A Q&A with Damon Archibald

Iowa State's men's basketball team is busy preparing for the start of a competitive conference season, and a few key areas have been the focus of practice. Assistant coach Damon Archibald gave an ISU progress report during a question-and-answer session with CycloneNation.com.

CN: Where would you say this team is heading into Big 12 play?

Archibald: As a coaching staff, we're pretty much where we thought we'd be at this time. When you look at our schedule, logic would have said that. Preseason, people would have said we were 8-and-3 or 7-and-4 because of how young we were. We're pretty happy with where we're at right now in that regard. We're pretty excited about where the team is at this juncture.

CN: How much of a concern is it to be going out on the road again after having played Xavier on Monday?

Archibald: I don't think it's a concern going on the road. But it's a concern going in to play Missouri who's a hot team right now for the first game in conference. It's a clean slate, but you're going to take someone's best shot in the first game of the year. It's the home opener and conference game. Every Big 12 team is very optimistic about their season.

CN: Break down the Xavier game a little bit. What are some things you guys need to polish up on between Monday and the Big 12 stretch?

Archibald: You've got to remember, we have some great players in our program but they're very young. The biggest obstacle that this team is going to have to overcome is adversity. The great example is the USC football game last night. Oklahoma scored the first touchdown, and teams could fold and drop their head a little bit and not play as hard. But USC scored, what, the next six touchdowns? That's the maturity that we're searching for. It comes through the process of getting all your own guys in the program and building from the ground up. We're trying to build that.

CN: How much of a concern is the rebounding aspect of this team?

Archibald: It's a very high concern. There is not a whole lot of coaching in rebounding. It's just going out and getting the ball. You recruit rebounders and shooters. Kids either have a knack for that or they don't. Very few people are self-made shooters or rebounders in college basketball. We can have rebounding as a philosophy, but you've really got to have the desire to go get the basketball. We've addressed it in practices and it really came to a head at Xavier. I think it's an effort thing.

CN: What ways can you coach that up in practice?

Archibald: We've got to emphasize rebounding. Will Blalock played 40 minutes the other night and has one rebound. A lot of people equate rebounding to our big men, but it's everyone. Curtis Stinson, Jared Homan, and Rahshon Clark do an excellent job rebounding, but we've got to get everybody else to have the same desire that those three have.

CN: Are the freshmen and newcomers ready for the start of conference play?

Archibald: I definitely think they are. Tasheed Carr has started a majority of the games for us this year and done an outstanding job in that role. He grows with every game. I think we've had 10 guys in double figures this year, so we're extremely excited about our new guys, support staff, and how everyone has come along. That makes us hard to scout.

CN: Obviously, you've got Missouri first and foremost, but the first month of the season is a difficult one.

Archibald: It's unfortunate the way we're starting the league up – at Missouri, Kansas at home, and at Oklahoma State. You're looking at three monster games that you're probably not going to be favored to win. We've got to handle adversity and be able to dig our way out of it.

We're still young and our best basketball is going to be played at the end of the year. It would have been nice to flip-flop the schedule and have these first three games as the last three games. I think we're going to be a completely different team by then.

CN: Do you feel opposing teams are starting to play Stinson differently, given the improvements he's made in his game?

Archibald: His game has matured. Players are having to go over the top of screens now because he's able to hit that jump shot. He's hitting the 3-point shot this year and worked at it very hard this summer. Losing Jake Sullivan changes things a little bit with the half-court makeup of our team. That's something they had to adjust to for a while.

One of the struggles we had is when we didn't have that third guy to hit that outside shot. They were cheating off that person. Now we have guys starting to hit that outside shot with John Neal, Rahshon Clark, and Anthony Davis. Plus, we all know how capable Tasheed Carr is.

Curtis is still scoring just fine. I had a reporter ask me last game what was the matter with Curtis, and saying he had an off game. But he still had 18 points, six steals, five rebounds, and four assists. He shot 6-for-16 from the field, but three of those shots were desperation threes in the last minute of the game. That's a little tainted, too. Curtis is held to a pretty high standard by the media, but he's a sophomore.

CN: Are you starting to notice some candidates emerge as key factors behind the big three of Stinson, Blalock, and Homan?

Archibald: It's already happened. The one thing that we're going to have to accept is – we have four or five guys that are extremely capable and if somebody gets hot we're just going to ride that wave. It's just like John Neal hitting five threes in one half and having 16 points. Then you have Anthony Davis hitting three threes in the last game and plays well. Rahshon and Tasheed have done that. We have extremely capable players in those positions. Coach Morgan is going to ride that hot hand until it goes cold.

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