Tuesdays with the Team: UA/ASU, Part 1

The Bootleg.com's tireless staff writer Daniel Novinson sat in on the weekly men's basketball press conference Tuesday after the Cardinal's weekend split with the Oregon schools in their first road series in conference play. Check out Part 1 of 2 with Daniel's takes and the coaches' and players' perspectives on the team's performance and the team's preparation for Arizona and ASU this week.

Trent Johnson

On Arizona:

 "They have three or four future NBA guys. … They look the same as always [in terms of scheme]. They've always caused us quickness in the perimeter and the post.

 

On Hill:

Oh yeah. He has all the tools: live body, strong, quick off his feet, laterally he's quick. He's probably one of the most improved players in our league, in the country.

 

On Oregon:
"It was the flow of the game. For the most part of the second half, there was a stretch up until 1:30, where we had 15 of 18 possessions where we got the ball where we wanted to and had a good shot. We're probably not having this conversation if we made a couple of free throws, and didn't throw the ball away at critical times.

"I would say [Anthony Goods] took maybe two bad shots. That's this league; we know what's going to happen if we don't make the critical play or throw the ball away at a critical time, you're not going to get a second opportunity."

 

Trent knows a lot more about basketball than I do, but that must be a pretty liberal, Sleep and Dreams-type grading scale. 15 of 18 good shots down the stretch in the second? Only two bad shots by Anthony? Goods was 1-of-9 deep and I think he had a chance to set his feet on maybe four of those.

 

"I thought they did a good job of attacking us off the dribble and had us on our heels in the first half. In the second half, I thought we did a good job of adjusting and had them where we wanted. Porter's probably a quick as a basketball player as there is around, regardless of level."

 

I asked him to describe the defensive adjustments at halftime:

"I thought the kids did a good job of adjusting angles, and getting back in transition, which is effort and sprinting. Angles, they're quicker off the dribble at four or all five spots. We'd close to prevent the three, and when they'd put it on the floor, we'd turn and slide instead of turn and run."

 

I asked about how Oregon slowed down Brook in the second half. I thought they were fronting the post, but Trent corrected me:

"They got three-quarters on the high side [Someone with a basketball IQ higher than a goldfish, please explain] and used their weakside guard to rotate over. The second half was a slower game and possessions were limited offensive. In the second half, he was fine, he got good looks. We just had a breakdown the last two possessions. We wanted to run, down by two the last two possessions, we wanted to give to Anthony and slide, instead of getting doubled in the post.

"Brook's going to be in those situations when he plays like that, he has to do better at reposting and demanding the ball [instead of just accepting the double team].

 

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure this one out: Brook is the only player Trent continues to call out by name. Us print folk have gotten to speak with Brook a total of zero times this entire season (and I can't remember speaking with Robin either, though I might be forgetting something and was gone over break. The radio guys got Robin yesterday, but the program has more control over the tone of those questions than ours.) I'm told when media went to talk to Brook after Oregon, seeing as, you know, he scored 26 points, Brook spoke the whole time with his hand over his mouth and Trent quickly saw what was happening and snapped "he's done." Conclusion 1: Between not getting to get quoted in the paper and getting called out, both twins, especially Brook, are still in the doghouse in a major way. Obviously they brought it on themselves, but some of it might be exaggerated because Johnson is going to ride his best players the hardest regardless. [I know he rode Nick Fazekas really hard at Nevada.] Conclusion 2: This one's murkier, but maybe Johnson can afford to take off the kid gloves because he knows they're gone after March anyways. Draw your own conclusions.

 

On the shooting:

"I'd like to think it was one of those days, but Fred's 0-for-6, and of the guys playing the most minutes, he's one of our worst shooters. When it comes to shooting, you've heard me say this, I don't dwell on it. If they're good looks in the flow of the offense, kids don't try to miss it, I don't dwell on it. Look at the last seven games, Brook, Robin, Mitch, Taj, Anthony, Law are shooting it well. If you look at the last five or six games, hopefully it was just one of those days. We're not going to draw attention to it, we're not going to be shooting free throws in practice, we're going to be doing the things we always do. The worst thing I thought as a Coach, ‘Hey, you're going to run the 900 suicide.' Let's worry about the other things that are going to help us win.

 

Maybe it's Stockholm syndrome, maybe I'm getting old and curmudgeonly myself at the ripe, old age of 21, maybe I'm getting better at this job and reading him, maybe I'm earning more respect, but I'm getting along better and better with Trent over the years. Here, there's a plausible argument for the flip side: we are going to reinforce free-throw shooting, but there's just a refreshing honesty, a refreshing "old-schoolness" about Trent: No, we're going to do it the way we always have.

 

Our Pat Fitzgerald mentions that Fred told him preseason his goal was 80 percent free throw accuracy:

"If that's his goal, he's got a way to go. You've been around Fred enough to know that these days, Fred feels as bad about it as anyone. He probably shot before and after practice on his own time."

 

John Reed, I think, of the Palo Alto Daily News throws out a creampuff ‘what does Drew Shiller bring to the team?' type of question, presumably for an upcoming feature piece. Trent knows the answer's that's expected of him, and he gets there eventually, but wow, do those first few sentences speak volumes about what Trent sees out of his transfer. Faint and damning praise.

He shoots it, he gives us depth at the backcourt. At times it's been good, at times it's been okay. (Pause.) He's done a heck of a job, I've said all along we've got to be patient with drew, it's not fair to think he's going to come into this league with these quality of players and do what he did in Burlingame. One of the reasons Mitch, Fred and Anthony's minutes are down is because he could contribute [during the out-of-conference slate].

 

I didn't even have to ask Brian Risso, who incidentally is the best basketball SID I've worked with in my three years here, who they're bringing in this week to talk with us. Process of elimination, weren't getting the Lopez twins, Law, Anthony and Fred all had unexceptional weekends, no one else really plays that much, and so I planned my feature on Taj and Mitch's improvement this season for Thursday's Daily (shameless plug, check it out online). Sure enough, who shows up for the conference, and so I get Trent to talk about the two:

They've been voted by their teammates as captains. They're probably two of the most competitive guys, and they work so hard. I don't know if there's much to be said. Taj and Mitch both are players, regardless of what's going on with the time or score, whether they're in or out, you feel good having them around.

Yeah, he kind of likes them.


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