"We just completed our sixteenth practice yesterday. Our playes are working really hard, with a good attitude, with good enthusiasm, and a good understanding of what we're trying to accomplish. We have a long way to go, really preaching defense and trying to do a good job with our transition defense, our half-court defense, how we're going to guard the ball and emphasizing reboundin. It's critical for our success. And then being unselfish. What I've been really pleased about is our passing in practice. Guys are doing a good job of sharing the basketball and being very unselfish. I think that's really going to help us. If you look at our team right now we have eleven players on scholarship, one of them ineligible for the first quarter, which is T.J. Cummings, and the Matt McKinney is in a cast now. He has a broken bone in his foot. If we had a game today, we'd have nine scholarship players. A lack of depth is definitely an issue. Hopefully we'll get T.J. back, but that's yet to be determined. That's something he will have to really work hard to be able to accomplish. He has a lot of things he has to do to meet those requirements."
How is Michael Fey developing?
"Right now Michael Fey is starting for us at center. If we were to play today, our starting lineup would be Michael Fey at the center position, and Ryan Hollins would play significant minutes there as well. Trevor Ariza would start for us as an undersized four man. Dijon Thompson at the three, Brian Morrison at the two, and Cedric Bozeman at the one. We've been very pleased with Michael Fey's production in practice. One thing we do is keep stats every day, and he's done a very good job of scoring the basketball. He's about 254 pounds, and he's worked pretty hard in the weight room. We're pleased with how he's developing right now. Both Fey and Hollins are just sophomores, but I think they both have a chance if they can continue to develop to be really good players."
What does Fey do to get the edge over Hollins?
"He's been more physical in terms of his post play, and more productive in terms of his scoring. He's getting much bigger and wider in the low post. He's hard to get around. And he's scoring at a very high rate in practice. That's the closest race by far on the team. Those two kids are helping each other improve than at any other position because of the competition level. And though that's the starting lineup today, it's subject to change two weeks from now. But that will probably be the team we start when we have our first exhibition game against EA Sports on November 12th."
What was the atmosphere like when you took the job, as far as the player mentality, considering all that they had gone through in previous years under Coach Lavin?
"They're good kids. We have really nice kids. They're very, very hard working, they take direction very well, and they're doing everything we're asking them to do. It's tough during the off-season, the summer, when we're not able to make sure they're in the weight room, and make sure they're doing the right things. But we haven't had any issues like that. I like their attitude. They're being coachable. I'm pleased with that whole aspect of things. They've been very, very good with the assistants and myself, in terms of being receptive to what we're trying to do, both on the floor and off the floor, academically and as well in terms of basketball. I'm pleased with our development thus far, but we have a long way to go to compete with the best teams in this conference, but it's good to see that they have a good attitude and they're working really hard."
Can you tell us about Brian Morrison and why he would be starting?
"Right now at the two position, he's beating out Jon Crispin. If we get C.J. Cummings back it will maybe allow us to play Trevor Ariza at the three, and move Dijon over to the two. That will be an opportunity, but only what if. What if, what if, what if. Right now Brian Morrison has done a good job in practice. He has a chance to make open shoots from the perimeter and be a good three-point shooter for us. He's trying not to jump in the air so much when he makes passes, because he knows that upsets me, and he also turns the ball over when he does that. He has a really good attitude. The thing I like about Brian Morrison is that he really wants to be a player. He has really worked hard, and also to impress that upon me, in terms of working in the off-season. He was the one kid, more than any other in our program this summer, that found all those pros at Windward Junior High in Santa Monica and on campus, and played all the time. He has a good attitude about wanting to be a player, and I appreciate that. I think he's going to continue to improve, because he is trying really hard to be coachable."
What was your impression of Cedric Bozeman when you came in and how's he doing now?
"When I first got the job, Cedric was not able to do the individual workouts because he had shoulder surgery. So all he was able to do was be in the weight room. I've been really pleased with his weight lifting. And I think he's really bought into the fact that the stronger you are the less chance there is to sustain injuries, and serious injuries. He's really worked hard at lifting. I'm really, really happy with Cedric. There is no question he's our point guard. He'll start every game this year at the point. That doesn't mean that he and Ryan Walcott won't be in there together, because they will be. Walcott has done a good job of understanding the game, and being Cedric's adversary in practice. He also does a good job of running the second team in practice. Cedric has the chance to be our best on-ball defender on the perimeter. He's an outstanding rebounder. He's done a good job making passes. I'm pleased with how he's developing. My first impression of him was – he's such a nice kid – I was worried he might be a little bit soft. But he has some toughness about him. I'm pleased about that as well."
About point guard Janou Rubin, has he impressed you at all?
"Janou Rubin is not a point guard. But he has impressed me in his work ethic and his toughness. He is definitely one of our top nine players right now. If we had a game, he is ahead of a couple of scholarship players. In fact, I put him on scholarship for the rest of the year, with the agreement that a year from now he'll no longer be on scholarship. He's had a great attitude. He's really worked hard. He's made our practice much better because he competes every day. The number one thing I look at at the end of practice is who is getting the most rebounds. He is definitely among the top three rebounders on our team day in and day out. It's a little alarming in one sense, he's a 6-3 kid, but it also says a lot about him and his desire to be a player."
He scored 27 points in high school. Does he strike you as a shooter?
"He's not a great shooter, not a bad shooter, an adequate shooter."
Bits of News from the Other Pac-10 Coaches
Washington's Lorenzo Romar: He was excited about his team being one year older and experienced, having a very young team last season. He talked about getting Nate Robinson for the entire year, with Robinson choosing not to play football this season.
USC's Henry Bibby: He said if he had to start a game today, he'd start a center and four guards – center Rory O'Neil, Desmon Farmer, Derrick Craven, Lodrick Stewart and Rodrick Stewart (Errick Craven was conspicuously absent from those starters). Bibby said that Rodrick Stewart, as a point guard, could have the biggest impact of any player on both ends of the floor of any player he's coached at USC.
Oregon's Ernie Kent: The Ducks' coach spoke highly of his team, believed that they were better than many believed. He said that freshman point guard Aaron Brooks is every bit as good as Luke Ridnour was as a freshman.
Oregon State's Jay John: He has seen that sophomore point guard Lamar Hurd is stepping into a leadership role on the team. He said his team is taller, faster, quicker and shoots better than last season, but is just so much thinner physically.
Arizona State's Rob Evans: He has eight new players he's getting familiar with. He said he thought that Ike Diogu was as good as any player around. After averaging 19 points a game last season, Evans thinks Diogu is considerably improved.
California's Ben Braun: The Bears' head man talked about how he was impressed with freshman forward Leon Powe. He said he would be a starter right now, and that he'd definitely be a factor. He also said that Eric Bond would start, along with Amit Tamir. Despite talented freshman point guard Ayinde Ubaka, Braun said that former walk-on A.J. Diggs would probably start at the point, with Ubaka getting time.
Stanford's Mike Montgomery: He believed that forward Justin Davis would have a break-out year. He said he thought there were two keys to his team this year – point guard Chris Hernandez, and Nick Robinson. He stressed how important it was to keep Hernandez healthy, having to manage his back ailment, possibly give him some time off on a weekly basis to keep him able to play. He said that Robinson, who is 24 and married, will play three positions for the Cardinal – backup point guard, the small forward and power forward positions.
Arizona's Lute Olson: He emphasized that he thought the Wildcats were thin inside. He said that they had to suit up to managers for their annual Blue/Red game. He talked about freshman point guard Mustafa Shakur, and said he hoped he could play signficant minutes. He wasn't certain about whether Shakur would start at the point, but that he'd play "a lot." He said that Shakur is as hard a worker and as good a kid as ever has been in the Arizona program. Olson thought they could possibly play four perimeter players in their lineup. He said they competition at the perimeter spots was intense.
Pac-10 Pre-Season Media Poll
1) Arizona (26)-- 339 points
2) Stanford (7) -- 321
3) California (1) -- 238
4) Oregon -- 215
5) USC (1) -- 207
6) UCLA -- 188
7) Arizona State -- 185
8) Washington -- 108
9) Washington State -- 69
10) Oregon State -- 55
first-place votes in parentheses