Oct. 10, 2006
Head Coach Jeff Lebo
(On the start of basketball practice)
"The kids are excited about getting ready to start practice. You always have a lot of enthusiasm the first couple of practices. We have been lifting and have been doing individual work so it will be a little bit different for them. It is nice this year to be able to start with some experienced guys. This is the first year since I have been here to at least know what to expect from some players. We will have some experienced guys even though there are no seniors and a few juniors on the roster. I hope we will be able to move a little quicker through some things than we were able to last year."
(On being able to score more this year)
"We have to be able to score the ball. We don't have great size, but we have speed and athleticism. Everybody who played a lot for me last year, we went over what they needed to improve upon. Getting bigger and stronger is always something we want to do. We accomplished that in the offseason. Skill-wise being freshmen, I think they understand a little now that they are in their sophomore year that their skill level has to get better. They spent the whole time here this summer and worked extremely hard. They worked with our strength coach, PK (Bryan Karkoska), who does a tremendous job with them. They dedicated themselves and worked hard in the offseason. This has probably been one of the better offseasons as far as work that I have had with a team. Hopefully, that will reap some rewards when we start practice and start playing."
(What have you seen in individual workouts that makes you see improvement in the guys)
"It is always nice when freshmen go to sophomores. When they came in, like most freshmen, they think they are going to set the world on fire. They quickly realize that was not going to be the case because everybody has good players and more experienced players. They finally gave in to the fact that I have to do this, this and this if I want to be a good player in this league and at this level. They know what they need to do. They have spent time working on that, and we will have to continue to do that. It just doesn't happen in the summertime. Korvotney Barber for instance, he knows shooting the basketball. We worked a lot with him changing his form and his shot. He got in the gym and has worked on his free throw shooting. He knows for us to be good he has to really improve in those areas. When you have a kid like that who comes in as a McDonald's All-American and understands that I have to do this to get better and is not a prima donna. You get excited as a coach, and Vot is better. He has a long ways to go yet, but all the kids have done that. Quantez (Robertson) knew he had to get stronger and had to work on his jumper to be consistent. He did that. Rasheem Barrett has done the same with his jump shot. He worked on his left hand, which he had none. Last year, he couldn't shoot a left hand layup. He has worked on making a left-hand layup. You are surprised at that, but there are a lot of guys who come to college that have no left hand. Those little things are going to be helpful. The experienced guys coming back and their understanding of how things work is big. How we go about practice. How hard we have to practice. It is nice to be able to put guys out there and show the rookies how we do this. We haven't been able to do that the first two years. That is going to be nice for our coaches to experience this year."
(On Rasheem Barrett's back)
"His back has been flaring up. He has been fine really all the way through the summer. He had a back problem last year at times where it would tighten up in the lower back. It has kind of moved up into the middle part of his back. We have kept him out here a couple of days before practice starts to flare it down. It is a concern of mine, and we have to monitor his back very closely. One day it can be great, and the next day, it can be bad. Anytime you are dealing with a back, it is a funny thing. We will have to keep him stretched and keep him monitored and get him ice afterwards. We had a day off, and it just flared up so it wasn't anything we really did in the weight room or workouts that made his back flare up."
(What does each new player bring to the team this year?)
"In the backcourt, we have quickness in DeWayne Reed. He has great quickness and great speed with the ball. He is tough. He can shoot the ball and get by people. Kelvin Lewis is an excellent passer and has excellent ball skills. He can score and can play the one and the two, so you have some interchangeable guards. Both are going to be able to defend a little bit for us. Probably not a lot early, but they will improve defensively as the year goes on.
"Archie Miaway, who is a backcourt player, is probably our best shooter off preseason workouts with our team. He is the one who has really struggled getting into shape because he wasn't here this summer so it has put him behind a little bit there. He is starting to get into some sort of shape. He is probably our best outside stand-still shooter with range.
"Lucas Hargrove is a utility player. He can play any position from probably the one to the four. He knows how to play. He is long and can run. He is a good defensive player. He came from a pretty good system there at Richland Northeast, who had a good coach (Jason Powell).
"Matt Heramb is a guy who has great skills for a 6-foot-10 guy. He can shoot it. He has good hands. He just has to learn the physical part of the game.
"I think we really helped ourselves with skilled basketball players with our recruiting class."
(How much will it hurt you with Josh Dollard and Quan Prowell missing the first part of the season?)
"Chemistry is always important and with them becoming eligible at different times, that will throw a kink into there. That will be the toughest thing. Throwing them in at different times, too, will be difficult. We will deal with it the best that we can and move forward."
(What do you think will be a good year for your team and do you see improvement?)
"I just want to get better. From year one to year two, we didn't improve in terms of wins but we were more competitive game-in and game-out with freshmen. We are trying to get better when the league is at its strongest. I think the league is going to be probably power-rated No. 1 in the country. It is not like we are trying to get better when the league is down. That makes it even tougher. We want to show improvement, and I think we will. We are better from year one to year two, and I want to see that improvement again. How much it will be, I don't know in terms of wins and losses. Our schedule again is very difficult. We have pretty good non-conference teams coming in here in Pitt and Texas A&M. Pitt will be ranked top four probably preseason. Texas A&M in some polls is probably top 10. We will get South Alabama, which is a team that went to the NCAA Tournament. We will play Oklahoma State in South Padre. We will also have Wisconsin, who is top 15 or top 10 in a lot of polls, or we could see Missouri State, who was a team that probably should have gone to the NCAA Tournament last year. We have a tough one like we did last year. I think that helped us down the road. We got better as the year went on. We were close in a lot of games, but we just needed somebody to step up and score the ball for us at crucial times, and it is hard to do that when you have freshmen."
Quoting Rasheem Barrett
(On the difference between this season and last season)
"We work harder. When I came in as a freshman, we had Ronny LeMelle and Frank Tolbert. As far as someone teaching me and telling me, we didn't have that much. This year, we have freshmen coming in and we are able to teach them a lot. That means they will probably be more ready than we were for the upcoming season, so I think that helps out a lot."
(On this season's expectations)
"With the hard work this summer, I predict us to go as far as we can. We are going to do pretty good. My expectations are to get better every game, everyday we step on the court and get better as a team and as individuals."
(On playing with a year of experience)
"It's going to mean a lot. Going into practice this year, we know what to expect and how hard we need to work to be able to help the freshman. I believe last year when we stepped on the court as freshman, we were learning on the job. We all took a lot in. We are going into this year motivated and knowing what it takes to win."
Quoting Frank Tolbert
(On the offseason)
"I have been in the gym a lot this summer trying to improve my shooting ability, trying to be a more consistent scorer like coach wants me to be, being a team leader, keeping the guys up and getting them through the workouts."
(On the offense)
"I think our offense is probably going to be the same as it was the last two years, try to get up and down the court fast-paced."
(On the freshman)
"They all bring different aspects of the game to the table. Dewayne (Reed) is quick to the ball, Kelvin (Lewis) can shoot, Lucas (Hargrove) and Matt (Heramb) can play defense. It's harder to tell which one is better. All of them are good."