Four Questions with Grant Billmeier

NJIT went from 1 conference win to beating the top two teams in the American East. The Highlanders coach revisits their big week, and how his first year as a head coach has gone.

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72 hours of awesomeness

Two weeks ago, after a 15-point loss to Bryant that dropped NJIT to 0-6 in America East, coach Grant Billmeier wasn’t sure when his team would get its first league win.

Senior big man Kjell de Graaf delivered an all-around game against UMBC that ended that worry. But his season-ending knee injury on Feb. 1 against Binghamton? That had Billmeier, in his first season with the Highlanders, mentally preparing for the worst. After all, the league’s top two teams were coming to their place.

“I'm an upbeat, high-energy person,” he said. “And the only people that really saw me down were my wife and my staff, but I didn't let that show on the court. I knew it would be hard to beat those two teams with without K, but we got the Elijah Buchanan, a sixth-year kid from Manhattan, back from injury and he played phenomenal.”

He and the rest of the Highlanders. They ended Vermont’s 23-game conference win streak, then beat UMass Lowell two days later.

Q: How did you prepare the team for Vermont? It seemed like your physical approach really disrupted the Catamounts, plus you avoided any kind of mental letdown vs UMass Lowell — with an 18-4 lead just six minutes in.

Grant Billmeier: The biggest thing with Vermont, was we really wanted to make a big deal about their winning streak. It’d been almost 400 days since they lost to a conference opponent. So we just talked to our guys and said 'Take all that stuff out of the equation. You got a chance to do something special.’ We watched our film from the previous game and they blew us out, but we just kind of talked about some adjustments we wanted to make. And this time, we were coming off a bye. So, you know, we were mentally fresher and had a lot of time to prepare.

After that, we thought ‘Let's build off this.’ Like, let's not wake up with regret with would have could have, should have. Let's finish the week. If we go one out of two, it's, it's a good week.

Let's try to have a tremendous week.

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