Oct. 12, 2011
Head Coach Sean Miller
"We've very excited about the start of things. We had a great eight weeks since the beginning of school. We really start right into it like all college basketball programs I believe do in today's world. We've been at it at eight weeks because that's how long we've been in school and we're welcoming in four freshmen who are learning what Arizona is like and the difference between college and high school. Each of those guys has their own personality, and all are doing very well. As a team, I think we're hungry to get back out there and practice. Any time you have the success we had last year, especially in March, that's a feeling you want to return to. I think everybody in our organization, coaches, managers, players, understand that it's so hard to do, and that's the challenge we face as we start back up again."
Have you been able to get a feel for the four new team members?
"We have to some degree now that we are practicing every day and are really allowed to be around them daily basis. In the next week, two weeks, over the next month, I think we'll just have a ton of information. The one thing I love about the group is that they love the game of basketball, and each of them wants to be a good player individually. They didn't show up here with all the answers, as if they didn't have to answer to anybody. It's been just the opposite. They've all been willing listeners. I think they've taken the advice of our older players like Kyle Fogg and Jesse Perry. They're just trying to find out how we do things, and at the same time, work very hard. To me, each one of them has made progress since school began, and I'm anxious to see each one of them out there every day now. Josiah Turner, point guard. Right now he is six foot three, more than a hundred ninety pounds, so his size really stands out for such a young player. He's really a fun guy to play with on offense because he passes the ball. The more open court situations he's in, the more comfortable he is. Nick Johnson is really trained well. Playing at Findlay Prep, living away from home for two years in that competitive environment of trying to win a high school national championship has really made his transition from high school to college really an easy, if that's even possible. Nick is a winner, and I've really been impressed with how talented that he is on defense. I think that before he's done at Arizona, we'll all look at him as someone who can guard a variety of different types of players. Angelo Chol, to me, is one of the hardest workers on our team. Not that Nick or Josiah don't work hard, but a lot of times, I feel like perimeter players, guards, in eight weeks work the game harder than front court players, and that's just my opinion. For somebody who's six foot eight, six foot nine like Angelo is, he just has an incredible motor. He's in the gym constantly, shooting extra shots, and that's something you don't always know until they get here, and to me his willingness to learn and his work ethic really does stand out, as does his quickness and ability. On offense, Angelo's a face-up player, and on defense he can cover ground, block shots, and do a lot of things that all teams love to have. Sidiki Johnson is a physical, low post player, and in some of our team workouts that we've had, he's scored around the basket and he gives us a physical-ness that our team really needs. I really look to him as establishing toughness and a rebounding element to our team. For a freshman to be able to do that, Sidiki, like Josiah, physically he is 240 pounds, so for his position, although a freshman, he has a big advantage coming in here because of how big and strong he is."
On Kyle Fogg's evolution as a player, and the next level:
"Just having him continue to make progress is important. In all fairness to the players who were on the team two years ago, it's just difficult to master any type of system in six months or nine months and that's all we were together for. Coming back a year later, which was last year, everybody was just more familiar with how we practice and what we do to be successful. Kyle took advantage of that. He was a better defensive player as a junior than he was as a sophomore. He didn't have nearly the struggles or bad moments, and had so many more good moments. I think the same thing will happen from his junior year to his senior year. It's been well documented in some of the articles that have been done on our team in the off season that Kyle has been a great leader, has worked very hard, and to me he is as prepared as any senior I've seen to have a very good year."
On the backcourt and frontcourt potential:
"We have some depth in the backcourt, but that has yet to be worked out. Just when you think you have a lot of depth, and how is this all going to work, someone gets hurt, or something happens. Kevin Parrom is a great example. Kevin is an instrumental part of this year's team, he really is, and like Kyle, he has worked extremely hard this off-season. Right now, his future is in doubt. Hopefully we'll welcome him back at some point, but we don't have a crystal ball to know when and if that's going to happen. Without him, we're not nearly as deep as we are with him, but yet, when you look at the competition, Jordin Mayes was really important to last year's success, he's bigger and stronger and a year older. Josiah Turner's a very talented point guard, Kyle Fogg's back for his senior year, Nick Johnson and Brendan Lavender also are two guys that we believe in, and Solomon Hill's a junior now. I've named a number of perimeter players. Jesse Perry is capable of playing a small forward position, so we're going to have to see. We'll learn a lot more about our team as we start practice than maybe we do right now."
More on Kevin Parrom's situation and its challenges:
"It's hard. It's consuming. You don't think about practice, don't think about things you normally would when one of our players has been shot. There's not necessarily a manual you pull out. You really just try to be there and guide the process. In Kevin's case, we're fortunate he has such a great family behind him. The fact that he was able to get back here to Tucson as quickly as he did had no bearing on his health. It had a lot more to do with his family's faith in what we do here. When Kevin is surrounded by his teammates and coaches, and is able go to class, be around the students of Arizona, be surrounded by community is when he is at his best. That allows him to have the best chance to be successful. It's hard to leave home any time, but especially when your mom is sick, and she remains critically ill. We're always trying to make sure he is in a good place not just physically as he makes his comeback but also emotionally, so he's in a good place there. That's hard for any of us, let alone for someone who is 21 years old. We're preparing really for both, to have him and not have him. At the beginning we're preparing to not have him because he's not going to be out there, at least in practice on the short term. We're going to have to learn how to play and practice without him. Again, optimistically, maybe even cautiously optimistic, we hope to welcome him back to our team at some point, and we'll know more in the next two weeks, four weeks, six weeks."
On Kyryl Natyazhko's impact:
"We're counting on Kyryl. He has to play more minutes, and he has to be a better player for our team this year than he was last year. One thing that gives me great confidence is really the last month of his sophomore year. He was instrumental in a lot of big plays, especially on defense, and I thought he really settled into a role on offense that, even though it didn't show up in the scoring column, he was valuable by just passing the ball, screening, putting his body on the defense, and doing the things you want him to do. I really think he's picking up where he left off there. He's had a very good off-season, and he's worked extremely hard on his body to put himself in a better position moving forward. I don't think we're expecting Kyryl to be an all-conference player right now. Maybe one day he will be, but I do think we all are counting on him to be a better and more instrumental in what we do. We need him to be able to play more minutes."
Jordin Mayes and his biggest area of improvement:
"Jordin broke his foot this summer. Right on the heels of last season, when our last game ended against UConn, we had an x-ray after the tournament that determined that he had a stress fracture. What we did was we shut him down for about four to six weeks where he was in a walking boot. We didn't elect to have surgery at that point, but he really didn't do anything for that first month. That led him into being very active and he worked very hard in the summer months, and all of a sudden in July he broke his foot. If there's a silver lining in it, we did go ahead and have the surgery. I think right now he almost fourteen weeks since he had the surgery, and he's experienced no setbacks, continued improvement. He's full-go a hundred percent. It's an injury that a lot of guys come back from especially when you have the surgery and a lot time to heal. We were very slow to bring him back so he would have time behind him. One thing you'll notice when you see Jordin today is a year ago is was around 180 pounds, and now he's closer to 195. Some of the things dealt with as freshman on defense, wearing down, it's hard as a freshman, but he solved that by having good offseason. He's a bigger, stronger player, and he also doesn't have to play just the point guard. He can play with a point guard, which gives us more depth."
On the competition for minutes this season:
"To a man, everybody has the opportunity to play. It truly is going to work itself out through these next four to six weeks. I think last year, in all 38 games we played 10 players. If I'm wrong, I won't be wrong by many. I look at this year's team being able to do the same. As we play minutes in November, they may not be anywhere close to the minutes you see us give our in March or in February. It's very much an evolving process as we mix in four freshmen with four seniors and try to figure out if Kevin's going to rejoin us. It's going to be a very competitive environment, and it already has been through the preseason, where I think a number of guys recognize that everything we do is important. And that's really how we want it right now
On expectations for Solomon Hill this season:
"Just to be a better overall player. A lot of times, when you're Solomon, scoring, points per game are constantly on your mind. It's constantly referenced that he needs to score more, and he might score more, but there are so many other things that Solomon does well. Rebounding on offense and defense, he's a clever passer, but at times he would turn the ball over, being the guy who's more responsible with the ball, we need him to be able to score around the basket some. Defensively, guarding other teams' really good wing players, he should be better, more adept at handling screens. I think his progress won't just be felt in one statistical area. He's always given us a lot of things as a player, and that well roundedness is what we want him to do better more than any single stat. He grew more confident in playing round the basket as last season progressed. Early in the year we wanted him to do it, but sometimes you forget that Solomon was just in the beginning stages of his sophomore season, but he definitely, I look back at our final weekend here at McKale against the Oregon schools when we won our Pac-10 Championship, the Pac-10 Tournament a year ago, and the four games we played in the NCAA Tournament, and I believe that's nine games right there, nine really big games, and Solomon was at his best during that stretch, and like I talked about Kyryl, I think that gave him a sense of confidence, and he wants to pick up right where he left off. We obviously need him to; he's one of our most experienced, productive players. Scoring is always the thing is basketball the people talk about the most, but Solomon's impact will be felt across the board."
On the adjustments to the team chemistry now that Derrick Williams is gone:
"Every year, especially with as much turnover as you can have with young guys leaving early, it's just a whole new team dynamic. When you think about it, we have four players on our team that we're counting on, that we in high school last year at this time, and had nothing to do with our success. That's an important part, but that's why the players that were a part of what we've done the last two years, they can help guide the new players and bring the chemistry along."
On the addition of Joe Pasternack to the coaching staff:
"Joe Pasternack has been a great addition to our staff. His experience in the Pac-10 for eight years at Cal both recruiting and coaching, and his familiarity with the west coast, and his energy level in all that he does is something that, when you replace someone like Archie (Miller), who did so many good things for us, it's tough to find that well roundedness, and to me we really found that in Joe. That, coupled with the fact that he ran his own program under some adverse circumstances at New Orleans for four years, you think about that twelve year period of what he's seen and experience, and he's really, to me, given us all of that and more. It's exciting to bring him here."
What he most anticipates to see in the first couple weeks of practice:
"I'm really interested to watch our four freshmen go through two weeks of practice without a game. Where you're really at it every day for hour upon hour and you wake up the next day and it starts all over again. Practicing on weekends, practicing during the school week, it's different. No matter how much we try to prepare, no matter how much conditioning we've done, and the team workouts certainly do help. There's nothing that resembled those first two or three weeks of a college practice, and I think we'll learn about each of these four guys in that period of time."
On points of emphasis for this season:
"There are some things in our statistics, like defending the three point shot last year, we led America for a significant portion of the season, and that's really hard to do. I think we finished in the top five. Shots close to the basket, we weren't very good, we want to get better at that, certainly. Getting to the free throw line has been something that we've done very well, mainly because we had one player who shot a ton of free throws every game. Without him, it's important that we can still get to the foul line. I think when you look at what made us successful generally, we have a similar style and system, so those things are always going to be important to us."
On where the leadership will come from this season:
"We have five seniors, Dondre Wise isn't on scholarship this year, but I really look at him as almost a scholarship player. He has a voice on our team, and to me he's almost a coach in waiting, just watching. But him and his four classmates, the players that have been here the longest, that have seen the most, that have gone through the highs and lows, those are the guys who will be our leaders, that, and coupled with the players who play the most."
On the strength of this year's Pac-12:
"I worry about our non-conference schedule a little bit. To me, we're really pushing the envelope in terms of tough games. When you look at our games, we have St. Johns at Madison Square Garden on their home court, the winner loser or Mississippi State versus Texas A&M, at Florida, across the country against a great Florida team, New Mexico State on the road, for the first time here will be a huge game for them, traveling to Seattle to play Gonzaga on a neutral court. When you think about those opportunities right there, and then throw in SDSU, Clemson at home. I'm familiar with Valparaiso and Duquesne, our first two games at home, Ball State who could win the Mid-American Conference. These games were scheduled with the expectation that certain players would return. Right now we have something different, but we are better because we challenge ourselves. The Pac-12 Conference is more balanced and deeper this year. Last year were weren't as healthy as we will be and we still were so close to having three teams in the Sweet Sixteen. Some conferences have a lot of teams, but there aren't many that have forty percent of their teams going to the NCAA Tournament. Klay Thompson and Washington State were standouts last year, as was Cal. Colorado and Utah have a pair of great coaches, and I think we will have a number of teams playing in the postseason. I do worry about the conference season, but no one will say in March that we didn't challenge ourselves."
Arizona Player Quotes
Freshman Forward Sidiki Johnson
On being at Arizona:
"I really like it here. It's just great to be on a college campus. I've gotten to know the guys really fast."
Senior Guard Dondre Wise
On this year's team:
"We are just trying to get better as a team. Everyone wants to go back and make a run to the Elite Eight. We feel like if we work hard, that will take care of itself."
On his personal goals:
"Coach wants me to bring wisdom to the team this year. I'm one of the older ones on the team, I've been through a lot here. I've seen a lot. I have seen the teams before, when we had a couple of down years, so basically, I just want to make sure everyone competes every day. It's a process. You have to work hard, or you won't be able to achieve your goals."
Freshman Guard Nick Johnson
On the biggest difference from Findlay Prep:
"The biggest difference is the size and the strength. For me, everyone is bigger than me, but even guys that are smaller are stronger. That is definitely the biggest difference."
Sophomore Guard Jordin Mayes
On how the team is preparing for the season:
"We have been hitting the weight room hard. We have been doing strength and conditioning, getting on the treadmills, we wake up early to run. Coach Miller has been getting in our heads and trying to get us ready for the season."
Senior Guard Kyle Fogg
On being a top veteran, things to watch
"I think this is going to be a really fun team to watch. I'm looking forward to being a leader. I've seen great players come and go. I've played a lot of games and I've started a lot of games. I'm going to bring that leadership and help my team be the best we can be."
On the freshman class
"I think all our freshman have a special skill. Nick (Johnson) is a great defender. Josiah (Turner) is a great passer. Angelo (Chol) is a great shot blocker and Sidiki (Johnson) is a good, all-around big man. I think they're all ready to contribute this year."
On his offseason improvements
"I've definitely tried to improve on my shooting and my ball handling, too. I try to work on a little bit of everything. The shooting percentages should definitely improve this year."
Junior Forward Max Wiepking
On the team's biggest improvements during the offseason
"Each individual player really improved their game. You can tell a huge difference from last year to this year. We've been playing together for so long, we have a good feel for each other on the court."
Most exciting aspects of this team
"I think our fast pace. We have a lot of guards. Josiah (Turner) is really fast and he can push the ball well. Jordin (Mayes) is fresh and back from injury. I think we're definitely going to be a fast team in transition. That's going to be our strength."
Senior Center Alex Jacobson
On his and the team's offseason improvements
"During the offseason, I really worked on my low post scoring and my outside shot, 15-17-foot range. That's where my focus was. Our team camaraderie is strong this year. It's different than it was last year. There's a lot more togetherness and cohesion."
Most exciting aspects of this team
"I think our high scoring and fast-paced offense. We have a lot of different weapons this year. Everyone will be contributing."
Senior Guard Brendon Lavender
On his offseason improvements
"This is my last year, my last go around so I worked on everything. We were all here - me, Kevin Parrom, Kyle Fogg, a couple other guys - throughout the summer. We stayed in the weight room and we stayed on the RJ (Richard Jefferson Gymnasium) court. We worked on a lot shooting, a lot of drills, a lot of workouts."
Most exciting aspects of this team
"I think people are excited to see what we'll do without Derrick Williams. I think they're excited to see some of the young guys play and the returning guys, too. All they want to see is wins so that's what we're going to try to do."
Senior Forward Jesse Perry
On his offseason improvements
"I think I've improved a lot on my jump shot, compared to last season. I'm working on knocking down the jump shot more consistently and my dribbling. I'm really working on being an all-around leader."
On the veterans and newcomers coming together
"We have chemistry right off the bat. Off the court and on the court, it's chemistry. I've never played with a team that is this close right from the start. With four new guys coming in, it's been a great environment."
On the freshman class
"We have a lot of guys working hard. All of them came out of high school highly recruited, great players out of high school. I think they all have natural talent. It's all about coming in and putting it on the court."