Howland's Tuesday Press Conference

Head coach Ben Howland talks about the Washington game on Thursday, how the team needs to improve at rebounding, and his desire to get Larry Drew fewer minutes...

Ben Howland on Tuesday:


BH: okay. Questions?

Q: how was practice?

BH: we practiced without Shabazz [Muhammad] today. So we were down one player. But we had a very good practice after taking Thursday off. Last week on Friday and Saturday over there at the Wooden Center because we had games going on over here for the women's program. I thought our practice yesterday and today were pretty good. We spent a lot of time obviously trying to prepare for the University of Washington.

Q: Shabazz still has the effects of the flu?

BH: yeah, still rundown from… and he practiced Friday and Saturday. But they looked at the chest X-ray yesterday, and they're doing blood work today. Part of it, he hasn't been eating good enough. He's down to 214 pounds yesterday, I think. 215. Go out and make sure you eat a good meal. And he had sushi. I don't know that sushi is filling enough for him. He said he ate a lot of them. So we're now being very specific as to what to eat to make sure he's getting enough nutrition.

Q: did you point out In ‘N Out burgers?

BH: hey, he had Taco Bell the night at 12:30.

Q: you guys have to get specific about foods. Diet is crucial.

BH: yeah. He met the dietician today. And the dietician gave him specific orders in what to do. He'll be fine. I expect him to practice tomorrow.

Q: do you have to focus more on keeping guys' legs fresh in the back half of the conference season?

BH: yes and no. We still have to do our work. We took Thursday off. We took Sunday off. It's been 2 days. Tomorrow will be real short. We'll probably go an hour and 25 minutes tomorrow, max. Try to wrap it up and be ready to go. Maybe Shabazz will do a little extra time just shooting.

Q: the conference race kind of tightened up a little bit over the weekend. Do you guys feel like you guys got some new life with Oregon losing twice?

BH: what it does [audio difficulties] is makes it wish our guys would've held on to the 2 point lead and got one stop in the last game, and we'd be tied for first too. But we didn't, and we are who we are. It's just one game at a time. This league, though, has got a lot of good teams. Anybody can beat anybody on a given night. It's been proven. Washington is coming off a great win over Arizona State who's really playing well. Arizona State's an outstanding team and that game was obviously a really high octane game. 96-92 was the final.

Q: Coach, can you just talk about the play of your lone senior, Larry [Drew II], and what he's brought to the team as far as the leadership role, on and off the court?

BH: Larry did a great job, #1, on the floor taking care of the basketball. And making good decisions, whether it's assist-to-turnover ratio which is best in the conference. He leads the conference in assists. He's probably playing a few too many minutes. I'd like to cut back his minutes to 34, 35 a game (whatever it is) to 32, 31. He's done a really nice job. I'm happy with his play. You look at his cumulative stats. He's got 175 assists and only 36 turnovers. That's pretty darn good.

Q: and for someone who's had a bit of a challenge, having transferred schools, sitting out a year. I guess you could probably speak on the Wear brothers as well, having to sit out from a transfer. Coming from such a great program to another very distinguished program and what that does to players mentally, do you think they've done a pretty good job with that transition?

BH: yeah, for them both. It's been great for them. To be close to their family and friends. I know Larry's very close to his family, and I know he really appreciates the opportunity to have them so close by.

Q: cutting down on Larry's minutes, does that mean you expect to play Kyle [Anderson]…

BH: a few more minutes at the point. Yeah.

Q: do you think Larry should shoot more the way teams have been playing him the last couple of games?

BH: yeah, we've always encouraged Larry to take the shot when it's there. I thought he did a good job of that today in practice.

Q: is it difficult to get a guy to shoot more when he sees himself as a playmaker?

BH: kind of. It does. I think he's pretty good at shooting the ball sometimes.

Q: what do you think changes for the offense when you have Kyle playing more minutes at the point?

BH: I think it's good. I think he does a great job directing things. He's very good at transition, handling the ball, making good decisions. As is Larry. I don't think it "changes." I would say that Kyle is probably more apt to advance the ball in transition whereas Larry is more apt to dribbling. That'll probably be the biggest difference.

Q: giving Kyle more minutes at point… you have to kind of be guarding about not over extending him too?

BH: I want to try to get less minutes for everybody with the exception of Dave Wear and Norman [Powell]. I think Dave's had a really good 4 days of practice. I'm pleased with his effort. I think that'll help us. Get him some more minutes.

Q: there's a lot of basketball to be played left but only a handful of home games. Is that something you guys are cognizant of right now?

BH: It's just about the next game. We have 5 on the road and 4 at home left in the regular season. So it's one game at a time. This is obviously a huge game. Washington's a good team and they're playing well right now. They started off 4-0 and then hit a skid. Now they've got it going again. They're very talented. I think that [C.J.] Wilcox… he might be the best shooter in our conference. It's either him or [Allen] Crabbe at Cal. Both those guys are going to make money playing basketball. [Scott] Suggs… they've got older guys. Wilcox is a fourth year junior. Suggs is a fifth year senior. [Abdul] Gaddy is a fifth year senior. [Aziz] N'Diaye is a fourth year senior. I mean they have veteran guys.

Q: do you feel like that's something your team lacks? That kind of overall experience. Because you always get such great kids and you always, you know… not here all 4 years.

BH: it is what it is. I like the freshmen. But there's no question. Having guys that have been through a program and are seniors is advantageous.

Q: what have you seen on the film as far as rebounding in the last couple of games?

BH: yeah, we spent a good 20 minutes just [working on] rebounding. We need to… We're last in the conference in rebound margin in conference games. We're 12 out of 12 teams. We're 6-3. We could easily be 7-2, tied for first. Had we done something here, something there with our home losses. That being said, we're not going to end up 6-3 in the second half unless we shore up our rebounding. We've got to do better there. It's a team effort. It's not… Kyle's done a great job. He's one of the leaders in the conference. We need everybody else blocking out and stepping up. And we watched that in detail from the ‘SC game. Our blockouts were poor, and there were a lot of rebounds going over our head. I thought what we made a point of focus about trying to be more patient in the half court. In that game, we had 19 3-pointers. Probably a third of our shots was 3's. And that's not something we've done earlier in the year. So we've got to be a little better. That once we're in the half court, being patient and let things come. Part of that is experience.

Q: in that ‘SC game, when a guy like Jio Fontan picks up his fourth foul and comes back in, are you telling your players to maybe go out on a limb more aggressively and try to get him to foul out?

BH: I don't remember doing that. But we were aware he had 4 fouls. And he played very well against us. He was a key guy for them. We had a 2 point lead in that game, watching the film, where we gambled for a steal and gave up an open 3 by him because we're gambling. But I thought that they did a really good job against us. Played really well. USC.

Q: do you expect teams to continue to play that way against you? Where they're kind of sagging off the ball and kind of clogging up the paint a little bit?

BH: I think every team's different. Like when we're playing Thursday, Washington is going to pressure everything. Deny every lead. They may go under the ball screens on Larry, but they're going to play how they play. That's kind of how ‘SC plays. That's how Arizona State plays. I think people are doing what they do. They're not changing that much. Washington is a team that really pressures like Arizona, for example.

Q: you were talking about minutes? How many minutes would you like to see Tony [Parker], your last guy, going for?

BH: not to be specific. But I'd like to see him get 8 to 10 minutes a game. He's got to do it in practice everyday. Like today… it depends on the matchups of teams too. Like he has a hard time getting out and guarding a big that's stepping out on the perimeter. Like for him, stepping out on the perimeter to guard Travis Wear is difficult for him. That's what we were doing today. It's a hard matchup. Travis is really a 4. Tony's best when he's matched up against a true 5 man.

Q: so could he go up against [Aziz] N'Diaye?

BH: yeah. He's going to have to. Yeah. It's going to be a physical game on Thursday. They're very physical, especially up front. [Shawn] Kemp [Jr.] is coming off a game where he had 18 points against Arizona State. Shawn Kemp's son. Played really, really well.

Q: you said you want to give Norman more minutes. How can he best be used… I know he's struggled the last few games…

BH: he really helped us come back in the game against ‘SC. His defense and letting the game come to him. It's all about letting the game come to you. Not just Norman but players in general. To let the game come and just focus on what you can really control which is your effort and playing hard defensively. Everything else works out.

Q: is this one of those games that he can have even more of an impact on, given that Washington's…

BH: I want him to have more of an impact on every game.

Q: but like with Cal with Crabbe. Washington with Wilcox.

BH: no question. We're going to be counting on Norman because Wilcox is a problem. You're exactly right. Norman did a great job. Especially the first half against Crabbe, defending him. He was really good and really helped us.

Q: we talked about this conference on the road now and how difficult it is. Would it be a lot to ask if you guys come out of this weekend a little further back off the pack? If you finish 5 of 7 that way from home?

BH: say that again? 5 of 7 part, I don't understand.

Q: you play 5 of your last 7 on the road. If you come out of this weekend a little further back, is that going to be a little too much, do you think, to overcome?

BH: that's all hypothetical. I sure hope not. You know what was interesting today, in a conference call, that I was unaware of, that so far in conference games, home teams have only won 57%. So one of the writers, he's from Arizona, was pointing out, "how do you explain that?" What I say is anybody can beat anybody on a given day. It's hard to win in this conference whether you're home or on the road. For both the home team and the road team. And that really was an interesting stat because typically that's been higher. After the first round, it's 57% for the home team.

Q: still, it's a little easier if you don't have to win 5 road games.

BH: that always should be true. Sometimes, though… when we're on the road, there's less distractions. So it can be a good thing. There's only you. There's no one else. You don't have so many distractions going on like when you're in your own environment.

Q: with Kyle working more at the point, do you have to be wary when it comes to rebounding when you have one of your best rebounders on the perimeter more?

BH: no. Where he gets all his rebounds typically is on the defensive end. And he's never guarding the point guard. He's matched up with the 3 on the other team. That's where it's a little more difficult. Most of his minutes have been guarding the 4 whereas when you're guarding the 3, you're having to trail guys like... Having to match up with Suggs is going to be a difficult matchup. Because the guy's such a great shooter. He has to trail him. He's not used to doing that as much as he's doing the other. I'm not saying significant minutes. I'm saying 3 or 4 minutes.

Okay, thanks.

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