Prior to Team Georgia Exhibition
What do you hope to get out of Sunday’s exhibition?
I think you have seen from the roster we released that they have some very good players on that team. They are very experienced, some have played (in the) league and some have played overseas. There will definitely be some strong competition like when we played the Australian National Team, which is great because we definitely need to play against good people right now to find out what areas we need to work on. They have size and experience, and are very athletic, so it will be a very strong test for us.
You said that Mohamed (Tangara) would not play Sunday.
No, more than likely he will not. We are erring on the side of the conservative; we don’t want to take any chances. But he has been doing a little bit more each day, and Justin (Kokoskie), our trainer, is feeling a little more and more comfortable each day. He had an extended run, on the underwater treadmill, that has been real valuable to this place over the past couple of years. So he is using that to condition and to ease any kind of pressure. Justin feels he is making very good progress, and thinks that he will be ready to go full by San Diego.
Who else are you worried about?
Kirk (Walters) is playing really well, but it is still a decision. If we choose not to play him on Sunday, it does not mean that we have decided for him to take his redshirt. We just need to make sure and err on the side of caution. With Kirk, he has improved so much, we don’t want him to be in a situation where he is playing limited minutes, because I really think he has a great future here and after he leaves here. You may remember a few years back with Joe McLean (1992-96), we were going to hold him out, but in the middle of December we decided he was playing too well and he would be too valuable not to have him. We would have to make this decision on a day-by-day basis, but we will probably not play him on Sunday just to give us more time to decide.
Any possibilities that you may sit out others on Sunday?
There aren’t any decisions that have been made on that. Some of that we may not actually decide until Monday. Not until we get a chance to evaluate Saturday’s practice.
Regarding Isaiah Fox, are things looking on the better side now?
I think his conditioning has been getting a lot better. He has not been getting any swelling. I haven’t talked with Justin since we practiced, but I assume if anything has been different that Justin would have called me yesterday, even though I was out most of the day.
Did reviewing the film on Sunday have anything stand out and give you any projection for which your top five may be?
In the Red-Blue game, Chris Rodgers played real well. Salim (Stoudamire) did a good job of running both the point and the two spot. Mustafa (Shakur) played well offensively, but struggled on the defensive side of the ball. As a team, we need to be a lot better then we are defensively. You could tell that they were getting tired and that their wheels were coming off. When it comes to Sunday, it’s not going to be to the point where we have to leave someone out there without rest.
Are there specific things you are looking for on Sunday as far as different looks with different players?
We’ll try to use and let everyone get sufficient time, and get different combinations, but it will be a case where anytime Salim comes out, and goes back in, it will be to give Mustafa a rest.
Is Ivan (Radenovic) still in that top four spot?
Ivan has not had any injuries to deal with, so he has been there every day.
Has the top rebounder sorted itself out?
It’s still close. It’s Jawann (McClellan) and Hassan (Adams).
Is that surprising to you?
On Wednesday, Hassan went to the boards like he should all the time. And when that happens no one can get him as far as the rebounding standpoint. Jawann has been making good progress. The main concern is like it is with Jesus (Verdejo) ?- defensively ?- and they have no idea how hard they have to play every second. They are still adjusting to that.
At the two, do you have a clear leader there?
The fact that Salim has played both point and two, we are not sending him to the offensive board and that has to be taken into consideration. The point guard is not going to have as many rebounds as the two-guard should and we send Mustafa to the boards and Salim back, which is the opposite of what we normally do with the guards. We’re looking at Salim in those regards, but we will look towards today and tomorrow’s practices to make that decision.
Salim said before the season that he’s going to try and step up. Have you seen that so far in practice?
Yes, very much so with Salim and his leadership both on and off the court. He’s working at being vocal and more positive. He has the total concept of what we’re trying to do. He has been very helpful to the younger guys. Both he and Mustafa (have done that).
Have you ever had a player such as Jesus with a boxing background? And how does that help you on the court?
Well, I haven’t had to use it yet, but it may be if I’m not getting through to somebody that I may ask Jesus to take them out in the hallway and have a talk with them. I’m kidding obviously with that. Jesus is just a good, tough, hard-nosed competitor. Regardless of what he’s doing, that comes out and he’s not going to back down from anyone obviously. No one is going to intimidate him.
Have you ever had a freshman class like this? It seems that none of them are going to back down from anyone.
They are confident in their abilities and confident in what they will be doing for us. It’s too bad that we haven’t had Mohamed out there on a regular basis, but it’s been very much the case that the three guys that we have out there aren’t going to back down and obviously Mohamed won’t either. They will keep things very competitive for us all year long as far as competition and practice.
It seems that this may be one of the most comfortable freshman classes. They are out there jumping around. They are not afraid to show their confidence.
They are a very personable group. That’s one of the great things about basketball is that fans can see the personality of players, unlike football where they have on a helmet and football pads. You can’t see what they’re like and how they are feeling such as you can in basketball. I think that’s an edge that we have as far as a spectator sport ?- you get to see a lot of things about the kids that you don’t see in other sports.
Is this collectively one of the most talented teams you’ve ever had?
I think the potential is there. I don’t think we’re there yet. It’s a case of ability. We need to see that ability every second of practice. We need to see that Salim is going to show us how good he can play all the time, not have his ups and downs. We still have to see the development of a couple other guys before we can make that statement. I look at it as when Sean Elliot came in, or Anthony Cook and Kenny Lofton. That was certainly a talented class. If there wasn’t a Sean Elliot, it’s not often a college player of the year comes around. I like the togetherness of the group and I like the competitiveness. We have excellent quickness among the group. We have strength with the quickness, to where you can see with the freshman guys, they have done a lot of work with weights before they even came in here. It is unusual to see two guards come in with the strength that Daniel (Dillon)and Jesus have.
Is the difference night and day between practice and competition?
When we go full court, which we don’t do too often, it doesn’t seem to make a difference which group we put together. It ends up being a very close contest. Like with the Red-Blue game, it seemed the one team was going to blow the other out, but it ended up being a very close contest. I think it ended up 49-48 at the half, but that has been pretty typical of the kind of competition we’ve had in our practices.
What do you think of that new rule as far as playing traveling teams?
This year it was all down to how soon the contracts were drawn up. If they were drawn up before some date, there are a couple of teams who are playing against touring teams. This is the last year that you can play a touring team.
I think it’s very necessary that the change be made. You can have a scrimmage game or practice against a Division I team, to where you’ll pretty much have an all-day deal. I think the problem is that our athletic department cannot stand that hit financially if we didn’t have two exhibition games. Once we can get our football stadium packed, we can go to that, but there is definitely some value with that. If we’re going to have an exhibition game, it will have to be like with what we’re doing this year with Sonoma State, against a Division II team. No longer can you playing touring or foreign teams.