UK Basktball Media Day Quotes

Tubby Smith discusses the Cats as they enter the 2001-02 season

LEXINGTON, Ky. --- Part I of Kentucky coach Tubby Smith's comments Tuesday during the Cats' annual basketball media day...

Opening Statements:

"We're certainly excited to be back. Everytime you have a chance to start a new season, from a coaching standpoint, especically myself and being around young kids, you can see the excitement in everybody's eyes and how much they're looking forward to this year because we have so much depth and some real talented players. Getting Jules Camara back is a big help, especially with the loss of Jason Parker. That's going to make a big difference. That's something we've been looking forward to."

"The expectations this year are the same as every year: we're going to compete for the SEC championship. Obviously we feel like there's a lot of important games between that time --- before the SEC season starts --- and we know we're going to be tested every game out. This year is no different. We open up with Western Kentucky and an All-American in Chris Marcus. And the potential to play Marshall or George Washington in the (NABC Classic) tournament will be a big test for us early. The good thing about it is we're not playing as early as we did last year, which is a big help. It should give our younger players a chance to really improve and learn."

"I think we have two of the best players in the country returning in Tayshaun Prince and Keith Bogans. Tayshaun has a great chance of being player of the year in the country. He's come back stronger. Since last spring, I can see that his body is starting to fill out and his breathing is much improved. The air passage way in his nasal cavity is a lot better (since having surgery prior to last season). That's really helped him. Again, he's improved in a lot of areas, most importantly his strength. Getting Keith back, there's another possible All-American with a renewed enthusiasm. Not that he wasn't enthusiastic before, but having him and Tayshaun both test the NBA waters, I think they came back realizing how much they enjoy college basketball and that they have a lot more to accomplish. I hope we can reach those goals and expectations that they have."

"It's going to be important this year, with so much talent --- and I want to preface that --- it doesn't really mean a thing if you don't come together as a team and the chemistry isn't right. More talent doesn't necessarily equate to more wins or anything else until guys get out there and perform. Being in the business starting my 26th year of coaching, I know that very well. But we've got skilled players that I think can really be a big help to us."

"I certainly want to thank Marquis Estill. I think he's a real hero in the way he sacrificed his scholarship to allow Keith Bogans to come back. When I called Keith up, I told him when he decided to come back I was thinking about redshirting him. He didn't think that was funny, but I did. [Laughs] But I think that's going to be a big help for our program this year, having Marquis do what he did."

"A little bit about each player before we take any questions...

"We've got a plethora of guards in our program. J.P. Blevins, I think he's really trimmed down. By that I mean he's streamlined himself by getting on the weights, improving his quickness. That's something he had to get better at in terms of running the team from the point guard spot. He's also got to get more aggressive defensively. That's something he's working on every day. His shooting has to improve. We've been trying to get him to concentrate on the rim. He's got a tendency to watch the flight of the ball, as did Saul (Smith). Saul had that same problem. A lot of times point guards are looking to get other people open and the ball, and the last thing they're thinking is shooting the ball and focusing on the rim. But J.P.'s a good shooter. I think at this point and time he's going to be counted on to lead the team. He's one of our co-captains (along with Prince). I want to congratulate J.P. and Tayshaun being our captains. It's an awesome responsibility. I know these two kids will do their best and do what we ask them to do in running this team. They've really grown up. J.P., having been part of the program for four years, knows what needs to be done. He's a workaholic and a gym rat."

"Keith Bogans, I'm not sure at this point in time whether we start him at the shooting guard spot or at the small forward. Keith is a talented player. Going through what he went through in Chicago (at the NBA pre-draft camp) and knowing what he needs to work on, which is his ballhandling and his lateral quickness. I think once he improves in those areas, the sky's the limit for him. Where he starts and what position he plays will be determined by how our frontcourt comes along. Tayshaun Prince is a very versatile player. Jules Camara is a very versatile player, and Keith is too. He gives us shooting at small forward, but he could also play power forward as strong as he is, and his ballhandling has improved enough where he could probably play some point."

"Josh Carrier, he's really a great shooter. I've been really impressed. Josh came in probably a little bit behind the other freshmen. His conditioning wasn't so good, but skill-wise he was the best freshman we had coming in. By that, I mean ballhandling, understanding of the game --- knowing when to pass, when to take the shot --- and his ability to shoot. I've been very impressed with Josh, as well as Rashaad Carruth. Rashaad, the competitiveness we knew he had, I think he'll contribute a lot to the program."

"Adam Chiles came in, he didn't play much during the summer because he had a bad back from back during the Kentucky All-Stars. He's had some troubles with that, and now this morning he's had an ingrown toenail. He's come a long way, but improving his stamina and conditioning will be a big challenge. He's a guy we're going to look at closely in regards to whether he's going to redshirt. He doesn't know that, but that's something we're going to talk about. He's got to work to improve in a lot of areas, but he can help us because he's an aggressive defender on the ball and he's improving his outside shooting. He's a gamer. I wasn't as impressed with his individual workouts as much as I was with Josh and Rashaad and Chuck (Hayes) --- those three really impressed me with their work ethic --- not that Adam didn't, but he wasn't in condition to do that. I think he's still getting in shape."

"In Gerald Fitch, you saw what he did for us last year with his aggressiveness. He turned our season around. When we inserted him into the lineup, he brought energy, athleticism and a real defensive presence that we needed, as well as an ability to rebound from the shooting guard spot which was amazing for a guy his size. I've got the utmost respect for Gerald. He comes to work every day and works extremely hard."

"In Cliff (Hawkins), Cliff has really improved his stamina and his asthma. I think he's growing out of that now. It hasn't held him back much so far. He's a guy that it will be a real battle between J.P. and Cliff as far as who will start for us at point guard. But like I've told them, I'm more concerned with

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