Q&A with Larry Drew and Coach Taylor

RALEIGH, N.C. --- Larry Drew and his Taft (Calif.) HS team got off to a great start in Wednesday night's opening round of the Holiday Invitational. Drew hit his first five three-pointers en route to 17 points and four assists, in a 68-41 win over Apex. Afterwards, Drew and coach Derrick Taylor sat down with IC for a lengthy interview, revealing that UNC has moved into the No. 1 spot ...

Inside Carolina: Do you often shoot this well? You hit your first five threes out there …

Larry Drew: I was in a zone tonight. When you get into a zone all you see is the basket and you don't concentrate on anything else. To answer your question, I guess I've been [shooting threes better lately]. (laughs) What do you think, [Coach]?

Derrick Taylor: Yeah, I think his shooting has improved tremendously. And he's been a consistent shooter for us all season.

IC: So is this an improvement over the past year?

DT: Big-time improvement from his freshman year until now. He's gotten better and better as a shooter every year.

IC: What do you think specifically changed to make him better?

DT: He's gotten a little stronger, mechanically he's become more solid. His dad is an NBA coach and we both share some of the same philosophies so I reinforce what his dad is teaching and visa versa. And so he gets consistent training year round.

IC: Is the three-point shot something you look for or is it just when it's there, you take it?

LD: I'm looking for my teammates first all the time. I think I'm known for being unselfish. But if the three is there, I'll take it.

IC: Coach, how much is Larry a playmaker and how much is he a scorer?

DT: He's a combination of both. He picks and chooses – I let him go, he knows when it's time to be offensive and when it's time not to. There are times when he's dominated games and scores five points, and then there are some games where he's scored 30. So whatever we need, I let him go. He has the ability to do both equally as well.

IC: Larry, can you speak to that playmaker/scorer role? How do you see your role on the team?

LD: My role on the team? I'm a pass-first guy. I always look ahead to see if my teammates are open. I know my teammates and what they're capable of, so I try to get them the ball when they're in a position to operate. I just think I'm very unselfish and look to pass first and score later. But like [Coach] said, I score when I need to, but all the other times I'm just trying to get my teammates involved.

IC: Yesterday you got to have a team practice at the Smith Center. Can you talk about that experience?

LD: That was great. I walked in and I guess you could say I kind of felt at home. (laughs) It's a great arena. At UCLA it's at home, but I just felt comfortable on the [UNC] court. The arena is great, I really liked it. I want a chance to look at the campus more, but from what I saw, I liked it a lot.

IC: Coach, can you talk about how this practice at UNC opportunity came about?

DT: I talked to [UNC assistant coach] Joe Holladay, and we needed a practice facility, and he made it available for us and it was also available for several other teams -- so each team was going in every hour and a half. And due to the fact that they were on a dead period, it was free time for everybody to go in there and so we got to reserve some time.

IC: So you weren't able to talk to any coaches because it was a dead period?

DT: No, they weren't even on campus. We didn't see any coaches. A manager rolled the equipment out and then even the manager left and it was just us. When we were getting finished, another school was coming on the court.

IC: Were you able to get some work in?

LD: Practice went by pretty fast, but we got some good things in, a lot of jumpers and got to go up and down. We had just gotten off a plane before that – and after five hours [on the plane] our legs weren't with us, but surprisingly tonight I think we played a lot better than I expected us to play. The team wasn't as tired as I thought we would be.

IC: Is this your first time in North Carolina?

DT: First time.

LD: My first time here.

IC: Larry, you said earlier you wanted to see the campus, so you think you'll make a return trip?

LD: If I don't get a chance to see it on this trip, I'm pretty sure I'll come back for a second trip to take a look around.

IC: So that return trip would be an official visit, right?

DT: Yeah, he'd come back on an official.

IC: When do you think that'd be?

DT: You can't take an official visit in the spring as a junior if you have a qualifying SAT score. And then if not you can take the official during your senior year if you have the qualifying score then.

LD: And I haven't taken it yet.

DT: He's a high academic achiever. He's an Advanced Placement kid.

IC: What have been the advantages to having a father who played in the NBA [1980-91] and now coaches in the NBA [Atlanta assistant]?

LD: Basketball has always been [there]. I've always felt comfortable playing basketball. I remember being three or four years old, waking up in the morning going to practices with my dad with the Lakers. Just shooting around on the court, saying ‘What's up' to the players. And as I got older I'd challenge them to shooting contests or one-on-one games to like two points. It's second nature to me – I just feel really comfortable playing basketball. Basketball has been in my life.

IC: How much of a presence does your father have in your basketball development now?

LD: He's there constantly. He calls me every day, texts me before every game some words of motivation. When he does come out to visit, we do practice a lot, too, since he's always away I don't get to practice with him as much as I used to.

DT: Every one of our practices. When he's in town, he never misses a practice. Every practice. He watches and I ask him some questions – he's there all the time, is extremely supportive.

LD: When he's away, we have people videotape our games and we send tape to him and make a copy for ourselves, so he's watching the tape in Atlanta while I'm at home and we go over tape on the phone. So he's really helpful and supportive.

IC: What's some of the best advice he's given you that he's learned from his experiences?

LD: I think the best advice he gives me is just to play and have fun. I just like to let the game come to me and he said that's one thing that made him more comfortable as a pure point guard – ‘Just play your game.'

IC: Coach, what's it like coaching Larry?

DT: It's special. (both laugh) I always say I'm the luckiest guy in the world. Two years ago I had Jordan Farmar and Larry replaced him. Larry has a 12-year-old brother, Landon, who could play varsity for us right now but he's not eligible yet. And then he has a brother, Lindsey, who is nine and is already dominant. Lindsey and Landon came behind each other. So I've got another nine years of Drews in the backcourt.

IC: Larry, do you notice when someone like Roy Williams is sitting courtside for your game?

Roy Williams watches Drew
LD: I don't focus on the crowd, I don't focus on anything else -- I just see the game and that's all I really look at.

IC: So if I told you he was there tonight that'd be news to you?

LD: I mean, I knew before the game that he was going to show up, but it's good and I appreciate [him coming to see me]. My coach yelling at me is all I hear anyway …

DT: … he hears me and that's all he needs to hear. (both laugh)

IC: Talking about your recruitment, what schools other than North Carolina are on your list now?

LD: Arizona, UCLA, Washington, Florida – those are my top five right now. Other than that, Kentucky, Illinois, Texas, UConn – there are a lot of other schools.

IC: Have you been narrowing it down?

LD: The top five, well really the top three, it kind of goes back and forth. Washington, UCLA, Arizona and North Carolina, and then Florida comes in. So I guess it's actually really complicated. But I'm taking it one step at a time.

IC: You've got schools on both the East and West Coasts on your list, how does distance from home factor in?

LD: No, [it's not an issue]. Because if I'm playing on the East Coast, I only have to take the flight one time if I'm staying out here.

IC: So you've said it kind of goes back and forth, but where does North Carolina stand right now?

LD: Well, right now, North Carolina is at the top. I can say that for sure – North Carolina's at the top.

IC: As in No. 1 on your list?

LD: Yeah, yeah.

IC: Why is that?

LD: Roy Williams. He's been contacting me as often as he can. He always tells me, if any college is talking to me or recruiting me harder than he is, then they're doing it illegally. And, I agree. He's really been showing a lot of interest. … and I love North Carolina, too. A lot of great players come from there.

IC: How does the scholarship situation work in terms of a coach offering? Has North Carolina offered?

LD: Yes, they have. They said ‘I'm offering you a scholarship.'

IC: So when did that happen?

LD: The deal is, coaches usually contact my parents because I'm always busy with school when I'm at home. Most of the time my parents don't even tell me who's calling me or offering. So I'll wait and then my mom will say, ‘Oh yeah, by the way, UCLA and North Carolina have offered you.' … Roy Williams, it took him a while to actually say he was offering me a scholarship. He had told my mom ahead of time and I was talking to him on the phone and he said, ‘I talked to your mom and I told her, but I'm offering you an official scholarship.'

IC: When was this?

LD: I'm not even quite sure. Probably a couple months ago.

IC: And the other schools on your list have done the same?

LD: Not all of them, at least I don't think, unless my mom hasn't told me yet. But UCLA has, I think Arizona has, Stanford was the first school to offer me. What other schools?

DT: Everybody in the PAC-10 has offered. Then you have North Carolina, Texas, UConn, Florida, Alabama, Kentucky, Gonzaga, a ton of schools …

IC: How do you keep track of all of this?

DT: We're pretty good at it. I've learned from experience. I never had a marquee player until I had Jordan, and that was hard to manage, because I didn't know how to schedule it -- sometimes we'd have as many as 15 coaches in the gym at one time. So I learned how to schedule the time and so we block it off now for visits and calls. … And I'll tell them when I'll call them, since they can't call us. So, I'll say, ‘Don't worry, I'll call you at this time.' And then will say to Larry, ‘Let's call this coach right now and talk to him, ok, it's been [long enough], let's get off the phone.'

LD: And then the other thing is they call my parents a lot, too, so my parents talk to them.

DT: … At the end of the day, it's a positive thing for him. As long as some [coaches] show up. … We try to respect the process and give [each coach] their own individual time. I think every [coach] deserves a fair shot. That's my job – to keep the playing field level. I don't tell them where to go or put my input in at all.

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