Coaches Corner: Lute at Media Day

The beginning of the season always has certain events that always occur: Pick-up games, individual work-outs, Midnight Madness, the first practice and media day. Lute Olson spoke with the media for the first time since the end of last season and gave everyone an overview of the upcoming season.

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"I have been very pleased with the effort and concentration so far in practice. The chemistry on the team has been very good. They all seem to enjoy the other guys on the team. We've had good leadership on the court out of the three juniors (Rick Anderson, Luke Walton and Jason Gardner). Jason Gardner is critical because he is the guy with the ball. Luke and Rick have been very helpful with the young guys also in going through the learning with everything that we are involved with.

"With the freshman, the primary thing I can say is that we wouldn't want to throw any of them back. All five are very capable of playing on this level. They have shown tremendous attitudes in terms of learning. They want to learn. It's a difficult time right now with everything we are throwing at them, especially with the early start on Nov. 8 (vs. Maryland).

"The schedule as I've said before are set two and three years in advance and we assumed it was going to be a veteran ball club. The schedule is tough and what makes it even tougher is that it is early. You have to go a little bit quicker over the fundamentals that you would like to spend time on in order to get to whatever we may face in the Nov. 8 and 9 games like full court pressure, zones, and things that we would hardly be started on by the eighth of November. We're going to have that in by at least this weekend to where we can have at least some of it to get the team operating smoothly as a unit.

"With the returning guys it's obvious that we are seeing a lot of improvement. A lot has been said about Rick Anderson and how he has been doing in the individual workouts. (Sophomore guard) Travis Hanour is playing more like an experienced player. He seems to be much more confident in what he is doing and what he is being asked to do.

"We have to get ready to play in New York and then we are going to have to back pedal. Once we get through the two games in New York, there is more time (to work on things) each week practically until Dec. 1. We are definitely on the fast track as far as getting to team offense and defense. We would normally not put that in until we established individual fundamentals.

"With four and five (positions) they're totally interchangeable offensively. It could be a number of combinations of our four posts, provided that our two (guys) could defend the opponent's two (guys). Both Rick and Luke are capable of playing the three and the four.

"With the perimeter positions, the two and three positions are totally interchangeable as well. There again it gets down to who we are playing.

"I think Jason is enjoying this team. Jason, Ricky and Luke have become closer as the result of knowing what we told them their roles would be and what their responsibilities would be. Jason is doing a very solid job for us. I do think the experience of going through the pre-draft camp were probably good for him in terms of showing him what needs to be improved. The good thing is that Jason is a team guy and is not going to go off on his own to get where he wants to be. The best way to get where he wants to be is to do a great job as the floor leader on the court just as our point guards have done through the years. The pros are not looking for a guy that scores 30 points and can't play with the other guys. The pros are looking for a guy who can make each player out there better.

"Of the returning guys, defensively Travis Hanour has made the most improvement. It was a real shock for him to come into the program last year and have to go against Gilbert (Arenas) or Richard (Jefferson). That's not a great way to build your confidence. He's much quicker with his lateral movement now and much quicker now with his feet. We're very pleased with what we are seeing out of him.

"The Pac-10 conference is hard to figure out based on our experience. If you go by the most experience, UCLA returns the most and they have a great recruiting class to go with it. My guess is that we will be predicted to finish fifth or lower."

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