Trent Talk

Just in case you think that USC is a paper tiger, Trent Johnson heaped a helping of respect and warning this week about the trouble the Trojans might give Stanford tonight. The Cardinal head coach also discussed Lawrence Hill's defense, the good and bad when the Lopez twins play together, Will Paul's return, Anthony Goods' upcoming test at the point and more.

On USC:

"Very, very talented team.  Very skilled, and very worthy of their ranking I should say.  We were very fortunate to beat USC here last year by two.  They pretty much handled us - handled us really well - at their place.  The whole nucleus is back, with the exception of course of Ryan Francis, which was a really devastating blow to their program.  Probably a devastating blow to college basketball in general.  Very talented basketball team, and Coach [Tim] Floyd's ability to get that program turned in a short time is nothing short of remarkable and speaks volumes of him as a coach.  It's not a secret that he's pretty good at what he does."

On five Pac-10 in the Top 25 rankings:

"From top to bottom, it's probably as good as any league in the country.  That's something we have felt as coaches all along, going back to our spring meetings before this year."

On what makes USC good defensively:

"I think what you have is not good athletes but great athletes, with great quickness.  In general, you have some guys who have bought into a system and understand that this is what is going to make you successful and win at this level.  I don't care who the coach is, that's probably the hardest thing in this day and age - getting guys who are really talented and really skilled to buy in.  Tim has done that.  Ben [Howland] has done that.  So much is based off wanting to shoot and wanting to score, with that being the most important thing, but that's what separates right now defensively.  They're very solid.  They pick you up three-quarter court.  They have great quickness.  With Taj Gibson being back there, he has the ability to change shots and block shots.  It's pretty much straight-forward, get into your face.  Our game here [last year], it was interesting watching the tape.  I like that kind of game.  It was 58-56, but each possession was like a fist fight.  For me as a competitor, and hopefully for these kids as competitors, that's what this is all about: each possession is important, defensively and offensively.  I don't want to get caught up in 'it's your will' and all of that nonsense, but you find out what you're about.  You find out what you're made of.  You really do."

On the challenging match-ups for Stanford vs. USC:

"Yeah, all five spots.  No question.  Gabe Pruitt and Nick Young have proven that they're all-league players.  I'm not so sure they're not the best one-two combo in the conference, with all respect due to a lot of other players in this league.  Nick Young is impressive.  I thought Taj [Finger] did a decent job on him here.  Again, that's the last tape I watched, so it's more fresh in my mind.  Taj did a decent job against him here last year.  He was playing the 'four'; then we took Taj off him and put Lawrence [Hill] on him.  My goodness, he pretty much took over the game the second half.  Now that he is playing the 'three' and Lawrence is playing the 'three', I think Lawrence has a chance to find out a lot about himself Thursday."

On imagining what USC has gone through since the death of Ryan Francis:

"No, I can't...  I've never been through a situation like that.  I don't know how you can comment on that unless you have been there.  I know how I felt when I lost family members.  All I know, from competing against him and seeing him on the recruiting trails when he was playing in high school and AAU, is that he appeared to be just a great, great kid.  I can't imagine what they're going through.  That's something that probably doesn't go away."

On Lawrence Hill adjusting to playing as a small forward:

"He's done a good job offensively.  Now, on the other end of the floor, we have work to do.  Lawrence, like Anthony [Goods] and like Mitch [Johnson], though more Lawrence and Anthony because they have had a level of success here, going into this year they have improved - but they still have a ways to go.  Most guys start to feel a little confident about themselves, but the big picture in all of this is staying grounded.  I know Lawrence gives you guys a lot of stuff to write, but let's understand something: Lawrence hasn't won at high school.  Lawrence hasn't won at this level, so he still has a ways to go.  Anthony is the same way.  That's just a fact.  When they start overanalyzing things and filling up the papers, okay.  Lawrence has said it twice this year: 'This will make or break our season.'  Believe it or not, if things don't go well in Lawrence Hill's three-game stretch, we still have to play."

On where Hill needs to improve defensively:

"His problems up to this point have been embracing contact and learning how to use his length on smaller, quicker players.  For embracing contact, he has a tendency to get caught on screens - on-ball screens, moving screens - as opposed to using his length, running through screens and understanding angles.  That's the first part.  Then the second part is that it is a new adjustment for him guarding guys out on the perimeter, who can change directions off the dribble.  Go back to the match-up against Oregon State, Marcel Jones was the one who gave him problems because Marcel Jones is stronger, a rebounder and very active...  It doesn't get any easier from here.  You get Nick Young, and then after that you have pro, pro, pro.  You have some pros coming up here, quite frankly in my mind.  These next three set of guys that we face are pretty good basketball players."

On what opens up for the offense when Brook Lopez and Robin Lopez play together:

"For Mitch and Fred [Washington] on the perimeter, a lot.  People are playing off them.  People aren't playing off Anthony.  I think people are starting to respect Landry Fields a little bit, though his shooting percentages aren't showing the caliber of shooter or scorer that he is - but he's still a freshman.  When Robin and Brook are scoring in the post - scoring in the post consistently - that opens up things on the perimeter.  But again, neither Robin nor Brook have proven that they can put up consistent numbers back-to-back-to-back.  I think Robin has two, maybe three, pretty good games in a row offensively, though when the defenses have collapsed on him, that takes away from his production.  Also Brook has been really inconsistent.  Hopefully we're seeing him get to a point where we can deal with the emotional side of it.  I thought at Oregon, he got really frustrated, had a couple dumb fouls and let it get to him.  Then against Oregon State, he had a favorable match-up.  He was playing against a kid who is a redshirt freshman who is not as mobile and not as athletic as some of the guys that we have faced beforehand.  It depends."

On what can not match-up well when the Lopez twins play together:

"The bottom line is defensively.  Oregon really attacked Brook off the dribble with Malik [Hairston], and Maarty Leunen was starting to attack Robin off the dribble.  Teams are starting to spread us and attack them off the dribble.  Offensively, it puts in a situation where we have a double low post, and neither one of them is capable of stepping off the post and making plays off the dribble.  That puts a lot of pressure on you perimeter to make them better, make good passes into the post, dribble into the lane kick and so on and so forth.  That's where we had problems against Oregon.  They played off our non-shooters on the perimeter, so to speak, and they rotated weakside half help, so that when the ball was thrown into the post to either post guy, there was a double and the rotations were quick.  It caused us problems in that regard."

On young perimeter players learning how to feed the ball to the post:

"Well, it is an adjustment because Lawrence is playing on perimeter now.  But we're making bad decisions at times.  The thing that was disturbing against Oregon and Oregon State was that going into those games, we ran breakdown dribbles offensively, trying to feed the post without telegraphing your pass and so on and so forth.  We went out in the game and had some unforced turnovers, so that's just decision-making.  But you expect that when you're moving a guy from the 'four' to the 'three', and you expect that when you have a guy who has been injured for a long time.  You expect that when certain guys are struggling.  You expect that in general when guys are playing against good teams and good players."

On Anthony Goods playing point guard:

"He has done a decent job when there hasn't been any pressure put on him fullcourt.  It's not a big deal starting.  I don't know why everybody is caught up with that.  The main thing is minutes.  Mitch hasn't started, but his minutes have been the same.  Brook's minutes have increased.  Anthony has done a good job with his decision-making at times, when he hasn't faced fullcourt pressure.  And what I mean by that is that people haven't picked him up and tried to wear him down.  Arizona got back in a zone.  Heck, I can play in that situation.  I can bring it up across half and throw it in the post.  Oregon got up in him a little bit, but that's also when we brought Mitch in.  Mitch relieved him of some ballhandling responsibilities.  Oregon stayed with a favorable match-up.  I am curious to see what will happen here because Thursday you have a couple guys who can come and get you, now.  They might pick you up fullcourt and get right after you.  It's going to be interesting.  Also, he is going to have to guard those guys on the other end.  We'll see."

On Will Paul's return to action last week:

"He did good.  He did a very, very good job.  I said this a couple of weeks ago prior, about him playing through pain, playing through ankle injuries.  Will has a good feel and doesn't get rattled by much, but we put him in the Oregon game right before the half.  He comes in and throws the ball away.  It wasn't necessarily his fault as much as a lack of communication between him and Anthony because they haven't played together, but it did faze him a bit.  I thought he really did a good job defensively when they tried to isolate Aaron [Brooks].  Aaron likes to go to his right; Carlton [Weatherby] forced him to his left.  He got into a seam.  Will was a post guy who helped off Leunen, made a good decision and then got back.  And then Oregon State he came in and gave a nice lift.  He knocked down the jumpshot, got physical, got a couple key rebounds and made a nice pass to Fred.  If he can stay healthy, he's only going to get better.  He's a coach's son.  He has a skill set and a skill level.  He probably would be a lot further along and played more than he has played if he hadn't been banged up.  But learning how to play through pain and through adversity is part of college, and it's something that takes longer for the freshmen than these experienced guys.  And as we all know here, you have to earn your keep.  It's not like he was going to get healthy and then play in a day or two.  He has to work his way back in, but he definitely can help us because he does understand.  He knows what we're doing."


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