re going to figure it out. On defense, we made a lot of key stops. We made teams turn the ball over, we locked down and buckled down. Regardless of what happens on the offensive side of the ball, one thing we can trust is that in a tough game, tough situation, we’re going to lock down and play hard-nosed defense to fight to the end and get it done.
CD: Over the past few games you all have had solid performances from newcomers: yours versus Stony Brook, Brandon Weston with a double-double against KSU… Today, Rory Stewart with a solid game and recent lineup-returnee, Josaphat Bilau, with a double-double. How does his introduction to the lineup help this team?
LH: It’s great. He’s a physical presence. He gives us more versatility in this lineup. As you can see, his footwork in the post is amazing. He has a lot of different things that he can do well and adds to the arsenal of what we already have. They’ve done a great job of helping him get back (from injury) to the point where he could come back in seamlessly. Having him back is awesome. He’s with us in practice every single day, talking… and he’s going to help us as we move on. And in terms of the other guys, every game it seems like another guy steps up. It goes to show how good we can be as a collective. It’s not always going to be the same person every day. Some guys have down days, some guys have great days… but we always have guys who can step up and, because of that, I feel whatever the situation we’ll be ready.
CD: What about Grand Cayman overall? You’ve been in a structured environment with meals, film, scouts, shoot-arounds – and there’s a cadence to that. Have you been able to get out around the island much?
LH: Not really (both laughing)… we’ve been in the beach, pool, and around the resort area where there are some stores… One night we went out to dinner as a team on the island and it was nice. I think despite being here and enjoying it we understand it is a business trip. As the days went on, we got better and better every single day and which was the ultimate goal.
Cayman Vibes after the dub 🏝🏝#GoRhody // #AttitudeIsEverything pic.twitter.com/mwEMZvxesS
— Rhody MBB (@RhodyMBB) November 24, 2022
CD: You’re blessed with a super close family. They’re down here now, your dad, mom, and sister. What does it mean to you to have your whole family here… and when’s the last time you all traveled together internationally or on a longer trip together?
LH: It’s awesome. Just having their support, knowing they have my back no matter what is amazing. I’m so thankful for the fact that they are who they are in my life. They raised me, they nurtured me, and made me the person I am today. I can’t be any more thankful for them coming here to support me and being here with me… that’s who we are. A close-knit family. I realize not everybody may have that, so I always make sure I show my appreciation to them for it.
CD: Something to be thankful on the eve of Thanksgiving.
Chris DiSano, is an Atlantic 10 analyst and writer. He has served as the host of A-10 Live! at Men’s Basketball Media Day and founded the former College Chalktalk. DiSano, who was named NBC Sports top Atlantic 10 basketball follow on Twitter for five straight years, can be found on Twitter at @CDiSano44