Ole Miss Head Coach Rod Barnes Preseason Press Conference

Oct. 14, 2003

Opening Comments

First of all, I would like to thank God for another season. We are excited about starting practice this weekend. We feel like we've had a good preseason with conditioning and individual workouts. We're looking forward to getting on the floor as a team this weekend.

I like our team, and I'm excited to see how we'll do this year. Our players are looking forward to starting on Saturday, so there is a lot of enthusiasm.

Q: What did you learn from last season?

A: Many coaches will tell you that when you lose, that's when you learn the most. Winning breeds winning, but when you lose, you evaluate a lot of different things - you look at personnel, players, coaches. For me, I learned that I am tougher than I probably thought I was. I never imagined I could go through a 10-game losing streak, and still be positive about what we're doing.

I'm excited about our returning players, and I know they learned a lot. We play a lot of good teams, talented teams. We've never been a team that can go into season knowing we can "out-man" our opponents. There were some little things in games that, if they would have gone the other way, our season would have been different. We've worked on some things, and have talked some things over as a staff.

Q: With so many newcomers, do you feel like you are starting over?

A: I just coach whether they are new players or veterans. But, with having more newcomers, we are teaching more of the basics of what we do, how we do it and what's expected of them. It's (having several newcomers) been good for our coaching staff and our veterans. We've had to go back and teach the fundamentals to the newcomers, and because our returning players are going through the same drills, they are getting better.

When you have as much experience as we did last year, sometimes the players get bored because it's the third or fourth year that they have been through your system. When you get that, you have to be more creative with practices. And, referring to an earlier question, one thing I've learned as a coach that you have to be more creative from a coaching standpoint to grab their attention. Because they have been through the system a couple of years and they know it, they let those little things slip by.

Q: Is there a sense of urgency with this being Aaron Harper's and Justin Reed's last year?

A: There is a sense of urgency when you have a losing season. The urgency comes from wanting to get out of the cellar and have a winning season. With Justin and Aaron, they want to go out on a winning note. The sense of urgency is not just because it's their last year. The urgency is in the fact that we didn't like what happened last year and we don't accept losing. The urgency throughout our program is an all-time high, and we'll just have to see what happens. We want to win, and we want to win for our seniors.

Q: How important is it going to be for Aaron and Justin to lead on and off the court?

A: The have to. If they don't, we're not going to be a good basketball team. They have shown leadership during preseason in our conditioning and individual workouts. They feel that they are two of the top players in this league, and they are not getting the respect they deserve. They also want to go out on top. The great thing about both players is that they want to win for this team, for me and for Ole Miss. They know they have to lead us and play well, and they're excited about that. When you've had guys in your program for a couple of year, you may have some complacency, but not with Aaron and Justin. They want to make sure we get the program back to where it belongs.

Q: With so many new players, how do you develop chemistry?

A: I don't think it's anything you can do as a coach to make it happen, it just does. There are things you can do as a coach to place the players in positions to get closer. Chemistry is something that has to happen among the players. Aaron and Justin are working hard with the other players, spending time with them and making sure they are doing what they are supposed to do.

When we won 27 games a couple of years ago, we only had two starters coming back and entered the year with a lot of questions. Our leaders that year - Rahim Lockhart and Jason Flanigan - took their roles seriously, and led our program to the most wins in a season. This is now happening with Aaron and Justin, and they have been there before. They were the young kids coming in that year we were successful. Both Aaron and Justin have been waiting for this season because they want that role of being the guys the team depends on.

Q: Do you expect any of the junior college players to start?

A: At this point, we're going to have to wait until we have a couple of practices. We have some talented guys that have the potential to start. We have to get to the floor and have some practices before we can determine that. Obviously, being junior college players, we brought them here to contribute. How fast they will contribute? We'll just wait and see.

Q: How's the point guard situation entering the season?

A: Bryan Brown is with the football team right now. He has some experience from last year, so he'll help us during the SEC season this year. In our recruiting last year, we wanted to sign a junior college (Ed Glass) and a high school (Todd Abernethy) point guard, and we got both. We've also worked with Aaron Harper in individual workouts there to give us more experience at the point. From what we've seen during individual workouts, we hopefully won't have to get to that point.

Q: Talk about your evaluation of last year.

A: We had a lot of close games early (in the SEC season). We had Tennessee and Mississippi State beat here, and lost both with a couple of mistakes down the stretch. If we win those games, our season is different. To that point in the season, we had done what we were expected to do. Another point is our league was very good last year. When I was looking at NBA rosters recently, I saw the names of Derrick Zimmerman, Mario Austin, Ronald Dupree and Jarvis Hayes - players that were in our league. Our conference was deep last year. Going into last season, our coaching staff knew it was going to be tough. We knew that to make the NCAA Tournament, we were going to have to win those close games, and we didn't get it done.

We also got in stretch where we played four of five games on the road with Kentucky as our home game in the middle. Those are games that, with our best teams, we had a chance of losing. This year's schedule is a little better for us. We're not on the road four out of five games, I think. I hope not anyway. I hope they didn't do that again, and if they did, I hope Kentucky's not in the middle of it.

If you look at the season where we won 27 games, we won a lot of close games early. When we won those games, they helped the character of that team. Last year, we lost some close games. We found ways to lose last year. Our league wasn't a slouch, and it won't be this year either. Hopefully, this year our leadership and experience will help us in that area.

Q: Talk about the newcomers, especially the post players.

A: We have a couple of wide-bodies, but I wouldn't call them tall. We have Warren (Scott) at 267 pounds and Tommie (Eddie) at 260. They are physical guys and don't mind contact. Both have a great feel around the basket. They are not explosive guys, but they know how to play. They may not play together, but we now have depth in the post. We are looking for Marvin Moore to help us at the power forward spot, so we can move Justin Reed to the small forward to create a mismatch for the opposition. Marvin is very athletic. With all three of the newcomers, it's going to depend on how they pick up things. But, before the end of the season, all will contribute in some way.

Q: Is Justin Reed capable of scoring more this year? Will that take over parts of his game away?

A: There are not going to be any secrets about what we're doing this year. Aaron Harper and Justin Reed are going to have to score for us, especially early. We have some other talented players, but we're not going to hide our game plan. Aaron and Justin are going to catch the ball and score. Both are capable of scoring. Everything we do is going to go through those two.



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