Hogs Prepare for Cage Exhibition

Stan Heath discussed Wednesday's game with Athletes In Action at his weekly media briefing.

After visiting with the Washington County Bar Association, Stan Heath stepped up in class and joined the media for a 20-minute session in which he discussed the coming season along with Wednesday night's exhibition with Athletes In Action.

Heath said he was "very excited" about getting to coach his new team against someone besides themselves, and felt that his players were feeling the same way.

"We are all looking forward to Wednesday," Heath said. "Finally, we get to test ourselves against someone else. We should find out some of our weaknesses and we should find out some of the things we do well.

"Athletes In Action is usually one of the better exhibition teams. I know some of their players and think this is a good team, or they will be once they develop some chemistry and play a few games."

AIA is 0-1 after losing a 66-56 decision to Air Force Sunday night in its first exhibition. It plays at Colorado State tonight before taking Tuesday off ahead of the trip to the Ozarks.

"They have some talented players, and most of them have played some professional basketball here and overseas," Heath said. "I know Casey Shaw and he's a very good center. He knows how to score and that will be a good test for our big men. I know Saddi Washington and he's a very good guard, and was an all-conference player at Western Michigan."

Shaw, 6-11, played at Toledo in 1998, and has had pro stints in Italy and with the 76ers. Washington, 6-3 guard, has played three years in the ABA.

Heath said his top five is not firm, but before Monday's practice he said it probably consists of Eric Ferguson, Kendrick Davis, Dionisio Gomez, Carl Baker and either Larry Satchell or Alonzo Lane.

"I'm not sure about the post spot, and that could change after two more workouts," Heath said. "We'll probably play 10 or 11 in this game, and we'd like to work it down to eight or nine. We aren't to the point we can pick eight or nine just yet."

Heath said the goal was "to win the game," but noted that finding a rotation was also one of the goals.

"We want to learn about our team and will look at different combinations," Heath said. "We'd like to see who is productive. It's always important to win. Winning breeds winning. We have so many young guys and I think it's important to try to win with them."

Heath said one of the major goals Wednesday night would be to "force difficult shots with our defense. We want to play solid defense. On offense, we want good ball movement ... touches inside and out ... and to look for dribble penetration and to see if we can knock down some shots on the perimeter. We also will be looking at free throws and turnovers."

Heath will also be looking at the way some of the youngsters handle themselves.

"With Wenbos Mukubu and Jonathan Modica, I want to see if they settle down some," he said. "They were so excited in the Red-White game. They played in a hurry. They've been playing well, and they just need to slow down. Both have had a lot of success in practice and I want to see if that carries over to the games.

"We won't make wholesale changes in the lineup. We'll play five minutes, and then add two guys, and then maybe add another couple after two more minutes. We'll get to a totally new lineup, but not at one time. I think putting in five new players cold turkey disrupts the flow."

As for where the team is right now, Heath said, "I have some ideas, but I still have some ideas and concerns about what we need to do to get better. There's some things we haven't worked on at all, like our zone offense. That may hurt us in the exhibitions because that's what those teams usually play. We'll see more man in the regular season and have worked more against man. We'll do some zone preparation this week and hopefully that will help us in the exhibition, but I think we'll see more man than anything this year and that has been our focus so far."

As for Ferguson's minutes at the point, Heath was hoping to get at least 30 minutes per game out of his true freshman. That would mean Davis would have to play at least 10 minutes on the point.

"At some point, (Ferguson) is going to get tired and have to come out a bit," Heath said. "If we can't get 10 from Kendrick there, then we'll have to slow down on offense ... milk the clock a little ... to let him rest some there or alter our aggressiveness some. You can't rest on defense, so if you are going to rest, then it will be on offense. Hopefully, it won't come to that.

"The AIA game will be a good test for Eric. He's played mainly against Jamar Blackmon in practice. Jamar is a good player, but he's not a point guard. He's not natural there and he has some ups and downs. He's tried hard, but Eric will get a better test in this game. He'll see someone that has some quickness and athletic ability to play the point, and it will be interesting to see how he responds and plays when he makes some mistakes. Like all freshmen, he'll make some mistakes. I want to see him in that situation."

Heath was asked to compare where the Hogs are compared to last year's Kent State team, both learning the Heath system from scratch.

"It's been an adjustment in style for our players, but the main difference is that at Kent State, we had senior guards who had played in the NCAA tournament, and been to war, and we are trying to do the same thing as far as making an adjustment in style with freshman guards," Heath said. "I really think that your guards have to take a leadership role and that's an adjustment for freshmen."

Heath said he was excited to see what a Bud Walton Arena crowd will be like on Wednesday night.

"I don't know what kind of crowd comes out for an exhibition, but I hope to get an electric atmosphere with the crowd," he said. "I've heard a lot about the crowds and I'm excited to see how it's going to be in this arena."

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