Pre-Season Q&A - Raphael Chillious

SEATTLE - Dawgman.com caught up this week with Washington Assistant Basketball Coach Raphael Chillious, who talked to us about the personality of this year's team, their identity, the biggest thing he's learned from Lorenzo Romar, and what he hopes the team can accomplish as they set out to Olympia this weekend for their pre-season training camp.

On having the team half experienced, half brand-new - "I think what we've seen play out is, once again the veteran guys here at U-Dub really just take the new guys under their wing. We've seen this group of freshmen come in and be very humble. Tony's been known to be very brash and that stuff in high school; been very humble, just playing his position with the older guys. I think the dynamic is that this group is really, really business-oriented. It's still fun, but not so much comedy as before. This group is about business. Their humor comes out at different moments. Sometimes it comes out in the weight room when they are hanging out and doing stuff, but on the court it's all business with these guys.

"And it's a culture that started with the guys who left last year; it's a culture of competition. Everything they do - they keep track of pick-up games, how many you won yesterday, how many you lost yesterday...it's a real competitive group."

On the freshmen having to deal with the intensity of college and the uptick in defense - "It's holding true, but this group has given us what they have. Some freshmen, they'll use the...I don't know what I'm doing...to slow them down and not work as hard. This group works really hard. It's the learning curve, but this group - because of their size and the length and athleticism, they make up for a lot of mistakes they make with their athleticism and length. So it's a little different, whereas some of the freshmen in the past, it's slowed them being able to get in and play. I think a lot of these guys' length and athleticism makes up for that, and it's going to help them get on the court sooner."

On his coaching areas this year - "Same as usual; the back court and our defensive pressure, and making sure our guys - especially the perimeter guys - are where they are supposed to be defensively."

On the blend at the point guard spot with Gaddy and Wroten, Jr. - "It's a great mix. And I don't think Tony could have come in under a better situation to learn from someone like Abdul. And both of them push each other at the same time; Tony pushing him athletically with the gifts he's been born with and what he's worked hard to hone, and Abdul with his knowledge of what we do and just how to play. That's one of the things you learn, no matter how great a freshman can be - an All-American - you have to learn how to play at this level. And I think Abdul has been great with him."

On Hikeem Stewart maybe being the forgotten man in the guard rotation - "I think he may be forgotten by people on the outside, but with us Hikeem is going to be a steady basketball player. He has a high basketball IQ; he's a lot like Tony in the sense that once you tell him something, he gets it. He's one of those guys that when you look back on his career, no matter what happens he's going to be a glue guy, because he's going to do all the little things that may not jump out on paper or maybe doesn't jump out on camera, but he helps us win games."

On the three wings - Terrence Ross, C.J. Wilcox, and Scott Suggs - pushing each other as shooters and scorers, especially with the three-pointer being their calling-card - "I've been hearing people say that stuff, and I think they've got this group confused. When you have an Isaiah (Thomas) on your team, or a Quincy (Pondexter) on your team, that was their role. But if people saw them in practice, I think they'd be surprised. Scott and Terrence, for sure, we'll see them more at the foul line than they have been in their career, because they are a load and they understand how to play and they are athletic and they're strong, but that wasn't necessarily their role before. It's easy to say that we're a jump-shooting team, but I think they'll find out differently. But it is something we're good at."

On the identity of the team changing because so many players graduated and guys are changing roles - "I think our identity will always be toughness and rebounding, which leads to transition offense. That's our identity. Offensively we're going to move the ball, penetrate, kick, get guys shots, drop off to the bigs...so I don't think our identity has changed. It's people on the outside trying to change our identity for us. It hasn't changed. If anything, in the front court we're really physical. And now we have some big, strong guards in the back court that are physical as well. Our identity, maybe people say because we can make shots, that's our identity...and that's true. We can make shots. But when push comes to shove, I think we'll have players that will be more physical than what people think."

On the size already showing up on the defensive side of the ball with deflections, etc... - "No question about it. We've had some small guys out on the point and on the wings in the past, and the presentation now of this team defensively...when you come down the court and they are all in the positions we want them to, it doesn't look like there are any passing lanes. With our size and our length, it's going to do things like allow us to switch more, because everybody is relatively the same size, besides Aziz and Darnell and the forwards. Our presentation defensively is going to be a little different."

On him finally getting to a comfort zone at UW - "I've been in a comfort zone since the day I walked in. It just feels natural, and that's because of Lorenzo. Lorenzo makes it feel natural...if you're a stranger walking in off the street you could walk into his office and start talking to him. But I feel like I have a good feel for everything we do in terms of offense and defense. First year, you're catching on to terminology. You're saying the same things, but sometimes the terminology is different. Do I know it all? I don't think anyone knows it all, but I think I'm in a place where I'm really comfortable here."

On the biggest thing he's learned from Romar as a coaching mentor - "I think the number-one thing for me, and he's reinforces this - when you have good players, you get out of their way and let them play within your system. You don't let them play wild and crazy, but when you have good players, you can paralyze your players by being in their ear too much when they make mistakes. We understand the way we play; we don't want a lot of turnovers, but we know we're going to turn the ball over. You have to free your players up to feel like they can make a mistake by trying to make a play. And that's one of coach's greatest strengths that a lot of coaches really don't understand, get, or are willing to give up - that control to allow their players to make mistakes."

On the biggest points of emphasis as they head toward Olympia for pre-season training camp - "I think for me, as I look at it, our freshmen - their heads are going to be spinning. But they can't have their heads down from the weekend, because there's a lot of learning that takes place and a lot of hard work. So A, coming out with our freshmen feeling like they are going to be OK. All the mistakes we made in Olympia, we're going to be OK. And B, to reiterate that when we come out of there - if we never make a basket this year - that we're ready to play Husky Defense when we walk out of there."


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