Oct. 16, 2000
We've had four practices already." I've seen a lot of good things in our practice." We have a great group of kids that are versatile." I am excited because of our youth I think that we have a lot of kids that are bright-eyed." They have shown through our individual work that they have good poise and they are really hard workers." Because of our inexperience, we have a lot of teaching to do." We are excited about this season." We think we have a chance to have a really big basketball team that can be competitive, both in our league and on a national basis.
Q. Talk about Aaron Harper.
A. He is a young man that was with us last spring." He is about 6-7 and can really shoot the basketball." Aaron has got to become a better defender, but offensively he may be one of the best freshmen that we have here, as far as his ability to score the basketball.
Q. Talk about Josh Hayes.
A. He is a really good shooter." Josh is also about 6-7. He's more of a stand-still shooter." He is recovering now and hopefully before the season he'll be 100 percent.
Q. Talk about David Sanders.
A. David is a junior college transfer." He is really quick and athletic." He is a very versatile player that can play both off guard and point guard." We will start him out at off guard here." He is going to be a really good defender.
Q. Talk about Derrick Allen.
A. Derrick is about 6-7, 220 pounds." He is a really tough kid." He has a good body as far as an incoming player." He is more of a low post player rather than on the perimeter." He has really been battling Rahim Lockhart inside as far as playing in the paint." He is a really good defender and a good rebounder.
Q. Talk about Justin Reed.
A. Justin is the best freshman that I have ever coached." He can play both inside and outside." He is a guy that can shoot in the post and then step out and shoot the three." He is more comfortable right now from 15 feet and in, but he can shoot the three-pointer." He has a high level of intensity." He is very strong at 6-7 225 pounds." He's as good as I've ever coached." He is a very good listener and very coachable." I think before he leaves here, he will be one of the greatest players that ever played here."
Q. Talk about this year's basketball team.
A. We have a very good basketball team, as far as talent goes." We are inexperienced." I made our schedule tougher for several different reasons." For one, I wanted to find out how good we are early." I wanted these kids to be challenged early and I wanted to challenge our fans to come out and see us early." I think because in the past we've had some seasons where our schedule wasn't as tough early, our fans didn't really come out and support us the way I think they are capable of doing." Because of the NIT excitement, I wanted to start off this season with that kind of excitement." Hopefully, our fans will come out to support us, and I believe they will in our non-conference season." This will be a season where will find out early whether we we'll be able to make the NCAA tournament." We are going to play some teams early that are going to be in the NCAA tournament, and if we can beat those guys, we'll put ourselves in the position to be there." If not, we will have to battle late in our conference season, which you don't want to do." You don't want to be battling for wins." But I will find out real early about the character and ability of this basketball team." We think this recruiting class is a great recruiting class." We'll find out early what our needs will be for next season and seasons to come." I think our kids are looking forward to the challenge." Hopefully, we can step up early and get some big wins, and during conference play, prepare to fight every night out.
Q. Talk about redshirting players.
A. It's in the back of our minds right now." We may redshirt one guy, or we may redshirt two." We don't know exactly who that will be." I think for several different reasons we need to redshirts nowadays." Because it can take you five years to graduate, and that's very important to me." The second thing is it helps the kids to mature." There is so much pressure on a student athlete to perform early, both in the classroom and on the court." If I am going to give them the right opportunity to mature and give them the best opportunity to be successful, it's going to take five years." Football teams have been doing it forever, and because of NCAA rules right now, we don't need to have freshman ineligibility." They have to be eligible, if they are eligible they can play, but I think you have to take advantage of that and that's what we are going to try to do." Hopefully, we are in the stage right now, but I'm not sure we are." We can redshirt someone each year, but we'll have to see."" We are planning to redshirt one kid." Not because they can't play, but because of the numbers game and also because each guy on our program, unless they are exceptional, needs to have that opportunity to redshirt.
Q. Do you feel more comfortable at this point with this year's basketball team than previous years?
A. I feel much more comfortable." I think some of the players do too." I think our staff is much more comfortable." If you come and watch our practice our coaches are much more involved than they were two years ago, even more than last year." I think its because they understand the system, the philosophy and the terminology." I think our players are comfortable, because this staff has proven that we can be successful and that we can win big games." I think the kids understand that they become more comfortable." These are kids that we recruited." We are not where we want to be, but we're better." I felt when I took this position, I was not going to be the best coach my first year." I want to be the best the coach I can be this year." We are better than what we were two years ago.
Q. Who are the starters?
A. It's way too early to determine that." It may be a while before we establish the starting five." I'm not sure if there is ever going to be a starting five this year." We may have seven guys that can start." We have to wait until we play some games and scrimmage and find out where we are." One thing I can say is Rahim Lockhart will probably be our starting center.
Q. Can Justin Reed be a starter this year?
A. There is no question about that." The talent is there the work ethic is there, but we'll have to see.
Q. Do you think we can win any SEC road games after last season?
A. I don't know." We haven't even looked that far down to worry about SEC right now. There is always a concern." As a coaching staff, we understand that we went 0-8." I don't think our players even take that into consideration." Right now I am not even worried about our exhibition game, I am worried about our players and getting them better." I want to make sure when we hit the floor we are a better team." We are a young basketball team, and we can't worry about what happened last year or even last week." We just concentrate on the next day and getting better everyday.
Q. Talk about basketball in the SEC West.
A. It's got to be one of the deepest conferences this season." We probably have four or fives teams ranked in the top 25." We should have two teams considered." Without a question, we have to look at Arkansas." They have a lot kids coming back." I think Alabama is a surprise team." They have a chance to be a great basketball team." I think Mississippi State is talented like they always are." Coach Stansbury is in his third year, and they may start to put it together." I think LSU will not be LSU of last year, but they will still be good, because they are well coached and they've got, I think, three guys returning that are starters." Auburn is probably the one team that no one is talking about because they've lost a lot of players, but they have done a great job recruiting." They are somewhat in the same position that we are in, depending on a lot of new players.
Q. Is there any advantage do you get having three players from the same high school?
A. Without a doubt." They have played with each other, and they believe in each other." They know they can win, and they've done it before." We've got a great situation with the kids from Provine High School" A lot of people are talking about those three kids from Provine and the three kids from Little Rock, Ark., Parkview High School." I think it helps that they know each other and they know what to expect." They have won together and I think that is important to put people that have won together. They believe in each other, and they believe in this team.
Q. Talk about the older members of the team.
A. I think we had some juniors, Rahim Lockhart and Jason Harrison, and Jason Flanigan, start to step it up a little bit." They can see the end of the season and now this is their team." After we got to post-season play in the NIT, I challenged them to step up and change the tempo." I think this team here is coming in more defensive minded." I think the athletic ability and the caliber of a player is a little bit better." We are working hard on our defensive intensity." You've got to play defensively in this conference." I think some of our younger kids - Emmanuel Wade, John Gunn and Richard Kirklin -" realized that." But by that time we had put ourselves in a tough situation as far as conference record.
Q. Talk about John Gunn.
A. I think any time you play and have success it gives you confidence." I think John is one of those guys that is going to be a great player in time." Every time he has success he is going to gain more confidence." The talent is definitely there." He's bigger and he's healthy now, so he's practicing with a lot of confidence.
Q. Talk about this year's strategy.
A. We have to defend." That is the main focus." We are going to play defense this year. Even though we have some kids on our team that are better shooters or better scorers than what we've had in the past, we are still going to play defense.
Q. Talk about Rebel Hoopla.
A. It is October 28." We will start at 6 p.m." We are looking forward to a lot of our students, supporters and fans to come out." We'll have our players here." It will be the first time for the public to visit with our guys." After the visit, there will be an exhibition game." We hope everyone comes out." We're giving out prizes, and there will be contests." We are looking forward to it." We have two more weeks to practice, so by then a lot more will be expected.