Ford: With the new schedule it's different. I would probably embrace it more if we had a new team but we have eight veteran guys, and we really have to balance how much you do. You don't want to do too much to early and run them down. You've got to really balance it. I do like this opportunity to work with my team early. It's been good.
How competitive has it been early on?
Ford: Practices have been highly competitive. All of the veterans have done a great job of teaching the younger guys. There's a lot of teaching going on from the older veterans, who stop and show guys things. That's been good.
One thing (the earlier practices) have allowed us to do, (and) you don't have as much time to do this when you start later, is when we devide teams up now we divide them evenly. Right now, when we divide up, whether it's 3-on-3, 4-on-4 or 5-on-5, we try to divide them as evenly as possible, and that creates a competitive environment, which I think is healthy.
Have there been any surprises?
Ford: Not from the returners, we know what to expect. (Junior college transfer) Gary Gaskins has been a surprise. He's a little further ahead than we thought he was at this point, but he's still got a long way to go. We really see glimpses of ways that he could really impact our team, and help our team.
Leyton Hammonds is a freshman who I think really has a chance to be a major impact. Stevie Clark is showing some definite glimpses of what we were hoping he would be – a fast, penetrating point guard. We really don't have anybody on our team like him. Defensively, Stevie's been very good. I've been very impressed with Stevie Clark's understanding of the game of basketball.
Jeffrey Carroll is going to be a special player, a very special player. He's one of the top shooters on our team right now.
I've been impressed with our newcomers, very impressed with our newcomers.
Have you ever been as excited about a season as you are for this one?
Ford: You get excited for different reasons. I'm going into my 17th year as a college head coach, and you get excited for different reasons. There's no question, I grasp the expectations (everyone has for us), I get it.
For me, I love winning, there's no question, and my competitiveness gets the best of me at times, but I enjoy the practices. I enjoy when I get to go to practice and work with kids like Markel Brown and Marcus Smart. That's a lot of fun for me. I know what it means to win but to me it's about being around the young men and enjoying the game, and enjoying each other, and enjoying our family atmosphere.
I know that the family atmosphere is talked about by all teams but I do think ours is really special. I'm a little biased but we do have a tight-knit group, and I'm talking about all of our wives and players. We're all very close. This team embraces that.
For me, from that aspect, yes I hope we go out and win the national championship. But when Marcus Smart, Markel Brown and Le'Bryan Nash said they were coming back, for me it was the excitement of getting to work with them again. My mind didn't immediately go to, oh we're going to have a chance to win a lot of games, like the fans. It really didn't go to that like the fans. I guess when your whole life has revolved around basketball ... yes, I'd love to win the Big 12 championship, but I want to have fun every day. And winning helps you have fun but I want to enjoy coaching.
But you would agree that this year's team has a chance to do some special things, correct?
Ford: It hasn't always been easy here. Some years it's a struggle, and you learn from every year ... I'm just looking forward to working with this team. You never know what's going to happen or how many games we're going to win.
I gave our team a talk the other day. I thought we had a great year last year, and I used the word great because we won 24 games and we won the Puerto Rican Shootout on national television, (and) we had a great win at Kansas. You just go down the line, we finished one game out of first place in the Big 12. We did a lot of great things but it didn't end the way we would have liked. You can have great years and not win the Big 12 championship, you can have great years and not win a national championship. But when you win the Big 12 championship and you go far in the NCAA tournament, those are special years. Those are special years, and we want to do something special.
I fully grasp that the fans may have a different perspective, but for me I want a special year. I want a special year for my players, I want a special year for the fans, for our coaching staff. I do want it to be a special year.
NOTE: Ford had plenty more to say about his team and the upcoming season. Check back in the next few days as the three-part series continues as Ford looks ahead to what should be the most exciting season in his six years at OSU.
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