Ole Miss Basketball Press Conference

March 27, 2003

(Opening Comments)
We're looking forward to our spring work and getting ready for next year. As I mentioned during this past season, sometimes you go through tough times to learn, and I feel like we've learned a lot from what we went through this year.

After the season, our players have had the opportunity to get their classes in order and get some rest. We're now in the process of spring workouts with weight training and conditioning drills and individual work.

We will work early next week because our coaching staff will be attending the national coaches convention at the Final Four in New Orleans. This is also a time of recruiting, and we have three scholarships available.

(Have you met with each player yet?)
Yes, I have met with each and every player. Some of the meetings went well.

(What's Trey Pearson's situation?)
At this point, we're discussing whether or not Trey will be on this team next year.

(What's the status of Justin Reed and Aaron Harper?)
Justin Reed is a situation that is ongoing, and we're reviewing the information on entering the NBA Draft with him and his mother. We have not come to a conclusion because we don't have all the information yet.

(What's the problem with Trey?)
Like any program, you are going to have players that want to transfer out and transfer in, and you have some confused about what they want to do.

Any time you have the type of year we had, there are going to be questions. We've been a successful program, so when you lose, there are going to be rumors. There were rumors about this program last year (2001-02). There were rumors last year that I was going to Arkansas (to be their head coach), yet no contact was made.

As far as Trey, I'm sure there was some uncertainty about him during the season. In our meeting, the talk of commitment came out. As far as a decision about Trey, we have reached one yet. What could be the problem? One is that we lost, and players want to be a part of a winning program. Trey is a freshman, and every freshman, including Rod Barnes, has considered transferring. What's going on with it? That's what we are in discussion about. Some people want to say the problem is all basketball, and it's not all basketball. Some of it has to do with what is asked of you to be in this program. It's going to class to meeting curfew. Most of the time when a player transfers, they think it's all basketball, and it's not the case.

(Talk about Richard Kirklin)
Richard is still with our basketball team. He's back working out with us. I expect him to be with us next year.

(Talk about Patrick Fields and John Gunn)
Patrick and John are going to transfer. Kendall Granderson is not going to be a part of our team, but he still may stay in school here at Ole Miss.

(Did Trey express specific concerns in your meeting?)
The concerns mainly centered on him being away from home. He's three hours from his home. He hasn't found the right fit in college life, and not only basketball. It wasn't anything like he didn't like the coaches or the system. He said that he went home after the SEC Tournament, and he realized how much he missed home. I'm just telling you what I'm being told, and his family tells me that they would like for Trey to be here.

(Is this an unusual amount of talk of attrition for your program?)
Obviously. In my five years here, we've had some leave.

(Do you attribute it to the losses and the frustration from the losses?)
I don't know if you can attribute it all to losing. We are talking about young men, and it's tough what we went through this season. Sometimes it's just the transition of college life.

(Are you still staying the course and not panicking?)
I'm still not panicking. Some of the guys mentioned earlier I was going to rely on next year and some not so much. We're going to continue to do what we've been doing. We're going to go to class, meet curfew, work in the weight room and continue to recruit. That's what I mean by staying the course. We're not going to change a lot about what we do.

Again, I learned some things this year. I learned some things about our program. I learned some things about our kids and me. Over the past years, we've been able to retain some kids. We didn't this year, and we deal with it. Take a look at Kentucky. They had four players that they were depending on this year leave their program after the end of last season. That's not to say that we'll win the SEC with an undefeated record next year. But, this is not where you stop. You continue with your program and you go and recruit. You continue to work with the guys you have.

(Did the high total number of players you had have an effect on this?)
No question about it. When we look at our program, we will evaluate that. When you look at the kids we have coming back, the two we've signed and the three scholarships we have to give, we'll be back to the normal number of players we've had in our program. Having 18 players looked good last fall, but it didn't work out. That could have contributed to the season we had.

(What about other players' status?)
Let's set the record. We already know (Jonathan) Loe, Patrick (Fields), John (Gunn), Cavadas (Nunnery) and Kendall (Granderson) all are gone. As (Oxford Eagle Sports Editor) Don (Whitten) mentioned earlier, we had too many players after we evaluated this season. Richard Kirklin is a guy that I'm asking a lot from. As we all know, Richard is in the ROTC and dealing with the military situation right now. He's being going to military training a lot this semester.

Aaron Harper is here. After talking with his mother, Aaron is here. In three weeks, it may be different, but today he is here.

I've always said and still believe this. If people want to play basketball at Ole Miss, attend the University of Mississippi and live in Oxford, then we want them here. If there is a person that does not want to be here for the right reasons, then they are free to go. We're not going to hold anyone here, and I'm not begging anyone to stay here. We've got a good program, and this is a great university and a great community.

(How have the meetings gone?)
We started last Thursday. We couldn't get everyone in because each one was long. I've had meetings since. In the case of Justin Reed, it's an ongoing situation. Until we get all the information, we won't know, and that's something I don't control. That's something we'll know about when we get all the proper information. I've met with Aaron a couple of times, and everything I get from him and his mother is that he is going to be here. For some players, we've had to meet more than once because the situations are different.

(Are these normal end-of-the-year meetings?)
Yes. This is nothing any different from last year. I learned to do this from (Kentucky head coach) Tubby Smith. A couple of years ago, Coach Smith didn't have meetings after the year was over and went out recruiting immediately. He ended up losing a couple of players that he might not have had he met with them after the season was over. That's how I feel. After the season is over, you need to find out all you can about the players and what they are feeling. In the meetings with the players, it's not only been a player and coach discussion, but also a coach and parent discussion.

(Talk about Wayne Brent's head coach options at other schools.)
Having done that job he has done and being a part of a winning program like he has here, I would hope Wayne is a serious candidate. He has applied for jobs and I think he is going to get interviewed. It's similar to Eric (Bozeman's) situation last year when he was one of the finalists for that job. I hope they thin enough of our program that Wayne would not only be a candidate, but be considered seriously for the position.

I was an assistant coach for five years, and I had aspirations about becoming a head coach. The opportunity came for me to be a head coach, and I wasn't going to turn it down. I am one that wants to help develop guys to become head coaches. If they have ambitions to be head coaches, then that's what I want to help them to do. I'm not just talking about Wayne, but any coach on my staff.

(Did Trey begin workouts?)
Yesterday (March 26) was the players' first individuals workouts. During the workouts, Trey and I visited, so he didn't work out. Trey and I had a meeting while other players went through the first day of workouts.

(What about Chris Rhodes?)
From my discussion with Chris, he is going to be here. Because we lost this year, this is a bigger issue than it has been in the past. Justin Reed told me the same thing when he was a freshman. Aaron Harper told me the same when he was a freshman. Rahim Lockhart told me that his freshman, sophomore and junior seasons. This is something that you don't go through on a regular basis as a coach. Every year, you are going to have players - especially young players - that are trying to make a decision whether they are coming back or not.

It happens more often now than in the past, and that's why the 5/8 rule is here now. I've not been concerned about the 5/8 rule until this year. The 5/8 rule was made because it was the thought that coaches were running players off. It is a rule that says you can sign only 8 players over a two-year period and no more than 5 in one year. The rule was made because it was seen that some new coaches were going into programs and running kids off or some coaches that were in trouble of losing their jobs were not keeping players that could not play and going out and getting a whole new team. I don't agree with this because there are a ton of reasons why players decide to transfer.

(What players are you trying to zero in on during this recruiting period?)
We're trying to add good athletes. We're obviously trying to add a perimeter player with the losses of Jonathan (Loe) and Patrick (Fields) and the uncertainty of Trey. We also need a forward. We are anticipating moving Aaron Harper to a guard spot. Then, we are also looking for a post player. We have to find a guard regardless of Trey's situation. We need some guys to come in and contribute immediately. We're down in numbers, so we're probably not redshirting anyone next year.



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