On the record: Kevin Stallings (Part V)

At the recent SEC Tipoff 2003, Kevin Stallings addressed questions from members of the print media. In this final installment, Stallings talks about small forward Corey Smith's development, his close relationship with assistant coach Tim Jankovich, and about some other coaches with whom he consulted during the offseason. (Part 5 of 5)

Q: Talk about the improvement that Corey Smith has made.

A: Corey is... a problem.  He's a problem for the opponent.  Because he will not play against somebody that's stronger than him this year.  He is... way strong.  And, he's a little unorthodox.  He's not smooth.  So, when you look at him, you kind of say, well, he's not that good.  And yet he can guard just about anybody.  He probably couldn't guard a bunch of point guards, but he can guard just about anyone and guard him well.  He makes open 3-pointers.  He's not going to shoot them covered, so it doesn't matter if he can make them when he's covered or not... but if he's left open, he's going to make shots.  He can post up like crazy.  And then, he's really a good passer.  So, you've got this guy who's just kind of a little funky.  You don't know... you'd say, what is it that he does?  Is he a great shooter?  No.  Is he a great scorer in the post?  No, I don't know if he's great.  But he's a pretty dang good defender.

Q: Are he and Lakey your best two defenders?

A: Yeah, probably.  And good, too.  But... he's just a little bit of a concern [for the opposition] because, if your 3-man weighs 200 pounds, he's getting ready to physically get wore out.  Because Corey Smith is a physical, physical guy.  So, he's not a great player, but he won't be somebody that people enjoy playing against.

Q: Did you know what you were getting in him?

A: You know what?  We were the only school... West Virginia recruited him a little bit.  He's from Houston.  He went to the ABCD Camp, and led the camp in 3-point shooting that week... percentage.  You don't look at him and think, man this kid can shoot.  For the week he made like 56% of his 3's.  But he's just not a fun guy to play against.  The worst job in our practice, for sure, is playing against him.  Second is being guarded by Lakey; the first one is having to deal with Corey.  Because he just is a bull.  He's a perimeter player, and like I said, he's 230, 6-5.  Yet you look at him and you don't think, he's a little bit overweight.  You don't think that at all.  That's what I've been saying... we don't look like... we've been playing three guards, and we just physically caused no problems for anybody the last two years.  And now... and don't get me wrong, I'm not getting ready to say we're the most physical team in the league... we're certainly not the physically most advantaged.  But at least they have to think about it now.  You didn't have to think about it the last two years.

Q: What did you ask Corey to improve on most during the offseason?

A: I asked him to improve getting his shot off quicker, and to be able to pull up and shoot it off the dribble.  And he's done both of those things to my liking, very well.

Q: Who guards him in practice?

A: Scott Hundley.  And Scott has the most thankless job in our gym.  He's been knocked down three times.  And Scott's a competitor... he's kind of a tough guy too.  But it's just... you know, when I get mad at Freije, I say, Corey, guard him!  Freije doesn't like it either.

Q: Coach, I thought your team was pretty physical last year, especially down the stretch.

A: Well, you look at our team, and we look different.  Thornton is 270.  Przybyszewski is 7-1, 250.  Terrell is 6-8, 6-9 and probably 225... wonderful body as a freshman, and he looks like a little kid.  You throw Corey in there, and we've just got some bodies finally.  We're not going to be the fastest group or the most athletic group, but we're not going to have to back up once we walk in the gym.  And you're right... at the end of the year, we got a little more physical, and we got a little better.  Corey gave us some toughness.  And the exciting thing for the coaching staff is, Lakey is a tough guy.  He's got a position that's got a lot of tough guys in it... Mo Williams... Rashad Wright... Justin Hamilton... there's some tough cats at that position in this league.  But Lakey's a tough guy.  And I'll flat guarantee you Corey Smith is a tough guy.  We've got some toughness!  We've got some guys that don't play scared, they don't play all defensive.  That's why we're encouraged, because we've got a chance to defend with some physicality, and defend with a number of bodies.  I'll guarantee you, we're going to foul the doo out of people in the post.  We've got a bunch of bodies.  They're going to call a foul on every play.

Q: Sounds kind of like Purdue basketball?

A: It might be. (laugh)  That year we had six guys who could bench over 300.  <

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