VandyMania: First question: is everyone in school and doing what they're supposed to do to stay eligible? Any surprises as far as the roster is concerned?
Kevin Stallings: There are no surprises as far as the roster is concerned. Our guys have done a great job academically. Everybody is in school and progressing quite well.
VM: Tell us a little about your new assistant, Tom Richardson. What role will he play on the staff?
KS: Tom was with me all six years at Illinois State, and he succeeded me there. He's just an outstanding basketball coach. He's an outstanding teacher of the game. He's great with the players, and in every aspect, whether it be scouting, individual workouts, practice, games, recruiting, whatever. He does an outstanding job in every facet. We had an opportunity to get him back, and I welcome that. We're glad he's here with us.
VM: Is he recruiting for you?
KS: Not at the moment. But it's something that he does very well when given the opportunity, and he has certainly helped us on campus with the kids we've brought in. But at the moment he's not [recruiting]. Only three coaches can be on the road at a time. I hate to label people as "recruiters", because they're all coaches. When I hire somebody, I try to hire someone that has the ability to teach, to coach, to be a role model, to recruit, to do the things administratively that we have to do in the office. I'm fortunate to have a great staff.
VM: Could you talk about your trip abroad [to Spain and the Canary Islands in August]? Talk about what that did for your team, and maybe single out a couple of players who really did well.
KS: The biggest benefit for our team was that it gave us the opportunity to develop some chemistry and camaraderie that was very important to us. It was great to be on a ten-day trip together, just our group. It gave everybody a chance to bond and feel good about one another. Culturally it was a tremendous educational experience for them. It gave them a chance to see another part of the world that none of them had ever been exposed to. From a playing standpoint... we had different guys at different times, but probably the guys that stood out the most... Mario Moore was just very good early in the trip. David Przybyszewski was pretty consistent throughout the trip, and that was a nice surprise. And Julian Terrell was probably the third guy... he actually started slowly and got better and better as the trip went on. We played six games in eight nights, and by the last one we were a little out of gas. The last three halves we played were not real good, but the rest of the time we played very good basketball.
VM: You're going to have three pretty good seniors this year-- talk about what you expect out of them. The last time you had three seniors, you had a very good year.
KS: This is our first opportunity to coach seniors that we've recruited. That's typically not the case in most programs-- it doesn't usually take you five years to get your first group of seniors, but it's taken us five years to get our first group of seniors. We're excited about those guys. Matt Freije, Scott Hundley and Russell Lakey have played a lot of basketball since they've been here. They're all ready to scrap whatever personal agendas they have for what happens from the team perspective. I think they've got some ownership in this team, in the direction and what they'd like to see happen. They've done a great job on and off the floor in being the kind of example and workers, and in providing the kind of leadership that a coach hopes for. Hopefully that will translate, once we get into real practices and game situations, into success. Those guys have been through some ups and some downs since they've been here. I'd like nothing more than for them to go out on a really high note.
KS: Ted was able to go on the trip with us, and played very effectively. Over the course of his career, I think he's going to be an outstanding basketball player here. Obviously it may take him a while to get the kinks out after not having played last year. But we think he has a very bright future, and is a guy who will play a lot of minutes this year and will have a big impact on our program. Dan Cage is a young man who shoots the ball extremely well. Obviously he's a little behind right now in knowing the things we do. He was not able to go on the trip. The guys who did go on the trip have put us a little ahead of where we've been in the past at this point. But Dan is a physically tough kid that has great strength for a guy who's never played a college game. He's an outstanding shooter, and hopefully he will impact our team by coming in and making shots and stretching the defense a little bit. We're going to need that from him-- he's one of the best shooters on our team, and we've got to take advantage of that.
VM: I know you're in the middle of recruiting right now-- what can you say about it (that's within NCAA rules)? Anything that you can say right now as far as the early signing period?
KS: We've got two commitments. They've been publicized. I can't talk about them. We are still recruiting three or four other guys in hopes of getting a couple more. We'll see how that plays out. But we've been really pleased by what's happened so far. We're very optimistic about what is yet to happen and what might be about to happen. We've really taken a step forward with our recruiting. Without going much further, we're really excited about what's happened so far, and what we think might happen in the not-too-distant future, and think this could end up being a great recruiting year for us.
VM: Have you had to address the restructuring with recruits?
KS: Quite extensively, yes. We've had to do that in about every situation-- which is to be expected.
VM: Has that made your job a little harder?
KS: Absolutely. Absolutely.
VM: You've had to explain a little more what the intent of it was? Do you feel like everyone is buying it?
KS: I think the difficulties that we'll have are short-term. Fortunately, in most cases, we were able to get with the parents, get with the kids, and explain what was going on, and that explanation was sufficient. And we've been able to keep most of our recruiting situations alive and going. But it has been more difficult. The way it was released... the way it was written... the twist that the media put on it gave it an appearance of something that is was not, or is not. So we had to do some explaining from that standpoint. But I think people see that there are advantages to the concept. We as a basketball staff were fortunate in that most of the people we were dealing with were willing to listen and gave us a chance to explain what was going on. I don't think some of our other coaches were quite so lucky.
VM: How has this off-season been for you personally? There's got to be a little carry-over from the disappointment of last season. Are you as upbeat as ever coming into this season number five?
KS: I'm upbeat because our players have worked extremely hard, and have really developed a good attitude towards each other, a good attitude towards team. Last season was very difficult for me... but it's not about me, it's about them. I want to see them have success. Like I said, those three seniors deserve success. I think we have a chance to be better, maybe a lot better. Matter of fact, I believe we have a chance to be a lot better. It's about our team... it's not about how difficult it was or is for me. The season was hard on them... they've responded in great fashion and worked harder than they've ever worked in the weight room. They've done a great job of trying to get themselves ready to compete this season. I couldn't be more pleased about my team. What that leads to, obviously I have no idea. But we're going to enjoy what happens this season to the very fullest extent we can.