Opening statement ... "We are so excited about the start of practice on Friday. It's something we've looked forward to since our last game. We've had a very good preseason and over the summer we have worked very hard on both our bodies and our game to improve. I think that one of the signs of a very good team is how they develop in the summertime. So we're excited about it. We think we have a team that, with a lot of players coming back, is good to have. We certainly have a key replacement to make at the point guard position, and that is something that we'll work very hard on all year long, not just the first four weeks, to judge, and look at very closely. As we just talked about the use of the ball screen, they do get it more than others and so we have some very good candidates there, but none of them have been involved deeply in that position at this level. But we feel good about everybody's development, and now we just have to get to practice. I think they're all anxious to practice. I think this is a team that likes each other and they like to practice. They may feel differently after the first week or so because they have to get their body used to it, but we've really had a good preseason even though it's only been nine hours. We have nine hours and 15 minutes, so just put that in perspective. Because it's a short week and we can go four hours a day at a maximum, we will go four hours Friday and four hours Saturday. There will be films, there'll be weights involved, but that's more on Friday and Saturday then we've gone in the last five weeks. So we'll certainly know more, we'll have twenty-eight hours in roughly, starting with Friday, about nine days. We'll know a lot more than we did in these previous nine hours. But we need to continue to grow as a team to get better defensively and offensively. Coaches need to continue to be versatile in our approach. That's a thing I hope has always been a strength with my coaching staff, that we are not resistant to change yet still staying with your core values of what you think helps you win games."
On how the offense will change because of the point guard position ... "What I'm really interested to see is, because of Darius'(Morris) length, how big a factor that would be in some of the passes and how our young guys, or Stu (Douglass) or Eso (Akunne) or Josh (Bartelstein), handle all of that. But I also think, while we're rebuilding that position a bit, the strengths in the other positions will help that be an easier transition."
On the timeline of selecting his starting lineup ... "We'll have a lot of patience here. Traditionally we have never played three games before the Thanksgiving tournament, usually it's two. We snuck another game in there just to make sure we had one more real game experience. But we'll have a scrimmage and an exhibition game, and then we'll have three games before the Thanksgiving tournament. So we are trying to get as much in as possible, but that won't be judgment day. There's that November period, then the rest of the nonconference, then the conference, and then the second time around the conference in the Big Ten Tournament. So there are many times to see where the team is and what lineup best fits this team."
On making sure that Tim Hardaway Jr. does not take on too much responsibility ... "He played a lot of minutes last year as a freshman and it was because he handled that particular aspect pretty well. I don't worry about that at all. I think hopefully we'll have depth enough that we know he does not have to play thirty-six or thirty-eight minutes. Same thing with Zack Novak. Hopefully we'll have enough depth so that they're not out there really fatigued during tough games, which we're obviously going to have a lot of them."
On Jon Horford's improvement during the offseason ... "I think Jon Horford has made really positive strides. He was basically getting himself into foul trouble almost every game. When he gets into foul trouble, he puts the team in the bonus, and we don't like getting into the bonus on us. So he's been on a mission since the end of last year -- on his body and his development. There's still a long ways to go for Jon, but we have several guys, he included, that love to practice basketball. Jon loves it, and usually good things happen when you have that type of passion."
On the difficulties of putting together the schedule ... "With scheduling, it's become very difficult getting a schedule together the way you want it to sit. People are a couple years out now with conferences agreeing. The Big East is not working with the Southeast Conference, the Big 12 is working with the Pac-10. There are not those games anymore that you can just go because everybody's getting their RPIs through these tournaments. We have the potential there to play three extremely talented teams over three days. So you do that and you do your challenge, and four of your games are high-level games to be judged by. We've tried to do our best. It was as difficult scheduling this year as probably we've ever had it, but I think we have some very talented teams in one stretch there compared to in the December stretch after Maui. And then during the middle of the Big Ten, really difficult stretches in our games."
On expectations for freshmen Trey Burke and Carlton Brundidge taking over the point guard position ... "I've seen them and I've watched them but nine hours. Nine hours is all we spent with them and some of that is really elementary. But I have liked from both of them their early learning curve and their desire to become players, their desire to be coached. They're students. We have really liked that. They have shown their ability to shoot the ball as well in those nine hours, which is always good to have to be guarded from the perimeter. Trey would have a history of being a true point guard his whole life, while Carlton has been more a combo guard his whole life."
On expectations for the front court with a year of experience behind them ... "For Evan (Smotrycz) and Tim (Hardaway Jr.) in their first year, whether things were going well or going poorly, they kept pressing on. They were the more impressive players in the preseason. I know a little bit more about them than I know about Trey (Burke) and Carlton (Brundidge), but they've been very impressive those two in particular. They'll be working hard to start at those two positions and play off each other. They're both sophomores, so that's good and bad news from a standpoint that they're still young. I don't think either one of them is twenty yet, so they're still pretty young."
On how the team's dedication to working out during the offseason ... "All the summer workouts are voluntary. They were living in the dorms, they were lifting at wrestling, their locker rooms were in the baseball stadium, and they were playing at the IM. So when you throw those things together, you had to be very motivated to go visit Jon Sanderson voluntarily. Based on their bodies, they volunteered very well. We've done some conditioning tests, and thus far 15 of 16 passed their tests. The other one had an injury and that's why he didn't."
On whether the program is at the level where making the NCAA is an every year expectation ... "I don't think we're there yet. We're still going to be hunting that every day. I think we have still a lot to prove. We were sweating on Selection Sunday last year, despite the eight seed. We were sweating that. I think based on the league and the schedule, we're going to have to perform early and we're going to have to perform in the season as well. And there are a lot of good teams with a lot of good coaches out there. We don't know anything about injuries, we don't know anything about chemistry yet. There are a lot of hurdles we have to still jump through."
On whether Trey Burke's shooting ability will bring something to the table that Darius Morris didn't ... "You know the 200 assists that Darius brought from that standpoint, allowed others to be better shooters because he could get it into the lane so well. I'll tell you more about that at the end of the year. I really can't until I see him more in action. Darius certainly had a tremendous sophomore season."
On whether the Maui Invitational will be too difficult so early in the season ... "It's everywhere, whether you're in the Preseason NIT, the Legend's Classic, in the Old Spice. Look what we walked into in the Old Spice a couple years ago. That was difficult for us with a pretty good Creighton team, and then a Marquette team and Alabama -- they were very good. The travel is always another challenge, but those are things that everybody does. We're so grateful that we were invited to that and the University of Michigan has some history there as well."
On how much the team's performance in Maui will tell him ... "If you perform poorly out there, it does not mean your season is going to be a disaster, because of how difficult it is. I think that if you do perform well out there, you certainly have put some things on your resume that will be helpful when it comes time in March."
On whether Stu Douglass is an option at the point ... "He has played there many minutes. And when you have a two guard set like we do, it takes some pressure off that guard from being guarded too closely. So he's certainly an option, and I know he's worked very hard on it. He's also become a guy that can guard the other point guard. So he is an option."
On whether he pays attention to their preseason ranking ... "The preseason polls in basketball and football are so inaccurate sometimes, that I don't pay a lot of attention to it. Somebody has to be picked there. We like our team a lot, but I'm not going to be looking at are we a top 20, a top 10, are we top 50. I want to be in the top 68 in March. That's where we want to be, somewhere on that board in March because as you could see last year, anything can happen when you get to that point."
On the next steps for Jordan Morgan ... "He's worked very hard on not just scoring on what we call drop offs, leverage points, just where he creates leverage for layups, but being able to score one-on-one and be able to shoot the ball consistently from the 15-foot range. That's what he's been working on. He's spent a lot of time on it, and still has a ways to go, but he's a worker."
On the team's motivation after they way last season ended ... "They are a very hungry group right now. They know we were very close to playing in the Sweet 16, and even the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament. I think they felt that they could win the Big Ten Tournament last year as well, if we had just a few breaks go our way. And so, this is challenging for them to see what they can do up and above what we accomplished last year."
On what to improve on from last season ... "I think having a better defense collectively. It's impossible when you have that many freshmen to be all on the same page. And also the challenge of if we have a new freshman in the lineup, how to bring him into that fold at a quicker speed. I loved our progress last year. It's never enough, but if we can keep it up at that rate then we can do some special things."
On how having the Player Development Center will impact the team's development ... "It's amazing the practice sessions we'll be able to have over there. There's a setup there with six baskets. The type of competitive drills we'll be able to do will be amazing. At the same time, being able to do extra practice at times when traditionally the women would have the gym. We'd have to do it at 8:00 in the morning or we'd have to do it after practice. It's really going to help us. Just having everything in one place. Just the training room itself. After practice, it would take the hour to get people all through the cold tubs. We could probably have it done now in ten or 15 minutes. There's a quality of time that we hope is going to be helpful."