Oct. 13, 2009
"We are very excited about the new start of the season. We start on Friday at 5 o'clock for the first official practice. Everybody made the team. We had our mile run today. They had to run a six minute mile to officially be on the team so we did that this morning, and everybody made the six minute mile on the first try. So we have everybody here to start practice on Friday. We have a lot of new faces. We have three very good seniors who started for us for four years to replace Quantez Robinson, Rasheem Barrett and Korvotney Barber. We're excited about the returning guys. I've been very impressed with DeWayne Reed and Lucas Hargrove, who is about 225 pounds right now. He came in at 167 as a freshman. He is a lot stronger and has been very good in preseason workouts. Brendon Knox has carried on his improvement. We're still trying to get Johnnie Lett healthy. He is about 70 percent right now. He was about to participate in some preseason workouts, but he is not close to being 100 percent. We will need him to get back to healthy to add size, strength and experience inside. The new guys are coming along well. They're very physical for freshmen right now. They have good size for freshmen in this league. We also have a young man who can help us on the defensive side, a transfer from Oklahoma, Tony Neysmith. He has good size in the backcourt at 6-foot-5.
"The schedule is very good. We have three ACC teams. We also have Alabama State, who were the champions of their league last year. Troy is going to be outstanding this year, a very good in-state team. Our first game of the year is against Niagara, who won 26 games last year, has a majority of their team back and was very high in the RPI (#49 in collegerpi.com). We will be challenged with our schedule this year. I think our league is better with a lot of guys coming back. It will be our last year in the arena, and we are excited about that. We're also excited about our new arena. I can't wait to get over there. Everything seems to be on schedule over there."
(On how last year's success has impacted the team this year)
"We have a taste on what it was like to win. I think the way for us was the way we finished. We had so many meaningful games coming down the stretch. Every game seemed to grow with importance, and we handled that very well coming down the stretch. So for our guys coming back and being able to play in those kind of games, I think that is going to be very valuable for our group. We have a taste of what it was like, a taste of success, a taste of postseason and also a taste of not making it to the NCAA Tournament. They're hungry. We had a good offseason, and the kids have worked hard, so it's going to be very helpful for the guys that played for us last year."
(On having a senior point guard in DeWayne Reed)
"We have a senior backcourt with Tay Waller, so you're likely to have experience at the point guard position. DeWayne Reed was probably the most improved player in the SEC last year. He has been outstanding in workouts. He's probably been our best player, no doubt in workouts and been our most consistent guy, offensively and defensively. It's like having a quarterback. You want an experienced guy back there that has been through the wars. He's starting to understand his position much more and his toughness, mental and physical, has been very good. He's going to be one of the top point guards in the league. He was last year. He did a nice job with the turnover-to-assist ratio, so we feel really strong about his positioning as one of the top point guards in the league. "
(On how Tay Waller has improved from last year)
"He has improved. I would like to see him get to the foul line more. He's a very good shooter. He didn't get to the line as much as we would like. He's worked on his ball handling to where he can put the ball on the floor more than once before he does a "stop and pop." He doesn't have great size being at the two position, so he has to be able to pick his spots. We would like to see him be more consistent with his 3-point shooting because he was streaky for us last year. He could make tough ones. That was an area that we talked to him about in the offseason. Right now, we can do the two hours with them a week. There are no referees, and we are fouling a lot. We let them go and let them beat the snot out of each other. We don't call anything in the first few weeks of practice. It will be interesting when we start calling fouls."
(On having an ideal spot for Lucas Hargrove)
"He'll be moving around a lot. I think we'll be able to put him in different spots to take advantage of him. I think defensively he is strong enough to defend inside. It's hard for a bigger guy to have to defend him out on the perimeter. We will play him at the four and also at the three if we need to go bigger. He's gotten much stronger. When he first came in, guys were able to muscle him around. Now, they can't even move him, so it's been fun to watch his body transform to the way it is now. I don't see him playing any center, but I see him playing some at small forward and power forward."
(On Johnnie Lett's injury)
"It is still his ankle and it is day by day."
(On Tony Neysmith's defensive skills)
"He can guard a lot of different people. The question will be for Tony is his off the ball strength. He has better on the ball foot speed, so if he can do that and be tough off the ball, defensively he can play a lot of different positions for us. He can play a two, three or point guard."
(On the incoming players)
"We have four freshmen, five newcomers. Defensively, I think Earnest Ross and Andre Malone are physically ready. I think early, like most freshmen, they will struggle when we start to add things, but they've been good so far. They're physical. They can shoot the ball from the perimeter, but they have to work on the ball handling a little bit, and they have to work on defense. Kenny Gabriel is a guy who was coached well in junior college. He can really shoot the ball being 6-foot-8. We'll be able to do some things with him like the "pick and pop" and the three pointers. He has a good knack for the ball, but he just has to get stronger. He is long. He has a 7-foot-1 wingspan, so he can get his hand on a lot of balls. Our inside guys, Rob Chubb and Ty Armstrong, they'll get better as the year goes on. They're both physical. Chubb can run. At 6-foot-9 and 220 pounds, he ran the mile in 5:20. He can really move. They're a little farther away, but I think they'll get better as the year goes on. Both are 6-foot-9 and 220 so when we walk through the airport this year, we'll look like an SEC team. I hope we play like one."
(On Frankie Sullivan)
"Frankie is a tremendous kid. He will be one of the leaders on this team. He's tough and does what you ask him to do. He can shoot from the perimeter and will play as hard as you ask him to. I have high expectations for him coming in. He has shot the ball very well and his leadership has been good. The biggest thing for Frankie is that he goes so fast. He needs to gear down and get under control and take good shots, which he did near the end of the year last year. He will get a lot of minutes for us this year. He is just a great kid."
(On how Brendon Knox has stepped up during Johnnie Lett's injury)
"He's going to have to stay out of foul trouble for us. Brendon had a problem last year staying out of foul trouble. He has to do a better job. He would get dumb fouls away from the basket. We can't have him get two early fouls, especially if we can't have Johnnie help us. We're going have to put more pressure on our big freshmen to play early if Johnnie isn't ready."
(On how the SEC has improved from last year)
"We have a lot of good players coming back, and also a few coaching changes. Kentucky, with all the recruiting that they've had, will return to a national powerhouse. They had an off year last year, obviously, and when Kentucky is not doing as well in our league, it takes a hit. I think our league was a lot better last year than what people gave it credit for. This year, Tennessee should be in the top 25 along with Mississippi State and Florida. Vanderbilt is going to be very good. They played a lot of freshmen last year. South Carolina has gotten a lot of their guys back after dodging some bullets with the NBA Draft. A lot of the best players in our league are back, so I think it will be strong."