Ole Miss Basketball Weekly Press Conference

Jan. 23, 2003

(Comments on Arkansas game)
First of all, Stan Heath is doing a great job with his team. He's playing some veterans, but he's also playing a lot of young players. We're starting a freshman in Trey Pearson at the point, but he's starting three freshmen.

The thing that impressed me about them as I watched the Georgia game (last Saturday) is that his kids continued to play hard to the very end. They're going to win games because he's doing things right. They are very tough on defense and do a great job of rebounding the ball. Obviously, they are having problems scoring, but if you continue to play defense and continue to rebound, you're going to win some games. It wouldn't surprise me if they win their next game (Arkansas defeated LSU 73-65 Jan. 22). To continue to play with the energy and excitement they did and be down 20 points to Georgia, it tells me something about Heath's coaching ability. I've never coached head-to-head against him, but I do know teams. When teams are down 20 and still scratching and clawing and playing the same way at the end of the game as they did at the start, that tells me he is doing a great job.

In our game on Saturday, you're going to see two teams that play great defense. They are a better rebounding team and that is a concern of ours. Arkansas is a dangerous team, and on any given night, they are going to knock someone off. It's not going to be a surprise to me when it happens. I'm just hoping it's not us, but the next game after they come here.

(On Emmanuel Wade's play)
He's a guy I've been looking for the last month. We saw last Saturday (against LSU) what Emmanuel Wade can do. When he plays like that we become a really good basketball team. Throughout this year, I've been expecting Emmanuel to play well, and he's starting to do that.

Another thing you have to realize is when you start conference play, it's a different ballgame with the intensity level and how you play each and every possession. A lot of players in this league go through that adjustment. We had that adjustment in our first two games in league play and we lost both. But, there are some teams who have made the adjustments and won games. You can see that in Auburn's play. They made the adjustment and they won games, so now they are a little more confident. Every team in this conference is going to get better as time goes on.

I'm excited to see how Emmanuel Wade will play in the next few games. If he continues to play the way he did at LSU, then we become one of the better teams in this league. We need offense from our off-guard position, and he provides that for us.

(On the 3-game homestand)
It's an opportunity for us. The most important thing about this homestand is the fact that we can sleep in our beds and practice on our floor. We get the chance to get in a set routine, and that helps teams get better. Last week (prior to Jan. 18 game at LSU), we didn't have to worry about travel because we didn't have a mid-week game. To me, you need to take advantage of that and work on getting better that week, because there are going to be some weeks coming up where we're going to be away from home.

It would be great for us to get three wins in this homestand and go to 4-2 after starting 0-2. If we are fortunate to get these three games, we will be either tied for first place in the West or at least in second place. It's a great opportunity, but we just can't walk into Tad Smith Coliseum and say we're here, our fans are here, the popcorn smells good, my family is here and we're going to win the game. We can't do that. I've been stressing that to our guys - we've got to come and play tonight. We've got to put our best foot forward and be focused. We better be prepared because every game is going to be tough.

There have been times in the past where I thought there were teams - even in our league - that came here and couldn't beat us in Tad Smith Coliseum. It's not that case anymore. This league is too good. There are no Tuesday and Friday nights that I'll sleep well this season. And I usually sleep well for home games.

(On the balance of the league)
This league is balanced in a good way. There was one year where we were good and the league was balanced but it was balanced on the downside. The league is really good. I've been in the SEC too long, maybe 14 years counting my playing years. It's never been like this. It's never been where Florida, which is a top-5 team in the country, struggled to win at South Carolina.

There are some good teams in this league top to bottom. I believe if you take any of the teams in the SEC and put them in other leagues, they would be NCAA Tournament teams. There are going to be NCAA Tournament teams in our league that won't make the NCAA Tournament.

 

 

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