We were looking today; we have 14 practice days, six guaranteed games, possibly nine and what we need to do in that time is to seize the opportunity. If you look at the teams we have been playing, it's interesting. It was Purdue, who gave us the worst defeat that we have had. We didn't win and we were disappointed, but we competed at a higher level. Now we have Michigan coming in and they beat us by 15, and Michigan State after that that beat us by 15. Those were teams that extended leads on us that we didn't challenge well. It's a good opportunity for us, and to work hard, finish strong and see what happens. As long as there is that opportunity, you have to do everything you can to seize it. It won't just happen; we won't try to luck into it. We will use those 14 days very wisely.
Q: Health update?
Todd Lickliter: That will take me a while, we could be here a while. Cyrus is day to day. It's hard for him to extend up onto his toes; he doesn't get the lift, but he is better. At this rate, he will be ready for RAGBRAI, because he has been on the bike a lot. He is working hard on that. Jeff is sore, but working hard and I am hopeful that it's not to the extent that it could have been. We hope to get him back. I don't foresee him practicing this week and I don't know that we will have him back Sunday. Jake is Jake; maybe three is a part of him that doesn't hurt, I don't know. He gets knocked around and that was a courageous effort the other day. The rest of them, everything is tolerable.
Q: Has Cyrus practiced?
Lickliter: He hasn't practiced. He has been on that bike though, and some other things. We'd like to have him out there.
Q: If a trainer says its ‘OK' for a player to play, do you try to persuade them to play?
Lickliter: It's their body. I always believe you have to listen to your body. Cyrus has always been a really competitive guy, big heart, plays hard. I have to believe that it's limiting him. There is no question about it. I am not going to question why, it's because he can't tolerate the pain. I think with basketball, it's continual cutting and jumping, it's the wear on it that ends up setting him back. You say a trainer says you can play, but he doesn't say he is 100 percent, either.
Q: You have talked a lot about strength and conditioning…
Lickliter: I haven't really talked that much about that, have I?
Q: You have a new coach there…
Lickliter: There are two positions that opened up within the department. They have hired two and they assigned a new individual to our sport. He has been with us about two or three weeks. It's maintenance time; it's time for them to get to know each other. After the year, we will map it out from there. There are so many factors that go into strength. Where players are when they get here, what their body makeup is. I also think as they mature, as I have seen players through the course of their career, some come in lacking strength. You are not going to get that overnight. But to compete at this level, there is a demand for a certain level of strength.
Q: Is he dedicated to you guys?
Lickliter: He has two or three sports. I haven't looked at his job description per se, I know they have assigned him to us. I have been really impressed with him, and I have enjoyed getting to know him. He is from Iowa, so it's coming back home a little bit and I never think that is a negative. He was assigned to us; I didn't know him before he got here.
Q: Speaking of freshman, how is John (Lickliter) coming along?
Lickliter: In what regards? I think he has been a good addition for scout team, for his contribution and the way he practices. I think he is stronger. It's going to take a lot of strength and toughness on his part if he wants to go beyond contributing to competing, but he knows that. He came here to contribute. I know this, he will work as hard as he can, with the idea that if his opportunity comes he will take advantage of it. But like I said, he came to contribute and I am thankful he is here.
Q: You see walkons contributing around the league…
Lickliter: Bobby Rydell (from Purdue) was a neat story the weak before with Penn State. He was ready and he did what he should do. In past years, I have always had at Butler, a walk on that has contributed in some way. Some of them have hung around and ended up playing., the last one just finished his fifth year and was a starter last year. He was 6-8 and gained a lot of weight. It's funny, because the year after he got there, I said to him, Drew Striker, I told him he wasn't a division one player when he came there, but he made himself into one. He said he knew on both fronts. I like the idea that John said he wanted to redshirt. I almost ruined it the other day; I almost threw him in there when Jeff went down.
Q: Are you joking?
Lickliter: You think about everything (laughs). When you have a guy that plays 40 minutes at that position, you think about everything.
Q: Was Anthony Tucker your back up point guard?
Lickliter: I really thought Anthony when I watched him in high school, he was comfortable there. I think he can play the point as he continues to progress. He is another one that needs to spend time in the weight room. He knows it and he is.
Q: How hard is it to balance playing the rest of year to win now versus looking ahead to next year?
Lickliter: I am gonna prepare them to win every game. It's interesting because our focus is improve today, use today, get better today and prepare for the next game. But as you get into February, you start to broaden your vision a little bit so that you can grasp what it means to utilize the time well. We only have 14 practice days left, and six guaranteed games. We are going to compete right now; this is important for us. That is a lesson that everyone ought to learn. By the way, I was talking to someone when I walked in about that it seems to me that the majority of people that I have been talking with lately really put a premium on the offensive end. They called some of these Big Ten games, they called them ugly. I don't think they are; right now these teams have had to work so hard against one another that it's difficult to find shots and when you do you are almost surprised. This is as good a defensive approach to the game as I think I have ever been around, from top to bottom, in this league. I hope there is some appreciation for that.
Q: Does defense impress recruits?
Lickliter: I don't know. But I do say this; I saw a quote the other day, I think it was somebody that won an NBA championship and said that defense never goes out of style. If you are going to win, you need to be able to guard. You want recruits that want to win, so they have to enjoy that aspect, too. I think there is a lot of fun in being able to defend.
Q: ESPN doesn't show defense, they don't even show midrange jump shots; it's dunks and three's.
Lickliter: That is interesting . I really didn't think about it that way, because the Big Ten in and of itself is a draw. You are on a lot, you know the great players and teams and coaches that have been here. I don't think the fact that we guard is a negative. I don't see that as a negative. At the same time, I agree with you, you don't see a lot of defensive highlights. IF you see one, it's usually a block. Now if you come to a practice and you look at our highlights, we will show some…we had three great plays the other day, where all three were drawing charges. They were terrific plays. Knowing what was going on, being in position, a great team play. I think you should always emphasize the right approach and the commitment to winning. I tell the team that when you consider the consequences of not doing the little things, you realize there are no little things. Sometimes we see some of things that aren't really glamour as a little thing. I don't; I see it as a big thing. Was there a better play than Kramer and Gatens sprinting the length of the floor? If I were sitting down there on the end and I looked up and saw them sprinting at me, I would have been scattering. That was a great effort play. I think our fans liked it and that was exciting. I thought they showed appreciation for the way we played the other day and I can't thank them enough for that.
Q: Are you getting new uniforms?
Lickliter: You are asking the wrong guy. LaVall Jordan has always been from the time he and I worked together, in charge of stuff like that. I know that he has had contact with Nike, and it's in the works. I don't know when that is going to be. I think we are going to get them some day, but I don't know if it's sooner or later.
Q: Not this year?
Lickliter: I am not going to say for sure. I don't know.
Q: Did you have any input on the design?
Lickliter: I hope not. You wouldn't want me to design anything. The one thing is is that the names are on the back, I am sure.
Q: Have you been considering making it into any type of post season beyond the Big Ten tournament, as there are extra tournaments now?
Lickliter: We haven't talked about that. Post season is a great thing, and we played in the NCAA and NIT at Butler. I think the NCAA tournament is the greatest sporting even in the world. I have been involved and its terrific. Everything isn't hinged on that. We know at the end that is a great reward. We enjoyed the NIT, too. Post season is a good experience for a young team, but we are not talking about that right now. We have to get better today. This group, we worked out on Tuesday and I was really impressed with their approach and the spirit they practiced with. I am not surprised, they have been doing that all year long.
Q: Do you see any differences in Michigan now from when you played them in January?
Lickliter: I have spent some time on them. They have changed their lineup a bit, but there are some constants. They like to backdoor you, they like to pop their bigs, they are very effective in the half court, Manny Harris is terrific but he is not alone out there. You have a couple freshmen that can play out there. They have good personnel and the coach, and they are playing the 1-3-1 on makes, and that is always a challenge. You don't see it a lot, you don't see it the way he teaches it. He doesn't share that a whole lot, so I am not sure that anyone knows all of the secrets to it, so you have to prepare for that.
Q: Jake said that you didn't run the disciplined offense you normally do against Purdue.
Lickliter: I saw the quote, and he did preface that with that it wasn't just up and down. What we did was we ran more of our motion and less sets. Because we enter through Jake so much in our sets, it would be like taking your receiver and putting him at quarterback; he can't pass to himself. So we entered it off the dribble. When Jermaine would run the point, we would look at sets a little more. We will try to balance it that way again. We are in a situation where we are having to improvise.