A: Yeah, we got his name from a buddy of mine. We made a couple of trips over there to see him play, and got a tape on him and liked what we saw. We brought him to campus and thought he was a great kid. Fortunately his English has improved a lot since then. He's done very well academically. He's just been a joy to have. He's completely maintenance-free.
Q: What other schools did you have to out-recruit him for?
A: There were some others. Georgia was talking to him. But like a lot of kids in that situation he wasn't overly familiar with the landscape of college basketball. We got him in for a visit and he really liked it. The next week he called us and said he was going to come.
Q: How does his international background affect how his development and how he's playing for you?
A: I just think that he's a typical European player, and he's more comfortable on the perimeter than he is inside. He's capable of playing inside. He's effective inside, but he's blessed with great touch, which most of those guys seem to develop. When we got him he was 218, and he weighs about 265 pounds right now. He's busted his butt in the weight room. He's probably the most conscientious nutritional guy that we have.
Q: He said he likes Wendy's, though.
A: Laughs. He's a Wendy's guy. I've caught him in there a few times after practice... while I was there too! Of course I've got no eligibility left.
Q: Let me ask you a shooting question. A lot of people think shooting percentages have gone down. Do you think that's accurate? Is shooting not as good as it was, say, when you were in college?
A: Yeah, I would tell you that there are fewer really quality shooters than there used to be. I think it's because of a lot of the stuff you see on television. The garbage. The kids don't learn to pass the ball correctly. They don't learn to shoot the ball correctly. The fundamentals just aren't as emphasized and perhaps aren't as well-taught as they once were. But it's because of what they see on TV. They're going to try to emulate what they see on television. I think form and prowess and efficiency have certainly gone down.
Q: As a coach, how do you address the art of shooting the ball compared to when you played it was addressed?
A: I think on the collegiate level you have to make decisions sometimes. You get kids whose shots are good and whose shots are not good. I think you have to figure out how many changes you're willing to ask a guy to make. There are certain things that we require when it comes to shooting the basketball. There are certain things that kids are kind of going to conform to in our program, footwork being one. We don't care a lot of times what you do up here [makes shooting motion with hands], but you're gonna do what we ask you to do from here [the waist] down. Now it gets to be a touchy thing up here. Some kids become mental about it. But if you've got a kid whose shot's broke, you just have to try to fix it. But a lot of times you can just make subtle adjustments and hints and suggestions, and kids can get better that way.
Q: I want to ask about your offense from last year. To me your offense looked a lot different last year. It appeared to have what some people might say were some elements of the Princeton offense. Is there a story about how you went about installing that?
A: Well, the impetus behind it was, I was just tired of Matt Freije being double-teamed. I thought the changes that we made, the things that we adapted to, would allow us to move Matt around and make it more difficult for people to get to him. In doing so what we found was that it provided for a lot of other really good things. The adjustments were very effective. Our kids really, really liked them. And it was really fortuitous, because we go over to Spain and we score over 100 in our first two games, after we made some of the adjustments and changes. Scoring over 100 made it more appealing to them too. We were able actually to speed the tempo of our play up, and still accommodate some of these changes. Our players really liked it.
Q: Was most of it put in in those practices leading up to the Spain trip?
Q: And how would you say they picked it up?
A: Great. That's one of the great advantages of playing at Vanderbilt. Your players are smarter than you are. They picked it up very quickly. They were very diligent in our practices. Very few people know this, but we did not have one single defensive drill in our practices before we went to Spain. All we did was practice offense. And we got over there, and on the days we had games we'd go to the gym early and run through it and practice it some more. It turned out to be very beneficial during our season.
Q: As the season went on though, as you got into SEC play, you saw a little bit less of that. Was that because SEC teams are a little more familiar...
A: A little bit less of what?
Q: The backdoor cuts and those kind of things. Am I wrong?
A: Well... I don't know. We may not have surprised as many people as we did early. He who giveth also taketh away, so there might have been some other things that were happening because the backdoor cuts weren't there. You kind of get to make a choice. That's how we look at it.
Q: What do you think of the trapezoidal lane and the extension of the three-point arc?
A: I like both of those concepts, and I will be interested to see how they work in some of our exempt games this year. I like some of those ideas.
Q: When do you start practicing with those, considering you will have those when you go to Las Vegas. Do you do much as far as practicing with them?
A: No, we'll practice for our season, and I don't know, maybe the week before Las Vegas, we might start worrying about it then.
Photos by Leslie Fisher, courtesy Vanderbilt athletics.