Oct. 10, 2007
– Paul Hewitt – HEAD COACH
Is your offensive style going to change much this year with Crittenton gone and new point guards in?
“No. We’ll see how things evolve. Right now, we’re trying to establish the defensive end of the floor. We’ve done an awful lot with individual instruction as we always do in the fall. We have two hours we can use (toward a team workout). This morning we had a one-hour practice, and tomorrow morning we’ll have a one-hour practice, all focused toward getting guys used to team defensive concepts.”
Will your point guard position be a wide-open competition?
“It’s a wide-open competition – anybody that wants to play. “Moe (freshman Maurice Miller) and Matt (Causey, a senior) certainly have the edge because they play the position and they have experience. But, if somebody emerges that we think can handle the ball enough and do the things that we want our point guard to do – and not just on the offensive end, the defensive end as well in terms of guarding and pressuring the basketball – then I’m not opposed to opening it up to anybody.”
What are Causey’s and Miller’s strengths?
“Matt’s a great shooter. He knows how to run a team. Experience is something he has in his favor. Moe seems to be able to get to the paint a little easier. A pretty good defender, something I just saw this morning. I was pleasantly surprised to see him to a good job on the ball. But it’s still way too early to tell about him. Conditioning-wise, he’s so far away, I can’t even see him. He’s got a long way to go. But I was pleasantly surprised at some of the things I saw this morning.”
How about (freshman) Gani Lawal?
“He’s playing hard. He’s got a lot to learn. The biggest adjustment for freshmen, and they’ll tell you, is the pace of the game and banging up against big, strong bodies everywhere they turn on the court. When they’re in high school, Gani was the biggest, strongest guy on the court. Same way for Lance (Storrs) and Moe. Now everywhere they turn, they run into a guy who’s in great physical condition, and very strong. They have to get used to that.”
Lawal comes in with a reputation as a high-energy player who keeps going non-stop?
“It’s accurate, but at the same time, he’s realizing that to play at that level in terms of the pace and energy level, he’s got to get in better shape. That’s natural for a freshman, that’s not unique.”
Your seniors were put in position to fill big roles and carry the team two years ago as sophomores. How much better equipped are they to carry your team now?
“Experience is a great teacher for them. Jeremis Smith and Anthony Morrow are in the position now to carry a more significant role. These are two kids, and Ra’Sean Dickey will join them after fall semester, that have been to the NCAA Tournament twice. They have big-game experience. They’ve won big games.”
Are you comfortable that they can come up with big plays in the clutch?
“Oh, yeah. No doubt. Another thing that goes in Jeremis’ favor is that he’s healthy. This is the healthiest he’s been in the four years he’s been here. If he stays healthy, he can have a huge year for us.”
Talk about the challenges of filling in for the two freshmen that went to the NBA.
“People who look at our roster are surprised at how deep we are. We lost three guys, including Mario West, who was a significant part of us getting to the tournament. He went to the tournament three times in his career. We have enough depth to overcome it. I don’t think about it much, don’t talk about it much, because it’s part of college basketball now. Everybody goes through it. You feel fortunate to be able to recruit those types of players. They encourage other kids to come. It’s a positive. We have enough depth.”
Does Mouhammad Faye have a home position? He’s played some on the wing, some in the front court.
“He’s all over the board. He can play the four, he can play the three, and he can play the two. He’ll play the wing and the power forward position. I hope we can keep him more on the wing. I hope he can become one of our better defenders on the wing, he and D’Andre Bell. Morrow and (Lewis) Clinch have to step it up defensively. I hope because of his length and his quick feet, Mouhammad can become one of our better defenders, because we lost one of the best defenders that I’ve ever coached in Mario West.
“People tend to focus on what we’re going to lose offensively. But if you look at all of our game, and big games that we’ve won, many of them came down to Mario West making some big plays on defense.”
Did Lewis Clinch have to go through any kind of healing process with teammates after his academic troubles?
“It’s a young person growing up. A young person made a mistake. He’s learned from it and is better for it. I don’t think anybody was upset with him. We felt bad for him. He had to sit there and watch a lot of games last year. His goal this year is to play in every game. That’s what he keeps telling me. He says, `Coach, I don’t care how many points I score, I just want to play in every game this year.’ The first year, he was hurt. This past year, he had the academic issue.”
Did he beat himself up over it? How hard was it for him?
“Uh-huh. It was hard on him. Time has come and gone. He’s had a summer to work out. He’s gone through pre-season conditioning. It’s a thing of the past now.”
Talk about your schedule with the trip to Indiana and Kansas coming in.
“It’s a very difficult schedule. But, it’s one of those schedules kids want to play when they come to college and come to the ACC. It’s tough, but it also gives us a tremendous opportunity to have a great year and put ourselves in a significant position down the line. It’s a good schedule.”
What did you see from Brad Sheehan last year when he red-shirted, and how will he fit in?
“He’s a five-man, a very intelligent player who can really shoot the ball. The reason why he red-shirted last year is he wanted to get stronger, and he’s put on 20 pounds. I’m anxious to see how he does in practice. Last year, early on, he was doing really well. As we started moving on in the season, he started missing practices because we were traveling or missing games, and he got rusty. But the biggest thing with him was to get stronger, which he has.”
Alade Aminu came on strong the latter part of last season. Have you seen a continual improvement in him?
“He missed a lot of pre-season conditioning and workouts because of back problems. He had a slightly protruding disc, but now he’s OK. He’s got some conditioning time to make up.”
Jeremis Smith – SENIOR FORWARD
On head coach Paul Hewitt
“He sets high standards. He doesn’t necessarily say that we have to go undefeated, or that we have to win these particular games, but he sets high standards for this team. He expects us to work hard and play hard, and that things will go our way.”
On what he tells underclassmen on ACC competition
“You don’t tell them anything. Just play hard and work hard. Coach pulled me in his office today telling me that I have to lead harder and work harder and that they will follow my lead.
“We’ve been working, lifting weights, and everything else and he just says that I have to lead smart, lead hard, and the team will follow.”
What are you looking forward to most about the next couple of weeks of practice?
“I’m looking forward to finishing our games, playing hard-nosed games and playing ball like we know how to play ball. We have to go into some places, playing some tough teams before Christmas even hits, so just going in and playing basketball like we know how to play – playing well-conditioned basketball – and finishing games is what is so important for us.”
D’Andre Bell – JUNIOR GUARD
On defensive philosophy
“I believe that defense controls everything. You have to have a desire to play it. Honestly, it’ s all about getting to a spot – so you don’t have to be faster or stronger than the next man.”
On Matt Causey
“He’s a good guy, he’s always talking, always encouraging. He gives his all on the court and we all respect him because of it. He sees the court pretty well, and that’s just based off of pick-up games. I haven’t had the chance to see him in organized practices yet.”
Anthony Morrow – SENIOR GUARD
On what he tells freshmen coming in to face ACC opponents
“I just tell them to work hard in practice, stay accountable for what they need to do to help us as a team, and keep staying focused. Don’t let the crowd get in your head, and obviously that’s going to be hard on the road. But I know what I went through on the road and I had to remember that it’s just basketball so that’s what I tell these guys. “
On how ready they are to begin playing games
“As a team we are looking forward to it. Everyone is excited and anxious. It almost gets to the point where we have to tell ourselves to relax and be patient because it’s coming. We can’t be overanxious. We have to keep working hard and take it one day at a time and everything will fall into place.
“The summer went by so quick. It seemed like just yesterday that our season was over. I felt like we had a good year, but it is great to have another one back.”
On his personal contributions
“I just want to be the best leader I could possibly be on the team. I’d like to also become one of the strongest defenders, not only on the team, but also in the nation. I want to be one of the strongest defenders in the nation. I want to continue to make shots and do whatever it takes to be a great player.
Lewis Clinch – JUNIOR GUARD
After having missed most of the season last year because of academic issues, what do you think you have learned?
“The biggest thing is that Coach (Hewitt) and I want to just put it behind me and focus on the present. Any time you get into academic trouble, or miss games for any reason, it hurts the team. That’s what bothered me the most.”
Would you say that more than anyone else, you are looking forward to the start of the season?
“It’s a blessing and a privilege to be back here and have everything back on track. I really want to do whatever I can to help this team.”
Just how good can this team be?
“I don’t think we’ll backtrack this year. We’ll be successful this season because we’ve worked so hard. We’ve done the things – on and off the court – that will make us a better basketball team. We’ve done all the little things in the off season.”
With a good chunk of your scoring gone from last season, who will replace that scoring?
“We have several guys who are capable of having big-scoring nights. We have a strong core group of players coming back, and they all have experience and leadership. The guys are ready.”