Give us an idea how the preseason has gone.
Pretty well. We have not had major injuries, nothing major. Guys were sick and minor injuries, that's the main thing this time of year.
Especially we had ten days of practice this summer and went to Spain and the Canary Islands and played five games over there. So we are ahead of where we were a year ago at this time, which was our first year. Obviously like everyone, had a long way to go, but we are pleased with how everything's gone today.
So what players have stood out so far in the
You know, we have got an interesting dynamic with this team. We have four returning starters and who obviously should be ahead and are ahead in every way, even with the catch up time with the trip overseas because those guys, we have to remind them that a year ago, they were as clueless as our freshmen are at times.
Their work ethic is great but just they understand the system and they understand what we want. You know, so I think those four guys have really stood out, as they should.
And then our freshmen have also, in a different way, they have all shown that they are going to be in the rotation. One of them will end up starting, probably Rodney Purvis or perhaps T.J. Warren. But those guys have had some really impressive times. Their consistency is what has to develop for us to be a really good team. But again, we are very pleased with our group right now.
Obviously you're the sixth-ranked team in the AP
and USA Today poll; obviously there are some
strengths to your team; what are they?
I think speed, quickness, we have both of those. We don't have tremendous size up front other than we do have Jordan Vandenberg who will play some for us off the bench but we are not huge in our starting lineup as far as a center.
But what we do is have pretty good overall size. Our guards are big. Lorenzo Brown is 6-5, Scott Wood is 6-6, when T.J. Warren is in at the small forward, he's 6-8.
But regardless, we have really good speed and quickness and I think the thing that we did last year will continue this year and that is we'll be a team that shares the ball incredibly well. We were second or third in the ACC in assists. We are going to be up-tempo. I think we could have six different guys lead us in scoring this year. I don't think that would be a surprise if that happens.
So I think our offensive balance is certainly another strength of this team.
Obviously got to the Sweet 16 last year, do you
think that's going to help you along with your trip to
Spain to propel the kids into the season?
Yeah, you know, Coach Gottfried has said it many times; that everyone says we had a great year. We had a great finish to a very good year, being our first year. But I mean, we were 9-7 in the league before the conference tournament, which is respectable but it's not a great year.
But what we did as a team we got better and as coaches we always want that to happen but it doesn't always happen. We were better in February than January, and we did have a stretch where we lost some games but it was against really good competition and then we played our best basketball in March.
I don't think there's any doubt that that experience of winning two games and losing a three-point game to Kansas, a team that ends up playing for it all, it's certainly helped our team understand what it takes to hopefully be in a position to get back to that spot; and then again as you mentioned, going to Spain, allowed our new guys except for Rodney Purvis, who was not cleared at that time, but is with us now thankfully.
But it allowed us to get some valuable time together with this new team because again, as good as last year was, and we certainly want to benefit from it and learn from it, it's a new year and we are the hunted instead of the hunter. That's going to be a little bit different for this group. Hopefully all those experiences will pay off for us.
You're used to the tournament format; what do you
think about the format and maybe come about your
first round opponent, Penn State.
I think it's a great early season challenge for us and for all the folks that are in this tournament. You'll find out very quickly where you're at. When you're playing quality teams, win or lose, it's three out of four days you're going to play.
But also it helps prepare you a little bit for the conference tournament where you will play tough opponents back-to-back days, it doesn't happen, other than for us, at least our schedule is not that way except for this tournament.
But it's a great early season gauge and a great field, Penn State our first round opponent is very impressive watching them play their exhibition game on tape, Tim Frazier is one of the best players in their league and one of the best players in the country probably, just a tremendous league guard that can score the ball in so many different ways.
You know, Newbill (D. J.), the transfer in, is a really talented player, they have Marshall (Jermaine) back, Travis (Ross), Graham (Jon). They have a really good team and they play really physical, good defense, and they are -- I think where they are even better this year is offensively, I think they return so many guys and they add Newbill who is a terrific scorer.
We have not thought of them too much because we are worried about our first game Friday, but we know Penn State will be a formidable opponent for us the first game.
In the ACC with the six ranking and all that stuff,
how do you see how this tournament will help prepare
you for the ACC and the tough road that you have to
Yeah, again we all feel like our league is the best but the ACC is a great league, terrific league and we know how tough that's going to be when you get to January and this is very similar to that when you're playing quality opponents, win or lose, and then obviously we hope to win.
Penn State provides that first test and then I'm very familiar with Kellogg, he's got a great team coming back and they have a tough opponent in Providence who has a lot of players back and they added a couple terrific guys, as well.
And then not even thinking about that third game whoever it might be, we know that it's going to go a long way to preparing us for those Wednesday/Saturday swings or Thursday/Saturday/Sunday swings where you play a tough opponent and you turn around and here you have to play another one.
Like I said earlier, it's going to be great early season challenge for all of us.
You talked about the difference this year
being the hunted versus the hunter. I wanted to ask
you about C.J. Leslie, I know he was picked preseason
ACC Player of the Year. Can you talk about what he
needs to do this season to build off of a year that he
had at the end of the year last season.
Well, first let me say for him and for our team, Coach Gottfried has done a great job of reminding all of us, our staff and our players, on a regular basis, not daily, but regular, that we were picked 8th or 9th last year and that didn't matter but being picked first is nice but that doesn't matter, either. It's what we do.
Then as far as C.J. is concerned, he's already done it. He worked incredibly hard on his own from April till he came back, and you'll see that in his ability to shoot the ball. He's a much better shooter than he was and now he's just got to continue that. If he plays the way he did the last 12 or 15 games, if you go back and look, he was as consistent a guy over that stretch as anybody in the country.
So that's what he has to do. He's already put in the hard work and now he just has to be consistent, knowing that he's going to be a target of the teams that we face and trying to shut him down.
But hopefully he can continue to play as did he those last 12 or 15 games last season.