With just one senior on this team, have you seen Devin Harris step into somewhat of a leadership role?
Ryan: I know the players look up to him. I know he's respected, and that's key. Devin is very perceptive about knowing the buttons to push, what's needed to be on a successful team. He knows how to handle the players in such a way when things are going on, to keep everybody going. He does a real good job of that. And he's a little more confident. Not overconfident, but a little more confident because of added strength. And I never have to worry about big heads with these guys, because we've never had like a top recruiting class or anything like that. So I don't have to worry about guys being overconfident, because they were never rated that high. In case anybody ever says anything, now wait a minute, you weren't rated that high, so be careful. I look at some of these other things that are coming out on other teams and all these, second-best recruiting class, ninth-best recruiting class. It never changes over the years. These guys come in and they keep their minds open, it's how you leave that's the most important thing. Whether you were the 312th recruiting class. What are there, 319 teams now? We might have beat out seven teams the past couple years.
How have the freshmen looked, and how much do you expect to use them on the court this year?
Ryan: The freshmen are going to have to contribute, which is unusual when you're in the second year of what your current staff is trying to accomplish. It's an important recruiting class. We said that coming in. And again, it's what they're going to do while they're here that's of utmost importance. And they're listening, they're working, show some flashes, but I can only have the ones that are going to show that tendency for consistency. Not just a guy that's going to play well once every three games. And that can happen to younger guys. They can look good against one type of team, and a couple of other games in a row they might struggle. So we're looking for some consistency. We won't know that until you get into the heat of the battle.
What are you expecting from Freddie Owens this year?
Ryan: Freddie's got to be…defensively, I think he's got all the tools now, because he's worked at some of the things we've asked. He's a little older. He's got to be our stopper defensively. He's a guy we feel can guard multiple positions from the other team. And that's always good when you have somebody who can do that. He's stronger. From the wing or the corner to the paint, on those one or two dribbles, he's still…it's great to have him in those drills and have defenders go against him, because he's as good as there is in the league at getting that attack dribble, because he's so strong, he's low to the ground and he's left-handed. It's something a lot of people aren't used to. So we expect him offensively to be even more proficient. But defensively, he needs to set the tone for us. And I think he's ready to accept that.
What about Mike Wilkinson?
Ryan: He's a horse. He's better. There isn't anything that you can't say about Mike Wilkinson. He's strong, he's active, he's tough, he's worked at some things in the offseason with his feet. You know you can only go through life so long with people saying that you're slow, or you're not quick enough to this, you're not quick enough to do that. It's okay. But he's found a way to improve.
Are you going to have a similar rotation with your forwards as you did last year?
Ryan: I don't know about rotations yet. I really don't have a feel. I'm still trying to figure out what positions certain guys can play. Some guys are 4-5's, or just a 5, if some guys are 2-3's, possibly 4 spot. We don't yet. Until we start going 5-on-5, I'll get a better feel for that. But I'd like to be at least 8-9 on the rotation, if not 9-10. But by mid-November, we should have that down.
With only 10 scholarship players, if a kid wanted to redshirt, would you want to talk about it with him?
Ryan: Well I've never…with redshirts, if they are wondering whether or not they are going to play, if they're going to be in the rotation, I'm always honest with them. And if they feel that it's better that they get a year to mature, that's fine with me. As I said before, which you're heard now, I don't mean to keep bringing this up, but engineers at Platteville tended to be there 4 ½-5 years. It's just the way the program ended up running for them, especially if you're going to play an extracurricular activity. And if you're lucky enough to have parents that want to pay for that extra year, well then you redshirt. But usually people end up Division III because they're not strong enough, or they're too slow or this, that or the other thing, and with the extra year, they wanted to bulk up, physically mature, get Calc II over with early when they weren't at practice every day. How many here have had Calc II as freshmen? A lot of those guys we had there had that. I don't think too many of our guys have that right now. I don't know how many engineers we have.
None of us have had Calc II. We're sports journalists.
Ryan: That's not a requirement in journalism school? I don't know about redshirts. It's too early.
With a year under your belt, and a Big Ten championship in your first year, do your goals and expectations change this season?
Ryan: Boy I hate to keep on saying the same things, but hopefully 10 years from now when you're asking the same questions, I'll be here to say those same things. I don't play a numbers game with the players, that you have to win this or that. But going after the conference, trying to finish as high as you can in the conference is still what it's all about. When I played, when I've coached, that's what I've talked to players about, and the fact this past year it happened to come down to that last game, it would be nice if we could do that every year, have it come down to the last game. That doesn't happen every year. I don't know when the next one's coming, but we're going to try every year to compete in this league. I would hope by getting a taste, some of the younger guys would be encouraged to work even harder, believe even more in themselves, accept the challenge. But it hasn't been mentioned once in the first five practices, about what happened last year.
What are your expectations for Kirk Penney this year?
Ryan: Well obviously the leadership role is the most important thing, off the court. And on the court, but one man more or less controls the huddles on the floor. But Kirk, with his experience, he's somebody who, when the players look around at practice, you're a little tired, you have some of that blood running down your face and you're thinking…you look over and see Kirk Penney still going hard in every drill. When your best player or one of your best players is your hardest worker, you never have to worry. I know you've heard it before, but it will never change. And Kirk is our hardest worker. So that said, he leads by example and he just does everything with the idea, `I'm going to try to be better than anyone else.' Defensively, we all know that he's working on moving his feet, not turning his shoulder as much on dribble penetration, being able to help a little more, being able to handle screens a little better with a little better anticipation. It all starts with the feet. He didn't have a chance to play a lot of man-to-man in the summer, but it doesn't mean you can't play a good zone. So we offered up our challenges to him in the spring in our 1-on-1 conversations, and it looks like he's done some things to get better. That's a great sign for our coaching staff. And he is better.
Would you share with us your picks in your vote for the preseason Big Ten top three?
Ryan: I let our assistants pick them. Tony (Bennett) filled out the fax. Michigan State, Indiana and Illinois or Ohio State? Ohio State…our theory always was, that when coaches do that, they always took the coaches that had the longest contract that were in the best shape of not losing their job. Pick them as the top teams. If the coaches were ever mad at another coach, pick them to finish first. This league, I don't know. I think that was kind of some of the stuff in the state conference maybe guys got into. I can't speak for anybody else. But sometimes you think when you're filling those things out, I wonder what the other guy is thinking?
Do you expect another wide-open Big Ten race this year?
Ryan: You know, wouldn't that be fun? I like that question, because don't you think that was a lot of fun, to follow the league going like that? Nevermind the naysayers and the gloom and doomers that say the Big Ten is not very good. It was a pretty competitive league. That I liked. I've always liked that. And I think it will be this year.
Bo Ryan's Media Day Press Conference - Part 2
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