Men's Basketball Meets With Media To Talk Texas

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Jan. 17, 2013

On Ben McLemore’s physical status:
“I think he’s fine. I think he’ll practice today. I think he’s a little tender and sore. He said he thought he heard something pop, but I think he’s fine. He just had a shooting practice yesterday and he shot on his own but didn’t do much cutting, but he’s close to 100 percent.”

On how he felt when McLemore went down:
“I don’t think I was scared. I’ve seen a lot of players turn an ankle or whatnot in the past. I would be nervous for anybody to get hurt, but I don’t think I was scared. I think `concerned’ is probably a better word.”

On what it’s going to take to get the team back on track offensively:
“Everything looks good when we make shots, but certainly, we could shoot it better. And I think the ball was sticking a little bit. The way that people are defending us; sometimes when you don’t guard a certain position or a player, the ball has a tendency to stick because that person or player thinks that they should go make a play rather than have good ball and body movement, which is fine. But there are things that we can do, hopefully, to take advantage of some things like that. But the biggest thing is I just don’t think the ball’s moving quite as crisply as it was before.”

On Texas’ team without Myck Kabongo:
“Oh yeah they miss (Myck) Kabongo for sure, but I think (Javan) Felix has had a good year. His numbers are good. He can score, he can shoot and he’s strong, really strong. He especially has the body, so I think that any time you lose a quality player like Kabongo it would hurt any team, no question. But his replacement has had a pretty good year, no doubt about that. And you know, they’re young. I don’t know that they’re the youngest team in the country but they are one of the younger teams, and they’re very capable of beating folks, as shown by what they did to (North) Carolina.”

On what it’s like to see Texas with an 0-3 conference record:
“They haven’t been, I don’t know if Rick’s (Barnes) ever been, 0-3. I think that’s what Texas is, if I’m not mistaken. But it’s early, too, it’s early yet. You know, Carolina started out 0-2 in the league in ’09 and they went to the National Championship. So it’s not an uncommon scene — good teams and good programs getting off to rough starts — depending on where they are playing. But, this is different than most Texas games, I believe, because they are off to a start that isn’t indicative of how great their program has been. And they’ll get it back, Rick will get it back. But let’s just hope that doesn’t happen at our expense.”

On whether he’s concerned about not getting enough `marquee’ games on the road:
“Well, see, that thought is coming from a non-coach, because all coaches think that every road win is precious. [Laughter] They’re all tough. We went to Lubbock and were down two at half. All road games are hard, especially in league play. If you can go through this league with a good road record, trust me, you’ll be battle-tested.”

On if it was tough for the team to get used to the environment on the road:
“I don’t know if it was tough for our team because of the environment, I just don’t think we were ready to play. At all. And I think environment, in their minds, may have had something to do with it. One thing about it, when people play us, we have the best home court advantage. But because of that home court advantage, we get everybody’s best shots, too. I mean, everybody loves to play in this environment. So you know, we can talk about `hey, it’s an unbelievable homecourt’, which it is. It’s the best. But there are teams that play at a very high level coming in here because this is one (environment) that every player loves to play in. We didn’t quite have, that environment didn’t exist, at Tech. But that’s not an excuse. That is the way it works.”

On Texas’ Ioannis Papapetrou:
“We offered (Ioannis) Papapetrou a scholarship and he chose Texas. He’s having a good freshman year; (he’s) kind of a hybrid forward, plays the three and the four, and he’s done a good job.”

On if he sees Perry Ellis gaining confidence:
“Well I think Perry, you know, the definition of `demanding’ is the ball saying `ball’. [Laughter] That, to me, in Elijah’s (Johnson) mind, is Perry demanding the ball. But, Perry, he looked good the other night and took some good shots. He rebounded the ball, rebounded the balls really high. He did a lot of good things the other night.”

On Ellis being a quiet, but athletic, player:
“He’s a terrific athlete. He can run like the wind. We’ve got three guys at the four spot that are really quick-twitch athletes. Perry, you know, he could run track in college. Jamari (Traylor) could run track in college. Kevin (Young) could run track in college, in some, but I know don’t know what, event. Those guys are fast. But to me, Kevin is the quickest twitch guy, Jamari is the most explosive, highest jumping guy. But Perry’s kind of a combination of both. He’s a really good athlete, but you’re right, he doesn’t make as many flamboyant-type plays, but he’s a terrific athlete.

On if there is a pace that he prefers to play at with this team:
“Yeah, we prefer to play fast all the time. Every team that we’ve had here, for the most part in the last six or seven years, has been a team that is better at playing fast, there’s no question. But you know, a lot of times you can play just as fast as you did in the 60’s as you do when you score in the 80’s. You know, sometimes the ball doesn’t go in the hole. Sometimes you get the same looks and you miss them and you give them to make and it looks like to me they are kind of slow. But that’s not necessarily true. I don’t think anybody would accuse us of playing slow. I think with the time of possession that we have is probably, in some possessions, it’s like hoarding the football. You can score fast and you can score without the ball changing sides, you do that. I’m a big believer, though, if you can’t do that then you’ve got to give defense a chance to break down. And the further you go and get into conference play, there’s not near as many easy baskets. The better the teams get, the better you’re scouted, there’s not as many easy baskets. But then you have to rely on your execution more in the half court. So ours has to get better. But that’s not really a reflection of how fast we want to play or pace.”

On how important it is for Ellis to be a better communicator as time proceeds:
“I think it’s important that he becomes a better scorer. He’s a quiet kid but how much he talks doesn’t have anything to do with whether we win or not. So it has more to do with whether we win or not is if, as a team, we are able to the ball in the basket more. And I mean, I think Perry’s very, very capable of doing that. We want all our players to talk, but that’s not going to have a lot of bearing on whether we’re successful or not unless you’re going to call a screen in a back court situation. I just want him to be aggressive when he is playing, more so than speaking.”

On if Ellis is a guy that can stretch the floor a little bit:
“I think he’s the best we have, the way the people play us. When he gets confidence, he can really shoot. When he gets confidence, he’ll make two out of three. That’ll be so important, because that’ll open up things for Jeff (Withey). But it’s going to be hard for Jeff to score out of a half-court offense, if in fact, they (the opponent) have both big guys camped out around the paint because Jeff isn’t going to be able to step out and make a lot of 18-footers.”

On Ellis’ success so far as a freshman:
“I think he plays hard. I think he’s tried hard. I think everything is an adjustment for everybody. But, you know, if I am not mistaken, we’ve had some really good players come through here that were freshmen that didn’t start or it took a while to get adjusted and that kind of stuff. So Perry came in with a lot of heightened expectations because he’s local. If he’d been from Arizona, and coming in, we wouldn’t be looking at him the same way we’re looking at him now. We’ve watched him grow up and there’s so hype and expectations around that, and deservedly so. But it takes everybody a little bit of time, you know. Perry didn’t come in with more accolades than Cole (Aldrich); he didn’t come in with more accolades than some of the other guys we’ve had and it takes time. But Perry’s not going to be a good player, he’s going to be a terrific player. But he’s just going through the process. There’s some things, I think as a coach, that you want to put on fast forward, you want to accelerate. But there is a natural maturation process that everybody has got to go through. And you know, if I’m not mistaken, Sherron (Collins) until Christmas, I didn’t know if he was coming back. He never got in a game, hardly, and he’s probably the most talented kid we’ve had here. Mario (Chalmers), he played against Cal right before Christmas and he turns it over seven times in 15 minutes. Everybody goes through that. So Perry’s right on schedule, as for where he needs to be. He just needs to experience some success and see the ball going in the basket because now we got him to the point where he can really be aggressive and playing to his skillset.”

On if the younger players are learning to block shots from Jeff Withey:
“See, if we had one game where we block a lot of shots and all of the teaching goes to that we’ve got a great shot blocker on the team. That’s not necessarily true. We’ve had a lot of games where we didn’t have anyone else blocking shots except Jeff (Withey). But the one thing I do think that was important is that we had more guys challenging and being more aggressive. We’ve got some naturally gifted athletes. The play that `Mari (Jamari Traylor) made the other day, when the ball got behind him and he pinned it on the glass and Ben (McLemore) comes from nowhere and blocks it; those are plays that they didn’t learn from Jeff, those are plays that they we are emphasizing in attacking the ball and just being aggressive. So I think Jeff definitely helps in that area, without question. But I do think a lot of it is just our guys’ mindsets.”

On Texas’ defense:
“Our field goal percentage defense and Texas’ is very comparable if I’m not mistaken, we’re right there, neck and neck. But they are kicking our butt in the 3-point field goal percentage as opposed to us, and I think that’s a big difference. If a team only shoots three against you and you hold them to 33 percent, you think `wow, we held them to 33 percent’ but from three (point range) that’s the same as 50 percent. And I think they do a much better job, so far, in guarding the arc. And I would say that’s the biggest difference. It’s hard to get easy baskets on him. He’s (Barnes) always had good defensive teams, you know, and then they’ll sprinkle in and play some 2-3 zone. Statistically, they’ve always been very good defensively.”

On where he thinks the team is at this point in the season:
“If you were to ask me January 1, I’d have said a little ahead of schedule. And now I would say we’re about where I thought we would be. I don’t think that we’ve done anything in January to make me think we’re way ahead of schedule. I don’t think that at all. I think that we’ve got a nice team that tries pretty hard, that is learning how to win in our league, learning how to make shots. Those are all very, very positive things. But do I think we’re ahead of where I think we should be? No. Three games into conference play, I think we’re right where I was hoping we would be. But we’re definitely not ahead of schedule.”

On Elijah Johnson’s play as point guard thus far this season:
“I think if you have a football team and they were 15-1, and the quarterback was a starting quarterback and this is his first year to play, you would probably think that the football team’s quarterback had a pretty good start to the year. And to me, there’s only one stat that matters to a point guard and that is wins and losses. I think we’ve done a really good job there. The one thing that I will say about Elijah; that we know he can do, because we’ve all seen it – he hasn’t made shots yet. But you take away the fact that he hasn’t made shots, he’s been pretty sound. He’s been very solid. And he’s been matched-up against other great guards, he’s done a really nice job with those particular match-ups.”

On if he likes to see his team get into messier situations:
“I’m a guy that thinks the muddier the track, probably the better off we would be. I always have. I think sometimes games with rhythm aren’t the best games for us because we’ve never had a team where the mindset was to outscore folks. Our mindset’s always been just to keep other folks from scoring. So sometimes when it gets into a very rhythmic game offensively, I think we can relax and things become way too easy. And when it doesn’t have a lot of rhythm offensively, I think that’s when we really hunker down and guard our best. And I’m a big believer, you know, especially playing away from home, that you don’t want the home team to get into a rhythm. So I hope we embrace it. Look at the NCAA Tournament last year: the Purdue game, no rhythm. The NC State game, no rhythm. North Carolina game, a lot of rhythm in the first half but we gave up 47 so we knew we had to change. Ohio State game, no rhythm. And then Kentucky was just better than us that night.”

On how playing on Big Monday affects the team and its weekly schedule:
“I said this before, I thought we had a tired team. Now we didn’t play tired at all against Baylor. But I thought at Texas Tech we played tired. I mean, you can kind of sense when your body’s run down a little bit and we have this all this high-tech strength and conditioning stuff that Coach (Andrea) Hudy has, and she can tell the fatigue factors based on exercises and all this stuff. So I think having a couple of days this week helped us. We took Tuesday off and yesterday we did a 35-minute shooting practice. That’s it, and now we’ll get back to business today.”