I think it's a great opportunity for J.J. He's done very well in his workouts. I actually went with him to his first workout to make sure he knew what to expect. I think he really helped himself in that area.
Obviously it's going to make us a different ballclub without him being here. He was pretty much the focal point of our team, but now it's an opportunity I think for other guys to step up and perform.
Any idea what his draft range looks like?
Initially it was 20-30 and now I'm hearing 10-20. He's certainly helped himself quite a bit.
What is the risk-reward for going after kids who make take it to the pros after a year?
Obviously the risk is what happened... it leaves you in a situation, as far as recruiting, you have to go out and find another player to fill that role if you don't already have some.
Obviously it didn't work in our favor this year, but the reward is you get a pretty good player, you have a pretty good team, and you do well in your play. Michael Beasley, Kansas State. Very good basketball player, one year, done... [Derrick] Rose, one year, done. So there's definitely a reward there.
Is this a culture shock for you coming from a time when you were a player when players wanted to come in and win national championships, now they are looking to get their career started by turning pro?
It's definitely different. As a coach you have to be aware of that and try to address those things right at the beginning. The fact that most players today don't play to win the game for the team, they are playing to go to the NBA. It's just reality. It's the way it is. It happens all across the country and you hope you're fortunate enough to get those guys that do still understand that winning is the first thing and everything else will take care of itself after that.
When you said most don't play to win for the team they play for the NBA, you weren't talking about J.J. He was a team player.
He was a total team player. I'm just talking about the generation today. J.J. is a throwback player. He wants to win. If you watch our games, he gets more excited when other guys did things than when he did it. That tells you a little bit about the guy. He wants to win more than anything.
Thoughts on experience with J.J. Hickson:
It was a great experience with J.J. He was a tremendous young man. He's a competitor. I'm going into my third year and he's the first player that I know, not just here, I haven't heard anyone else talk about it, that practiced at 6:00/6:30 AM on his own and then come to our practice at 3:30. Very determined... I enjoyed coaching him. I enjoyed being around him.
He's a very good basketball player. It's hard to pass up good basketball players. You're trying to win games.
Any other personnel changes?
Not that I can discuss at this point.
Not just the players, but any other staff changes?
Not that I can discuss at this point.
Can you talk a little about your goals for the guys coming back?
I think the first thing is I'm going to continue to hope we stay healthy. Not having Farnold obviously had a great impact on our team. I expect our guys to come back and be ready to play. I've seen that in them this summer. Now, part of it is because I demanded that. Guys are down in weight. They are getting down to where I want them, not where they want to be. They are in the gym, they are working out, and I think their mindset is going to be different.
We had postseason meetings. They understand me and where I'm coming from. It's going to be my way and that's it. It's real simple. They are players and I'm the coach and they are going to do it my way. If they don't, then they don't want to be here.
Thoughts on Farnold Degand's progress:
His rehab has been very good. It's actually ahead of pace so he's doing pretty good. We're hoping it's not going to effect who he is... we're hoping for the best.
Thoughts on the progress of Johnny Thomas:
Johnny's doing okay. Not as fast as Farnold's at this point, but he's moving forward. He's in the pool running, on the treadmill running, so that's a great sign for us.
The last couple of seasons, 9-23 in conference and 21 double-figure losses in two seasons. How do you turn things around after the momentum of five straight tournament seasons?
You go to work. You get back to working, you get guys on the same page and you put the guys out there that are going to do the things you want them to do.
There's no mystery to winning. It's real simple. One, you have to have talent. You have to have talent. You have to have better players than they have. Two, you have to have guys that are on the same page and playing to win... care more about the team than themselves.
How much of a problem was chemistry last year?
I don't know and that word chemistry I'm going to stay away from. In my dictionary, chemistry only means one thing and I'm going to stay away from that.
I'll say this. Kevin Garnett went to the Boston Celtics and became the guy. Paul Pierce had been there for eight, nine, ten years, great player, but he welcomed him in. Ray Allen welcomed him in, and they win a NBA Championship. If they didn't like him, they didn't want to play with him, chemistry probably would have been bad.
That word chemistry that people throw out there, in my dictionary, is only one thing. It's just players not accepting and players being selfish. I'll say it. That's what it is. That chemistry thing, we use it as a broad word, chemistry is people accepting their roles and playing well.
Was that an issue?
I'm not going to go there but I'm just defining chemistry to me. That's all it is... it's just people accepting their roles.
What did you see going wrong out there?
Since the season is over, after that I've answered a lot of questions about last year. I'd like to get past last year. I'm moving forward now. I'm just looking forward to moving on now. I just want to get away from talking about last year if you don't mind.
Who will you rely on next year?
Courtney Fells, Ben McCauley, Brandon Costner, those three in particular, I'm expecting those guys to really step up and we need them to step up. Farnold is going to be a major key for us. Those other three guys are going to not just really play well but control the team.
Thoughts on Brandon Costner:
He's going to have a better year. He's back to where he was a couple of years ago. It's going to help him tremendously. He picked up some of the weight because of the injury to his knee and pretty much took the summer off not being able to work out. He's been determined this summer, he looks good, and his mind is right. I really expect Brandon to have a big year for us.
He's looking to this year. He wants to come out and show the player he is.
Thoughts on incoming freshmen C.J. Williams and Julius Mays:
I think we're getting No. 1 two class individuals in C.J. and Julius. Two guys that are not very flashy but just solid basketball players. They don't make a lot of mistakes. Now, having said that they will be freshmen so they are going to make some. Both have very high basketball IQ, and that I really like. They both want to win and that's the main thing they want to do. They want to win... we're getting two quality young men.
Thoughts on handling the psyche of college basketball players. How challenging is it to handle that?
There really is no challenge. You're a college basketball player and you do it the coach's way. It's real simple. You didn't have to deal with so much back when I came out of school, but they have so much to deal with, they really do... the media attention is larger, and it's great for them, but then you have people in the background. The AAU guys, some parents, girlfriends, they hear all of that and they are impressionable young men... as a basketball coach on this level I think you have to take more control of that and really try to keep them closer to you and try to guide them.
I'm excited about this year. These guys, they understand and they are in there working. I think they feel good about what they are doing. I'll say this one thing about last year, no one was more disappointed than they we were. That hurt. That hurt those guys, so they want to certainly take care of that this year. I think they show it by what they are doing this summer.
You say it's your way or no way. Is that directed to one player?
No. When I say that, it's not so much the players. It's just people around that have an effect on the players. The players try to do what we want them to do. It's not to the players.
About how much weight have the players lost?
I think Brandon is down maybe 13 or 14 pounds. I think Ben is down maybe eight-10 pounds. They are watching all of that stuff. Dennis is down to 216. I think he was 226 or 227. They are watching it and they are proud of that. They are taking it and they are running with it.
Do you anticipate a tempo change?
Could you elaborate on that?
[Laughing] I was trying not to. It's just that we'll be a little different. We could be a little smaller in some positions but quicker. Having a guy like Farnold for example who really wants to push it, but you've got to have the people around him who can run... just push tempo a little more. I'm not going to say how much more but we will.
Thoughts on Courtney Fells playing some small forward:
That goes back to being a little smaller in certain positions, Courtney at the three. He'll be playing the two and three.
Is Johnny's injury a really slow rehab?
It's just a different injury. It's a rare injury. I think we only had maybe one other athlete in our history have that injury. It's more than just a normal ACL tear so it's taking a little longer.
Do you expect him back by preseason practice?
I'm not sure if he'll be back for preseason practice. I'm not sure about that. I'm optimistic about it, but I can't really say on his situation.
Thoughts on Tracy Smith:
His minutes, when he was in, very productive. Not a lot of minutes, but when you look at his productivity, he was as productive as anyone on our team with the minutes he played. He's going to demand minutes.
Do you get the sense Ben and Brandon have a better feel of what to do this year? It seems to have been muddled with J.J.
No, not really. I think it's all the same. You are who you are. When you're on the floor, you play the way you're capable of playing. I'm not going to play any different because I'm playing with Whittenburg or I'm playing with Ernie Myers. I'm playing my game and I'm trying to help the team win.
You don't change who you are because of another player coming in. You continue to do the things you're capable of doing and keep your focus of playing as hard as you can every second on the floor. I'm not going to tell them anything any different except I expect them to be better for us next year.
Have you sent Vinny Del Negro any well-wishes? Thoughts on him being named head coach by Chicago:Yes. Actually I spoke with him two days before he got the job and I sent him something afterwards. I knew he was a candidate pretty close.
Wow... make the right pick. I think he's in a good situation because of players. You have to have players. Though he may not be fighting for a NBA championship I think he's going to be pleased that he has a group of young men that play hard. They play hard. That's all you can ask.
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