Oct. 26, 2011
HOUSTON - As the basketball season continues to draw closer, University of Houston men's head coach James Dickey and student-athletes met with members of the local press during Media Day on Wednesday inside the Carl Lewis Auditorium.
Dickey, senior guard Darian Thibodeaux, junior forward Kirk Van Slyke and sophomore forward Alandise Harris spoke with representatives from the local media for about an hour before the start of Wednesday's practice.
On how his team has looked in practice
We've been on the floor a couple of weeks. We're young, but that's not an excuse. We've got to get better. We have some talent, and we're going to utilize that. We want to get up and down the floor and play fast.
"It all starts with a few things for us: defense, doing a better job rebounding and being able to handle the ball and make plays to play in an up-tempo situation where you don't turn the ball over, where you take good shots and you share the ball and you make the extra pass. Those are the things we're working on.
"I like where we're at right now. We're looking forward to the season. We have a tough schedule for such a young basketball team, but they have been really committed. They've done a great job in the weight room, individual work and in our team practices."
On who will lead the team
"When you have seven newcomers and one redshirt, we're certainly going to rely heavily on the guys we had last year. Darian Thibodeaux played the most minutes for us last year. We want him to assume more of a leadership role. He's a very good defender and can shoot the 3. We've worked on him getting more of a midrange game and getting to the free throw line more. He did not shoot enough free throws last year for as good a shooter as he is."
On junior forward Kirk Van Slyke
"We've got to get him some shots and get him freed up to where he's comfortable offensively. Defensively he's got to get more physical. He's worked hard in the weight room to get stronger."
On sophomore forward Alandise Harris
"Alandise Harris played well for us last year as a freshman. The thing that we're looking for from him is consistency day in and day out. He's the type of a player who is a tough matchup, whether that's inside or outside. He's worked hard improving his strength and conditioning. He's a little more slender than he was last year. He's worked on his shooting."
On the other returning players
"We're going to look forward to them for a lot of leadership. Joseph Young was here last year and redshirted. He has a lot of experience practicing but has not played. We'll look for those guys on the court not only for production but for leadership as well. They know what our coaches stand for and believe in. They know how we want to approach the game and how we want to play the game."
On his coaching staff
"We have a great coaching staff. They're the best in the country. They've done a terrific job. They've worked really hard, and I'm so fortunate to have them here. We're all excited for what we can do with this team and this program."
On if his team has established his system
"I'm not sure we've established our system yet. Certainly not if you look at the wins and losses. We went through a stretch where we lost five games by really one possession. That's really disappointing to us. That turned our win/loss total around."
On the main emphasis to his players
What we have emphasized to our players is commitment to detail, understanding that one play can turn a game around but you have to play all the way through, play each possession, play hard and value the basketball. They understand philosophically what we're trying to do.
"Last year we felt like we had a team that could really execute in our system but didn't make the shots we needed to. They didn't execute with the type of speed we needed to, and they gave up too many easy lay ups."
On playing smart
Something we've talked about as a team is not giving up easy shots and being stingier on defense. We need to take good care of the basketball and make good decisions down the stretch. The guys understand the system, but now we have to go out and put it in play night in and night out."
On expectations coming into the season
"We do have high expectations for the team and the program, but we also know we have a difficult schedule. We're not going to look ahead. We have some guys that need some game experience, but we aren't going to have a lot of time to do that. We'll have an exhibition and then we go right into our schedule. We're going to need to be ready in a hurry. We're going to be patient with these guys, but they have the talent to play at a high level. We're going to put a lot of expectations on them."
On if his young team understands his offense
"The understanding is there. Our emphasis in the last few days of practice has been valuing the basketball. Coach Todd Buchanan talked about turning the ball over, and that's something that we're really emphasizing to our players. Value the basketball, get a high percentage shot, don't turn the ball over and go get it off the offensive glass.
"Right now we're not as efficient as we need to be. The hardest thing for our players is shot selection. A lot of them think any shot they can get off is a good one, and that's not true. We want to give the guys freedom to shoot the ball, and they're starting to understand that we get wide-open shots when we help our teammates score."
On junior college transfer Jonathan Simmons
"We're excited about having Jonathan here. He's very athletic. Any time you sit out a year, there is a transition period. He's gone through that period and is starting to play better. He has a nice stroke and is really learning how to shoot the ball correctly. He's a good rebounder, and he handles the ball well when he's running the floor. The fundamentals will take a while to get back, but the talent and athleticism is there."
On redshirt freshman Joseph Young
"Joe has made a lot of progress from last year. Everybody knows that he can score the ball, but he has started to understand that there are other parts of the game that are as important as scoring. He can still shoot the ball, but he is doing a better job at getting other people involved. We've been pleased with his progress. But even when he's handling the ball we still want to give him some freedom to pull up and shoot the ball because he can score."
On being looked up to
| SENIOR GUARD SENIOR GUARD DARIAN THIBODEAUX
"It's something I'm definitely used to because I have a younger brother."
On starting the season
"Everybody is ready to get it going. Everybody has been working hard."
On last season's team compared to this one
"Don't even worry about last year; just focus on this year. It's a totally different team."
On preparations for this season
| JUNIOR FORWARD KIRK VAN SLYKE
"We're working hard; we have a positive attitude. Everyone's in the same boat, and there are no distractions. If everyone keeps working hard throughout the season, I think we'll be alright."
On the new players
"They will make a big impact. We need all of them to step up to help us win. We need them to work hard everyday."
"We are more comfortable now, and we're working hard. We've been practicing every day, and we've been together for longer now."
On this year's team
| SOPHOMORE FORWARD ALANDISE HARRIS
"We have more athletic players. We're quicker faster and stronger. Defense should be turned up a little bit."
On the approach to this season
We're going to take it one game at a time and one practice at a time. We really just want to go hard every day."