Oct. 30, 2013
HEAD COACH James Dickey
"It's always a hard act to follow Coach Buchanan, but I'm excited to be here, and all our guys are excited. We're looking forward to next Tuesday. Our players are always excited about getting to play. By this time with practice, you're looking forward to playing someone else. The guys put in a lot of time in the summer as well as the spring and then certainly in the fall. We started practice a little earlier this year, which I particularly like, because it gives you an opportunity to prepare for the first game quicker than we have in recent years. We elected to start a week later rather than the regular starting time and only take one day a week off. Hopefully, that will bode well for us. Our players are looking forward to next week and getting started against outside competition."
"For us it's really simple. It's about improving on the defensive end and being a consistent rebounding team. We've got some very good offensive players. We know they can score, and they have very good confidence in themselves, but we have got to be as determined (on the defensive side of the ball). For us it's about having an identity, an identity of being more physical and being better defensively and being a better rebounding team. "
"We understand our level of competition. As far as non-conference is concerned, we're excited about that schedule and the challenges that it presents in getting us ready for the American (Athletic Conference), which we know is an outstanding league. Everybody has talked about it. We're aware of the competition, but for us it has to start with what we do individually and as a group and certainly that falls on me and getting our guys ready defensively. "
"It's been a lot of fun to be on the court with these guys. They're a great group, and they have a wonderful attitude. They've worked hard. They did a great job in the summer and our preseason conditioning program, in the weight room with coach (Bryan) Lewis who does a great job for us. We've been certainly excited of the edition of coach (Johnny) Estelle. To our staff, he's brought a lot of enthusiasm on the practice court and to our players on and off the court."
"We're looking forward to next week and finishing up our preparation for our exhibition against St. Thomas Tuesday and then getting ready for Texas State on Friday. That will be a tough opener for us."
On the increase in fouls to be called this season
"That's a really good question. It's been an adjustment for our players. We had our supervisor of officials, Curtis Shaw, come down here, and he actually got on the court and was calling some fouls. "
"We've had a couple of intrasquad scrimmages where we've had some officials that work in college, and it's probably going to be called a little closer than what they called. It'll be an advantage for teams who can drive and who can hit free throws. That's something we want to take advantage of, but we still want to be better defensively. We just have to show our hands more. Our players know that with hand checking you can't put them on. Especially when the guy is out on the perimeter making a direct drive to the basket. "
"You're going to see a lot of long games early in the season, and it will be interesting to see when television complains about how long the games are, how they're going to be called. It's not an emphasis this year; it's a rule, so our players have to adjust to it."
"There are several things to look for. One the hand-checking, and the other is the in the lane on the free throw. When you're the offensive team they're not going to let you dislodge that position down there. That's been called on us in our intrasquad scrimmages. We have to be aware of those situations. "
"They're going to call hand-checking on ball in the post if you leave it on there. Certainly the closer you get to the basket the more physical it's going to be, but out on the floor you're going to see a lot of fouls. Teams are going to get in the one-and-one and the double bonus quicker. It's going to be interesting to see how the consistency goes from the non-conference schedule into the conference schedule and on into the NCAA Tournament."
On the progress made of switching to a more defensive mindset
"We've been better at times defensively. The important thing for us is consistency, to have a consistent effort defensively. We have to be a good defensive rebounding team. Our guys are very unselfish. They enjoy sharing the basketball. We've got some guys that have confidence in their own ability, which is a very good trait to have, but also we've got to be able to show the ball and also move the defense so that we can get some easy baskets and also get to the free throw line. I've been pleased with the progress in practice."
On what he likes about his team
"Well, number one I think we've got some quality young men. That's where it starts. Obviously you have to have talent. We've got some talented players, but we've got some quality young men. They understand what the priorities are. They do a very good job overall in the classroom. They're close off the court. They look out for one another. They're competitive on the court. They realize what our deficiencies were and what we needed to work on, and they're certainly working toward that goal."
"I like our level of talent. We've got some depth at the perimeter positions. Across the front line, we've got some depth as well. We've got to get some guys healthy between now and next Friday, but I like our level of talent."
"I like the way our guys finished up last season in the postseason. Certainly we would have liked to continue and win it, but being in the postseason was important to us to understand how hungry we need to be to get to where you want to play in March."
On the point guard position
"We're deeper at the point position. When you look at Tione (Womack) and the addition of L.J (Rose) and Jaaron Simmons we're going to be deep. The thing about those guys is that we can play them together. We don't just have to play them at the point, so it gives us some flexibility and depth on the perimeter. They can handle the ball, or they can slide off and run the wing as well. For us the point of attack is going to start defensively. We're going to have to be able to contain the ball. That's one of the hardest things at our level in the game today is being able to contain the ball out on the perimeter and not force as many help situations."
On the development of junior forward TaShawn Thomas and sophomore guard Danuel House
"One of the things that has to happen when you have some seniors is you have to count on those seniors for production and leadership. When you look at J.J. (Richardson), Tione (Womack) and Brandon (Morris) we need some production out of those guys. We need leadership."
"It's been well documented about TaShawn and Danuel. TaShawn was First Team All-Conference last year. He's been a starter every year that he's been here. Daniel was freshman of the year. He showed the ability to hit big shots and hit free throws. We talked about him in the off season improving defensively and in the half court by getting to the free throw line more and improving on rebounding."
We've got some other talent guys to go with them. LeRon Barnes was hurt and is coming off surgery. This will be the first time he's been healthy."
"Jherrod (Stiggers) played well for us last year coming off the bench. He's a strong physical player. The two things that we talked about with him was just seeing himself different than a 3-point shooter to be a complete player. He's a very good free-throw shooter. He's got to get to the line. He needs to be a better rebounder for us, and develop the mid-range game, and not just be a 3-point shooter, because the majority of his shots last year were threes. He's going to get crowded and run off that line. He's worked hard on his ball-handling, and ability to drive, and get to the basket, and the free throw line. Offensively those guys can come off screens and post up and score. They're big, and they're long. We're going to have some depth."
"That's one of the things that concerns us a little bit with this new rule. It's going to slow the game down to where depth doesn't affect the game as much as it has in the past, because you could use the depth and run people in and out. If you have 80 possessions, of those possessions you have 62 fouls then there's going to be a lot of stoppage in play. So, it's going to be interesting to see how we can utilize our depth, because we think that we can play a lot of different players in a lot of different combinations."
On preparation for the level of competition this season
"I really don't have to say much, because there has been so much said about the American. Our players understand what we're going to get into in January. They understand that two out of the last three years have come out of the American. When you look at Louisville last year, and three years ago you look at Connecticut. They have great respect for Temple and Cincinnati who were in the NCAA Tournament last year."
"The coaches are outstanding. We have two Hall of Fame coaches in our league in Larry Brown and Rick Pitino, so I don't have to really say much. I'm more concerned about where we start on Tuesday night and what we do next Friday night. We have some tough non-conference schedule. We have some wonderful opportunities there. That's what we'll focus on." "
As far as the league, our players realize the level of competition that we're going to have. Eight of the 10 schools in our league at one time or another in their history have been to the Final Four. The tradition has been tremendous. This is going to be one of the great basketball leagues in the country. This league is going to have an opportunity to get five or six teams in the NCAA Tournament at the end of the year."
SOPHOMORE GUARD L.J. Rose
SOPHOMORE GUARD Jherrod Stiggers
On what he's been working on in the off season
"I'm working on back cutting and getting screens and driving. It started out tough, but I'm getting used to it. I just have to remind myself to not think about shooting and start driving. "
On the new defensive foul rules
"The new rules really upset me, because you can't put hands on guys. I had to change the way I play defense, because I play physical defense. Every time I play physical in practice, I get in trouble, and they make me run. I'm getting used to it. I'm getting used to putting my hands out and sliding my feet."
JUNIOR FORWARD TaShawn Thomas
On what he worked on during the off-season
"Mostly my face-up game. You know most of my baskets last year were with my back to the basket and teams started double teaming me towards the end of season so some of the coaches told me to start working on my face-up game so that I can move faster so when the double team comes I can be able to counter.
On chemistry of the team and rule changes
"The chemistry of the team I think is pretty good. I feel a good vibe coming from the team, we don't really have too much hostility in the locker room. The rule change is hard I mean I can't really touch them, I can't use my hands, a lot of like to use our hands on defense, so the new change is going to be hard but we are going to have to be able to adjust.
On not getting respect in the American Athletic Conference
"Honestly for myself I don't feel like I've been getting the respect my whole life when it comes to basketball. In high school I wasn't really that high coming out so I'm kind of used to it. I just plan to come out and play hard like I always do, I don't really pay much attention to the polls and what they are saying. And as a team just kind of pass that on to them team that it really doesn't matter what people say because we still have to go out there and play."
On buying into defense and rebounding
"Last year, there were some games we had won, and we didn't defend, and they came back and we lost. That is a big problem for me; coach put into my head that we have to defend. If the coaches are the people that believe that we have to defend, then there is something wrong, so we have to get that through everybody on the team's heads that we have to defend.
On play of L.J. Rose
"Very good. I played with him in high school so we know each others game through the AAU circuit. He and I know each other's game, and he is getting along with everybody else on the team. He's finding people when they know they're hot. He is fitting in very well."
On what L.J. Rose brings to the team
"It helps everybody out. Yesterday, he got in trouble for not shooting. He got to the lane, didn't shoot the ball and coach got mad. A lot of people like people like that, an unselfish person. He is going to help us out a lot, always looking for someone else to get a shot, and that is what Coach Dickey wants. He always tells us that everybody can score but you need somebody that can find somebody else when they are open."
On excitement for the upcoming season
"Very excited. I still have butterflies in my stomach like I did when I was in the third grade ready for a game. I just love basketball so much that every time I get a chance to step on the court I get very excited for it."
SOPHOMORE GUARD Danuel House
On not getting any respect from within the conference
"We think about it all the time, every time we go out and practice on the floor, but we kind of like it because we can play the underdog role. All we think about in practice is focusing on defense since everyone said we can't play defense. All we have to do is go to the game and perform. We really have to stop somebody because we can't beat anybody if you can't stop them."
On being a part of a new conference with big name teams
"I'm very excited because the teams have a lot of prowess, and you get to just test yourself day in and day out. You know you really can't just come to practice and mess around so you have to really play every day because if you don't somebody will get after you."
On L.J. Rose
"We are close, on and off the court. Some of us played with each other on the AAU circuit, so we know each other's game and we know what each other likes to do, and we know what each other doesn't like to do. The chemistry we have gained over the years by knowing each other through family friends and the AAU circuit has made us come closer.
On Danrad Knowles
"He is going to expand the range of our team. He is going to space the floor out even more because if we put him at the four position, he can pick and pop and hit the three ball, or if we put him at the three, he will be a big, and he'll post up. He'll cause a lot of mismatch problems for a lot of guards in our conference."
JUNIOR FORWARD Mikhail McLean
On his role as a returner
"My role has been just to have a lot of leadership, a lot of energy, rebound, defend, and hit open shots."
On the mood this year going into a new conference
"It's very exciting. It's just a great opportunity to prove a lot of people wrong. They don't expect us to win a lot of games, so it's just on us to go out there and compete."
On large number of returning players
"The coaches continue to say this may be our best team offensively and defensively since they've been here. If the people really doubt us, we lost a few players but I think we have the best team since I've been here as well. We have a good chance of competing with any team in the country."
On the focus on defense
"The coaches harp on it everyday. That's the most important thing, and that's how we can score the ball. We have to play defense, get tougher and rebound."
On the rule changes
"It's very challenging. We've been having referees, and they literally call if you touch the guy it's a foul. It's really ticky tack, so we have to get used to it. It could also help us because we can shoot a lot more free throws."
SENIOR FORWARD J.J. Richardson
On upcoming season
"All the rule changes will change us a lot because it changes how we play. We just have to play smarter and have a higher basketball IQ on defense, and we will be better on offense."
On team consistency
"The consistency has been going well. We have young people on the team, but this team has been together for the last three years. The consistency has been building up each year. With this new league the coaches have been helping us out a lot just to have a better understanding on how to play and how to mesh together."
On expectations for the team
"Everything has been a lot smoother. Coaches haven't really had to tell us a lot to do because we've been playing together, so we kind of pick it up. Everyone is pulling for each other, and if someone is having problems with something, then another teammate steps up to talk to them and get them back on the right track."