Howland Talks Tony Parker

Ben Howland talks about adding Tony Parker to the recruiting class, how he'll deal with the expectations of this class, and what kind of player Parker is...

Q: First, your feelings about adding Tony Parker to the class?

A: That was just the icing on the cake today, to have Tony join this recruiting class is really, really special. Tony is a great player. He has an unbelievable work ethic. I'm just so excited for our program and for our team. This is a huge addition to the program to have a quality big man like Tony who has all the intangibles, to go with also being very talented. But you think about a guy who is driven, motivated, whose work ethic is incredible. And he plays with physicality and toughness and enthusiasm and passion. Those are all the things that describe him. He's the first player in the history of the state of Georgia to play on four straight state championship teams. What he's accomplished in terms of winning ... that's ultimately what it's all about -- players who make their team win. He has an unbelievably bright future. If any of you watched the announcement today, obviously he's very articulate, a very confident young man. So it was a huge day for us today and we're very excited about Tony Parker being a Bruin.

Q: You guys are already pretty loaded in the front court, where do you see him fitting in as far as playing time?

A: He's going to come in and compete right away for a starting position. I mean, this thing is wide open. We have 11 players on scholarship and every position on the floor will be (inaudible, but assuming "open") and it's going to make everybody better. The best teams we've had during my tenure here had that competition every day in practice, that kind of depth. So I'm really, really pleased about it. He's competing for major minutes right away as a freshman.

Q: How do you handle all the expectations that will come with having a class of this caliber?

A: What's the alternative to that? I guess that's my answer to that. These are the kinds of problems I want to have. High expectations? We have those, period, anyway. And we have failed to meet the high expectations we have as a program two of the last three years. So I'm very much looking forward to, with an infusion of talent ... not only just talent, but you want to go through all these kids. Kyle Anderson is 93-1, I think, the last three years. 65-0 the last 2 years. He is all about winning. And he makes everyone around him better. Jordan Adams, I think they were 44-0 this year, and I think 42-1 or 42-2 a year ago. And he's a great scorer and an outstanding player at Oak Hill. And then you have Shabazz Muhammad, who's a national player of the year, a three-time state champion. The ultimate motor and competitor that's out there. And then you top it off with Tony Parker, one of the best big guys in the country, who, as I explained, is all about winning. The guy just is a winner. The epitome of tough. He wants it.

I'll give you a great example of Tony. This blew me away. So they're going for their fourth straight state championship this year. So the semifinals are on Wednesday, the championship's on Saturday. They have to beat a team in the championship four times in one season, that's incredible for any coach or player. To beat a good team four times in one year? That's hard to do. But in the semifinals, I'm talking to him the day before the game and he's up at six in the morning doing individual conditioning workouts the day before the semifinals, on his own. This guy, his work ethic is incredible. They practice as a team, his high school team, their practice time for a good portion of the year was 5:30 in the morning. This guy, it's unbelievable what he does. I just can't wait to get him here. And I'll tell you what, our current team and the current guys have done an incredible job since we started back up. There's just a new whole level of accountability and it's been really, really unbelievably well-received by our team. And I'm just so excited, and all the returning players are excited, because we know now, that with the infusion of these four incoming players, and with the returning nucleus that we have, we have a chance to be a really good team next year. And it's really exciting as we move forward and plan for the future.

Q: How much did it help to have Korey McCray on staff with the relationship he had with Tony?

A: Well, no question. And you actually bring up something very important, that should be one of the first things out of my mouth. Korey McCray has done an incredible job recruiting both with Jordan Adams and Tony Parker. If he weren't on staff, we wouldn't have gotten either of those kids. The comfort those families have with him, having known Korey for a long, long time, was obviously huge for our ability to have them have the comfort level. And so I'm very lucky and feel very blessed to have Korey on staff. He's done a great job.

Q: Do you have any plans to fill out a twelfth scholarship?

A: We're still involved with a couple of other kids right now that I can't talk about. There's definitely possibilities to add more to the current group.

Q: Last time you had the top-ranked class, it didn't pan out. What makes you think this class will be different?

A: You know, I got a funny text from a friend of mine. Right away, I was like, I should pull it out and read it to you. And I was like, hey, "There's nothing but positives, don't get negative." I have no doubt that this class is going to turn out to be a very special class when people look back upon it. The thing that's really exciting to me about this class is just the quality of the young men, and the families they're from. Tony's family is a great family, his father Virgil. And really, he's junior, Tony is. And his brother Hazel are just wonderful people. And you think about Ron and Fay, who are Shabazz's parents, all these kids have great families.

Q: How important was it to you personally to get this class, just with New Pauley (Pavilion) and the last few years of difficulty?

A: One of the huge draws for these kids in coming, and what Tony alluded to today, was the new Pauley. Kids love brand new facilities. State of the art facilities are a huge thing for our program. I remember Coach Wooden telling me that this is how it changed the program here for him. I'm not predicting any Woodenesque results, sorry, guys. But my point is that getting a brand new facility, which at one time was the Mecca of college basketball in terms of the state of the art facility, when it came online in the mid-60's, when we move back in there, we are definitely again one of the top facilities in the country. And then you add that to a great university with so much to sell.

Q: Does putting this class together take away some of the sting of what you went through this year?

A: It doesn't change anything in the past. But the past is over, the past is done. The whole point of the past is to learn from it, to improve. Which is something that I've really tried to learn to do, and I'm doing. And there's more things that we're going to try to tweak and change to try to improve. I'm just really excited about that opportunity. I think one of the great things about landing a class like this, with Tony capping it off, is that I think it's really going to help our recruiting in the 2013 class. We're getting a lot of positive feedback from the recruits we're going after right now.

Q: Can you concern yourself at this point with the possibility of one and dones?

A: It is what it is. We'll see what happens. What I have to worry about is not getting caught short-handed and trying to anticipate. Like Malcolm and Tyler leaving last year, it's just a reality, and until they change the rules, one way or another, you've got to deal with whatever the landscape is right now. We've had three of them in my tenure here, and I'm sure there'll be more in the future. We've got three one and done of the nine who have left early during my tenure here.

Q: Do you know when these guys will be on campus?

A: It'll be around the 20th of June, something like that. I don't have the calendar in front of me.

Q: Are there still any lingering questions about Shabazz's eligibility?

A: We're going to work with whatever comes through. Our compliance department is in contact with the NCAA officials with any issues pertinent to Shabazz's eligibility and we will continue to work with them regarding his eligibility. We're very supportive, and we're doing everything we can to help.

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