Have you ever had an offensively gifted person like Marcus be such a reluctant scorer to take over when he needs to?
Good question, I’ve had some good players. Paul Pierce could score pretty well; Raef LaFrentz could score pretty well. Here, Raymond (Felton), Marvin (Williams), Jawad (Williams), Sean (May) all on the same team. Tyler Hansbrough was probably the best example. If you look at his career, the last year, he probably made more sacrifices than anybody else. Just because Ty (Lawson), Wayne (Ellington) and Danny (Green) just kept getting better, better, and better. A part of the reason they got better and better is people were so worried about Tyler.
It’s a short list. I have to tell him, we’ve practiced three times and I know I’ve repeated it three times, ‘That is our best player and don’t everybody forget that.’ If that’s the case then we should give him more opportunities to do some things. He handles that really well. There’s not a conceited bone or selfish bone in the boy’s body.
What have you seen from Justin Jackson in practice so far?
He’s got the knack, which we saw when we recruited him, too. He’s a very efficient player. Ball bounces around, bounces around, all of a sudden it bounces to him and he lays it up. That’s a pretty good trait. He’s a very efficient player – gotta get him to be a little bit better on the defensive end of the floor, gotta get him bigger and stronger so he can help us on the backboards.
The other night in the pickup game for Late Night, he misses his first shot and then makes his next seven or eight. He helps us. Three practices in is a little too early to try and say much more than that.
Can you fill us in on Stilman White since it’s been so long since he played in the college game…
He hasn’t had the retention of what we did a couple years ago nearly as well as I thought he would. And yet he’s bounced back quicker as a player than I ever thought he would. He’s doing fine… he’s really doing OK. It’s been a shock to see how quickly some of things have come back to him. I’m pleased with him.
As a whole is this one of the more college-ready freshmen groups you’ve had in recent years?
They know how to play, all three of them know how to play basketball. It’s not just been give the ball to me and let me go score. They can make the easy play when it’s supposed to be made. In their basketball IQ, I would definitely put them up there with some of those really good teams. But you remember, I also had Marcus (Ginyard), Bobby (Frasor) and Tyler Hansbrough starting as freshmen. One of those guys skewed the curve, but the other two really know how to play too. Their basketball IQ and sense of knowing what to do instinctively is really good.
How much more comfortable are you with Brice, Kennedy and Desmond from the beginning of last year?
I have great expectations for those guys. I think they’ve all put the work in to get better off the court. Now they’ve got to see that coming into success on the court. Our practices right now are pretty vicious inside. They’re some guys wanting to play. They’re not taking many names and just taking prisoners is what they’re doing. That part I really like, the competition is pretty heated.
Those guys all did a nice job in the off-season of doing the things that they can do with their body. Now they have to translate it into – again, I’ve said this so many times I’m already sick of hearing it myself – one or two or three of those guys has got to step up and say ‘I’m going to be a big-time player.’ I don’t think there’s anybody questioning here that Marcus last year stepped up and said ‘I’m going to be a big-time player.’ Now, one of the post players has got to step and say that and not just be willing to run up and down the court and wait on Marcus to do something.
Marcus has said he wants to play point guard. Assuming he starts there how do you see the other guard spot shaking out?
Same answer, I have no idea. It’s three practices guys. I could start all three of them. I could start one of them. I really don’t know. You guys are smarter when it comes to that than I am. I can’t do that after three practices. They will all play together. Theo could play the ‘2,’ J.P. could play the ‘2’ and not have but one little guy in there. I don’t see a lineup without any of the three little guys in there. That’s a question that not even close to being answered because we have a lot of time left.
Is Justin in the mix too?
Not at the ‘2,’ no. Our ‘2’ and ‘3’ are the same spot; it’s just if the ball will go right or left. It’s mirrored which means it’s the same job. Right now, I would have one of the little guys and then JP or Theo and then Justin…
Does that give you the flexibility to mix and match lineups depending on who you’re playing and what their strengths are?
Some people do that, I don’t. I try to pick the five guys that deserve it the most and play them and let everybody else adjust to our best lineup. Whether it’s Marcus and Justin at the ‘2’ and J.P. at the ‘3’ and Luke Davis and Nate Britt at ‘4’ and ‘5,’ if those are the best five that’s what I’m going to do and everybody else is going to have to adjust. I’ve never really changed lineups to match somebody else’s lineup.
I do feel we have more balance, but I’m not going to be against playing Justin Jackson at the ‘4’ if he’s more effective. There’s been one constant, Marcus has been on the white team every day. And I don’t think — J.P. may have been on the white team every day I’m not sure, if it is those are the only two guys that’s been on the white team which is the first team, every day.
What do you like so far about Theo’s game?
Instinctively, he makes good plays around the basket, going to the basket. Making the easy play, sometimes he makes the tough play too. He has the ability to take the ball to the basket. He can be a very good defensive player, we just got to get his level of intensity to a higher level and be able to maintain that. One of the great compliments that anybody can get from me is to say that someone reminds me of Jackie Manuel. Theo’s a more athletic Jackie Manuel who can score. We need him to play to his strengths, get the ball, bust out on the break, get to the offensive board, get some steals, go down on the break… and when he does that he’s really good.
You have high expectations for the big guys. More specifically how is Brice different from what he was last season? Do you think there could be a breakthrough season for him?
I’d love it to be Brice, Isaiah, Kennedy, Desmond and Joel all of them. But I don’t have any favorites as to who it is. Brice has played more, Brice has more experience. He really did a nice job in the off-season. He’s added 15 to 20 pounds, he looks different. Now you’ve got to take that weight and do something with it.
At the same time, Kennedy’s really done something awesome because he’s lost 15 to 20 pounds. Brice has not been on the white team every day; Kennedy’s not been on the white team every day. They’ve got to separate. Somebody’s got to step forward and separate and say “I’m the guy.” And nobody has done that yet.
Is Justin’s experience different in adjusting to college?
Justin’s unique because his high school team was him and four other guys. Then he played on a summer league team that was very gifted. He’s played every way you can. For his high school team to win the home school stuff, he had to get 40 if the other team was any good at all. When he played with those other guys, he’s very good instinctively just making the right plays. So he’s a little different, because he’s played it every way you can play it which has been very good for him. He has the knack and I hope he keeps it for every practice and every game. But he’s going to play a lot of basketball.
What have you seen of Isaiah in practice that we didn’t see last year?
Nothing, with the exception of you saw it you’d see the brief flash or the dunk against Louisville, but I’ve seen it more often of those plays. Particularly in Nassau, wasn’t he the leading scorer in one game? He would’ve had 30 if he could make a layup. Same intro here, I don’t care if it’s Brice or Isaiah or who it is but someone’s got to step forward.
He has more ability than he’s comfortable showing. I’ve got to get him to understand that you’re pretty doggone good. Step out there and be more aggressive. When you have that ability show it. I think that’s one thing with Isaiah, he just hasn’t shown that yet that he can do it. But he can.
Is he, Isaiah, at the same position as last year?
No, he’s strictly a post player this year. Last year he was at the 3/4 trying to help and be a better perimeter player. I think that’s helped him as a ‘4.’
You were talking about team culture not being as prevalent anymore. Is that an older person’s view of the world looking at young people or has the society changed that much?
The basketball culture has changed drastically. I really have a great memory and I can remember what the game used to be and what was important in recruiting and who you were involved with in recruiting. It’s changed drastically since that time period. Kids, they’ve changed a little but they’ve changed more because of the groups around them. It is a focus on me, me, me, me and how many shots am I getting up cause I’ve got to get this scholarships so I can get to the green room, so I can make all the money and have the nice homes and cars and that kind of thing.
I can remember when not that long ago when guys were thrilled to get a college scholarship offer. Now, I’ve had guys say ‘Well, coach, you haven’t even offered.’ You think, ‘Well, are you ready to commit?’ If you wanted an offer from me that badly, so I offer you the next day they go somewhere else. I just waste my freaking phone call. It’s like notches in the west. You put your notches on the gun. A guy says ‘I had 27 kills,’ well now they say ‘I’ve got 27 scholarship offers.’
Roy Williams Media Day Q&A, Part II
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