Oct. 30, 2008
Quotes from 2008-09 Houston Basketball Media Day
Thursday, Oct. 30, 2008 Houston, Texas Athletics/Alumni Center
MEN'S BASKETBALL HEAD COACH COACH Tom Penders
"We lost five seniors from last year's ball club. Just adding the starts, there were 130 games started between those five guys we lost. We didn't just guys that were lettermen or role players; we lost guys that were key players. Everybody has us picked low, and I like that for a change. The sign of a good program is a program that doesn't fall apart when you lose five seniors, but you also have to be realistic as a coach.
"I believe I am very realistic, but I am also and always have been confident of my ability as a coach and my staff's abilities. Point guards are optimistic; point guards are confident because when you play the game you are the coach on the floor. You've got to be a leader, and you've got to be positive, and you've to do a lot of different things that the average basketball player doesn't do.
"I am confident that we are going to have a good ball club this year. I don't want to put any pressure on these guys and say that we are going to win 25 games. The only thing that I will say is that this is the most talented pool of athletes that we have as a group since I have been here. That doesn't always translate into immediate success. A lot of that has to do with your schedule. A lot of that has to do with how well as a coach you mesh how well they blend together. Everyday, I am trying to study them and see who plays best together. We are probably going to have four new people starting or playing key roles.
""My staff did a tremendous job in recruiting this year. That's what you try to do and every year that I have been here, we have upgraded our talent level. When I came here, my first year, we were picked 14th in a 14-team league and we finished 9-7 and tied for fourth. I don't feel like we are a seventh-place team, where just about everybody has picked us, including the coaches in this league. If we are a seventh-place team, then we have one heck of a league here.
"Conference USA has improved. The continuity of coaching is the key. There has been only one coaching change in the whole league this year. You are getting guys coaching teams for three or four years that have had a chance to bring in their own talent. When I first came into the league, I think it was John Calipari's fifth season at Memphis. That year, we beat them by 13. Then he had that great recruiting class, and that's really all it takes. They went from an NIT team to a threat for the national championship. You never know, but we did a great job. Our staff did a great job of recruiting.
"All of our guys have all improved. They are all better. The work ethic of the team in the off-season is very evident. There is a lot of competition to play. We are going to be a different type of team this year. We will press a lot more. We will run. We will push the ball after made baskets. We will push it every time that we can, and we have the guys that can push it now.
"So far, in practices, I can't say that we haven't had a bad practice. We had a practice the other day that I didn't think we could beat a Division III team. That is typical of this time of year, but championship teams have very few of those days. You want to get into the season and play games. I know when a team is practicing hard, you have a chance to be really good. Our team is very competitive.
"We often forget where we came from. You are never satisfied as a coach. I am certainly not satisfied. If that were Wall Street today, there would be a lot of happy people today from where we have come. Are we satisfied? No. I came here to not just turn a program around but to win championships and get to the NCAA Tournament. That is still our goal, and it could happen this year. I am not going to let pressure I put on affect the ball club. I have not said a word about that. They can talk about all of those things. The reality is we lost five very good basketball players. (Robert) Fluff McKiver was All-Conference USA First Team two years in a row. That's the first time in this league we have done that.
"We lost a lot, but we have added some very talented kids. Competition to play this year is extreme. Some guys like Kelvin Lewis who started 23 games last year may come off the bench, not because he shouldn't start but because he is such a weapon offensively, and we have to find time for a lot of guys out there.
"Our strengths are definitely No.1 at the point guard. No. 2 at the two-guard because we have guys like Kelvin Lewis, DaShaun Williams and Brockeith Pane. We also have a very solid No. 4 position in Qa'rraan Calhoun, who as a freshman started a lot of games for St. John's and then transferred to Barton College last year, where he averaged 18 (points) and eight (rebounds). He is 6-8, is a very talented kid who plays both ends of the floor and is extremely unselfish. We have some pieces.
"The biggest question mark is probably the center position, only because I cross my fingers every day that Marcus Cousin stays healthy. Marcus had a stress fracture last year, very similar to the one that Yao Ming had, but he came back and tried to help the team. Any time that a kid has a stress fracture, particularly a big guy, you have to be careful. We are trying not to wear him down and keep him healthy.
"We had a scrimmage against Texas-Pan American on Saturday. In 24 minutes, he had 17 points, nine rebounds and three blocked shots, which was a good sign.
"Qa'rraan Calhoun, at 6-8, can play center and give us an entirely different look. He likes to post up. He is very efficient inside. He also possesses an excellent jump shot.
"Nick Mosley is a junior. In early practices, he has been playing a lot and doing what we want him to do, which is block shots, play defense and run the floor. We have some flexibility.
"There are three other new guys who aren't here. Point guard Desmond Wade is about 5-8. Believe it or not, the kid can dunk and dunk easily. He is an excellent shooter and a very unselfish player. He started all four years in high school as a point guard with two years as All-State First Team in New Jersey. We are very happy with him.
"We also have a forward in a local kid in Sean Coleman, who can really stroke it and is a really good shooter. He is about 6-8 and we are very happy with how he has looked early in practice. He can play the 3 or the 4 positions.
"We weren't exactly walk-it-up floor, Princeton offense last year. We were second in the league in scoring behind Memphis. We averaged 79 points a game. This year, we should average in the high 80s or 90s because of the explosiveness and fast-breaking abilities of this year.
"Last year, we averaged a little over four points per game on the fast break. We were very efficient in our half-court offense, which was nice, otherwise we wouldn't have averaged 79 points a game. We are going to be a much more exciting team because we are going to run more. That's all we have done every day is press in practice.
ON SHOOTING AS MANY 3-POINTERS AS LAST YEAR
"We shouldn't need to. Last year, we took over 1,000 of them. In Mike Krzyzewski's last national championship team (at Duke) took over 1,100 threes. If you have guys who can shoot threes, you let them shoot threes. We are a much better shooting team overall, but we do have an inside game this year that we can get a lot more out of it. I like balance. I would rather have a 50-50 team, a team that can score inside the arc, in the paint and at the three.
"Last year, we shot 36 percent from three, which is like shooting over 50 percent at two. You do what you have to do to be competitive and to win. Hopefully, we will have a little more inside presence. With Marcus Cousin and Qa'rraan Calhoun, we have improved in that area. In the scrimmage we had Saturday, we were 8-of-20 from three, and we took 84 shots. I am not one of those guys that says we have to shoot 30 threes. We don't come in with a pregame plan. Aubrey (Coleman) had 26 (points) Saturday and took one three.
"Aubrey Coleman is a guy that you are going to like, not just because he is an exciting player. He has a motor. He pushes the ball as well as any point guard I have ever had. He attacks the glass; he attacks the rim. That is going to more of our style, more like what Memphis did last year.
"We also have some guys that can stick the three and very comfortably. It's no effort with the new 3-point line for guys like Kelvin Lewis and Desmond Wade, DaShaun (Williams). Qa'rraan Calhoun is a very accurate 3-point shooter if he needs to step outside and shoot. Sean Coleman is the best shooter on the team. Sean is 6-8.
"I would like to see at least 35 percent of our opportunities off fast break, 40 percent in the half court and the rest off steals."
ON PLAYING WITH TWO POINT GUARDS
"I am going to let the players decide who plays. Right now, if we were starting a season tomorrow, Desmond Wade and Aubrey Coleman would both be starting. They share it with each other to run a really effective fast break.
"Zamal (Nixon) is pushing it better this year than last, largely because he is seeing Desmond (Wade) and Aubrey (Coleman) do it. Last year, Lanny (Smith) never really recovered from foot surgery and was not a push player. (Robert) Fluff McKiver was not a prototypical point guard, but obviously, he did a pretty good job. He led us to 24 wins at the point.
"When DaShaun (Williams) gets the outlet, he can push it up the floor. He also is looking for Aubrey (Coleman) and looking for Desmond (Wade). This team is very unselfish. I see a lot of hitting the open man, taking the extra pass, playing the game the way I like it to be played.
"In our scrimmage Saturday, we had over 20 assists. It's a very unselfish group. I really like that, and that's what I want to see. I am not saying that last year's (team) was. Sometimes, you have a group of guys that aren't really good at seeing the floor and delivering the ball.
"In Aubrey Coleman, Desmond (Wade) and Zamal (Nixon), we have three point guards that could start on a lot of basketball teams in this country. At all times, we will probably have a couple of them on the floor at the same time. Late in the game, we might have three of them out there."