Q: Who would you say are going to be your best defenders this year? And especially of the players that fans haven't had a chance to see yet, who are the best defenders?
A: Well, Derrick Byars was our best defender a year ago. I think Ross Neltner will be a very good defender. Of the ones that people haven't seen, I would say that Jermaine Beal, our freshman point guard, has a chance to be an excellent defender as well.
Q: Do you see him cutting the mustard in terms of what is required of an SEC point guard, especially in terms of defense?
A: Yes, I believe so. He's a big, strong, long, fast, and just a cut above athletically that way. So yeah, he's going to give us a physical defensive presence at that position that we've not had.
Q: George Drake got a redshirt season under his belt last year. Is he in a position to help you out this year?
A: He is. I would say that the biggest deterrent for George is that you've got Shan [Foster] and Derrick there at his spot. You've also got Dan Cage, who had a very good year for us a year ago, and has been outstanding in practice thus far. Dan's been as good as anybody on our team so far in practice. But yes, George will play for us, and he will help us.
Q: Kevin, has the 3-pointer changed the game in a positive way in your mind?
A: I think so. I was probably slow to warm up to it, but I think the 3-point shot as been a good thing for college basketball. I think it keeps teams it in. It gives the underdog a little more of a chance. I think it's been positive, yeah. I think it's made the game more exciting.
Q: When did you finally embrace it? Your teams utilize it a lot.
A: Oh, it didn't take me too long. We try to utilize it, without being ridiculous. It certainly is a neutralizer, or can be a neutralizer if it's used effectively. We certainly believe in it, and we try to recruit guys that can shoot it. We've been pretty fortunate to have had some good ones.
Q: A lot of coaches say the distance of it makes it too tempting for players that can't shoot it. But isn't that where coaching comes in, where you kind of put the reins on a guy?
A: Yeah, and that's the problem you go through as a coach now. A kid had a night when he made five in a high school game, and so he thinks he's a 3-point shooter. It doesn't matter that he's shooting 20 percent, he thinks he can play. You have very few guys that shoot the ball really, really well.
Q: Your high school coach... how did he teach the art of shooting?
A: Like it was supposed to be taught. He told you to get your shooting hand underneath the ball, your guide hand over there on the side of it. He said, don't put it back behind it, don't put it on top of it. Get it over there on the side. Shoot with five fingers, don't give it any of this. He showed you how it's supposed to be done. That's why he's in the Hall of Fame now... that and those 750 wins.
Q: How creative are you going to have to be to deal with all those great post players in the league night in and night out?
A: It's certainly going to require some defensive commitment to playing some of those guys. One-on-one there are several of those guys that can't be guarded. All of us are going to have to think about what we're going to have to do defensively to deal with Glen Davis, or to deal with those two kids from Florida... or Morris or Rhodes. Some people in the league can maybe play those guys straight up, but some can't. And the ones that can't are going to have to figure out what else to do.
Q: When you think about what Bruce Pearl did at Tennessee last year, I guess it can be done, being undersized.
A: They certainly got by with things that you wouldn't have expected. You wouldn't expect to be able to play a kid like Dane Bradshaw at his size for the majority of the year on the frontcourt, and get by with it. They did it and did it very effectively.
Q: How is Ted Skuchas doing? I know it's been frustrating. He may not have really met the expectations you had for him. Do you see him as more of a defensive presence this year? Are you going to try to get anything out of him on the offensive end?
A: Yeah, we're just trying for him to be like all of our guys, to be as complete as they can be. There's no question Ted's a better defensive player than he is offensive. It's interesting, although this has not been uncommon, that he's played very well so far in practice. Ted's M.O. has kind of been, he goes through the non-conference season and plays well, and then he gets to the league and he seems to struggle a little bit. We've just got to get him over that hump. He's not the most athletic guy in the world and struggles when he plays really big-time athletes... which we have a lot of in this league, unfortunately. But nevertheless he will play, and he'll need to play effectively.
Q: Have you done anything to help him? I mean, you can't make an athlete out of a guy that's not one. His footwork...
A: Yeah, you just do the same thing you do with the rest of them. It just takes better with some than with others. He's always been a pretty solid defender, especially when he's been able to stay close to the goal. He's been a little foul-prone, but his offensive skills have gotten better. His touch has continued to get better. He's not going to be a 20-point-per-game guy, but at the same time he can play a role for us and be an effective player for us. And he needs to.
Q: Are you pleased with your team's progress thus far?
A: Yes, I am. I'm pleased with their effort. It's always scary as a coach. We've got Georgetown in just a couple more days. You're always worried, at least I am, have we got enough men? Are we far enough along? I think that's the nature of the coach, to be concerned about how far you've progressed. Our effort in practice, their attitude in practice-- it's only been 11 days, so everyone's attitude is good at this point-- has been almost perfect. It's been a real easy team to coach. And I will say this: it's very obvious that our team paid the price this summer. They put in the work this summer. You can tell it. You can tell it in their conditioning. You can tell it in their improvement. You can tell it in their attitude. You can tell in every way that they really, really put it out this summer. So as a coach, if they're working at it and doing the best they can, then whatever happens kind of happens. I cannot find one thing about any guy, really, that doesn't suggest that they all didn't work their butt off to try to have a good season.