Gottfried Talks Auburn Basketball Game

Following is a transcript from University of Alabama Basketball Coach Mark Gottfried's weekly press conference on Thursday, followed by quotes from Tide starters and Alabama natives Demetrius Jemison and Rico Pickett. Alabama hosts Auburn at 2 p.m. CST Saturday.

Alabama Coach Mark Gottfried's opening comments on Auburn:

"When Alabama and Auburn play, we all know it and we hear the same lines every year, but it's true: I think it's always a great match-up; great games. I've got a lot of respect for their program, the way they play. They're quick. They've been shooting the ball extremely well from the perimeter which has been an area for us where we obviously have to get better. Their strengths, I think, are their quickness and how they're shooting the ball.

"This has been a good week for our team. We didn't have a game mid-week so we had some good practice time. We've gotten extra shooting in. We've got our guys shooting the ball a lot these last couple of days and I think that's going to help, hopefully. And we've been able to work on some things this week. Our guys were also able academically to get back in it. Last week was a tough week. We had three games. We missed some class time when we (because of weather/travel issues) came back from Georgia a day later. So, all in all, it's been a pretty good week for us right now. Obviously it's a big game. We know it. We're looking forward to it."

On any possible changes in the lineup:

"Not necessarily. Our practices have been very competitive. I wouldn't rule it out but we'll wait and see on that."

On where defending the perimeter ranks in priorities of aspects to work on:

"It's a high priority. I think what we've done a pretty good job of at times this year is not giving up a lot of baskets around the paint. And I think probably concentrating on one area we've kind of given up some in another area. So that has hurt us. We've got to do a better job there obviously of not letting teams shoot the ball as well as they have against us from the 3-point line."

On keeping pressures of this game from building (Auburn rivalry, Tigers winning both games last year, and Tide's 0-4 league record):

"There was a stretch where we had won seven in a row against Auburn and then last year we didn't. So we're well aware of that. But from my perspective I don't think it needs to encompass all those things. It's about one game. We need to play. We need to practice today. We've talked to our guys about practicing today the best you can be. Friday, Saturday, whatever day it is. And this Saturday we need to see if we can play to the best of our ability and not worry about all the other things and let's see if we can get our team going in the direction we want it to go."

On Richard Hendrix's post-Mississippi State game press conference comment that the mood of the team continues to be positive: "

I want to say two things on that: number one, I think Richard, since you mentioned his name, has been just terrific. You couldn't ask for anything more from him and the leadership he's trying to provide from that perspective. It's been off the chart. Very, very good. And I think our team been very good. I have never felt one time that we have any internal issues. There's just nothing like that. Our guys practice hard. They came back out the other day with a lot of enthusiasm. Our spirit has been very good. I think they're ready and willing to learn, ‘What do we need to do to get better?' That's been the attitude of our team. That's all you can ask from them. I think it's been great and I think it will stay there. I think that's the kind of young guys we've got on our team."

On Auburn's win against Ole Miss and how Auburn is playing:

"The way they, play, number one, you've got a team that's really got five perimeter players that play. So as you study and watch them, everybody that has interior guys like a Hendrix and a Darian Townes, and Steven Hill at Arkansas, and Dwayne Curtis, and even LSU's big players, those pose problems because your players, your inside guys, end up having to chase guards all over the floor. And so that's been the issue, even when Florida played them. Florida started out playing a man and you've got to find a place for Marreese Speights to play. Who's he guarding out there? Here comes Auburn and they're moving the ball and they've got all these small guys. And so teams have zoned them; manned them. There are a lot of different things teams have done. We'll do the same. You've got to find the best way to guard them. I think that's where the problems start because of the way they play (and) who they have on the floor. They've done a good job with that."

On winning seven in a row in the series then losing both in 2007: was that surprising?

"We went down there if I remember this right and got beat. And I think when we came back, I believe Ron (Steele) started in the game if I can remember correctly, and I think in about five minutes he pulled out and didn't play again. And so that was one of the typical games that we had last year where I thought we were just never really in sync at all. And you've got to give those guys credit. They came in here and did what they needed to do. We've had great games even when we won seven in row. They were great games. Always have been and probably always will be."

On how teams are "similar this year to last year":

"I don't know that we're similar. Now you remember last year we had Jermareo (Davidson) and Richard in there playing and our team was a lot different. This year with the freshman point guard in Rico (Pickett). So we're different but we have studied them. And they have studied us. In today's day of technology, you get every game. You get it all. So we've watched them and I'm sure they've done the same."

On Alabama's free throw shooting:

"I think we're going to improve. I think we are getting better. I think Richard shot his foul shots better the other night. I liked the way he looked shooting the ball from the line. And we've had some other guys who I think are good foul shooters who just for whatever reasons, whether they were in some type of slump or whatever---Alonzo Gee, Brandon Hollinger missed some the other night. But I think we have some good foul shooters and I think that we're going to be a pretty good foul shooting team as the year goes on."

On how long the slump has lasted and is it the longest he's experienced:

"In my tenure it is. I haven't experienced it and have been fortunate in that regard. We've had pretty good teams. But it's part of athletics. Teams go through it. Good coaches have teams that go through it. You've got to keep battling and trying to find ways to get your team to get out of it. And that's what we're doing. It's part of the game. It's part of the territory. And again, I think that we have worked extremely hard. Our players have worked extremely hard and I think we're going to have some success here at some point."

On any changes in routine in that free throw work:

"Not necessarily. We shoot a lot of foul shots. Traditionally, if you go back and look through the years percentagewise, we've always had one of the better foul shooting teams in the league. We just have a situation this year where we haven't done that from the foul line. We just need to keep working at it."

On growing pains at the point guard position and this "being first time in a long time" Alabama has not had a veteran or marquee point guard in years, beginning with Mo Williams, Antoine Pettway and Ronald Steele:

"Let me answer that by saying I think Rico Pickett is very talented. Back in September when Ron decided to redshirt, it changed things for Rico. Now all of a sudden he's going from kind of an apprentice situation where ‘I'm going to learn, now I'm in there.' I think he's done a good job. I don't think he's played nearly as well as he can lately. I think he knows that. He's aware of it: some decisions in the break and handling the ball and shot selection. But I believe in him. I think he's a good player. I think he's going to have a good career here. It's just kind of been a tough one for him. He does have big shoes to fill. We have had good point guards here. He knows all that stuff. And he's playing against one at practice right now (Steele, on the scout team) that seems pretty much at 100% just about now. He's learning every day now with Ron out there practicing now that he's got a ways to go. But I love his attitude. He goes hard. He wants to learn. I think he's going to keep getting better."

On playing a team like Auburn that doesn't have a lot of depth, does he run offense more around Hendrix?

"I think our team knows that Richard is a pretty strong option for us. You have to remember that the other team now, they're going to do some things to not allow him to have the success he's been having. With the guy shooting the percentages that Richard shoots, you'd like for him to take 40 shots a game at that percentage. That's not realistic. Other teams are doing things to take the ball out of his hands and double him and keep it out of there. Our guys know that that's where we want the ball to go but we also have got to make shots around the perimeter, too. I think prior to January we were a very confident 3-point shooting team, a very effective 3-point shooting team. And we've kind of hit a point here where we're not making as many shots. You cannot become a team that looks for one guy to score all of your points. That's unrealistic. You're not going to get into any flow. Other guys will step up. They will. We're going to make some shots, open it back up a little bit more for Richard inside. But we've seen a lot of different defenses, too. We've seen guys doing a lot of different things trying to keep him from having good nights, and he's been pretty consistent every night."

On difficulties when outside shots aren't falling and teams are forcing ball away from Hendrix to force outside shots:

"I think we've seen that the last few games. We've seen teams where Richard doesn't have a lot of room to operate down there. He's got one in front of him and one behind him. Everybody's two steps off their guy and one step closer to Richard. Our players recognize it. They see it. We've talked about it. You've got to step up and make some shots. This isn't a real complicated situation (to access). Again, I think there have been some periods where we have shot the ball extremely well from the perimeter and we've kind of had a stretch here where we haven't."

On how different the outcomes in some of these games could have been with the slightest improvement in those areas:

"I think they're a lot different. Here's the thing you've got to remember right now. Defensively there's a lot of room for improvement. That's where you've got to start before you start your offense. We've concentrated on taking certain things away but then we've made ourselves vulnerable in other areas that offensively, when you consider the fact that we've shot a dismal percentage from the perimeter and from the foul line and we're still in every game. It's encouraging to shoot as poorly as we have and still be in a position to win, basically in all four (SEC) games. So we need to improve defensively first, number one. But at the same time in basketball, when you step up and make some shots the game is a different game. And that's kind of where we've been as well."

Demetrius Jemison, sophomore, forward, Birmingham, Ala.:

On the Alabama vs. Auburn rivalry:

"The rivalry itself, it's real cool being a part of it. After watching the football rivalry growing up over the years, it's nice to be a part of the Alabama/Auburn rivalry. As for the players themselves, they're going to be a lot of guards out on the floor, not really a true big man out there. We're going to have to defend well on the perimeter and stop penetration because that's what they're going to want to do, penetrate and kick or penetrate and get all the way to the goal and get us in foul trouble with Richard (Hendrix) and myself, the big guys inside, and kind of speed up the pace of the game as well."

On his friendships with some of Auburn's players, particularly Tigers starters Quan Prowell and Rasheem Barrett who Jemison and Tide teammate Mikhail Torrance spent two weeks playing basketball and touring China playing exhibition games with for Reach USA (Christian sports ministry) in May 2007:

"Rasheem Barrett and Quan Prowell—we called him ‘QP'—good dudes. Rasheem is a strong, physical guard who can handle the ball, shoot it a little bit, and Quan is like a 6-8 small forward. He's strong. He can handle the ball. He can shoot the ball from the 3 really well. So we're going to have our hands full just contesting those shots and keeping them outside of the lane."

"It's going to be fun playing against each other (Prowell and Barrett). I've played against a couple of the other guys I went to China with so it's going to be fun seeing each other again and playing against each other, but once we get out on the court it's all business and we can talk about whatever we need to talk about later."

Rico Pickett, freshman, point guard, Decatur, Ala.:

On preparing to play in his first Alabama vs. Auburn game:

"I'm real excited about it. I can't wait until we play and find out what the results are, but I'm real amped up to play."

On any Auburn players he knows:

"Number 23, Quantez Robertson, came to my home town this summer and played a couple of pick-up games that I played in, so that was a pretty good experience."

On what his older teammates have told him about the rivalry:

"They talk about how big the rivalry is and how good Auburn is. They don't really have a true post player right now, so everybody pretty much guards so they said Auburn is pretty hard to guard. So I'm going to find out."

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