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Oliver Purnell Season Opener Comments (24:57)
Purnell: Obviously we are very excited about the opening game Friday night. I kind of feel like we are at a point that some of the things we need to get better at, we need to play a game (to do it.) Bethune-Cookman certainly a capable opponent. We've got some tape on them against Syracuse, which was a loss, and also St. Francis, which was a win. Their big kid Williams, gives them an incredible inside-outside attack. They can do a lot of things from the high post, as well as the low-post. They'll do some trapping. It's a team that we will need to be prepared for a number of different defenses for. I really do think (this game) is about us, our approach and how we play. We are obviously looking at seven guys to throw out there at the beginning. K.C. Rivers, Sam Perry, Vernon Hamilton, Shawan Robinson, Cliff Hammonds, Akin Akingbala, and James Mays are the guys we are considering (as starters Friday). I'm sure we will have different line ups as the year goes on, we'll have different line ups.
So Troy Mathis is not among your top seven guys entering the start of the season?
Purnell: Yesterday was probably his best day. I'm interested to see today how his knee responds. He's shown that (good play) in flashes. No, I wouldn't say he's in that top group of guys right now, but at the same time, we are hoping that he's going to work his way up into those nine or 10 guys. He certainly would be one of those guys. It's a matter of how much time we can get out of him.
Are you expecting more offense out of Sam Perry this year?
Purnell: I think so. Probably you'll see more offense because he'll play more minutes. He didn't play a lot of minutes during the first 10, 15 games. He'll probably score a little bit more. We aren't looking for him to drain for 30. He's kind of a post up guard. His offensive game what change a whole lot, but his offensive minutes will go up.
What was your approach to improving free throw shooting during the offseason?
Purnell: We've placed a heavy emphasis on free throw shooting starting last year. We started there and talked about getting more reps up. Starting this fall, we really adjusted the mechanics of a lot of our players. We've come up with a philosophy for our team. And that's being patient at the free throw line, almost like a starting pitcher. We've watched them a lot more than I can remember in the past. We've gotten in a lot more reps. As practice has gone on, we've given them more pressure situations. You know, where they are running, or standing in front a group (team stands and watches one player). So we've handled both the mental and the physical. Hopefully it will pay dividends. I think it will.
Have you seen enough out of Akin Akingbala to expect him to be a go-to guy in the paint?
Purnell: He is our go-to guy in the paint. And I have seen him improve, but it remains to be seen how effective will be. He is probably 10-15 pounds heavier. His stamina is much better. He's getting more done. The last few scrimmages, it's shown up in terms of numbers: scoring and rebounding. I think it's going to be obvious that he's improved. He's not looking over his shoulder, and that's going to help him. Obviously, he's going to get a lot more touches than he did last year. He's now a senior. He's been through some good times as well as tough times. He's athletic enough to get it done and I anticipate him being effective for us.