Coaches Corner: No. 7 N.C. State

Inside Carolina attended ACC Operation Basketball last weekend. In the third of a nine-part feature which will roll out a new team every day, IC's Tommy Ashley has transcribed the comments of N.C. State head coach Herb Sendek. The Wolfpack was picked No. 7 in the conference by the media.

What's going on at point guard?

"Why do you ask about point guard? We have probably the most experience on our team in our backcourt. Our three upperclassmen all happen to be guards. I think on exciting feature of our team is that we have a lot interchangeable parts and I think any number players on our team will be able to handle the basketball. So, what's going on at point guard? Everything seems pretty steady."

Who's the point guard?

"Who's the point guard? I don't know, take your pick. Archie Miller, Cliff Crawford, Anthony Grundy, Julius Hodge. We are going to have a team that I think is very interchangeable. Guys who can compliment each other and blend together well."

Can Julius play the point?

"I think he can. He is very good at putting the ball on the floor. I don't know if right now, today, he's ready to run a team, which obviously you'd put under the umbrella of ‘point guard'. But, as he gains experience and continues to learn….his ballhandling skills and his leadership certainly are the kind of traits you want in a point guard."

Coach, who's going to rebound for you guys?

"Now THAT's a good question. (laughter) I am wondering the same thing myself. I think right now, if you look at us on paper, you could easily scratch your head and wonder ‘where the heck are we going to get a rebound'. We are a small ACC team and we have very little to no experience up front. So, the only way that I can think about doing it is in gang fashion. Everybody trying to get one more than he's possibly capable of getting relying on good technique and hopefully, a good measure of tenacity. But, we don't have the aircraft carrier that we can put in there and say, "Hey Joe, when the other team misses, get the ball". That's not going to happen for us."

How about team chemistry? There were reports last year that chemistry was shaky at times. Do you buy into that? And, how do you think team chemistry is at this point?

"I buy into it wholeheartedly. I don't think the chemistry last year was anything near what it needed to be. But I thought, early on last year, we had outstanding chemistry. The challenge for chemistry is under the influence of adversity, how do you respond? Typically, through the preseason, you have relatively little adversity. No one's ego has been bruised. But, all of a sudden, you can only start five players and there's only so many shots to go around and so many minutes and there's injuries and there's hard fouls in practice. You know, a laundry list of a million and one things that can present themselves to a team that challenge chemistry.

"It's one thing to have chemistry with your new spouse on your honeymoon night but as you live life together and you know more about each other, the good things as well as the shortcomings that we all have, now chemistry is tested at a depth that means something.

"That will be the challenge for this team like it is for every team. The guy next to you or the guy that you room with on the road likes to sleep with the light on and you like to sleep with it off or he likes to leave the TV on to go to bed and you don't—then all of a sudden, you live with people and you get to know them and now chemistry has been tested. You know, "I wanted to start, I worked hard in the off season but I am not starting", how to I respond? Do I build up or do I tear down? Right now, we have great chemistry. But, I've given the team the same speech I am telling you. That chemistry will be tested just like a family's chemistry will be tested over time."

On the frontline players -

"Marcus (Melvin) really played well yesterday (at the intrasquad scrimmage), except for the fact that every shot he made, he celebrated and didn't get back on defense or into the press quick enough. Marcus has improved his body. He's about 235 pounds now. Certainly the year of experience helped him a great deal. I guess when you stop and reflect a minute, he's about the only guy that's played on our "front line"."

What about the young guys up there so far?

"The thing I like is they are a relatively skilled group. We are not nearly physical enough yet. We don't understand what it means to play hard. We do it for short bursts and sometimes in our guys' minds, they are convinced they are playing hard. I am trying to convince or persuade them that believe it or not, you can push through this barrier and find another whole new level that you have. We are kind of in the mix of finding out who we are that way. As we discover that, I think they are a very talented group of guys. Another thing they are going to obviously have to do, and it's not going to happen for the start of this season or through this season, is continue to transform their bodies and get bigger and stronger and more physical.

"One thing I do like about our young guys is that they are eager to learn. They don't come across as know it alls. I've found them to be relatively ego-less so far. They are very riveted on learning. They are very anxious to know. When you make a point to them, I really see them trying to absorb it and carry it forward. I think that is really going to enhance the learning curve."

With young big guys, can they really understand how physical it is until they play, especially in this league?

"No. There's no substitute for experience. You can try to explain, you can watch film, but until you actually do it, there's no substitute for that."

What's Melvin's position? 4 and 5 or 3, 4 and 5?

"I've just going to resist talking about positions with our team this year. For those of you that could watch us yesterday or at our open practice, you know what I am talking about. We are a team that is not limited by positions. That has very little meaning in our scheme of things right now. You are either a player or not. You are either on the floor or not. Which is good. From my standpoint, I love that kind of thing."

Is that going to be more difficult getting younger players having to learn three or four different roles?

"We'll still have roles, but I think it will actually make it easier to get different guys in because more combinations will be possible. If you lock people in to position and you label them as such, then I think you almost inherently limit combinations. Therefore, have sometimes, a difficult time making the kind of substitutions you are referring to in the context of your question because a guy only knows a certain spot."

What about Scooter (Sherrill)?

"Scooter's had a very dedicated off season. At first glance, I think you'll see he has really improved his strength. He spends a lot of time shooting the basketball. We need him to continue to gain experience so that he can make good basketball decisions."

How much in the change in style due to the experience in the backcourt and not in the frontcourt?

"With this team, I would do it anyway. So what I guess I am saying, it's not so much a function of experience as it is just the kind of players we have, as opposed to their age. It really is a fun way to coach and it's a fun way to play. I think our guys are really have a good time plaything this way. They are enjoying it. I am enjoying coaching it."

Is the way you prefer to play all the time?

"Yea. I'm loving it. For different reasons, my first few years at NC State, our style has been more reactive, a function of other things happening, more than a function of any great desires to do one thing or another. Different reasons for different times, but it's been a reaction. Maybe, in the whole scheme of things, isn't the right way to do it, but each year, we've had certain cards on the table. We have tried to conform a style of play to best suit that. I think the cards on the table this year are very congruent with the way we'd like to play."

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