Oct. 11, 2005
– From an on-court standpoint, what does Zam Fredrick bring to the point guard role that’s different from Jack or Bynum? Do you feel confidence giving him the reins of this team?
“He’s going to have to earn it. I don’t think you give away a role that important to somebody. I said last year on a number of occasions that he made significant progress throughout the year. I feel like I have a good handle on what he’s capable of from a basketball-playing standpoint. But there’s a lot more that goes into the starting point guard role. I have a tendency to be a little harder on those guys than just being able to come down and make a pass or make a play. There’s a lot of communicating that has to go on. There’s a tremendous amount of responsibility defensively out of that role. I’m still looking, to tell you the truth. He’s definitely one of two or three guys we’re looking at. I’m comfortable with what he does as a basketball player, but it’s the other things, the intangibles, if you will, that have to be displayed. That starts Friday with practice, exhibition games and early season games.”
How did his experience over the summer change him or impact him?
“We’ll find out Friday. To me that is a non-issue.”
What is it that the point guard needs to do defensively?
“Putting pressure on the ball. You’ve got to pressure the ball and disrupt people. You’ve got to get your teammates in a mode where they’re all talking on the floor defensively and communicating. The thing that good point guards have to learn is that if your team gets beat, it’s not enough to say you didn’t do your job. It’s the whole team that got scored upon. Creating that cohesiveness, good point guards do that. I’ve been fortunate to be around some good point guards. The good ones understand that their roles begin and end with the scoreboard. That’s it. The scoreboard tells you whether you’ve been successful or not.”
Did Jarrett (Jack) understand that as a freshman?
“He understood it quickly. He got the point, probably in December. The success or failure of their job is defined by the scoreboard.”
Who else is in that mix for playing the point?
“You might see Mario West there, because I think he understands how vital it is to put pressure on the ball. His ballhandling has improved. He understands that at the start of the game there’s a little confrontation to see who is going to control the middle of that court. If you pressure up on me, I’m going to go by you and force your defense to help. As a defender, you’ve got to pick up on that guy and force him to start his offense further and further from the basket.
“Paco (Diaw) has shown me a lot of energy in the short time we’ve had him on the court. He’s got long arms. He’s an outstanding passer. There are other parts of his offensive game that need work. Good point guards are high-energy guys. You don’t see point guards who are not. I was watching Jason Kidd practicing on NBA TV, and there’s a big difference watching his team practice as opposed to some of the others. It’s like night and day. Your point guard can’t be a shy, quiet guy. He’s got to be a high-energy. So when you talk about somebody that’s got a chance, Paco does. He’s got great size, length, feet, long arms, and he’s an excellent passer.
Is Lewis Clinch in that mix?
“I’d like to keep him at the two, but again, we’ll see how things unfold.”
Mario West is one of the guys who came off the bench last year as role players, now stepping up to carry the team? How do those guys make that type of transition?
“I don’t think any one guy is going to have to carry this team. No one person has ever carried this team the way we try to play. But certainly it’s going to call for their personal best efforts. The majority of those players, other than Mario and Theo (Theodis Tarver) don’t know what it takes to win a big game. So my thing is, when you think you’ve done enough, you’ve got to do more.”
With this basketball team being young, is this the type of scenario where it’s a work in progress, or is it not how you start, but how you finish and get better along the way?
“It’s both those things. We’re not going to shy away from our goals. Our number one goal is always to get back to the NCAA Tournament. While you’re doing that, especially while you have a team that’s finding itself, you better play hard. You better be in top condition. You’ve got to take care of your body. You have to be prepared for anything because you don’t know what to expect. The best way to be prepared for anything is to be in great physical condition, eat well, take care of your body and be ready to go. The excuse of `I’ll know better next time’ or `I’ll be in better shape next time’ doesn’t hold water.
“I’ve been very lucky to be around teams that have proven it can be done – my first year at Siena and my first year here. They were teams that people looked at and scratched their heads and wondered if they would win a game. Both teams got what they deserved in the end. My first year here, they worked their tails off. All we require is that you give an unbelievable effort every time out. If you do that, then everything will take care of itself.”
Are you worried at all about your size?
“I’m more worried about our depth, to be honest with you. I think our size is actually greater than we had my second or third year here. With Dickey, Tarver, Aminu and Smith, we’ve got big, strong guys who can block shots and run. Aminu has been a pleasant surprise. I would say he’s been the surprise of our early workouts, because he seems to have a gift for blocking shots. He’s got quick feet for a kid that’s 6-10. He’s put on 18 pounds like that. Of all the freshman so far, he’s been more than a pleasant surprise. So I’m okay with our size, but because of the way we like to play, there are some issues with depth.”
We saw last year that Morrow and Dickey can score. Morrow put it that maybe some coaches would have to defend him this year. How do they deal with that?
“You move the ball. You set screens. It’s no secret. Everybody knows who is going to shoot the ball on everybody’s team. It comes down to executing. Guarding people, that’s a little more out of our hands. But everybody knows who is shooting the ball.”
Is there anything you’re looking to improve upon or add in terms of scheme?
“We need to get better in the halfcourt offensively. I thought there were times that we depended on going off the dribble too much. I didn’t stop it. So we need to do a better job in the halfcourt offense, screening for guys and getting them the ball. Then if they want to use the dribble, it’s an option for them, not to create a shot. By screening, you’re going to create more offensive opportunities for someone than just breaking someone down off the dribble. It’s the hard way to play.”
How would you assess D’Andre Bell?
“He’s coming along. Of the freshmen, defensively, he’s probably the most ready to contribute right now. He looks like one of our guys. He’s a big, strong kid with long arms, a big perimeter player. He has good feet. He looks like one of the guys we would put out on the floor, especially to dog the ball defensively. He’s been well taught on close-outs. I’ve been happy with what I’ve seen out of him defensively.”
Who do you have to lean on for leadership?
“Our coaching staff has to do a good job of making sure we create a certain type of energy and tempo in practice in the early part of the season, then they have to pick it up.”
When fans and the public come up to you in the off-season, how do they approach you going into a season like this as opposed to a season like last year?
“They say, `You going to win it all this year, coach?’ They’re enthusiastic. I don’t think that many of them know who’s back, who’s gone, all that stuff. For the most part, they see college basketball and know Georgia Tech has been good, and hopefully will be good again. I expect us to be good again.
“People outside our first year at Siena and our first year here had low expectations because of how things had been going. But once you go along and establish yourself, they always have high expectations, which is a good thing.”
What do you think the general consensus is out there about your team?
“That we’re going to be good, and they should think that way. You set a level of expectation, and you have to live up to it every year.”
You’ve spoken about Dickey needing to learn the game of basketball. Have you seen him making some strides there?
“He’s talented. He looks good some days in individual instruction. Some days, I see some baby steps backwards. He, probably more than anyone else, will be responsible for the success of this team, because he’s such a presence in the low post. He can rebound the ball. He can score the ball. He’s blocked shots. He’s quick off his feet. What I’m anxious to find out as we get into practice, is whether he’s mentally tougher than he was as a freshman. I thought he had a good freshman year given his role, but there were times when he didn’t understand how you have to push through certain things. That’s what I’m anxious to find out, how he’ll push through whatever adversities he faces as he moves forward.”
You were very close to the group that moved on last year. How different is it with this group?
“It’s another season. You’re always excited about another season. This is a pleasant group to be around off the court. But I hope that when it’s all said and done, that I can say that they’re not only good kids off the court, but they’re a fun group to coach and they give you everything they’ve got. That’s why the other group endeared themselves so much, because they gave you everything. You talk to any coach, and they’ll say their favorite teams are the ones that worked the hardest for them.”
What kind of point guard is Zam?
“He’s a very good passer and has a good feel for the game. He throws very catchable passes. That`s important. I think he’s smart. If you’re in practice and you’re trying to emphasize a point, and you ask a question, he’s the one that answers. He’s always the one that’s going to answer the question, and he answers it correctly. He understands the game. The physical side of it, though, playing with high energy, is something he has to adjust to. Last year, when Jarrett and those guys are attacking him, that was new to him. But by the middle of the year, I saw improvement. Now he’s got to do it out on the court with referees and fans and in the first half. That’s a question he has to answer for himself.”
Size is something you’ve always valued in your point guards.
“He’s got long arms. It’s one of the reasons we made that choice to recruit him. He plays bigger than he is. He has a great wingspan.”
Looking back to last season, did the seniors and Jarrett feel a burden to get back to where they had gotten the year before for the season to be a success?
“I think players tend to say that. They probably did (believe that) at the start of the year. But once they got into the season, they all realized it was a different year, a different team, different challenges, and you have to make adjustments. Ask the Patriots right now if they don’t win the Super Bowl, is it an unsuccessful year? You don’t know without some of the guys they lost. It’s different. Internally, you have to realize that you have to get to this point before you can get to that point.”