Dec. 31, 2002
Is it going to be a Happy New Year?
We'll find out in terms of how things go up in Oregon. I don't think it's a case of where Luke (Walton) will be available to us. He'll make the trip and continuing working and see whether there is a chance that he could have a presence up there.
Was Walton 100 percent for the Boston University game?
He was as close as he's been to 100 percent in a long time. The thing that happened last night is typical of what happened with him...just sort of a fluke. He turns to go down court and steps on a foot and twists it. It's not that his ankles aren't taped, or braced and everything else, so it's very disappointing from his end of it. The league season is a long season and we have to understand that. When the doctors tell me he's ready to play, then we'll play him. That's the way we've approached it.
How frustrating has the injury bug been for you?
One of the hard things has been that we haven't had the continuity that you would like to have between Luke's injuries and Salim's (Stoudamire). Those are two of our key guys. One is an all-leaguer and the other was the freshman of the year, so that's involved a lot of adjustments. You just try to do the best that you can.
Because of that, there are a lot of other guys have gotten key time. Probably the way Hassan (Adams) played in the tournament (he was named Fiesta Bowl Classic MVP Monday) is an indication that he's been effective because those other guys have been out.
Does it help in dealing with this situation that the other guys have played those key minutes?
It helps because then the other guys know that they have to step up. With us on this Oregon trip, the guy that really has to step up is Rick Anderson. He is the veteran, the guy who knows what we need to have when we hit different defenses.
With Luke being out as much as he's been out, you have to have other people stepping up. I think that's happened. It doesn't mean that we're not better off with Luke in there, but we've made the adjustments.
Can you comment on Chris Rodgers and his emergence of late?
Chris has really helped us with his defense. We've seen that in practice. He really has given our guards a lot of trouble and he has given the opponents' guards a lot of trouble. The biggest thing now is getting him to understand on the offensive end that we don't need him going out looking for shots. If shots present themselves then shoot the ball. That's an adjustment that all freshmen have to make, especially if you averaged thirty-something points per game in high school. You sometimes feel like you have to make things happen, but you don't. On the college level, you need to let the game come to you. That's the biggest thing he has to learn, but he's really helped us.
The last few visits to McArthur Court have not been kind, what are your thoughts heading into the trip?
It's a tough place to play, but it's not just us, it's everyone they play. They did win the league last year, so we weren't the only ones who had trouble up there. We've played in a couple of tough places. It will be a challenge, but I think our program has been up to those kinds of challenges for a number of years.
Oregon has the one loss against Cincinnati. What did they do to slow the Ducks down?
First of all, Oregon shot the ball miserably. If you don't shoot the ball well, it doesn't make any difference what you are trying to do. Part of the reason they didn't shoot the ball well was that Cincinnati is very quick and very aggressive. They just harassed them all over the halfcourt and created a lot of turnovers. That will be key with us defensively is to make it tough on them.
That's what we have to do is to be quick and tough defensively with them. If you let them run what they want to run, then you will have problems. You need to make them do secondary options.
Obviously, you are a different team than the one that played there last year...
Oh yeah, a year ago we had no depth, really. We went in there with five freshmen and three juniors. We're a lot different this year. I think our freshmen are pretty confident, but it's not a case of where they are having a whole load thrown on their back. So it's a lot different for us.