Rick Barnes Q&A

Texas head coach Rick Barnes addressed the Big 12 basketball media in Oklahoma City Thursday.

Q. I mentioned a while ago I talked to a couple of guys about impressions of the loveable Rick Barnes after a week of practice. How do you think your young guys have taken to it? Have you been pleased with their reaction?

COACH BARNES: I have been, and I think probably the fact that, again, my coaches do a great job I think getting them ready for it. When we get up there and the intensity raises a little bit, I think some of them probably go up there a little bit scared maybe, wondering how hard, can we get through this, can I do this practice. The one thing I can say is they have gotten better every day. And defensively the first day we weren't very good. The energy has been high every day. But the fact is, I think for seven new guys up there and only four guys coming back that have been there a year basically, they have done okay. They have done okay.

Q. Rick, after seeing Dexter Pittman in the Texas high school all-star game this summer, I am really intrigued with his ability. Could you talk a little bit about him and how he is developing.

COACH BARNES: Well, you know, he has lost half a person, because he has really lost about 70 pounds now. I am not sure anybody in our program is more proud of him than all of us, the fact of how he has to work so hard just physically changing his body. He got on the scales after our first practice and his goal was -- our goal really was to have him at 320 or so when we started practice. And he started out at 315. Actually he is at 313. After his first practice he was 308. When I first recruited Dexter -- when you are recruiting somebody, you don't get so much in depth about what you are going to do to them. I said, Dex, how much do you need to weigh to be successful? He said, I think 340. I said, Why 340? He said, That's what Shaq weighs. I said, Shaq is a little bigger than you. He said, Okay, 335. Once we got him in the program and he signed his national letter of intent. We got serious and we told him we wanted him at 280. If you ask him today, he would say he wants to be 260. He has changed his outlook on everything. To do what he has done is really hard in the time it has done it. It will help him as a player. He would tell you -- I asked him yesterday before I left, he sleeps better at night. He has much more energy. When you watched him play and when you recruited him, what impressed you was how well he carried 370 pounds. How quick he was. He has got great hands. Anything that's close he is going to catch. He is quick, believe it or not. You can say, how does a guy that size be quick? He was. His only problem was he go up and down the floor twice. Now he is learning to go from play to play to play. It has been fun watching his progress. How much he helps us this year, I don't know. We just know he still has to continue to get himself into shape that he needs to be in this year, because our team is a little bit different this year, the way we are playing. We do think he will help and we think he can help us this year.

Q. Coach, I know you guys lost quite a bit from last year, but you brought in D.J., Kevin, Matt Hill and a few other guys. How pleased have you been with them during practice and what do you expect from those guys this year even though they are so young?

COACH BARNES: We lost a lot. We lost our whole team. That means we are putting together our team this year. Connor Atchley has been in the program, this is his third year. He is a redshirt sophomore right now. But A.J. Abrams has been there one year. Craig Winder, one year, and J.D. Lewis, one year. In terms of guys in the program, now we bring in seven new freshman. What we don't have right now as in the past where our older players really did a lot of coaching with the younger players. These guys have tried hard to do it. A.J. Abrams' role has changed. He is trying to help D.J. Augustin, those guys probably talked, kind of what Mike was talking about, when you have a lot of young freshmen coming up, they are really skeptical or concerned about what is practice going to be about. Because they have heard it is hard, it is tough, it is demanding. They go from being on the floor with you for an hour to maybe 2 and a half, 3 hours. That's where your older players come in and say, Look, it will be tough, but it is nothing you can't do. So those guys have been thrust in a role of leadership probably more so than they probably would have, but -- this freshman group came in, Damion James might be the most durable freshman we've had. Kevin Durant has lost weight. D.J. Augustin has lost weight, Dexter has lost weight. Everybody had something to do. They came in as a close group. The summer was great for them, and they haven't lost their enthusiasm at all to where we are right now. I do think each day they are understanding the commitment that it takes to be successful at this level.

Q. Rick, with the focus on getting Pittman's weight down, how is he just in terms of strength? Do you work on getting the weight down and then building him back up or how does that whole process go?

COACH BARNES: Randy, that's where he plateaued a little bit. Our goal was to get his weight down to 320 before we really started a, what I would say is a lifting program. Todd Wright, there is nobody better at what he does. Todd was so concerned -- first of all, when you have that weight, that in itself doing just something as simple as a step up, you are carrying a lot of weight. Once we got him into the lifting program, the muscle weight obviously slowed it down a little bit. But then he got where he wanted to continue to drop. So he even went back to doing more cardio work and his diet has changed tremendously. He has totally changed that part of his life and the way he goes about it. The neatest part of Dexter Pittman, when you are around somebody and you see him change the way he has changed, he really feels good about himself. He is really strong obviously. We think as we do get further into the weight program with him, he will continue to really sculpt and train his body more so than it is right now. His energy level is much higher. His high school coach was in practice last week and he said, I honestly cannot believe the things he is doing. I just can't believe it. He said, obviously being around Dexter a long time, he said some of the things he is doing right now, he would never believe he could do, and one of them being the way he is continuing to run and run and standing in practice, changing ends of the floor, which is a big part of this game.

Q. Last year Kansas had a very young team and was able to gel in time to make a nice run. Can your young team do the same thing this season?

COACH BARNES: I don't know. I know our nonleague schedule is really -- I think it is going to help us. I just hope we can get our share of wins with it. I think the way -- we could have cut it back and won some games. I just felt like for us to be the team we want to be in conference play that we were going to have to challenge these guys early and hopefully we haven't overchallenged them. Again, I don't know. I can't think that far ahead. I think by the time we get to conference play, I just hope we are healthy and that we have got an idea of what we need to do and we are willing to do the things that we have to do to win.

Q. Obviously one of the big topics this year is six new coaches in the Big 12. Have you ever been part of a conference that has had this much changeover? What are your thoughts on it?

COACH BARNES: Well, I mean, everybody talks about it, but I don't think it is any different than when you are a coach coming in. When I came into the league nine years ago, there were 11 new coaches as far as I was concerned. I don't think you worry about it like that. I think you are going to be -- by the time we get to conference play, we will have enough tape and film of people that we will know what they are trying to do and their schemes and things. It gets back to players. You are going to worry more about the players than the coaches. I can only say if coaches have come into this league and they have had great success, which we know every new coach has had or they wouldn't be in this league or they wouldn't have a chance to coach at this level if they hadn't had success along the way. I have always believed the game is about players, and I still believe that. Coaches come and go, as do players. Every year you start over. Like our team would have been different -- if our entire team came back and we had the addition of some of the guys, we couldn't have had them all but we had some of them, our team would be different even with returning players. I would have had to change some as a coach. Every year there are changes that go on even, if there aren't outwardly changes with the coaches in the league. Six new ones in the league, I don't know it has ever happened before or not. I haven't really thought a lot about it from that perspective.


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