Ole Miss Men's Basketball Coach Rod Barnes Media Day Press Conference Transcript

Oct. 15, 2001

Opening Comments
First of all, we thank God for another season. We're excited to be back. It seems like yesterday that we returned from San Antonio. After our first couple of practices, our kids are excited to be back on the floor. Obviously, we have a lot of questions about this year's basketball team, but we also have a lot of things we can look forward to. The enthusiasm that our newcomers have brought to this team has made our returning players work even harder. It challenge for us to repeat a year like we had last season. But, like we talked at the start of last year, our focus is to take this basketball team as far as we are capable of going.

Our goal, as a coach, is to win as many games as we can win. We also want our kids to play the best they can possibly play each night. As far as predictions about where we will finish, we'll have to talk about that at a later date. Right now, I can say our kids are focused, and they're excited and the coaches are excited.

Q: Talk about this team without Rahim Lockhart.

A: We are approaching this season no different than we have approached every other year. We've had major losses every since I've been the head coach at Ole Miss. When I took over, we lost Ansu Sesay, Joezon Darby and Anthony Boone. The next year we lost Keith Carter, Michael White, Jason Smith and Hunter Carpenter. So, every year we have lost one of our top scorers or top rebounders or sometimes both. What we need is for some of our kids to step up, and I think they are ready to do so. We have a lot of guys on our team who have been waiting for the opportunity to get on the floor and play a lot of minutes. They are going to get that opportunity this year.

Q: Do you feel you replace Rahim by committee?

A: If you are talking just about that position, we have several who can play that spot. Ever since I've been here, we have tried to get a lot of people involved, and it's a team effort. It won't be any different this year. Last year, we had Rahim Lockhart, but we also had Jason Flanigan and Jason Holmes and they were just as important to that team winning 27 games. This season, we have a different look. We have Jason Harrison and Justin Reed, but have other guys who we need to play well on a consistent basis for us to be successful.

Q: Talk about not only replacing Rahim the player, but also Rahim the leader.

A: We need for some players on this year's team to step up. Jason Harrison has already taken that role. The last three years, the thing we try to do is to allow our seniors to be leaders because they are the players who have been with the program the longest and they understand what our program is trying to do on and off the court. Jason Harrison has leadership capabilities. He has been a leader since he arrived on Ole Miss as a freshman, but he has been waiting his turn to sit in that front seat. Now, it's his turn and he is ready for it. We also have some other guys who are leaders. Like last year, Rahim may have been the primary leader, but we had other guys step up as leaders for us at different times. We'll do that again this year. Justin Reed has become more vocal on the floor, and is also leading by example. David Sanders has also stepped up. We have some guys who looking for more important roles this year. They have waited their turn, and now it's their time.

Q: Will more be asked of Justin Reed this year?

A: A lot more will be asked of Justin, but all players' roles change every year. A couple of years ago, Rahim Lockhart's role wasn't as important to this program as it was last year. It's the same with Jason Harrison. Each year, we've had to increase players' roles, and we have some guys waiting for this chance. As I have told several media members over the summer, we have players like Emmanuel Wade, Richard Kirklin and Josh Hayes who have been in our program and now are ready to step up. We don't have a bunch of players who haven't played or been in the program. All of their roles have changes and increased, and as a result, we won't be like we were last year. It's a challenge for the coaching staff to make this team as good as they can possibly be, and that what we have to do.

Q: Will we see more three-point shooting from Justin?

A: I think so. He shot only 15 last year, and he will shoot more this season. Justin Reed is a player who can score inside and out, with inside being the first option. We're not going to convert him to an Aaron Harper-like three-pointer shooter. But, if people leave him open, he has worked on his three-point shooting enough that I have confidence in him making the shot. I had confidence in Justin shooting three-pointers last year, but that just wasn't his role. Why have him shoot a three-pointer when you can throw it inside to him and he can score or get fouled? The same can be said of Jason Harrison. I've asked him to run our team the last three years, but this year, he'll become more of a scorer. The same with David Sanders. He hardly shot the ball last season. He hit 55 percent from the floor last year, but he was fifth on the team in field goal attempts. That has to change for us to be successful. Justin's role will change, but we're not going to turn him into a "one-man" show.

Q: Talk about the newcomers, including Derrick Allen.

A: Derrick is a guy who has made a lot of progress, and has gotten bigger and stronger. He is a player who comes to work everyday. He is not as talented as other players we have, but everyday we have practice, he suits up and works hard and those are my type of players. He is going to help us on the boards. He is a good scorer from 15-feet and in, and we need to take advantage of that. The guy that I'm most impressed with among our newcomers is Kendrick Fox. He has had a great off-season. He has probably made the biggest improvement I've ever seen in a player coming from high school into college. I'm excited about him, but right now, he's playing behind a lot of good players like Josh Hayes and Aaron Harper. Justin Johnson should be our back-up point guard. He is a strong, athletic kid who will work on how to run the program in every situation. The great situation for Justin is that he will always be on the floor with veteran teammates, so the load won't totally be on him. Out of all of our newcomers, Jonathan Loe is probably our best scorer. He is going to be an offensive threat. He has a lot of work to do on defense. He feels very comfortable in what we are doing, and he can get to the basket and shoot the three. He's got a nice-looking shot, we just have to get him more attempts in practice. Finally, we have Chris Rhodes, who probably looks the most like an Ole Miss-type player. He plays physical, hard and with a high level of intensity. He has a lot of work to do as far as his skills. He has all the ingredients for being an Ole Miss player. He wants to play defense, he plays hard and he is physical. From that standpoint, I like Chris.

Q: How did Justin improve his game this summer with the USA team?

A: Justin has to improve his outside game. He proved to everyone last year that he can go on the block and score and run up and down the floor, but we have to expand his game. Right after last season, he began to work on his outside game. He is now a better perimeter player not only shooting the ball, but also handling the ball and making decisions with the ball. I think Justin began to realize -- at times during last season and especially at the trials - when you play against great players, you not only have to have physical ability, you also need the mental aspect of the game. Justin is a smarter player. Some of the positions we did not place him in last year, we will put him in this season. His game matured during the summer because he played with and against great basketball players.

Q: Will this year's team be more up-tempo?

A: We will have to be more up-tempo. What David Sanders said in today's paper won't be true, talking that we are going to be ripping and running. But, we will be more up-tempo. We have to get the ball out, and we have players who can get up and down the floor. With Derrick Allen, John Gunn and Richard Kirklin, we have a frontline that is probably as fast as any that we will face as far as getting up and down the floor, so we have to take advantage of that. A lot times when you talk about up-tempo, people think about shooting the ball quickly, getting down the floor and that's not always the case. What I mean by up-tempo is that we are going to move the ball up the floor faster to give us an opportunity to get good shots. We're not going to get into a situation where we are launching shots from all over the Coliseum. We'll get down the court faster, and if something's there, we'll take advantage of it. If not, then we will get into a set or run our motion offense and see what happens.

Q: Has John Gunn gotten bigger, stronger and more aggressive like you said he needed to?

A: He has. You always want more, and I want more out of every one of our players. I've been pleased with the effort he has given, especially over the last month. Since last April, he has done a great job in the off-season. In the last month, I've seen a little change in his attitude. As far as his physical presence, he's getting more aggressive. We're going to run more things for him, so he's going to have to be more involved. It's easy when you are the back-up not to be as aggressive or not be prepared. He knows right now that he is going to be on the floor. Now that he knows that, he's working on trying to get something done. I've been happy with him.

Q: Since the end of last season, have you had time to sit back and reflect on how special a year it was?

A: You all (the media) won't allow me to do that. I guess I have reflected on last season a few times like the other day when we gave our players their (SEC Western Division) championship rings. We can't really be satisfied with that, though. When we got beat by Arizona, I realized I'm in business of "what have you done for me lately." I could laugh and enjoy myself all summer long and have a great time, but that's not the case. We're in a very competitive league, and nobody's taking time off. Everybody is working to get to the top. We happen to be one of those teams that, over the last five years, have been at or near the top, and we don't want that to change. We got to where we are because we worked hard and stayed focused on our goals. That's what I've been doing. Maybe some time in the future, I can look back and say we were good in 2001. I can feel good, sit on my porch and tell my kids and grandkids about how great that year was. Right now, I can't do that.

Q: How is Jason Harrison's role going to change this year?

A: He is going to start from day one. He got the starting position when Jason Flanigan played his last game. Because we are a team, Jason took the role he was given the last three years, and he tried to maximize that role. You see his role changing. Likewise with Justin Reed. Last year, Justin was a complement to Rahim Lockhart, but this season, he will have to be more of a "go-to" guy. That's the way our program is run. Now, it's time for Jason to take a leadership role. He has sat back the last three years and watched other guys lead us. We watched Jason Flanigan run our team, and now it's his turn. That's the reason I play so many people. We have eight guys coming back who have had substantial playing time over the last two years, so Saturday when we started practice, there was no confusion in our drills. We talked to our players about their roles and how they will expand this year.

Q: Talk about Jason Harrison's fearless attitude on the court.

A: Jason Harrison doesn't look at size. When you look at Jason, you are looking at a person who is a model for our program. When you look at all of our players, they all have been underdogs. We don't have any guys who, when people look at them say they are All-Americans. That's the same with Jason Harrison. When we started three years ago, we talked about taking this program to another level, and no one believed that. That's much the same with Jason. When he first came here, no one believed that he could play in this league. Well, he's done a pretty good job for me.

Q: Talk about Tony Smith and how his conditioning program has helped the players.

A: Tony Smith is our strength and conditioning coach and the best addition to our staff in the off-season. When you see our guys, you will see that they are bigger and stronger, and they move better. I didn't realize how important a strength and conditioning coach could be until Tony got here. You can see how John Gunn's mentality has changed. He is now more confident that he can play a physical game. And, that type of thinking and change is going throughout our entire program. It's good to have Tony in our program, but the true impact of his hard work will be more evident next season (2002-03) when our returning players come back.

Q: Who do you see as the spark off the bench this year?

A: We have several candidates. We could bring David Sanders or Emmanuel Wade off the bench at the off-guard to be that spark. It also depends on what we decide to do with Aaron Harper. I could see bringing him off the bench and have him score some baskets immediately for us. We could Richard Kirklin off the bench for a defensive spark. We have a lot of options. We don't really know right now who could feel that role. It could be Justin Johnson. As of now, Jason Harrison and Justin Reed are probably our only two starters. Somebody has to take that role, someone has to come off the bench and give us a lift.

Q: From your earlier comments, are we to understand that Kendrick Fox's knee is sound, and Derrick Allen's injury is healed?

A: Kendrick's knee (torn ACL his senior season) and Derrick's knee (tendonitis) are okay. The only person we had in the training room this morning was David Sanders, and he was in there because he got hit in the back during our block-out drill. Everybody else is full-speed. We've been fortunate the last couple of years to stay away from injuries, and hopefully we can do that again this season.

 

 

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