Ford: I haven't really thought about it in those terms. I think we've done a lot of great things, and I think to an extent it gets overlooked a little bit. We've had some big wins, our first two years we went to the NCAA tournament after not going for a while. Have we gone as deep into the NCAA tournament as we'd like? Absolutely not. But I still think we've had a lot of successes and done a lot of great things.
I like where we're at right now in year six. We've got a top-10 basketball team before the season starts. I don't know how it's going to go ... but I think it says volumes about our program and this school when a player like Marcus Smart decides to bypass for a year going to the NBA to be a part of this again. I see Marcus Smart as a pretty smart young man and he must think a lot of our basketball program and think a lot of this school to do that.
Is it safe to say that this team will only go as far as Marcus Smart, Markel Brown and Le'Bryan Nash take it?
Ford: You can start there but I don't know (if that's true). We ran off eight straight wins last year in the Big 12, which is not easy to do. And I thought during those eight games our MVP was Michael Cobbins. We all get how important Marcus Smart is to our team. But (Cobbins) was the difference maker (in that stretch).
If you go look at those eight games and what he did, he was I thought a dominant center in those eight games. These are things that I talked to him about. Then when we started tournament play, I thought he was up and down, as well as some other players. But I thought he was our MVP in those eight games.
We need Marcus Smart to be Marcus Smart, we need Markel to be one of the best guards in the country, and we need LB to play his role, and we need Brian Williams to play his role and so forth, but I need Michael Cobbins to be a dominant center like he was during that eight-game stretch. When Michael Cobbins brings his A-game, it gives us a different look.
We've got our top seven, and I've told my team I know my seven now. Now who's eight, nine and 10? And of eight, nine and 10, who wants to break that top seven? I've got my top seven, and I wouldn't trade anybody for any of them. It's not going to be easy to get into that top seven, but who wants to be that?
I don't know if our season depends upon on how those (three) guys do; I would say our season is going to depend on how those seven do to be honest with you because this is a collective group.
Do you like the fact that you don't have to rely on any one player to carry the team each game?
Ford: Marcus Smart is the best player in the country because of his winning mentality, because of his leadership, because of his approach to practice and the game every day. But we don't have that one guy that we can say every game we can put 20 points in the book. We don't need Marcus Smart trying to go out and get 20 points every game, we don't need Markel Brown to think he needs to go get 20, or Le'Bryan Nash to think that. That's why I say it's going to be a collective effort on the court.
A lot of top-10 teams will be based on having one or two guys who will have to go get their 20 (points) every game if they're going to be good. But we're not like that. We're not a top-10 team because of that. We've got guys that can do that, (but) we need it to be balanced.
How important is it to have a dominant big man? What will it mean if Cobbins is able to consistently play like he did during that eight-game stretch last season?
Ford: It's important (to have a dominant big man), and believe me I hear it all the time. But who in our league has a dominant center? Maybe one or two (teams) have a dominant center. And I'll be honest with you, we play against some big, big guys in our league and I'm happy and excited when we go against them because they can't move, and we actually exploit it to an extent.
But no question we're recruiting our tail off every day to find that big guy that can be a difference maker, and there aren't many of them out there that can be difference makers. Some people have bigger guys than we've got but some times bigger is not always better.
But Michael Cobbins is a guy who I think is now starting to get the notoriety that he is wanting and getting some of the publicity, and is being considered one of the better bigs in our league. We've talked to him about that. Now he's got to back it up. If that means it's about rebounding, blocking shots and being a presence around the rim. When you start looking at his role and keys for him to be that (type of player), scoring is not in the top two or three. (His priorities need to be) rebounding, blocking shots, defending and being a presence in there.
It's always great to have a quality big man, and I liked skilled big men, and I consider him kind of skilled. He's not a guy that prohibits us in any way; he's not out there getting in the way. I understand all of that and we're actively recruiting big men, and you do need a good big man. That's important.
NOTE: Ford had more to say about his team and the upcoming season. Check back in the next few days as the three-part series continues with Ford talking about some of the players he expects to step up for the Cowboys this season
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