Q&A with Head Coach Jeff Price
JP: I think anytime you win 20 games and play at the top of your conference and had some win streaks like we had seven of eight games on a couple of occasions obviously I feel like we had a successful season. But going into my 10th year we certainly have figured out how to play well during the regular season and have to play better in the postseason. So what some people view as successful, others don’t. I certainly think it was successful but we have one primary goal now and that’s to find a way to get into the NCAA Tournament.
It seems like every year we talk about the loss of influential players but you lose Louis Graham, one of the program’s best post players, and Dwayne Foreman, the school’s all-time assist leader. How big of a loss is it to lose both of those players the same year?
JP: It’s real big. Another big factor in that is Matthew Fields, who is a guy we’re really going to miss. He did a lot of intangible things with his energy, etc. Anytime you lose an interior guy like Louis who can score the way he scored more than anything we’re going to miss his point production, more than his blocked shots and those type of things because he was so talented scoring-wise. Dwayne just had a great feel for our team because he was a four-year point guard. That can probably be the biggest concern losing a point guard that has a good feel for your team.
The roster looks like a mix of young and old. Do you look at this team as being youthful, experienced or both?
JP: It’s both. The young experience we have in a guy like Willie Powers and A.J. (Antoine Johnson) who are fairly experienced players, so we have a good blend. In our upperclassmen we have Anthony Marshall and Kenith Ward who have experience and our other seniors in Julian Allen who started just about every game for us last year. So I think we have a good blend. We’ve brought in three freshmen and three JUCO guys which is, again, another blend. I think we’re experienced enough but it’s going to take some time.
On that same token, the incoming class features three juniors and three freshmen. What do you think about the group overall and are you expecting them to become major contributors?
JP: On paper, they’re all good or we wouldn’t have them here. But I’ve learned that it takes some time to get out on the floor and just see how ready guys are going to be. We never knew Willie Powers would be ready that early when we signed him. We knew he was going to be good but we didn’t know how quick. Some guys take longer than others. It will be hard to tell until we get them out on the court. I’ve learned that from experience that there’s a difference between what they’ve done in the past and what they can do at this level. But I like our mix. We’ve brought in some really athletic guys up front and we’ve got some guys who can really shoot the ball.
The Southern Conference experienced some unprecedented success in the postseason with Davidson reaching the Elite Eight. What is your outlook on the conference this year?
JP: I think it’s gotten better every year since I’ve been here. It reached the top last year. Right now everybody’s chasing Davidson. We finished second to them last year and I think they’re going to be really good again. The College of Charleston pretty much has their whole team back and both of those teams are on our side of the conference. So our side is really, really strong. We’re going to have to play awfully well to continue to our streak of finishing first or second seven out of the last nine years.
What is the biggest question mark on this team coming into the season?
JP: I’ve got concerns with our frontline right now because of the inexperience. With losing Louis and Matthew, those were two really experienced frontline guys. Kenny Ward is really the only returning frontline guy that has experience. Trumaine Pearson is a senior but saw limited time last year. Krzysztof is a junior but hasn’t played a whole lot. We think he’s improved but we won’t know how much until we get him out there. Sandy Perry and Tyler Troupe are both talented players but they’re new.
What is the biggest strength of the team?
JP: We’re going to be pretty experienced at the guard position with Willie Powers and A.J., Anthony Marshall and Julian Allen. We have some experience on the perimeter and we’ll have some good backup depth there. We have a chance, like we have in the past, to be very good on the perimeter and I think this team is going to be a very good shooting team.
What can you improve on from last season?
JP: We just need to be more balanced offensively and defensively. Two years ago we were really strong defensively and let up a little bit on the offensive end. Last year we had lapses when we had to get defensive stops and we have to get better on the defensive end of the floor. We just have to do a better job of being balanced on both sides of the ball, not just being really good at one end and not so good at the other.
What is the biggest challenge for your team?
JP: We’re trying to gear everything this year towards March and we’re focusing a lot more on that. Like I said, I think we’ve figured out the regular season. So we’re gearing everything towards March from the first day of school how hard we work, being aware of burnout, how we eat and take care of ourselves, at the end of the season possibly limiting guys’ minutes and playing more people. That’s going to be a little bit different. Most coaches say Take it game by game’ and we will take it game by game, but we’re going to be a lot more concerned about our team getting better every week so can play better in March.
What do you like about the schedule?
JP: If it doesn’t prepare us for the league, nothing will. We’ve got great challenges we play in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic and open up against Houston who’s very good and having a chance to play Duke, playing at Florida who we played really well against last year, Drake’s tournament will be really good and UTEP is an extremely tough road game. Those games really help prepare you for the conference and when you get into conference play, you have a team in your own conference that was in the Elite Eight last year and you play them twice. It’s an extremely challenging schedule and hopefully it’ll make us better come March.
What are your expectations of Willie Powers coming into his sophomore season?
JP: He’s going to be more of a target because he’s pretty much our best returning guy coming into the season. Things are going to come a little bit harder for him because of the impact he had as a freshman. We expect him to keep getting better. He can play both positions at the one and two guard and we’ll continue to have him do that. We’ve got to get him better defensively and he’ll continue to improve on that. We need him to have an impact-type year for us to be successful.
How will the new 3-point line affect the offense?
JP: I don't think it will affect it a lot. I think it's going to affect guys that were very average 3-point shooters that the step back for them means a whole lot, but guys that are really accurate 3-point shooters rarely stand on the old line and shoot anyway. It will affect the marginal shooters but the really good shooters, it won't.
- Category: Men's Basketball
- Published on Friday, 24 October 2008 00:11