Head Coach Ben Howland addressed the media Tuesday at his weekly press conference.
With Cedric Bozeman out, is your team suddenly on the younger side?
"Cedric Bozeman was a tough blow for us. Cedric's surgery was successful and he's already started his rehab. He was in the training room on Saturday. I feel for him, because of all of the hard work he put into this season. The silver lining is that he'll be back next year. And that will make next year's team a much better team, with a veteran like him returning. Had he not been hurt and played this entire year, we'd only have three returning perimeter players with any experience from this year's team. So actually there is a silver lining for us, and I hope it ends up being a positive. To answer your question, beyond Ced, we're a very young team. Forty percent of our starting lineup are freshmen in Arron Afflalo and Jordan Farmar. They've never played a Division 1 game. Josh Shipp and Lorenzo Mata are going to see significant minutes this year. We're going to be a very young team, but a team that's improved from where we were a year ago."
Is Matt McKinney practicing again, and will he be available Saturday?
"He practiced Friday and Saturday. We took two days off, partly to try to get our legs back, Sunday and Monday, and also to try to heal up the bruises and the different things. So hopefully our guys will come back today with live, active legs as we get ready for this first week of the season. If we played today, McKinney would be available. I hope he can stay injury-free."
What's the biggest difference between last year's team and this year's team?
"I think our depth, especially on the perimeter, has improved. I think the players that return are a year older, smarter and better."
Do you think the personnel will alter the style of play this year?
"We're going to try to push the ball more."
With your other teams and programs, did you alter the style of play according to personnel?
"You do to a certain extent. But every year you try to play good defense, rebound the ball, outboard our opponent, and try to take good shots, and be smart in terms of our shot selection. So those things will never alter year to year. But in terms of how you run certain sets, or certain things that you do in getting different people the ball it does change with personnel."
Do you want a team to be more like your Northern Arizona team that shot threes really well, or your Pittsburgh teams that were more physical?
"I'm greedy. I want it all. I want really good three-point shooters, but also good, aggressive, tough defenders. I want the whole package. That's the goal."
In the first two exhibition games it seems like your scoring came from a couple of guys on the perimeter. Do you think the scoring load will fall to just a couple of guys for the season?
"I expect that we'll be a team that has a balanced attack. Hopefully we'll have four or five guys a night that will be in double figures. Hopefully five or six. Hopefully you won't see just one or two guys that will be averaging a ton while everyone else not. That hasn't been the case in our exhibition games. For freshmen, the key is going to be consistency. That will be the challenge for Jordan and Arron. If they can play consistently at both ends of the floor."
What do want offensively from your four and five guys?
"I didn't think Mike Fey, for example, that either of the exhibition games were good for him. He had much better practices on Friday and Saturday. He was much more aggressive throwing his body around. That's what we need him to do. Mike Fey is our one real possibility to be a consistent low-post scorer for us. So we need Mike Fey to be aggressive, and look to shoot when he gets the ball, and we need to feed the ball into him and get him those opportunities. We want our five and four to run the floor and get easy opportunities in transition. When the opportunities present themselves, they should look to score, with Mike being the primary guy inside for us."
It didn't seem like you used Fey and Ryan Hollins much together last year. What's the thinking this year?
"A year ago we had T.J. Cummings. At the beginning of the year we started with Mike and Ryan, since T.J. was ineligible to play, and Trevor Ariza was out with a collapsed lung. They were actually decent at it. They then both played the five a year ago, and we're asking Ryan Hollins to play minutes at the four. Defensively it's different. Handling the ball on the perimeter offensively. It's different against the press. So there are new things being thrown at him. He didn't get a chance to do much on it this summer because he was injured. No fault of his own."
Do you plan to play man defense most of the time?
"Any good man-to-man defense has zone principles. I heard someone say once that in a good man three guys playing good man and the two guys away from the ball are in a zone anyway. There is no question that Ryan can be a good defender. He has quick feet. That's what we need Ryan to do. If Ryan just does a good job focusing on his defense, playing smart and rebounding, and being active and blocking some shots for us, his offense will come, as he gets more comfortable in the postion, getting back into shape and getting comfortable playing basketball."
With Fey getting into quick foul trouble, will you need Hollins to pick up the slack?
"I'm not worried. We need Mike to stay out of foul trouble, but we are going to get Lorenzo some significant minutes at the five spot. He's getting better and better. His biggest challenge is defensively. He struggled defensively in both exhibition games. I thought rebounding he did a very good job for us. In practice, he's our best rebounder. I looked at the stats yesterday of all of our practices. The best two rebounders have been Fey and Lorenzo. That's my biggest worry about this team right now. How good of a rebounding team we can be. We don't have anybody that's a ten-rebound-a-game guy. It will have to be a collective thing. It's going to have to be all five guys in the game are focused about rebounding defensively at all times."
How has Brian Morrison's point guard abilities developed in practice?
"Slowly. He hasn't had a lot of practice at, until Ced went down, which was not that long ago. He'll continue to play point in practice, but we'll look at Arron Affalo maybe playing some of those minutes. He did a good job in practice the other day. We're requiring Arron to do a whole lot. He's got to play the one, two and three, and maybe defending the four. We're asking him to do a lot."
How ready is Jordan to run the team?
"He's very ready to run the team. He has born leadership qualities. He's very bright, intelligent, and has a great feel for the game, and is an outstanding competitor. The one thing about him that I find uncanny is his ability to go into the lane and drive and finish shots around bigs. It's because he's so athletic. He's had those drives at full speed and then backs it from straight on from four feet. He has a nice little touch in there that's really uncanny. My biggest concern with him is how he'll do defensively. And that's part of leading the team too. Because our defense starts at the point. Offensively he's going to make some mistakes in decision-making, but for the most part he's going to be fine there. He's a good shooter and expect him to be aggressive offensively, looking to score when the opportunity presents itself. Where I really want him to focus is his defensive efforts. I'm not worried about the offensive part as much."
Is Arron a better defender?
"I would say that right now Arron is our best defender."
What kind of year are you expecting from Dijon Thompson?
"I'm expecting Dijon to have a really good year. And how I judge that is by how games his team wins. He's our senior leader, our returning leading scorer and rebounder. But what good players do, they enforce their will upon their team to make that team win. That's what I've been pleased about with him in practice. He's been a good passer. He's made the extra pass. He's hasn't been concerned as much with the scoring aspect as with the winning aspect. As we win he will definitely garner a lot of the recognition for that."
Is there still competitiveness between the new and older guys?
"No. I think things have played themselves out now in terms of who's starting and who's not. But still, it's all open to change, based on how people perform in the practices and games. I think that they're pretty much together as focused on our team."
Do you expect to do well in your second season, like you did in your other programs?
"Let's hope so. I expect to have a better year than what we had a year ago.
There are a lot of variables that go into a particular year. The number one
thing that concerns me about this team is injuries. I think it'd be hard for us
to sustain another season-ending injury by one of our top players like we have
with Ced. And it's also nothing I have any control over. If we sustain
improvement, and that starts in practice every day, and now in the games, I feel
that by the time January rolls around and the end of December, that's what we're
pointing toward, getting ready for that."