Interview: Howland and Mbah a Moute

Head Coach Ben Howland and junior forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute talked in a teleconference on New Year's Day to the media, with Howland discussing the injury to Mike Roll, its ramificaitons, and more...

On Mike Roll's Injury:

"We are still waiting to see how Michael [Roll] is feeling today. I think we'll have a better indication of what's going on with him based on his MRI he'll have in the morning (Jan. 2) and on his symptoms and the kind of soreness and swelling he either has or doesn't have after a couple of days of this thing quieting down. Our athletic trainer's [Carrie Rubertino] initial reaction is that it is a partial tear of the plantar fascia in a different spot. But you don't know for sure until you have the MRI and compare. Her guess is that he could be out for at least three weeks. The last time he had it, it was a partial tear and not a complete rupture, which would have actually been preferable. I watched the film and he was blocking out on a blockout drill and he went to push off on his toe, it wasn't like he was jumping, it was just a quick push and he felt it twinge. The first time when it happened, he said he heard it pop, this time it didn't pop, but it was similar pain. I haven't seen Michael yet today and how it affects James [Keefe] and the rest of the team is still yet to be determined."

On being comfortable using a seven-man rotation in Pac-10 play:

"As hard as we play defensively and how we emphasize pressuring the ball and how physical and strong our league is, I don't think you can have success playing just seven guys that many minutes. I think we need an eighth and a ninth man available to us."

On planning on not having Michael Roll for the rest of year:

"I don't know that yet because I won't have any true indication of the severity of his injury for another 24-48 hours. So, it's all up in the air right now in terms of what I can plan on and what I can't."

On Michael Roll's health prior to reinjuring his left plantar fascia:

"He said that he didn't have any pain after Saturday's (Dec. 29) game. He played 26 minutes the other night, so it is disappointing. When you don't completely rupture the plantar fascia, you still have the potential to do so. He was in a very hard shoe, special orthotics were made, his foot was taped very carefully every time in a certain way and we took all of these precautions to try and alleviate reinjuring it. But any foot specialist will tell you that they aren't surprised that this happened."

On when he first became aware of plantar fasciitis:

"I had never even heard of plantar fasciitis until I got to Pittsburgh. I had been coaching for 20 years and had never even heard of it. Donatas Zavackas (1999-2003) and Ricardo Greer (1998-2001) both had it."

On how Lorenzo Mata-Real looked in his first practice since straining his left groin:

"He looked good. Lorenzo [Mata-Real] practiced well and got through practice fine and  I was excited about that. Based on yesterday's practice, I expect Lorenzo to play against Stanford. Darren [Collison] practiced without his knee brace on. He had no knee brace, no sleeve, nothing. He liked having it [the brace] off. He talked about it. He was glad to have that thing off."

On whether or not he'd like to redshirt Roll:

"There are just so many hypothetical situations right now and what if's that it's hard for me. I'm not going to base any decisions on what if's. I'm going to wait until I get the actual facts of what we do know by Thursday. I think we'll have a better indication as to Mike's severity of his injury then. My first inclination is that I want him to come back because we're trying to do something now with this team that we have. We have so much experience returning from back-to-back Final Fours. We are trying to win, now."

On last year's loss at Stanford after being up by 17 in the first half:

"The thing I remember most about that game is that we didn't end the first half right. We had a chance to build our lead with a one-and-one with a minute and a half left and missed the front end. Then we took a shot early in the shot clock and earlier than we wanted at the end of the half and they hit a three to cut it from 15-12 at halftime. There were some plays made at the end of that half that gave them momentum going into the second half."

On what he's seen from Brook Lopez in his first three games back:
 
"Exactly what we thought, he's one of the best big men in the country. He's a future NBA player and really creates a lot of problems for you at both ends of the floor."

On whether or not the Pac-10 is as good as he thought:
 
"It's what I expected. I'm not surprised. The bottom line is that there are a lot of good players in this conference. There are a lot of veteran teams and a lot of well-coached teams. Our league did very well in the NCAA Tournament last year and I expect it to do very well again this year. I think it will probably take 14 wins, maybe 13 to win the Pac-10 this year. I could be wrong. We won it two years ago with 14 wins. It will be a conference race that will go down to the last weekend."

On whether or not Chace Stanback and Nikola Dragovic are ready for more playing time:
 
"I think he (Chace) has improved and I thought he played well in the game the other night and he's had good practices since the Christmas break. I've been pleased with his improvement recently. It is good because we are going to need him. Nikola Dragovic is practicing hard, but I told him that the one thing we expect him to do well is shoot the ball well, and he's not done that. I think he's starting to get himself into better physical condition. He came back from Europe in late August with two scars from hernia operations that really put him out of commission for a while. During that time, he unfortunately put some weight on so I think he is finally getting back to his playing weight."


Comments from Luc Richard Mbah a Moute:

On having to play more at the three spot due to Mike Roll's Injury:

"That's fine with me. I've done that in the past and earlier this season. When we went to Kansas [CBE Classic in Kansas City, Mo.] I played the three. It is just a different mindset, it is all about guarding different people because at the three you just have to chase people around and get around screens and at the four you have to put your body on someone and be physical down low. I'll be ready. I have two days of practice to work on getting better at it."

On how it affects the team not having another body at practice or in games:

"Having Michael [Roll] out hurts us a lot. He was just getting back to shooting the ball really well and playing well. So having him go down, especially when we start Pac-10 is really hurting us, but at the same time it gives other guys the opportunity to step up and hopefully guys like Nikola [Dragovic], Chace [Stanback], Alfred [Aboya] and Lorenzo [Mata-Real] is going to have a chance to step up and give us some help."

On whether or not he saw what happened to Roll:

"I didn't know it was going to be serious. I think he was doing a block out drill and he just went down and said his foot was hurting again. I didn't know it was going to be that bad, but it ended up being really bad. When he first went down, I didn't think that is really serious, I just thought he'd be out for the rest of practice. But then coach came and told us that it was serious."

On being used to a lot of injuries on the team:

"That's the good thing about this team. We always have people stepping up. You never know. All you can do is work hard. Injuries are always going to happen and you don't know when they are going to happen. It is all about guys stepping up and making sure that they come in and help and do their job. Guys coming off the bench have an opportunity to step up and will have big minutes in tight games."

On whether or not the team is cursed with injuries:

"Not really. I have been on this team for three years and we've always had injuries. My first year, everybody was injured. We have to fight through adversity and this is just another type of adversity. We just got to fight through it and make sure we come out on top."

On whether or not he feels like the team practices harder than everybody else:

"I feel like we do and I feel like we should. If practice is hard, the game will be a lot easier. I think if you go real hard in practice, that's the only way you can get ready for the game, in practice. I think that is a good thing. But at the same time, if you go real hard, injuries can happen. But it happens and we just need other players to step up."

On last year's loss at Stanford:

"It was bad. It was really bad. We had a big lead and then we just stopped playing well and lost our focus for a little bit. They are a very good team and came back on us. And they were at home, so the crowd got into it when they finally made a run. They beat us and it has to be one of our toughest losses."

On playing against Brook Lopez and Robin Lopez:
 
"They're big. I know they're big. Going against them, they are really good players, especially Brook. We have to limit their touches on the post and make sure we stay out of foul trouble. That's the only thing we can do is play our defense."

On how good the Pac-10 Conference is:
 
"It's definitely a lot harder than past seasons. When you look at the conference from top to bottom, everyone is good. We have five or six teams in the top 25. We just have to go out and play hard and it is going to be a lot harder this year to win it. We know that and understand that and just have to work hard in practice."

On the importance of getting a split in the road games in conference:
 
"We try to win every game we play. We understand that going on the road is really tough and that's why we go hard in practice. In order to win the Pac-10, you are going to have to win some games on the road. Our mindset is you have to be really tough and win either two games or one."

On playing hard defense and not getting in foul trouble:
 
"We can't control that and worry about getting in foul trouble, that's the coaches job, to make sure they take guys out before they get into foul trouble. We just have to play hard and play smart. I think we have enough personnel with eight or nine players who can play. Other players will just have to step up in the game."

On whether or not Chace Stanback and Nikola Dragovic are ready for more playing time:
 
"I think they are ready. If you look at the game the other night against UC Davis, Chace played about nine minutes and did a really good job defensively and on offense and Nikola also played well and gave us big minutes. We are going to need those guys, along with Alfred [Aboya] and Lorenzo [Mata-Real] to come in and give us big minutes because it will definitely be harder this year."

On whether or not Alfred Aboya is playing the best basketball of his career right now:
 
"I think defensively he's the best, you can just tell. You can see when Alfred comes into the game, his energy, his enthusiasm and what he brings to the table means so much to our team. He's doing a really good job defensively, and offensively, I think it will come with time. When he gets more playing time, he'll get more confidence. I think he's doing really good right now and he needs to keep it up, if not step it up to another level now that we are in Pac-10 play."

On where Chace Stanback has improved on the year:
 
"I think in his decision making. Earlier in the year, most of the time, he was out control a little bit. He was kind of lost a little bit and not knowing what to do, he was making bad decisions. But I think now, when he comes into the game, he knows and understands what his job is and I think he makes good decisions. The other night he made good decisions and took good shots and that's what we need him to do, just be solid, especially on defense."

On how many wins he thinks it will take to win the conference this year:
"I don't know. It is tough for me to say. But I know it is going to be tough and it will probably go down to the wire again, just like last year. I know the top team in the conference, based on my assumption, is going to have at least four losses."

On how Darren Collison looked yesterday in practice without his knee brace:
 
"I think he look good and was moving around real well. He's wanted to take that brace off and just play and I'm happy for him. He won't have to worry about his knee or anything and can just have confidence and just play his game."

On whether or not he's gained a step without the brace on:\

"That guy is so quick, even when he's injured, he's still quick. He was so quick to me, it seemed like he wasn't even injured."


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