Steve Alford Presser 11-8 Transcript

The Iowa Head Coach met with the media on Tuesday with his team's season opener less than a week away. Alford discussed suspensions to Henderson and Smith, the improvement of Brett Wessels, the progress of Freeman and Haluska, the ethics of recruiting players that have verballed to other schools, and more. Read all about it in this presser transcipt

Opening Statement: Before we talk about our lovely practices that are going on, let me just put some closure to Tyler and Mike's situation. Four weeks ago, we sat down with them. I told each of them what the situation was going to be. Mike was going to miss two games and Tyler was going to miss one game. That would be the extent of it if they could fulfill internally things within our locker room that we had set up over the next four weeks. I was pleased that they were able to do that. I obviously was disappointed in the error that they made a little over four weeks ago. It's become even more complicated for Mike because Mike has become injured. That's a tough break for him. That's a tough break for the team.

But these guys were notified of (the punishment) about four weeks ago. The reason Mike had more one tacked on him and a little bit more stringent things put on him was because he had a captain next to his name. When you're a captain, even more things are expected of you, not just from a personal standpoint, but also of how you lead your teammates. He's had a little different set up for him than what Tyler has had, but they both fulfilled all of their things from what they needed from them in-house.

So, Tyler will miss the Buena Vista game on Friday. And Mike was set to miss the Buena Vista and Citadel and will be out a lot more than now. He did have his hand X-rayed today. It looks good. It's been a little over a week and things look a lot better than what they thought. It seems to be healing nicely, but we still don't have any kind of time frame of when he'll be back from that standpoint.

So, that's all we're going to discuss about it. I wanted to get that out. If you have any other questions pertaining to Buena Vista or Citadel or our lovely practices, I'd be more than happy to answer them.

Just so it's clear, is it two games from when (Mike is) cleared to play or does it supersede?

No, it supersedes all that. The reason why it supersedes is that he was told ahead of time. I don't think that's fair when all of a sudden you get injured…it's not fair that he got injured. But if they hadn't been told, it might have been a little bit different. But four weeks ago, they were told what the situation was. It would become more than that if they didn't fulfill the in-house things they had to fulfill. They both did that.

So Tyler will be able to play against Citadel?

Citadel, not Buena Vista.

And Mike comes back when he's healthy?

Whenever he becomes healthy, yeah.

Does it concern you that you only have one exhibition game before the regular season starts?

This is the first time I've done it. Coach Buckley did this at Ball State. I really like what we did as far as a scrimmage setting that we got against Illinois State. The only thing that I don't like about it is that you don't get the crowd. Normally, exhibitions don't have the big crowd, but it allows your team to play in front of a crowd. That's why Friday is going to be so important for us. We'll do a lot of subbing. We'll try to get in a routine of subbing and who we want to play in the rotation for that Citadel game pretty quickly in that game. That's the downside of playing a scrimmage. The upside of playing the scrimmage is that you get to work on what you want to work on. We worked on every area of the game against Illinois State. You don't get to do that in an exhibition game.

Can you explain how that comes about?

The NCAA did a nice thing several years ago. They wanted to get rod of all the ugliness of University A gets this particular team to play and I'm going to pay that team a huge guarantee and ironically a year later I'm getting a very good player from that team. There was a lot of ugliness from the recruiting end of it. Some that standpoint, it's great. And I like the idea of being able to play NCAA schools, Division II, Division III. It's a great opportunity for Buena Vista having them playing in front of fans at Carver. There are a lot of Iowa kids on their team. Brian has done a tremendous job there. I got my start at Division III. I loved my time there. We played Ball State when I was at Manchester and that was the highlight of our season. It didn't matter what we did the rest of the season, our kids always talked about that game. It's great for them. We've tried to keep that money in state and try to help programs throughout the state. But we can't play two of those. We can play one. We need to play another one that has more of a Division I feel to it. That's why the scrimmage with Illinois State took place.

When did that take place?

Nov. 5.

You said you tried to work on everything?

Pressing, what we want to do against certain presses, working on zone O, working on zone D, working on our of bounds situations, working on late clock situations, whether it's late in the shot clock, what we call situationals, just really trying to work all areas of the game to throw at your guys to see how they respond to it. We had some really good, some average, and some really bad. That's kind of where we're at right now. I hope some of it is that we need to play somebody else. We've had 25, 26 practices and I'm hoping we can get some things aired out by playing somebody else because we're not near where we've got to be right now.

What can we look for from Justin Johnson?

He's long. He's athletic. He can really shoot the ball. He's just new. Mike Henderson started over 30 games last year and played more than 1,000 minutes and got overshadowed by Erek and Bru and Jeff. He can really play the game. He understands it. Justin understands it. He just hasn't played at this level yet. Justin is going to be a great guard for us. We've just got to be patient with him. We can't look at him like Mike Henderson or a Jeff Horner. He just doesn't have that kind of experience yet. Athletically, he can do a lot of things defensively. Until he figures out things offensively, we're hoping he can do a lot of good things for us defensively.

How does your guard rotation work without Mike?

You've got Brett and Tony at the point position. Justin can swing to the point position, Adam and Tyler. After Friday, Tyler gets into that mix. We're beat up a little. Eventually, it will get deep again.

Based on your practice this morning, it looked like Wessels might have a significant role.

There's no question. He benefited last year. His role last year was just to beat up Jeff Horner every day. And that's not easy because Jeff competes so hard. So does Brett. He has learned how to play the game. He knows our system well. And he's really had an outstanding fall. I don't know if anybody has prepared himself better for the year than what Brett Wessels has done. When you do that, it doesn't matter if you're a walk-on or a scholarship kid, you earn that right. To me, he's earned playing time. How many minutes he's going to get or what his role will be, I don't know. But he'll definitely be in our rotation to start the season.

It seem like every two minutes where you were saying nice pass, Brett; nice shot, Brett.

He's just doing what we want him to do. Some other guys are a little tight. That's what we've talked about. Roles are changing. Tony's role last year is kind of what Brett is in now. Tony's role this year is that he has to raise his game. That's not always easy. Tony will get there. Tyler Smith who comes in as a freshman, his role is going to be a lot different than what Tony Freeman's role was last year. Tony had the luxury of playing behind a lot of vets. Tyler doesn't. Tyler has to elevate his game a lot quicker than what Tony did. That's what we're trying to battle and get through right now. If you look at Cyrus Tate, there are not a lot of differences in him and Greg Brunner when Greg Brunner was a freshman. From a coaching and fans' standpoint, we're all used to seeing Greg Brunner and that quality of play. It's going to take Cyrus some time. But Cyrus is a guy that can really rebound, run the floor and do the things we want to do. It's just going to take more than three weeks of practice to get there.

What do you hope to get out of the Buena Vista game?

Usually in a game like this, we'd substitute five for five. We're going to treat this as a real game situation like it was the Citadel game. They don't play like the Citadel is going to play. But it's going to be a great test for us. They're going to be undersized, maybe a 6-5, 6-6 center. We had to deal with that with Wartburg a year ago where Erek had to go out and guard a guard. We'll have to do some of that as well. But I want to see how our guys react to different things that BV can throw at us.

Have any of your bigs established themselves to be a consistent scorer the way that Bru was?

No. We don't have a 15 point scoring post yet. Bru could have got more than that, but we were balanced. We'll be balanced again this year. But with Kurt and Seth, I really look at it from a position standpoint. Kurt and Seth are centers. Last year, we got eight points and about seven or eight rebounds a game if you combine Erek and Doug. Now, instead of Erek and Doug you have Seth and Kurt. Can they get eight and eight? They are capable of doing that. They're capable of doing more than that. You throw Cyrus into the mix at a power forward position, we could go big with Kurt and Seth together. We could go small with Cyrus being the center with four guards and allow Tyler to float a little bit. The team has a lot of versatility to it. We have to figure out through sub patterns and flow of the game and what we think through scouting that we can throw at opponents.

Coming into practice, would have predicted that Gorney and Looby would be starting together?

Probably not when we started, but Kurt has shown such growth and progress and he's been here for a year. Seth has been here for two years. Cyrus doesn't have that advantage. Cyrus is coming out of junior college and doesn't have the experience that these two have with our system. Right now, Cyrus is behind those guys right now just because his knowledge of the system. It's not effort. It's not skill or talent. Kurt and Seth just know when we say regular or we say triangle or we get in zone offense, they've seen it before. Cyrus has never seen it. Cyrus is doing a lot of thinking. Once he gets comfortable and back to his instincts, Cyrus' role is going to change as the season goes on.

You've had the luxury of having a point guard that knows the system and could get you into your offense so well. How is Tony coming along with that part of the point guard's role?

He's coming. But we've got to be patient. We really do. Jeff was somebody that grabbed the ball when he got to campus his freshmen year. He had the ball in his hands for four years. You get spoiled from a coaching standpoint. You don't worry about team's pressing you. You don't worry about the shot you're going to get. You don't worry about a big play that needs to be made. That was what Jeff was about. When you lose Jeff, you can't help but take a step back. We know we've done that. Tony is going to be very good.

Do you have to approach it differently in the sense in terms of dealing with Tony or Mike as opposed to how you dealt with Jeff?

There's no question. Jeff could get very stubborn and hard headed. That's what made Jeff who he was. We had a lot of fun with that. And we had great leaders like Justin Wieck. I'd bounce something off Jeff and he didn't like it and Jeff would go to Justin. Justin would be like, hey, just what you're supposed to do and we'll be fine. We're trying to find that from within our team. Where is the leadership coming from? Where is the identity of this team? This time last year, we knew our identity. We didn't know we would be that kind of defensive team, but we thought that we would be. All the credit goes to the guys. They bought into it and they became a great defensive team. But we knew our identity. We had experience. We knew we were going to get the shot that we wanted. Guys understood how to play at this level. We don't know a lot of those answers yet. The month of November is going to be about learning and getting those experiences. Like today, before practice, we went thought pre-game warm-ups. Last year, I didn't have to worry about pre-game warm-ups. We practiced over at the IBCA clinic last Friday and were awful. It might have been one of the worse practices we ever had. They didn't know how to stretch. They had no idea that there was going to be 1,000 coaches at Urbandale watching them. You saw them. It was like, what happened to the emptiness of Carver? These are all new experiences for them. We have to be patient with that. We've caught ourselves several times, saying, boy we haven't had to deal with this. We have to deal with it now. It makes it fun because it's new, but we've got to be patient with them. This team has a chance to be pretty good as we get down the road.

Does Adam need to be more aggressive?

No question. Adam is a Top 10 shooting guard in the country. He's preseason all-Big Ten first team. He's never been that before. His role changes. How can he do it? Can he step up and be an all-Big Ten guy. Preseason is one thing. Can you do that through the season? That's another question mark. Where does his leadership go to now that Jeff and Bru are gone? Jeff and Bru were his boys. Now, his boys are gone.

Are you in a position to comment on recruits yet?

No. We still need a few phone calls in regard to that. We're hoping by 5 o'clock today all of that is done. There have already been a couple of press conferences and a third one is happening after school.

Do you have any thoughts about whether guys should be able to sign earlier?

That's the question that will come up in our May meetings. Our commissioner was pretty clear cut on what he believes. I don't think the Big Ten wants the kind of press that our league got of an oral commitment in league and then a de-commitment in league and then a commitment to another league school. I don't think that's ever good. There have to be better communication between coaches. But it really comes down to character and integrity of the game and how you treat the game. I can only tell you how we handle things. We recruited a kid all summer than played at Tony's high school. Today he is probably signing with Ohio State and he committed to Ohio State about two months ago. That really came out of the blue to us. All literature, all phone calls, all text messages stopped. We didn't understand why it happened so fast. He didn't visit like we thought he was going to visit. But when somebody commits somewhere else, and we don't care if it's even out of league, we stop recruiting. If that recruits parents start calling us, then we owe it to that other coach to call and say that these parents are still calling us wanting to know if we're still going to recruit their child. You have to respect that other coach and make that phone call. That's how we would handle it. We would never start recruiting that kid again unless he publicly came and de-committed, which seems to be the trend right now among college basketball athletes. They like to commit and then de-commit. Some parents can't get out of the limelight of all the recruiting. From coaching standpoint, if we believe in the game, the NABC, the Guardians of the Game is about and what we stand for as coaches, that's really attacking our integrity and character of how much we respect the game.

Should guys be able to commit earlier?

Yeah, I like the early commitments. But what we'll talk about it May is should there be an early signing period during a player's junior year. There are pros and cons to that. We shouldn't even be talking about it if there was more ethics and integrity in our game. We shouldn't even be talking about it. Unfortunately, we have to deal with that. Unfortunately, verbal commitments to a lot of coaches just means shrinking the field of who you've got to recruit against. That's never good for your game. It's not something that we want in the Big Ten.

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