Trent Talk

Stanford Men's Basketball head coach Trent Johnson sat down with The Bootleg and other local media Friday between the Washington and Washington State games. He discussed the play and shooting of Lawrence Hill, the improvements by Fred Washington, Stanford's current rotation and the challenges of the WSU Cougars.

On the year-over-year improvement of Lawrence Hill:

"He's played better.  He's very versatile.  Obviously his offensive output and production is much improved.  He's been making some plays down the stretch for us on the offensive end, which has helped us.  He's doing what you would expect going from your freshman to your sophomore year.  Last night he disappeared on the defensive end on numerous occasions, so we'll tend to dwell on that.  He just needs to become more consistent in all phases.  Probably the biggest improvement that I see is how he embracing playing with contact and how physical the game is.  Last year as a freshman, he struggled with that and had trouble with that.  This year he is doing a better job of playing with contact, understanding and picking his spots.  Also bouncing back and forth between the 'four' and the 'three' - playing in the post and on the perimeter."

On the form and rotation of Hill's jumpshot:

"As long as he shoots it the same way every time, I don't get caught up in that a lot.  At this college level, with kids who have been playing for a long period of time, people want to mess with their shot and change their shot.  But we tend to concentrate more on the follow-through and from the waist up.  But he's been shooting it the same way every time.  I think he has the capability of becoming a better shooter, but right now, he's shooting 54 percent.  From the perimeter and three-point shot, which is not necessarily his best shot, he's shooting right around 35 to 40 [percent].  Jamaal Wilkes had bad rotation, but he shot the same way every time."

On Washington State:

"Best team we've played since Air Force and Arizona.  Juniors and seniors - upperclassmen - are the nucleus of this team who have been through the wars, so to speak, and been beaten by a lot of teams in this league.  It's nice to see how well they are playing together.  They don't beat themselves.  They really take care of the ball.  They really understand how to play.  Defensively, they make you work for everything.  They're inside-out oriented.  They don't give up any easy baskets.  They're just a very, very, very good basketball team.  It speaks volumes to Coach [Tony] Bennett and also to his dad.  But it also speaks volumes to these kids.  They were part of a system, and they've grown and understood that the commitment that, 'This is the way we have to play to be successful.'  And that's what they have been doing."

On those team characteristics bearing similarity to Air Force:

"I think Washington State's players, like Air Force's players, don't get enough credit for being the caliber of players that they are.  As much as we talk about the system or the coach, good players collectively and individually make a good system.  Washington State has kids who can play.  I've always liked Robbie Cowgill.  Last year when we won at Washington State, Cowgill and Kyle Weaver didn't play.  When we won here, Derrick Low didn't play.  There are some good basketball players on the Washington State team.  You just have to be a pretty good player to play in this league now."

On differences between a Tony Bennett team and a Dick Bennett team:

"Some people will say that there is a little more freedom [under Tony].  I don't know if it's a little more freedom as opposed to more experience.  They're pretty much doing the same things.  They value the possession, and they take good shots.  They defend on the halfcourt and force more transition baskets.  Yeah, they run.  But that's any team with experience.  I don't think Coach [Dick] Bennett's teams ever looked to play slow.  They looked to make you guard them.  But when they guarded you had break opportunities, they took them.  I see a lot of the same characteristics.  The only thing I think is different is that they are bigger, stronger and a year more experienced in their system.  Just like the Oregon kids - they're older, a year stronger and more mature."

On Stanford's team health:

"Last time I checked, we have everybody...  Mitch [Johnson] had a little cold last night.  He was under the weather a little bit.  We appear to be as good as we have been."

On the return of Will Paul from injury:

"Will is doing a good job.  Will is going to be a good player for us.  I really like Will.  Will has a good understanding of what we're doing.  His ankle did put him back a little bit, but also it's the play of Brook [Lopez] and Robin [Lopez], the play of Taj [Finger] and the play of Lawrence.  The play of Landry Fields has a lot to do with it because now it lets us put Lawrence at the 'four' more.  Will is a kid who definitely can play in certain games and certain situations.  It just speaks volumes to how solid our team and our rotation is right now."

On the current Stanford rotation just starting to scratch the surface:

"Hopefully.  If we can remain healthy, I think we can play like we thought we would as a staff in the spring and in the preseason - have an inside post presence, be able to go in-and-out, be able to play big and be able to get the ball in the halfcourt.  It helps when you're making shots.  Last night was the first time that of Taj, Brook, Robin - with the exception of Lawrence, none of those kids were in foul trouble.  I went into the game fully expecting that we could be in a situation with Spencer [Hawes], that we would have to use three posts and rotate Robin, Brook and Peter [Prowitt].  But Robin played well.  He played on the floor for a long time.  He did a good job, so we were able to...  It's hard to get him out of the game when he is playing like that to play a guy like Peter.  I told him that afterward.  This is a group of kids, for me, that I would like to like to play them all because they deserve to play.  But circumstances aren't there all the time."

On Fred Washington's play:

"Fred is doing a good job of taking care of the ball.  Fred is doing a good job of playing under control.  I know it sounds like a broken record, but the previous two years, Fred has been banged up and Fred has been a whirling dervish.  To his credit this year, he has understood; he's been on the floor every day of practice; and he's made good decisions."

On consciously putting Washington in position to make plays:

"Not necessarily.  The only time I can say we have consciously put him in a position where he can make a play is the late clock situation at the end of the half last night and then at Virginia.  Other than that, he has always played the 'three' much like when we bounced Nick Robinson between the 'three' and the 'four'...  A lot of that has to do with people having to generate through the post and then having to get into the lane.  As opposed to years previous when he was out of control and get a charge, now he is coming to a stop and making a nice pass.  And then Lawrence is finishing plays...  Fred likes to go after the basketball.  He has a nose for the ball.  The big thing for him is the decision-making and his health, no question."

On the possibility of fifth year next season for Washington:

"We'll discuss that two weeks, maybe three weeks, before his Senior Night.  There are a lot of games left to be played...  He's on track to graduate, I believe, this June."

On the growth of this team the past couple weeks:

"Just their ability to keep their composure and stay together as a group.  There is no secret in team sports that when you lose or things get tough, guys tend to drift and do their own thing.  Selfishness starts to set in.  As much as we as coaches talk with these kids in the spring and the fall, to see them continue to fight and support each other - that's important.  'Chemistry' to me is a word that is always blown out of proportion because everybody talks about 'good chemistry,' but very few teams really have it...  It's their approach and how they respond after key losses and wins, especially being here at home.  They haven't started to separate, and we had opportunities early."

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