Howland's Wednesday Teleconference

Ben Howland talks about Tony Parker's unhappiness with his minutes, and also breaks down Missouri's players and style of play at length...

Q: Missouri is obviously a top ten team, what makes them so good?

A: They have really good personnel, number one. I think their point guard is one of the best point guards in the country. He's really smart. He's such a good passer, and he sees the floor so well. Oriakhi, who is a transfer and is immediately eligible due to NCAA infractions against UCONN, really gave them a double double guy. He's really strong. Bowers is another player who's really strong. He's a fifth year senior, he can really face up and shoot it from three.  He can play well with his back to the basket. Keion Bell, if we remember, he's from out here, he transferred from Pepperdine to Missouri and he's a senior and a very good player. And Jabari Brown, a transfer from Oregon and also an outstanding player. They have good size, if you look at their size, you have Bell, who's 6'4, 200, you have Brown who's 6'5 205, Bowers is 6'8, and Oriakhi is 6'9, 255, so…and they're well coached. He was national coach of the year last year, Frank was, so they have a very good team. And they have good depth. When you look at the guys coming off the bench, they have very very good depth. Chris Well inside, is another big body, is again a junior college kid. Ernest Ross is a very good transfer from Auburn who started for them quite a bit, because Brown became eligible for them midway through the year. So they have very good players.

Q: You mentioned the other night that you wished you'd gotten Tony Parker to get more minutes, would this game be one that you'd get him more minutes?

A: Yeah, I mean, you know, Tony's going to be called upon, and we've got to do a good job, everybody, when their number is called. He'll definitely get in there.

Q: Is there something that's holding him back, or is he behind the other freshmen at all?

A: He's just behind the guys that are playing ahead of him right now, which are the two Wear twins and Kyle Anderson who's playing more and more minutes at the four. But he's going to play in every game, and he's actually had two good practices in a row. We had a really good practice Christmas night. I was really happy about it. Our guys, our freshmen couldn't get home to the East Coast because it was such a quick turnaround, but they really came with a great attitude last night, and we had one of our best practices of the year, and I was really encouraged by that, and we had another good practice today. Tony was very good in both practices.

Q: How do you feel like your team is coming along with knowing how all the new parts fit together?

A: We've been together, except for Shabazz not being available until the third game. But I think our guys are getting more and more comfortable with one another. Our need is we're so young, we're still learning how to play. Missouri may have new players, but they have a bunch of older guys. They have transfers who have been in college for three years and four years. It's a big difference from having guys who are first year players. Our guys are trying to figure out how to defend. We've got a big challenge ahead, because Missouri, they switch a lot, they play some zone, they'll press. They're a good defensive team, very strong, and then they do an unbelievable job pushing the ball in transition. They're great in transition, so we've got our hands full with all those aspects.

Q: Yesterday, Missouri's coach said you guys are also good in transition. How do you guys match up with Missouri in terms of transition?

A: I don't know if he was referring to transition defense. I would assume he was talking about our offense. We're much better in transition on offense than on defense. That's where we've got to improve, on the defensive end. Both teams want to push it, and they do a very good job of getting the ball to their point guard and running the wings wide, and they're averaging 78 points per game and we're averaging 79. The big difference is that they're killing people on the offensive glass and on the glass overall. I think last time I looked they were outrebounding their opponents by 14 per game. It was some incredible number. It was just stunning to me, their rebound numbers. Someone said they were leading the nation. That makes sense. 37.2 to 23. That's a huge number, that jumps out to you as a coach. They're getting 16 offensive rebounds per game. They're just killing people on the glass. Usually when you outboard your opponent by 14, you're going to win every game.

Q: Is the way that Missouri plays the way you'd like this team to play eventually?

A: They're really really good. They're a top-10 team, one of the best teams in the country and they're experienced. They have older players that have played a lot of college basketball and it shows in how well they're gelling.

Q: How do you guys play defense better right now, zone or man?

A: Man, because that's what we're spending all of our time on.

Q: Have you talked to Tony about him possibly being unhappy? He's sent out his cryptic tweets.

A: Yeah, and that's just a sign of the times, but you know, when you put something on Twitter, you know, in the heat of the moment or whatever and it gets out there automatically. He's had two great practices but you guys are welcome to talk to Tony. I tried to make him available after last game. And I have no problem with him.

Q: Does he talk to you about being unhappy?

A: Well, he'd like to play more minutes.

Q: Would it be hard for this program to accept another player who's, well, feeling unhappy?

A: you know what, Tony is a great kid. He's working his tail off. You're doing hypotheticals here. We can get into all sorts of hypotheticals. Bottom line, he's had a great attitude the last couple of days and has really practiced hard and been effective. He's a freshman. It used to be, not that long ago, that freshmen had to come in and earn their way, and then they…now freshmen come in, and the media and just everybody in the culture just expects them to…it's different in football. Why is it different in football than it is in basketball? I'm asking the question, anybody want to weigh in?

Q: Well, football players can't leave for three years, for starters.

A: No, but just the expectations for freshmen coming in and playing football instead of basketball. It's not just the players, I'm talking about the media. You guys.

Q: When you talk to college football players, they're not all talking about going to the NFL, but in college basketball, the freshmen are always talking about getting to the NBA.

A: My point is that there's so much more expectation placed on these kids' shoulders.

Q: What do you say to Tony when he asks you for more minutes?

A: Keep working hard. Keep competing. He's going to end up playing more minutes, and he's going to be thrown into…we have this last non-conference game, and then 18 conference games. He's going to be thrown into very difficult situations going forward. The whole thing is everybody comes in with such expectations and there's just so much to learn. He's not the only one—all these freshmen, Shabazz is learning how to play good defensively for the first time in his life, and he had times he was exposed in our last game defensively. So they're all learning, Kyle, Jordan, they're all learning. And on that end of the ball more than the offensive end. Offense is easier than defense. When you start playing against organized, good teams, they'll go at your weakness. If they think there's a player out there that has limitations defensively, they'll go right at him, just like you would in any kind of game. So it's really a good challenge for these kids. I think Shabazz is really working hard right now to improve that aspect of his game. I'm really pleased with his effort.

Q: Just how valuable has Larry Drew been to your team this year?

A: Larry has really really been good. When you look at his numbers and just what he's been doing in terms of his assist to turnover ratio. He has 102 assists against just 19 turnovers. He's really improving his defensive intensity, which is obviously something we need out of him. He obviously has a huge challenge. It's just ball screen after ball screen with this offense. Their point guard is great at splitting the hedge or attacking the plug. It'll be a good matchup, they're both good point guards.

Q: What kind of impressions did you have on Bell from when you played him at Pepperdine?

A: We couldn't stop him, I think the two times we played him he had 18 and 23, something like that. He was great in the open floor, super athletic, really finished well. He's a really really good player.

Q: This being the last game going into Pac-12 play, how much would it mean going into the conference on a winning streak versus losing this game?

A: It's just one game at a time. Again, it's the what-ifs. I'm not playing the what-ifs. We're going to go out and give our very best effort. And every time we step on the floor, Diane, we expect to win. It's just the what-ifs. We'll either come out of the game with a win, and we'll be really happy, or we'll come out with a loss, and we'll be really disappointed.

Q: How much do you guys think you need a win at this point?

A: We need a win over every team we play, ranked or unranked. 

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