Barnes: 'I am excited about this season'

The following is Coach Rod Barnes' preseason press conference as the Rebel head coach prepares for the start of preseason practice Saturday.

Barnes: First of all I'd like to thank God as always for the opportunity to be here. I'm really excited about this season. I've been really pleased with our team, going back to last spring. With the departure of Aaron Harper and Justin Reed, I thought our guys really took it upon themselves to do better, both on and off the court. As a result I've been really pleased with where we are. This has been a great fall. I've been really happy with our individual work. Tony Smith (strength and conditioning coach) is one of the best in the country. At this point, I feel we are ready to go this Saturday for the start of practice. I feel we've had great senior leadership. Justin Johnson has emerged as one of the most vocal ones. Kendrick Fox has always been a leader by example. I've been happy with a lot of those guys. But this has truly been a team effort. We need every single guy on our roster to be there for us to be the best basketball team we can be. We'll look a little like the football team did (at USC) last week. We'll be running people in and out trying to find out who needs to be where. We'll try to push the ball up the floor. As far as philosophy goes, we'll still run motion offense and man to man defense. We feel we need to get some easy baskets. I want to play more people to speed up the tempo of the game. The way we played in 2001 (Sweet 16 season) is probably going to be a little more of the way we will play this year. We don't have that dominant guy inside like we did back then with Rahim Lockhart. But we'll be a team that will run guys in and out to keep our guys fresh, and to try to wear the other team down. We're excited about that. More of our players will see the floor. But the bottom line is we have to win. That's our ultimate goal. The spirit of our team and coaches is where I like for it to be right now. We just have to continue to improve and get better at what we are already doing.

Q: With Aaron and Justin gone, who scores for your team?

Barnes: Again, it will be a team effort. When you look at our roster, we had three or four guys who scored about five points a game. We have to get those guys in double figures. We feel we have some new players that will help. Jeremy Parnell is an inside kid that will help us and will maybe get double figures on certain nights. Also Brandon Patterson is going to give us a great punch from the perimeter because he is a great shooter. He has probably been our second best shooter. Todd Abernethy has been our best shooter. We feel we will be able to score as a team. We have to get two or three in double figures and have some other guys scoring seven or eight points. We feel we have enough to do that.

Q: Do you think some of those veterans will step up now who may have relied on Aaron and Justin too much?

Barnes: I think that is a big thing. With their departure, I've seen Justin Johnson and Kendrick Fox and Tommie Eddie get more vocal in the workouts. I think there is a sense of togetherness among our players. Last year I was asked a lot why those other guys were waiting to shoot. I think they were waiting on Reed and Harper. I think this year they will be more assertive than they've been. I see that already. I see more confidence in those players now.

Q: Talk about the other two newcomers – Londrick Nolen and Brian Smith.

Barnes: Londrick Nolen is a versatile player. He's a guy that may get you eight points tonight. He may get you eight rebounds the next night. He's probably going to be our best defender from what we can tell. He has great feet and great reaction. He needs to become more consistent. He doesn't have a pure shot, but he can score. I think the big thing is he can help us in other ways. Brian Smith is a really good defender. He knows how to run a team. He understands the game. I don't expect those guys to be double figure guys, but I expect them to contribute early.

Q: Talk about Todd Abernethy's shoulder since his surgery.

Barnes: He's as good as he's been since he's been here. His shot is so much better. He got a hitch in his shot. He had the surgery and he's been back since August and shot the ball well. He's been more aggressive out there. We've done some more things with him as far as with the basketball.

Q: Talk about how you are handling the expectations for this team, which are not really high right now.

Barnes: I've been one to always have expectations for myself and for our team and for our program. I've never gotten caught up in whether we were ranked high or low. I think this team is a team that has a chance to be a good basketball team. It's going to take a lot of hard work. It's going to take a lot of togetherness. But I think we have a nucleus there. We want to be in postseason play. That's our goal. Our kids are putting in the work. If we continue this type of togetherness, this team can be a very good team.

Q: Are these kids motivated by the fact that some people don't feel they are a very good team or that they are perhaps not SEC type players?

Barnes: I can't speak for them, but I am sure they are motivated by it. I would be motivated by it. That's not something we have harped on. More than anything, these guys are doing what we ask them to do. We're asking them to step up. If they're not motivated, I'd be disappointed. If somebody told me I was not an SEC caliber player, then I would certainly get motivated by it. But I think they are more motivated to prove to themselves that they can be a good basketball team. As a coach I have to keep things in perspective. But I remember as a player, if we were picked at the bottom, then I was going to try to prove to you that we weren't that bad.

Q: Talk about senior center Tommie Eddie, his weight loss, and the importance of his role on this team.

Barnes: I believe that because of our system and our program, one thing we've always prided ourselves on is making kids better. One of the things about Tommie Eddie is he is a skilled basketball player. He has a great feel for the game. Last year he came in overweight. Now he has slimmed down. Last year he didn't dunk. This year he is dunking every day. He feels good. His confidence is up. He's put the work in. We've had that type commitment from several of our guys. You will be able to see that he has put the work in when you first look at him.

Q: If we watch your team in the first month of preseason practice, who do you feel we would be surprised about?

Barnes: First of all, I think you would say this team is a little bit better than what I thought. We've added some pieces to the puzzle. You will see Jeremy Parnell and Tommie Eddie and Londrick Nolen and others. Maybe not so many will stand out individually. But as a team, I think you would feel we have a chance to be better than what people think.

Q: Will you press more and run more with this team?

Barnes: We will. We're back to the way we played in 2001, and I don't want to compare this team to that. We don't have a Rahim Lockhart. But you will see guys playing hard and we have more numbers. If we had to play today, we could run our offense and play defense today, because we have so many guys back. You're talking about Todd Abernethy and Justin Johnson and Kendrick Fox and Tommie Eddie and Marvin Moore or whoever today. It will help that we return so many players that know what we are doing. We're going to press because we believe Todd Abernethy and Cavadas Nunnery and Brian Smith are better than just Todd Abernethy. We believe Todd will be better later in the season because he will have a chance to rest having those other guys in there.

Q: Talk about Bam Doyne and Ed Glass.

Barnes: Bam Doyne has had a great fall. Ed Glass is a guy that has been between positions. We think by what we do as far as getting the ball up the floor more, that Ed will help us. He's a big guard and really athletic. We'll use him going to the glass, maybe cutting and putting it on the post and maybe taking advantage of his size. If you asked me who would start today, I would probably say Tommie Eddie at the four or the five and Todd Abernethy at the one or the two. I would probably want to start Todd at the point. But Cavadas has had a great summer and fall. We want to pressure, so that plays into his hands. Tommie Eddie being in shape will help us run more.

Q: Why is Todd a possibility at the two guard?

Barnes: Because he's shooting the ball better. He's absolutely shooting the ball great. We'll look at it for two or three weeks. On Saturday (to start preseason practice), he will be at the point. Again, because we are going to press, I like Cavadas' defensive intensity. Because we are going to run people in and out, Todd is going to play off guard some because we will need his shooting out there.

Q: What have Coach Michael White and Coach Tracy Dildy brought to the table as far as your staff goes?

Barnes: The first thing is they brought some players and are bringing some players. That's the first thing. The second thing is our office is just different now. It is an office of energy now. They've come in and it started with recruiting. But it is also apparent in the office. They are excited about being here. They are determined to prove people wrong and turn this program around. Also as a young coach myself and being so successful early, I've taken some beatings in some ways the past two years. But these guys have come in and said, we're going to do this. They brought about an energy that has even brought my spirit back. It's not just talk. These are two guys that work. They brought it not only to the floor and in recruiting, they have brought that to our office.

Q: Who will coach the point guards?

Barnes: It will be Michael. He has been spending a lot of time with them. He will spend most of his time with the point guards and most of his time on offense. That's the way we have it broken down right now.

Q: Talk about Kentucky head coach Tubby Smith sending his son to play for you.

Barnes: Maybe I shouldn't say this, because Tubby will get on me about it, but I deal more with Brian's mother than Tubby. But this is an honor for me. Brian Smith could have gone anywhere he wanted to go, whether on or not on scholarship. I've never cared about whether a guy was on scholarship or not. Jason Harrison came here as a walk-on. I've never cared about that. It's about whether they can play or not, and whether they want to be a part of our team or not. They've been great as a family. Brian has been great as a kid to coach. Very respectful. Works very hard. He has done great things already as far as building that camaraderie. Tubby told me that's what I would get from him. He said you're going to get the ultimate team guy and a guy that loves to win. When they play a pickup game, he never tells me how many points he scored. He tells me if his team won or not.

Q: You don't have any preseason games before you open the regular season in Milwaukee at the BCA Tournament Nov. 14-16 with three games up there. Talk about starting with that type tough tournament from the outset.

Barnes: The first thing is when you get to play in the Black Coaches Association Tournament, you have to take advantage of that for a lot of reasons. The prestige of starting in a tournament like that is big. I wanted to put our team out there and see what is going on. We will get a chance to play a lot of guys in three days. We will give our kids a chance to play early. Some guys will have to step up early. We've added some players who will impact this team. We'll get to find out a lot about our players that first week.

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