We’ve been very happy with the amount of effort and enthusiasm that the guys have shown. Since we got started (Oct. 15), we’ve only had two days off, so they’ve been working very, very hard.
Chris Rodgers had his most-involved practice yesterday. Up until then, he’s been doing strictly non-contact things and working with Justin Kokoskie, out trainer, and Steven (DiLustro), our strength trainer, to protect it from further injury. What we’ve been doing is working him in a little bit at a time. But yesterday was the first day that there was actually some contact work where he worked with us on the press offense and that kind of thing. So that was good to see.
The biggest adjustments have with the change from three guys out to four guys out. We’ve spent a lot of time in the offense. The intent of that is to spread the court a little bit more, open some driving lances, and utilizing our quickness. Defensively, we’ve been spending a lot of time on pressure with full, three-quarter, and half-court kind-of things. There has been a lot of stuff thrown at them in what amounts to a couple of weeks. We’ll get started with some of our set play situations next week.
How has Isaiah Fox performed to date?
Isaiah has done very well. He’s played the best that he has since he’s been here. Far and away, it’s the best condition he ever been in. He’s running the court well. The thing he brings to us is that he’s a very good communicator. He’s probably one of the best guys we have out there in terms of talking, calling screens, and helping the other guys on the court. I think he makes the four other guys with him play better because of the way he plays.
We’ve had some very good competition on the inside. What we’ve been doing with Bret Brielmaier and Isaiah is playing them both inside and out in that four spot. The two guys we’ve kept exclusively inside are Mohamed (Tangara) and Kirk (Walters). Mohamed at this point is our leading rebounder.
What do you see happening at the two-guard position?
What we’ve been running in practice is to have Mustafa (Shakur) and J.P. Prince against one another. We did put them together a couple of days ago and they played very well. We just feel that the best competition for them is to go against one another.
It’s hurt that Chris (Rodgers) hasn’t been able to be out there doing everything that everyone else is doing because he certainly is going to be a big factor in there because he is our best defender.
We’ve been holding Jawann (McClellan) out. He’s had a little bit of a problem with that leg ?- he actually hurt the Achilles tendon in the Illinois game last year and it’s been kind of a nagging thing. With him not playing early, the orthopedic people and our trainer feel it would be best for him to take an extended period of time off right now. I would assume that next week he could get clearance to go. It’s like any injury situation, I just turn it over to the doctors and our trainer and they let me know when he’s ready to go.
Mustafa is a lot aggressive right now with the ball than he has been. Just by nature, he’s more talkative because he’s been in that situation for three years. I think he feels comfortable with that. The fact that he is one of the real veterans on the team ?- I think that he just feels more comfortable.
Does it go without saying that you expect more offense from him (Shakur)?
I think the offense will be much more balanced just by nature of the type of team that we have. He’s been shooting the ball well. With the style of play, it’s been a lot of up and down when we’ve gone full court because of the way we want to play. He’s very good in the open court, which makes our team more effective.
Do you have an idea of just how deep you can go in your playing rotation?
No. Right now, we are trying to mix guys up almost daily so that everyone gets a chance to show what they can do with some of the veterans. It’s hard if the whole group you are playing with is relatively new. That’s not an easy thing if the other team is all veterans. We’ve done that a few times and it’s been a blowout.
Is there anything that has jumped out at you personality-wise?
It’s a big adjustment for freshmen because they are not used to the intensity of the practice situation. So that’s always going to be an adjustment. We certainly are not disappointed with anybody and their efforts.
Does that have anything to do with the new offense?
I don’t think so. Like I said, it’s more difficult for the younger guys starting with the fact that they aren’t used to the intensity for this long. Most of the practices are close to two-and-a-half hours, which is a long time, and there is not a lot of down time. They are tired right now.
What about the leadership development right now?
I think at this point if you asked the guys, they would tell you that it’s Hassan’s (Adams) team because he is a very outgoing, competitive guy. He does a lot to bring the group together. Isaiah based on the fact that he’s been here for five years. With Chris, it’s been so difficult because ever since he sprained that knee he’s spent a large part of the practice session with the trainer. He’s not been on the court that much. I would assume that will change some know.
He’s been cleared to go full speed since last week. We just want to make sure that he’s brought into it a little at a time to make sure he’s not thrown into the middle of things immediately. We’ll have him involved in full-court contact situations, but then we’ll make sure it’s not a case of where he tires.
Mustafa among the juniors is far and away the outgoing there. So it’s two of the seniors and Mustafa right now. We would expect more from Chris as he gets more involved.
What are you looking for from a general perspective heading into next week’s scrimmage?
The biggest single thing is still the offensive movement. We still get jammed up inside and we’re working hard to keep the court spread. As far as next Thursday goes, what we’re looking for is offensive movement leading to good shots.
Why do you like this style of play?
We’ve always played up-tempo. We’ve gotten a lot of our points off turnovers and fast break opportunities. I think we have the depth and quickness to put a lot of pressure on opposing teams.
How has the guys playing the four spot reacted to the offensive change?
Well. The big thing with three out and two in, the three perimeter guys still had to keep the court spread. Now you add a fourth guy (to the perimeter) and take a guy from inside, what that does ?- as long as we keep everybody moving and defending out on the perimeter ?- is open up the basket area. If a guy gets overplayed, he has room to make a back cut to the basket.
Do you think Ivan Radenovic feels more comfortable?
Yes. Ivan feels a lot more comfortable. You can see that. Last year at this point, he was battling to be in the starting lineup. He is so much more confident right now. He worked really hard this summer and he likes facing up. He’s a very good shooter. He can put the ball on the floor. I think he feels more comfortable being given the freedom he has in the offense right now.
You said previously that you felt that teams were going to have a hard time matching up against you. Why?
Our quickness. The most difficult thing to match is quickness. If you ask a 6-foot-8 what his worst nightmare is, he would say a smaller, quicker guy guarding him. I don’t think we’ll have a problem matching up with a bigger guy because I think we will be quicker in that position.
Does the offense change much with Hassan on the perimeter?
Last year was the first year that he had played exclusively on the perimeter. There are still a lot of things he needs to work on. You don’t go from inside to outside in a year and feel like you have everything under control. He needs to take better care of the ball. He needs to make better decisions with his passes. He’s such an unselfish guy that he’s trying to make great passes.
We make this statement: “We don’t want great passes.” The guys sort of look at us like we’re crazy at that point. If it takes a great pass, the passer probably shouldn’t have thrown it. Hassan is trying to make a lot of great passes.
You said similar things about Luke Walton and Andre Iguodala...
Oh, yes. I’m also concerned about the assist-to-turnover ratio. Luke, to begin with, was trying to make too many things happen. If you notice in his senior year, his assist-to-turnover went way up. We like to see passes completed.