For those who missed part one of the interview, click here.
Was there a tangible difference in the attitudes of the players from the first year to the second?
"Undoubtedly. Nothing against the kids that we inherited, but they were kind of beaten up a little bit. They were beaten down and there was a certain mentality that we had to try and change. Losing had become acceptable. They weren't taking the losses hard, and they had to learn that they had to take it just as hard as the coaches did. There are nights where we (the coaches) don't sleep or go home. We're very passionate about going out on the floor. We had to re-establish that importance with them."
"The first year a lot went into laying down ground rules. We said, ‘Hey, this is how we're going to do things, and they're going to be done in a certain manner.' We made sure that they knew that every time we went on the floor we were going to compete. We weren't just going to play. We let them know that we might not win every game, but we were at least going to put forth a certain level of effort."
Were you guys surprised by how quickly it changed?
"No. The young guys helped substantially. We brought in five new freshmen. All five freshmen came from winning programs. Three of them won state championships, and one of them (Lester Abram) won back to back state championships. They had winning mentalities instilled in them when they got here. They believe in themselves and believe in winning. Losing was just unacceptable to them."
It also appeared that the defensive intensity increased tremendously.
"Well, that's a staple of Coach Amaker and this staff. We're going to give them a little freedom to do some things on offense. But, on defense we are going to have some absolutes."
One of the specific aspect of the defense that I saw improve tremendously was the rotation/help defense. Is that an effort thing, or something that they had to learn?
"A lot of defense is certainly effort, but a certain part of it you do have to learn. The group that was here when we came in was very novice defensively. We had to teach them how to get into the passing lanes, how to pick-up up the floor, how to trap, and things of that nature. At the same time, one of the things we really stress is if they put in good hard effort, it will make up for a mistake that might have been made."
If you were projecting a starting lineup for next season, what would it be?
"I would say that Daniel, Bernard, and Lester are the definites. After that, it's going to be beautiful! It's going to be competition at the highest level. We'll have probably five players competing for those last two spots. We're also bringing in a very fine wing in Dion Harris, and he's going to push Bernard and Lester. He's THAT talented!"
How did Amadou Ba and JC Mathis progress this past season?
"They didn't factor directly into the wins, but our guys had to compete against them every day. That competition was fierce and it really made our post guys better. Practices were equivalent to games for JC and Amadou, so they took that competition very seriously."
What will they bring to the team on the court next year?
"Adding 6'10 250 and 6'8 240 is going to give us more of a physical presence. We are going to be a more physical team with those two kids. They are probably bigger than anyone we've started. Then we bring in Courtney Simms at 6'11 230.and Brent Petway."
Speaking of Brent Petway, with all of the frontcourt players you'll have next year, do you see him redshirting?
"We don't know, but that's something that we don't want to predetermine. The one thing I will say is he will probably be the most outstanding athlete we have on the team."
Will he fit into your philosophy as a three or as a four?
"He'll play the four. We require our four to step out a lot, and he can certainly do that. This is a young man that's running track right now. He's running the 60-meter dash, 110-meter high hurdles, 4x100-meter relay, and the high jump. He's simply one of the best athletes I've every seen. You never know, he may play some three before he leaves here."
Be on the lookout for the third and final part of the interview in the next day or so.
Conversation with Coach Charles Ramsey #2
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