Jan. 29, 2013
– COACH GREGORY: Pleased with our performance on Saturday afternoon. Playing a very good and young Wake team that’s just come off a big win and played really well against North Carolina State.
I’ve said sometimes the results didn’t always show. I thought we were playing better. I thought we were getting more aggressive on offense, and our defense was coming around. And we were doing a good job of rebounding the ball, outrebounding both Duke and Carolina on the road, which was obviously a key point for us to improve in.
So things kind of came together. We had maybe as good as 16 minutes of basketball to start the game as we’ve played. Then we went into a little stretch to start the second half. We didn’t score for the first five minutes. But, after that, we actually played pretty well the remaining 15 minutes of the second half. So I was pleased with the way our guys bounced back. They’ve been resilient. They’ve stayed positive.
And we started off with a very, very difficult schedule. So now we need to move on and go on the road and play against a Clemson team that has two seniors that have really had great careers. Those guys have done a great job with other teams in this league that have some younger guys. Those two seniors have done a really good job of anchoring that team and maybe playing their best basketball of the year with two very difficult close losses on the road to Florida State and North Carolina State, then to come back and play extremely well against Virginia Tech.
Q. You’ve had, among many outstanding performances, Robert Carter, I believe, is 9 for 10. How has he progressed to this point? Is he just beginning to scratch the surface of his ability?
COACH GREGORY: I believe so. As good of a freshman year as he’s had for us, starting every game. Now in league plays, averaging just under 12 and over 7 rebounds a game. Shooting the ball 45% from the field, 45 from the three. Picked up the free throws a little bit. He’s too good of a shooter not to shoot over 70%.
But he’s been great. He works hard every day. Understands that there are a lot of areas that he can improve on. The physicalness of this game, as big and strong as he is, he can get a lot stronger which is only going to help him. He’s showing that shooting touch that he had. He’s a guy with good size and good feet and can score inside and outside.
So I like the progress that he’s making. Sometimes being thrown into the mix, sink or swim, you’ve got to tread water sometimes. I think during the long season there are stretches when he’s done that. Now he’s playing pretty well for us.
Q. What are his best attributes?
COACH GREGORY: His best attributes, he’s got a high basketball IQ. He understands the game. He picks up things quickly. Obviously, he’s got good size. He’s got good hands, and he’s got good feet. The one thing I always talk about, he’s got a great hand on the shot. He’s got a great follow through. So even guys like that, all they’ve got to do is spend time now to become a really, really efficient shooter, and I think he will be able to do that.
I think his best attribute though is he’s coachable. He wants to get coached. He’s always getting extra film in, always in the gym extra. He’s one of those kids that you know is going to continue to improve and improve and improve, and those are the guys that you’d like to have around.
Q. I was wondering your thoughts on a guy for your squad who maybe does some of the things that doesn’t always show up in the box score, but in some cases people consider him a glue guy. But an unheralded guy on your team and what exactly that guy does for you out on the floor?
COACH GREGORY: Well, you obviously have Mfon (Udofia), who has been a great senior for us. But probably the guy whose stats don’t jump out yet but has done a tremendous job for us is Daniel Miller. He’s averaging 32 minutes a game. If we can get that to 28, 29, those one or two-minute extra time to rest in each half is always beneficial.
He was a guy that when we got here wasn’t asked to do a lot. Now we need him to do a lot. It’s not always scoring, it’s not always rebounding. He was always up in all of those areas, but he anchors our defense. He really does. He understands what we need to do defensively. He’s always in the right spot. He’s averaging just under 8 rebounds a game in the league, but the thing he does is his man very rarely gets the rebound. So sometimes he’s given up four or five rebounds a game because there are times that we have him with no rebound responsibility just because there is some tremendous offensive rebounders in this league.
Howell from North Carolina State is a great example where his single job is to make sure he doesn’t get any. So, I mean, he’s definitely a glue guy for us because of his position. For us, those glue guys a lot of times are your point guards and your back line defenders.
So it would be Daniel and Mfon who I think has had a tremendous senior year as well.
Q. You made the decision earlier this year basically to go pretty heavy with three freshmen. Getting into the time of year where a lot of times the first year freshmen kind of run out of gas. These guys are showing no sign of that. What has kind of kept these guys going? Do you see them stretching this all the way through to March?
COACH GREGORY: Well, if you just jinxed them, I’m going to be upset with you. With you, yeah, those guys, they’ve been good. I think one of the things that’s been beneficial for those guys is just the fact that they’ve been around us so long, and they were able to use our facilities in the spring and come in on their own. Those three guys did a great job of doing that. So they were actually, all three of them, working out all April, May and June before they even came up here. So they had three months of working out together and coming in at night, our veteran players meeting them in there either to play or just workout and our guys showing them stuff and different things like that.
Obviously, they were up there all summer long. So they had a good head start. I think it’s paying dividends right now. One thing is I think they’re all cognizant of the fact that they’re very, very important parts of the team, you know what I mean? Obviously, all three now starting. So they’ve handled that well. They’ve handled the challenges and disappointments that come from the process that we’re undertaking right now. At times not happy about it, but that’s why they came here as well.
So I think their mental approach has been every bit as good as the physical stuff they’ve done. We understand that they’re freshmen, so I think we’re also smarter in terms of not having — sometimes you grind guys out when you’re in the rebuilding process. We need to keep our guys fresh and energized because that’s our best chance right now of being successful.
Q. Along the same lines, it seems like in the second half you’re hitting a wall or a drought. Is that something that maybe the freshmen put you through those droughts or does a veteran have to pick up, or is it a collective effort? How do you deal with that?
COACH GREGORY: I think a couple of things. I think you always have to rely on your upper class. If you take a look around, and we have a young league. A lot of teams are young. But those younger teams have some veterans that have carried them at times.
Virginia Tech has had (Erick) Green. I talked to Clemson with (Devin) Booker and (Milton) Jennings. Those guys have been able to carry them. Tough, close game yesterday. Jennings gets 20-plus points in double digits and rebounds and so forth. So you always have to, during those difficult times in a game — which you’re going to have some ebbs and flows in games. You’re going to have sometimes where, for us, it’s always going to be probably struggling to make some baskets. And some of that does come to the fact that three of our top scorers are freshmen. So that’s where Mfon needs to do a good job. That’s where we need to settle down, get the ball into Daniel and Kam (Kammeon Holsey), and as upperclassmen, they need to be able to make some big plays for us.
Q. I wanted to ask you about an aspect of your coaching philosophy. You’re at the bottom of the ACC in three-point field goal percentages. Is that a function of the personnel you’ve inherited or would you like to coach teams that don’t rely very much on the three-point shot?
COACH GREGORY: I haven’t even seen the stats. Are you talking about in league play? We’ve taken more threes than our opponents in league play.
Q. Yeah, you have upped it a little bit. But overall, you’re right at the bottom of the ACC in terms of attempts and percentage. I’m still learning about you as a coach, but I’m still trying to figure it out is that a philosophical thing or a personnel thing?
COACH GREGORY: No, no. I wouldn’t say that my philosophy is that we shoot a lot of threes. I think it’s a little more of a personnel thing for us right now. I think with Daniel and Kam and Robert, we do have some guy that’s can get us baskets inside. We do want to play inside out in a lot of areas.
Our freshmen, I think — I think Chris Bolden is an excellent shooter. I think Marcus (Georges-Hunt), before it’s all said and done, is going to be able to be a very good three-point shooter as well. But some of the upperclassmen have not shot the ball well. Not only this year, but even last year. I don’t mind taking threes. There have been games where we’ve taken a good number of threes. But as long as they come within the offense, and a lot of times we shoot fast from the three once the ball goes inside first.