Nov. 6, 2012
THE FLATS –
Head coach Brian Gregory spent time with the media Tuesday updating the Yellow Jackets’ practice and previewing Friday’s season-opener against Tulane at McCamish Pavilion.
Tech and Tulane tip off at 7 p.m. in the first game played in the Yellow Jackets’ new on-campus arena. The game, nearly sold out, will be witnessed by nearly 200 former players, coaches and staff who will be recognized, one-by-one, on the court at halftime.
Here is a transcript of Coach Gregory’s comments to the media Tuesday.
“We’re making progress, and I like the progress that we’re making. After three weeks of practice, it’s hard to believe that we’re already playing a game. You always walk the fine line of making sure you’re prepared for the game, but also developing the team. We’ve taken a little more of an approach of developing the team and individual players.
“We’re getting better, there’s no doubt about it. We’ve had two closed scrimmages, and we took a big step forward from scrimmage 1 to scrimmage 2. Now we need to take another step this week in terms of tightening some things up and making sure of what we need to be on the court and how we need to compete on the court to be successful.
“It’s an exciting time, three days away from opening night against a very good Tulane team. They beat us last year at their place to go 8-0, and they went to 12-2 in the non-conference. They lost a couple of key players and struggled the rest of the way. They’re in a re-building phase, too. They have every point that was scored against us last year back for this year’s game. We’re going to have to play extremely well in order to be successful. We’ve got three days to get ready. We’re going to concentrate on us today and then work on getting ready for Tulane.”
“I’ve been pleased with our progress. I like our non-conference schedule. It gives us some time to compete against some really good teams and have some practice time in there for us to continue to gro as a team come January 1st.”
On the importance of perimeter defense against Tulane
“Very important. That’s one of our big keys for the entire year. Our field goal percentage defense last year was pretty good, but our defensive three-point field goal percentage was not. We need to do a better job of contesting and challenging perimeter jump shots, especially the three. Many of those threes are created off dribble-drive, so it comes back to competitive toughness to one-on-one guard your man and keep the ball in front of you.
“Tulane does a great job of spreading the court, driving, kicking the ball out. Both their starting guards are excellent three-point shooters. You can never give up an uncontested shot against them.”
On what sense you have of the team being capable of being good at things you didn’t expect.
“The first thing that maybe surprised me is our ball movement. Our ball movement is much better than I thought it would be at this stage. I thought that was something that we would grow into. Our returning players have a better understanding of how important ball movement and ball reversal is. Our freshmen just have a very good feel for the game, and they more instinctively make the next pass, make the extra pass. So that’s something that at this stage we are better at than I thought we would be.
“On the flip side, we need to be a much better defensive rebounding team than we have showed in our first two scrimmages. We have to dominate the defensive glass. That is a priority for us, because we are better in the open court than we were last year. To get open-court situations, you have to get defensive stops and clean defensive rebounds. For us to utilize open-court finishes, you have to get great defensive possessions. That has to end with five guys on the defensive glass.”
On the progress of the three freshmen (Bolden, Carter, Jr., Georges-Hunt) physically
“Physically they are ready to play at this level. They have the size, length, physical strength to be able to compete. Part of that toughness is also mental, and that’s what you hope continues to develop in the next eight weeks of non-conference play.”
On the decision-making capability of the young players
“Because of our youth and trying to get where we want, we are scrimmaging more than we ever have, but never sacrificing the discipline you need in all your breakdown drills. We really felt that being able to become more instinctive and get a better feel offensively and defensively, we needed to compete a little more in full-court situations. So we’ve done that, and we made a big jump last week with that. We need to continue to work on that.
“There are players that, in a controlled setting, will make quality decisions. But very rarely in a game is it a controlled setting. So you try to simulate that as much as you can during practice.”
On how the freshmen will fit into your rotation
“All three will play, there’s no question about it. They’re all in the playing group right now. We’ll probably go another practice or two before we solidify the starting lineup, but they’re all in the mix right now, no question about that.”
On projecting the playing rotation and how many players are in it
“We have four post players right now and six perimeter players at our disposal in terms of Mfon and Pierre, Brandon and Jason, Chris and Marcus to go into the rotation.”
On breaking down the three freshmen
“Chris Bolden is a high basketball IQ player, understands the game. He’s much more than just a perimeter shooter, which is probably the asset his is best known for. He’s shown the ability to handle the ball and make pretty good decisions with the ball. Because of his physical strength, I think he can turn into a very good defender for us.
“All three of the guys have been schooled well at the high school level. They’ve been well coached. With their innate basketball ability and feel, I think it’s put them a little ahead of the game for freshmen. They’re still 19 years old, so they’re going to make their share of mistakes.
“Marcus comes in physically ready to compete. He’s got a toughness about him that I’ve seen a lot of great players have at this stage. He can do a little bit of everything. He has shot the ball well in the pre-season. He can score in the post. He can score off the dribble. He’s picked up things very fast.
“Robert is that versatile big guy who can make jump shots all the way out to the three (point line) and score in the post. He’s a wonderful passer. The most important thing for all three of those guys is to shorten up the lapses where maybe the focus isn’t where it needs to be at this particular level. I would say that’s one of the biggest jumps you have to make from high school to college is that there’s an intensity level you have to play with every possession with and value every possession. Some of that is only taught be the experience of playing and going through a time or two of adversity because you didn’t do that and realize it is a little more important. That’s where we are at. We’re trying to make sure that we understand that’s going to happen with young players as it always does. As a team you need to rely on those returners, those veteran guys. About the rotation, if you take off any one of those guys out of the mix, we need them all right now. Kam has missed 8 days of practice now with a high ankle sprain. We haven’t been as good. Right now we’re not at a position where we cannot have everybody at full strength and still be the same team.
“I think he’s going to be limited today in practice but he’ll practice today for the first time. He did not participate in our scrimmage from Saturday. The Sunday before he played 8 minutes I think. Over a week he’s been hobbled a little bit. Those high ankle sprains are pretty bad. I think he will be ready to go today though.”
On the emotions Friday
“I think one of the best parts of college basketball is the emotions part. That drives teams and helps teams in terms of reaching their full potential. It’s going to be an emotional night no matter what you try to do. One thing we need to do is play Georgia Tech basketball during that time. We can’t allow the falderal of the celebration, static and frequency effect how we play. Where do you go for that? You’ve got to go to your veteran players. I want our guys excited, I want our guys fired up, and they should be. They’ve waited a long time for this. But you can’t get out of yourself and who you are. It’s a great opportunity to start that off on the first night.”
On preaching intensity to the freshmen
“That’s always a challenge. For the most part, guys have been able to relax a little bit on defense or take some plays off, and so forth. Why? Because at that time they were 17 years old or 16 years old. Whatever a 16 or 17 year old does is not intense for that long. You talk about it, you show them on film, you use other people on film. One of the best teaching tools is that every game now is televised, basketball, football, all the different things. Using other things to hit their head as much as you hit their body is really important in this day and age. Showing them clips of 10 time or 11 time NBA All-Stars communicating on defense in the second game of the NBA season. If Paul Pierce can do it or LeBron James can do it, we’re not asking you to do anything out of the ordinary. They’re doing it after winning world championships. That’s part of the game. If you want to be great these are the things you’re going to have to do. A lot of times if you can point to other situations that don’t include them and take a step out and say first, because there is no defense mechanism thrown up, you’re not talking about them you’re talking about this is what we need to do. There’s an example of why.
“You’ve got to play 10 games before you figure out if you’re going to be any good or not. I think we’re in that point in terms of where we can get to. I do like growth potential of our team during the year. I think that’s something that we need to focus on as a head coach and a staff that we never lose sight of that. We always talk about playing your best basketball at the end of the year but we want to be a better team, not just playing our best basketball. Sometimes it’s a challenge. We want our returners and then our freshmen to continue to improve during the year. We’ve made a big emphasis on that during the first month already.”
On Jason Morris
“I think he’s 100 percent. Sunday was the end of our training camp this week where those first three weeks we do grind it out a little bit. We had a day off yesterday and then a three day prep instead of a two day prep. We’re able to spread it out a little more. I think Jason has shown physically that he’s can a couple tremendous open court finishes Saturday where you see the athletic ability and his explosiveness. We’re going to need that no question about that. His versatility helped us in terms of him playing multiple positions. As a junior I think that’s a big responsibility but I think he’s more than capable of doing that and giving us a life at three different positions.”
On Miller’s aggressiveness and looking to shoot more.
“He’s been much more aggressive, especially over the last week. We constantly are telling all those big guys, especially on the second or third side on the reversal, with good, solid post-ups, let’s explode to the basket and be aggressive to the rim. He has gotten much better at that.
“With every one of them and the mistakes that they make, right now it’s out of trying to do the right thing. Sometimes, when Daniel kicks the ball out, it’s him trying to get a perimeter guy a shot. It’s not selfishness, but sometimes we want him to be more aggressive for himself rather than for somebody else.”
Do you talk to him on the court, shown him film…?
“We show him clips where we felt he could’ve been more aggressive to score, and I tell it to him on the court as well. He has a nice turn shot over both shoulders, and Coach (Chad) Dollar would tell him in the huddle during a scrimmage, ‘hey, the next couple of times, go to the basket, aggressively explode to the rim.’ Sometimes a different voice is good.
“He’s a tremendous young man, as all our guys are, and they want to please and all that. You want them to be a little greedier and a little more determined for themselves, in the right position. Coaching is an art form when it comes to that. The more aggressive he is, the better off we’re going to be.”
On playing your first game on campus
“It’s been a long time. But it’s been well worth the wait. I know there’s going to be a great electricity in that arena on Friday night, not only with our fans and our students, but there’s an added juice to it with the former players and Coach Cremins coming back. So, you’ve waited and you want to go out there and compete the right way. So that’s going to be the message. We’ve got to play Georgia Tech basketball. We need to defend as a team. We need to rebound as a team. We need to share the ball. We need to continue to progress, and the success will take care of itself.”
On how many former players are expected
“As with all players, current and former, there is some fluidity. I think we’re about 185 right now. Before it’s all said and done, we should have about 200. There are managers and other people like that involved in the program, and some of them already have season tickets and will be at the game anyway.
“For our fans at halftime, to hear those names called out, the images that run through their minds and the great times that those players provided, and the tradition that those players built will make it a special night.”