Oct. 28, 2010
ILLINOIS COACH BRUCE WEBER
COACH WEBER: There's no doubt we're excited about our team. We have, as he mentioned, quite a few veterans: seven different players that started last year, four seniors.
Kind of unusual in this time and this age of college basketball to have that many seniors and quality seniors led by Demetri McCamey, our point guard. And we also have a group of talented freshmen, including McDonald's All American player Jereme Richmond from Waukegan, Illinois, and our Mr. Basketball in our state.
So a good mixture of old and young. Also I think just meeting with the coaches last night, very excited about the Big Ten as a whole.
Numerous teams in the top 25. Just I think great depth as a league. And, again, besides our seniors, you've got a lot of seniors throughout the conference which should lead to one of the most competitive conference races in many years.
Q. What are your thoughts on the July evaluation period? There's been some talk about maybe eliminating that or adjusting that. What are your thoughts on what you would like to see done there?
COACH WEBER: Well, I think obviously there's some flaws with the way it is. I'm not sure right now which way to go that we had some discussion as coaches last night.
The shortened period, change it, tweak it, there's some different options. But I know it will be a hot topic over the next year and to see what happens with it.
There's good and bad of it. The good, obviously you get to see a lot of kids at one time. The bad, I think sometimes the kids have too much basketball, too much travel, you know, it's hard on the coaches, hard on the players in a tough period.
So it will be interesting. I've been doing it for 30 some years. And I've been out every summer. If it would change, it would sure be a big change for coaches, I know that.
Q. You were talking about your seniors a second ago. I wonder, can you talk a little bit about the recruiting class you were able to put together. Seems like there were a lot of freshmen in this recruiting class across the conference that had a big impact this year. Could you talk a little bit about that too?
COACH WEBER: We have three freshmen and a redshirt freshman, and I mentioned Jereme Richmond had a great year at Waukegan High School, led them to two different Final Fours in our state, Mr. Basketball, U.S.A. Basketball, McDonald's, the whole gamut throughout his career. Wanted to commit to us as an eighth grader. We didn't take the commitment until he was a ninth grader. We've had a close association with him. But he gives us a lot of versatility. Can go inside, can go outside.
Our next young man is one of our former player's brother, Luther Head's brother Crandall Head. Very, very athletic. Almost a clone of Luther. It's just amazing the body movements, the athleticism, the way he plays. He suffered an ACL a year ago, sat out the whole season. So he's kind of recovering from that. But I think he's a little further along than we thought. Gives us great energy.
Then Meyers Leonard, I think, may be the surprise kid out of Robinson, Illinois. Seven foot. Two and a half, three years ago he was 6'5". And just continued to grow. He's got great athleticism. Just trying to figure out how to play and how to be a seven footer. I think that's the biggest thing. But a big upside for us.
When you mix that with our seniors and a good talented group of sophomores, I think they get forgotten. D.J. Richardson was Freshman of the Year, Brandon Paul played major minutes, Tyler Griffey. And then I mentioned the other sophomore that's a redshirt, who redshirted last year, Joseph Bertrand.
We have good athletes, good mixture of players.
Q. So you were talking about all of the freshmen and have a lot of seniors, too. How are they all meshing together, especially there's no juniors, there's no kind of in between ages?
COACH WEBER: One thing we talked about since the beginning was make sure the seniors took control of the team in a positive way, but made sure this is what we do here, this is how we do it, make sure the younger guys understand that, from when they arrived last summer, whether it was weight training or going to class to taking care of business off the court.
So I think they've done a great job with that. We've really emphasized to all of them to be good teammates. I think we have good talent. There's no doubt. But are we going to be a good team? And are we going to be good teammates? And it's whether it's the freshmen or seniors, the seniors have to be good teammates, the freshmen have to be good teammates and understand that they have to earn their way into the mix.
But so far it's been good. I actually we have a lot of competition in practice. We've had little scuffles in practice, I think just going hard, competing. So that's very positive. And we haven't had that the last couple of years.
Q. You talked a lot last year about leadership, especially with Demetri McCamey and how he was kind of taken to that. How do you see him dealing with that specifically and do you see the senior class being better at the leadership role than they did a year ago?
COACH WEBER: I think when you lose somebody we lost Chester Frazier and Trent Meacham, guys that were leaders. You appreciate it. They do it quietly. And this group of seniors is a talented group, from Tisdale to Davis, to Billy Cole to McCamey.
But there's more to it than just having talent. And you have to do the intangibles, the leadership, the competitiveness, the keeping guys, the chemistry part. And Demetri has made huge strides with it since he arrived. I think last year was a learning experience for him, a total different role. And I think all of them as a group, I'm not sure anyone is real vocal, but as a group they've done a good job of this is their team leading the young guys, keeping the having a positive attitude as a whole group and a competitive attitude.
So it's been good so far. We'll see leadership is always tested when things go bad or you have a tough game or a tough loss. And that will be the key to our success, how we deal with the ups and downs. And that can be said of any team.
Q. As long as you've been around you've seen a lot of good big men. Can you just evaluate what you've seen in JaJuan Johnson's progress during his time at Purdue?
COACH WEBER: I think he's a lot like our guys. He's the type of college athlete that you want that you watch him come in as a skinny young man that has to develop. He put the time in the weight room. He started getting a little bit of confidence, more minutes feeling good about himself, and just has continued to make progress throughout his four years. And in this day and age, so many guys, you know, if you're not one and done or two and done, can you be a player?
And he's a player. There's no doubt. He put his name in last year. I talked to Matt a lot about it. We had a lot of conversation, whether our guys or his. And I think it was a good experience for him because he found out what he needed. And now he had a good summer. U.S.A. Basketball continued to make steps. So he gives them the length, the athleticism, plus he can shoot the basketball.
So it's tough to guard him. You put a real big guy on him, he steps out. You put some of those smaller, he'll post you up.
So just a very good player who has developed over the four years.
INDIANA COACH TOM CREAN
COACH CREAN: I think first and foremost for us, we're excited to have more bodies, more quality players in our program all the time. And I think our bodies are starting to look physically more like Big Ten players, and we've got to build that mindset now that you have to have to compete in this league at the highest level.
I like where our mindset is at this point. I like where our mentality is going. I think anytime you have a quality team you have quality depth. If you have quality depth that means you have consistent players.
And that's what we've got to build right now, from top to bottom. We've got to build consistency in our approach every day, a consistency in our ability to make plays and the more consistent we get, that's going to help us do what is really important early on in the season which is string some successes together. And I think anytime you have a team that's still relatively young but that hasn't had success, they have to have some feelings of success.
And they have to -- we talk every day in our program about earning victory. And the four components of that are constantly how smart you are, how tough you are, how physical you are, how fundamentally sound you are.
If you can get those four components locked in, well, then, you have a chance to get consistent. You have a chance to get better. But we've had a very good offseason in the sense of people changing their bodies and mindsets and work ethics and are working on their work ethics.
We're not healthy right now in the sense of practice, but we don't have anything that I look at that's going to keep us right now from being able to start the season pretty much with our team intact, and that's very important because injuries played a huge part in our team last year.
And so Matt Roth is back. Maurice Creek is back, even though we don't practice with Maurice Creek every day yet. His strength is not where it needs to be yet. His knee is sound and healthy, but his strength is not where it needs to be.
But we're gaining ground. And I like that. I think the league and itself is as good as it has been in my three years as good as I can remember it in somebody who has grown up in the Big Ten area and watched it from afar. And riding up here today with Don Fischer he made a great point, which I think is very reflective of where this league is: There's probably seven teams in this league right now that could win it by the end of the year.
And when you look at that, when you look at the quality of the teams, when you look at the quality of the coaching, and it's obvious with some of the programs right now when you look at where Michigan State's at, when you look at Ohio State, when you look at Purdue, even without Robbie (Hummel), I think that's an incredible team, because, number one, the guy running the program knows everything that it takes to win, and they've got a lot of quality players inside of it.
I think Bruce (Weber)'s team at Illinois could be knocking on the door of a Final Four national championship type of program, if he gets his young guys to understand what his older guys understand, with how hard it is to win in this league. But they have a tremendous quality. And I don't think that there's nearly enough conversation nationally about what Minnesota's capable of, what Wisconsin's capable of or what Northwestern's capable of.
And when you look at those programs, it's a great league. And one final point that I'd like to make is when you look at Michigan, and when you look at what John Beilein has done over his career and you look at his winning percentage over his career, the man is an incredible coach.
This goes back to my days in the Big East and it certainly is now. There might be some preparations that are as hard, but there are none that are harder than getting ready for a John Beilein coached team, and I think it's just a matter of time before that program is back where it needs to be.
I mean, he walked into a situation he didn't walk into a Big Ten champion. He didn't walk into a team that was going into NCAA tournaments all the time. He's had to rebuild it. And I think he's a phenomenal coach.
And it is always very challenging to get ready for his teams. And you could say that about every team in this league. But when you're talking about programs that are that good, with the way John coaches, with the way Tubby Smith coaches and Bo Ryan, and they're not even getting a ton of the attention around the country, that just goes to show how good this league is.
Q. I guess I know it's still early, but can you talk about the decision making you're seeing in practice, where it is and where it needs to be?
COACH CREAN: I think it's better. And one thing we're doing is we have referees and a lot more right now. We don't just have them refereeing scrimmages 5 on 5, they're refereeing drills and I think anything we can do right now to tighten our game up in the sense of footwork, in the sense of getting into the lane and making decisions, in the sense of physicality of play and playing without fouling, you know, not negating the hustle that we're trying to get across, I think it's good.
Now, it will take some time. We've just got to continue to get stronger with the ball. We've got to continue to make really simple plays, as we always say. Hit singles, not home runs. That's so crucial for us.
But we're also trying to have a lot more movement in our offense right now. So hopefully those things are going to help. But it will be a period of time before we can see if the decision making is really getting better.
Q. What have you seen from Jordan (Hulls) in terms of being more confident in his offensive abilities, not just being a distributor?
COACH CREAN: Oh, I think that he's really making strides. I was asked a question the other day, and it's really hard to answer: Who has changed the most physically? And we can't pinpoint one or two guys. We look at our whole team, they all look different. Maybe that's because they were that young.
But Jordan is stronger, and I think the strength has brought more confidence to his game. We need him to be he may not be the verbal vocal leader that we need just yet, but he's got to be the example leader. And he's got to be in a situation where he doesn't accept anything from his teammates in the sense of how they play and the hustle that they play with and the decision making they play with that he wouldn't accept from himself. He's got to hold teammates, when he's on the court, to the standard that he holds for himself.
But he's shooting the ball extremely well. He's moving well. His pull up game is coming. He's continuing to get better in the pick and roll. He's got to continue to be able to deal with full court pressure and trapping and things of that nature. And defensively I wouldn't call him a standout yet, but he's certainly not on the other side either.
He's holding his own defensively and playing with a lot of force and resolve right now, which is exactly what we need from him over the long haul.
Q. Could you just talk a little bit about (Guy Marc-Michel's) overall game, what type of progression you've seen from him since he came to Bloomington and what type of impact you see for him this season?
COACH CREAN: Well, he's got a want to that's very uncommon for young players. Even though he's a little bit older, he's still young to the game because he's only been playing since the age of 17.
But without a doubt, if he's not the hardest worker when it comes to outside of practice time, he's in the top two or three. And that's exactly what you want. He's setting a standard for himself in the way that he's trying to improve with the willingness he has to learn. All three of our new guys have an inner pride that it's very hard for them to accept mistakes.
Now, you like that. You don't want guys that accept mistakes easy. But at the same time they have to learn that there's a lot of growth that goes on inside of their game. He epitomizes that. He's 7'1" with a seven, eight and a half wingspan, and we're constantly trying to get him to understand just how big and long he is.
And he's getting better movement in his feet defensively in the sense of the coverage. Your team is really determined defensively by how good your 4 and 5 men give help. And you can have a good to great team based on how good they are with that. And that's one thing that we're really trying to get him to understand, not just be a shot blocker, but a guy that can rotate, change shots, move people around, control the paint.
He's running the floor better. He's getting more comfortable. Anytime there's a lot of traffic right now around the rim in the sense of making a post move, he hasn't gotten that down yet. But in the sense of rolls off the screens and in the sense of isolations and in the sense of slipping to the rim and the sense of running the floor, he's really making a lot of strides.
Q. Having the success you had at Marquette and coming to Indiana and having two off par years, what was the biggest thing you learned from transitioning from Marquette to Indiana?
COACH CREAN: Keep getting tough minded players that have been raised on winning. I don't think there's any I don't think there's anything even close. You have to have talent. Certainly you've got to have positions. But you have to get people that are raised on winning.
I look at our Marquette teams, in the sense of the way we're trying to recruit now, year round winners, people that won during the high school season, people that won during the summertime. If they played a different sport, which I always love, that they won in that.
And I think that competitive mindset, it's very, very hard to get it if you didn't have it coming in. You can make it better and you can add to it, especially in the mental toughness realm. And you can make them physically stronger.
But you have to have people that have been raised on winning, and I don't think you can ever get away from it no matter what level you're at. If there's anything I've learned is that that equation works, no matter what, no matter what level, and probably no matter what sport.
IOWA COACH FRAN MCCAFFERY
COACH MCCAFFERY: This is an exciting time for me. A great challenge ahead. And I think the first thing I need to say is I really like my team.
I think the core group of young players that we have, in particular, have responded well to the changes that we're trying to make. I think we have a great group of young freshmen who will not have the ability to take their time. They're going to play right away. They're going to have to play like veterans.
But the great thing there is they'll be able to play through their mistakes right away. I think we have a good core group of about nine, maybe 10. Obviously we have to stay healthy. That took a little bit of a setback recently with injury to Matt Gatens, but I feel good about his recovery in short order.
So as we move forward in a very challenging conference, as you all know, I like my team. And my responsibility is to make sure we continue to make progress, play together, and play our style of play.
Q. Could you be a little more specific on Matt, like any kind of timetable? And who would he fill his spot in the interim while he's not there?
COACH MCCAFFERY: You know, Matt's having surgery today. You're probably looking at three weeks before he can play. He's obviously going to want to play before that. I think that the iffy thing right now is will he play in our first game, will he play in our first two games. That I can't answer. It's a possibility, but it may not happen.
After that he'll be able to play with something on his thumb. And then after two more weeks, after that, it will be something else. But a little less intrusive. The fact that it's his left hand is a good thing, obviously, being a right handed player.
So I think he'll be back within three weeks. The person that would fill in for him would be Roy Devyn Marble. He's a freshman. I think Dev has really come on, especially in about the last five or six practices.
The first five or six he was playing like a freshman. And he just does not have that luxury. Especially now. So I feel good about him. And it will be a tremendous opportunity for him to play if Matt can't. If Matt can, then he'll be back in a month.
Q. How so far how have the guards looked, Cully Payne, (Bryce) Cartwright? Have they worked together, or are they competing against one another for that spot?
COACH MCCAFFERY: We've done both. Obviously I think for the practice to be the most competitive they can be, Bryce runs one team, Cully runs the other. We mix the lineups around them. But at times we play them both together and we use Branden Stubbs, our walk on point guard, to run the other team. It gives them the opportunity to play together. They play well together and they will play together at times.
It gives us a different look. Both can drive it. Both can make plays on the break, and the good thing is they both can make 3s. So I think it's not like you're playing two non scoring point guards together to try to get penetration. Because if they can't shoot, you're not going to be able to drive it anyway.
So the fact they're making shots and they're driving the ball and they're creating a faster pace together, I think you'll see those guys on the floor.
Q. How has the transition been to the more up tempo attack and how has the team figured out your fastbreak and what you like to do there?
COACH MCCAFFERY: You know, they've been great. They want to play that way. I think most athletes want to play that way. The critical thing there is understanding how to play that way, because you can run and quick shoot the ball and turn the ball over and you really haven't improved very much.
And I think our fans are smart enough to recognize if we're playing faster, then we better have a plan behind it. We better make good decisions on the break. And I think the first three or four days of practice, to be honest with you, was absolute mayhem. We were going so fast, kicking the ball all over the arena and not making good decisions.
And that was okay. To get them to understand that we're going to push the ball, we're going to push it on makes and misses, we've got to get it in quick. We've got to get our wings running and our posts running. I think that was step one.
Step two becomes we're going to probe the defense and sometimes the best play is no play at all. You've got to pull it out. Then you've got to run some offense, and then know what we're doing after the fastbreak. So you have primary break and then we go into our offense. We don't run secondary break. It's primary break and then we go into our offense.
And that transition has been something that they've been able to grasp over the last week or so. At the beginning they were not grasping that at all. So I expected that. You have some changes. Last year they played slower. They were much more under control. So there's times when we have to be under control.
If we're going to win close games, we better know how to play under control and be able to play at half court. So, yes, we're going to run but we're going to play intelligent basketball.
Q. How do you stack up at the 4 and 5?
COACH MCCAFFERY: Well, I think when you look at our post positions, clearly Jarryd Cole and Andrew Brommer in particular are the first two guys we've got to get something, especially out of Brommer. I think everybody knows that Jarryd Cole is a solid player. He put up good numbers. He's got a frame. He's got experience. He can score. He's got the physical presence defensively in the low post to go against some of the other great posts in our league. We need him to play like a senior leader and so far he's done all of that.
Brommer hasn't played much, but he's 6'9", about 240. He has a great skill set. He can run. He's got a jump hook. He can hit the trail 3. And he's somebody that I think will surprise people when you look at our team, you're not expecting anything from him. I think he averaged a point and a half last year.
But he's going to get a chance to play more, and he's going to be able to get a chance to settle down. He never had that opportunity. If you watched him, if you watched any tape like I did, watched the games last year, he was kind of always on edge and he never settled down.
And he would make some ill advised mistakes, but you're going to see somebody now that I'm going to let him play through that and I think our style of play will help him. And you're going to see somebody who is a legitimate post player in this league.
After that, we've got two freshmen, Melsahn Basabe and Zach McCabe. Both are really talented. I would expect Melsahn to be a starter. He's long, he runs, he can score, he can block shots. Terrific person. And, again, a great opportunity for him to learn right from the start what it's like to be a Division I player right into the Big Ten.
Zach McCabe has a different game. He's a tremendous 3 point shooter. When you have a player who is playing the 4 who might be with Matt Gatens, our best 3 point shooter who can put it on the deck but has enough strength and toughness to do some things inside, now we've got a little bit of versatility.
We've got a couple of power guys, and we've got an athletic 4 and then we've got a versatile 4. So we can do some different things on offense.
Q. I'm sure you had an impression of the Big Ten before. What are your impressions now that you've really studied it in the offseason?
COACH MCCAFFERY: I've always had tremendous respect for this league. But when you look now at three of the top five teams, arguably, and five of maybe the top 18 and projecting seven teams maybe to go to the tournament, very few leagues that you look at, not only this year, but over the years that have that kind of depth and with that many teams with a legitimate chance to go to the Final Four.
So as you sit in my chair, you know, it's a formidable challenge to take a young team and play those teams, not only at home but on the road. So I think the critical thing for us is to know and understand how we have to compete. And when we find ourselves in close games with those teams, doing the right things that will help us win those close games.
Because that's what's really going to help develop our team as we move forward, develop our confidence. We can't be satisfied this year with moral victories, hey, we played Michigan State tough. At some point we've got to beat some of these teams and we're going to have to do it with young players. And that's what we're looking at. And that's what we're going to get ready for.
MICHIGAN COACH JOHN BEILEIN
COACH BEILEIN: Thank you. Good morning. This is a very young team. This is probably one of the younger teams I've ever coached, and maybe one of the younger ones in the country.
I think we have no seniors. We have two juniors, two sophomores, and six freshmen. So it's going to be there's going to be very challenging moments. And we're replacing trying to replace a lot of points and a lot of rebounds in two very good players.
But we've practiced so hard and we're fortunate enough to make a European trip that we learned a lot about ourselves. Many positive things, and also a lot of work to do.
Q. Can you talk about the two Indiana you guys have in (Stu) Douglass and (Zack) Novak and what you expect from them this year?
COACH BEILEIN: Both of them have developed and really worked hard. They're out here today. Just looking at their bodies right now, they were young 18 year old freshmen and now they're still probably pretty young but 20 year old juniors.
And I just really like the leadership they both showed. They've seen the best of times, an NCAA Tournament win, and then they saw some very disappointing games last year.
So we're very optimistic that that's the type of leadership that we're going to need to continue to build a program and I'm really happy we don't know where they'll be as far as what their main role will be other than leadership right now.
But they'll be out on the court quite a bit this year.
Q. Tom Crean mentioned -- he said that there's nothing harder than preparing for a John Beilein coached team. How much will that help you in a year you don't have the experience?
COACH BEILEIN: I think what will be helpful to us probably is that I don't see us having a go to guy right just yet. You always would like to have that in your back pocket. At the same time, I think we'll have a go to team that will look for the first open shot, the best opportunity to shoot.
And so hopefully that part of our game will really open up a lot of opportunities for a lot of people. So it will be -- it's a challenge for us right now, but this team is one of my higher IQ teams, I think, as far as just picking up things quickly, whether it's just college basketball or some nuance that we're trying to instill.
Q. Talk a little bit about (Blake) McLimans, his development since joining the program and how you think he'll be able to match up in his first year against some of the premier talent in the front court.
COACH BEILEIN: He's made great strides. Blake's made great strides. He's getting the body of a 6'10" center in the Big Ten. Still has not had enough experience with the lights on for us really to know what to expect, but does have the ability to has a nice little soft hook shot that we need him to be able to turn to more often. But he's got a really nice outside shot that could help us spread the floor. So his development is very important to us.
He is a freshman. Even though he's redshirted, but his development -- if he continues his development from where he came from last year to this year over the next season, he'll have a chance to get some good quality minutes for us in the years ahead.
Q. If you had a timeline coming in to Michigan, how have you had to assess that timeline (for rebuilding) or reassess it and where would you say you feel you are now?
COACH BEILEIN: Typically, wherever we've been able to go, before you spent your time, we spent most of our time right now recruiting sophomores and juniors. I think in some of the other stops that we've had, you'll basically be able to go somewhere and there's still seniors available. And you are not waiting two or three years to get the recruits you began recruiting.
So I think as you try to turn programs around, it depends a little bit on what you have, what you inherit, and then where your recruiting classes are. Does it take some of the best recruits that we -- I shouldn't say best recruits -- some of the recruits, highly rated recruits we have or we'll sign, sometimes you have to wait two or three years to actually get them.
And then who knows what's going to happen in their freshman year. So I think turning the program around is much more difficult than it's been, because of the early commitments and early recruiting. We have to do it with younger men.
Q. Has there been a guy in practice that surprised you over the first ten days that you're like: I didn't know he could maybe do that?
COACH BEILEIN: Every day there seems to be a different guy that we really come out of practice and say: You know, boy, wasn't he good today.
Colton Christian the other day had a very good practice in a scrimmage that we had, but the day before it wasn't nearly -- I wouldn't say there's anyone that has been consistently -- other than Zack Novak, probably, has been consistently every day having good practices. That's what I was looking for, guys that will go three, four, five practices in a row and really be consistent. Darius Morris has probably been the most consistent that he's been from last year. But I wouldn't say there's any wow factor out there right now.
People are establishing it though. There are a couple of young men on our radar screen that we're seeing some growth.
Q. How have you -- you mentioned you have to adjust without DeShawn Sims and Manny Harris for points and rebounds. How have you been able to adjust so far, and was there any chance of you trying to persuade Manny to come back for his senior year?
COACH BEILEIN: The way we've been able to adjust is just run whatever action we want to run, both offensively and defensively, and it's a little bit like next shot a little bit by committee. Who is open? Just some really good teams have four or 56 players with double figures.
So I enjoy -- I enjoy coaching both ways, when you have a guy like Manny or DeShawn Sims, it's really good to be able to design an offense to get them in their sweet spots.
But at the same time, when you don't have that type of experience, that type of ability, all that talent is really young, it's also fun to coach where it's just, all right, let's just take good shots as a team and not script -- I say script so much.
Manny and I had several discussions. Manny was really passionate about making -- going right to the NBA. And his passions have come true so far as he's on the roster, was on the roster last night. I haven't checked the box score, whether he played last night or not. But if he really felt in his heart that it was the best thing for him to do, we supported him 100 percent.
MICHIGAN STATE COACH TOM IZZO
COACH IZZO: Good to be back. I hope everybody likes this format where we have mid weeks, seems like we have a great turnout. I'm excited for it. It's a great year for it. Because I think the Big Ten is going to be maybe as good as it has been in a lot of years since I've been here, from top to bottom.
And our team, I think, is very good. I think we have some key players back. I think we've had an incredible rash of injuries since last spring through the summer, and that's probably our biggest dilemma right now, is really getting a feel for our team and trying to get them ready in a short period of time.
We're healthy now but not to the speed we need to be, and yet I think working hard to get there.
So I'm excited for a great year. We have a great non conference schedule and I think the conference schedule, like I said, is as good as it's been maybe in all 20 some years I've been in the Big Ten.
Q. A lot of talk about the July evaluation period, some suggestions about changing it, eliminating it, something like that. What are your thoughts and what would you like to see?
COACH IZZO: Well, you know, it's very difficult as president of our association this year. You know, you deal with a lot of different people. Being a Division II guy at heart and a lower Division I guy for a little bit and then be at the top level, I think you can't forget about the different types of people and programs that are out there.
And you know I'm not crazy about the length of it. I think a lot of coaches last year felt it was a little long. What I worry most about is the players. I mean, as coaches, I've done the same thing for 27 years here as far as being out every day of the summer. It's never changed.
But I think players are starting to wear down a little bit. I worry that some of that is injuries later on. But I also worry about the smaller schools who have maybe more financial issues and trying to get 347 people or teams or schools, whatever it is, 343, 347, on the same page is maybe a lot more difficult than the BCS situation that football has.
So we're exploring things, we're talking about them. We talked about them as a league last night. And I'm not sure we'll ever find an exact way to do it that benefits everybody. And so we're continuing to work on, not only in the NABC, but also each conference is continuing to work on ways to make it better.
And right now I can see a lot of people wanting to cut it back a little bit but not eliminate it.
Q. A follow up to that question. If not for the financial issues that the smaller schools have, would you want to see it cut back dramatically because of what you said about the players wearing down?
COACH IZZO: Well, I think there's a combination of things. Players wearing down. Coaches. You know, we don't get a lot of downtime. And the summer is one time you get down. And that's an issue.
I've always been a little bit of a believer that as long as it's the same for everyone, at the end we're going to get the same players we've got, we just find different ways.
Football over the years has used film a lot more. I think you talk to more coaches during the year. There's ways to get it done. But I'm also a little different in the last two or three years than I was that whatever's best for everybody I would definitely vote for and pull for. And I don't think that's a politician's answer, I just think I have a greater appreciation when you see the passion of people talking about it on what they think they need.
So recruiting's the hardest part of our job. I think everybody would agree to that. When you go all year long and you get a little bit of time and maybe the nicest time of the year you're gone almost the entire month, I think that makes it difficult.
So partly coaches and recharging, but a lot of players. I don't think we're looking at that angle. Everybody says they'll continue to play. But, boy, if you had a son right now or a daughter and they're gone, which seems to be like two months of the summer for all these different camps and I think feel obligated to be at them, and so consequently (there is) the wear down factor.
I'd like to see a study on whether it's affecting our kids when they get in college, on not only the energy level and the passion for the game, that we wear it out too early like I think sometimes some sports do, in hockey when they're playing when they're four years old.
That's the questions I have. And we're going to try to get answered at the meetings we go to and listening to all the coaches around the country and maybe even some of you.
I think everybody's looking to do what's best, and that's what we're looking to do.
Q. How important is your team's depth to the overall success this season?
COACH IZZO: Well, I think depth and versatility have been the two keys to 90 percent of the teams I've coached that have gone to the Final Fours.
I think if you have depth, you overcome injuries. Last year was almost we got lucky. There's no question that when Lucas went down and then Kansas gets upset. Northern Iowa is very good, but Kansas got upset.
Sometimes you have to be a little lucky in that NCAA Tournament to make a run, too. But our depth did help us, and I think we've got more depth this year, and I think that's going to be a plus.
And I think we have more versatility where we can play big, play small. When you get in the NCAA Tournament, it's like anything in any sport. Some people match up different with different people.
And when you have the most flexibility to match up with anybody you can run into, it reminds me of the year we won it. We played Wisconsin to a 54 49 game and two days later it was a 90 to 70 some game against Florida.
And I think that's one of the things that has helped our team. We've had depth and we've had versatility. And, yet, we make a concerted effort that even if we don't have the players to add depth, we play them and sometimes lose some games early, but it benefits us in the end.
Q. How much will a freshman like Keith Appling play a role in what you want to do in the back court considering Korie Lucious and Kalin Lucas, et cetera?
COACH IZZO: That's a good question, because when we recruited Keith we thought he would definitely be a big part of that role of depth. And then all of a sudden we lose Chris Allen this summer and he had to step up another notch, and then with Kalin's injury and then Korie had the meniscus tear about a month ago, I mean, his role has escalated, I think, and I think he's a tough enough kid to handle it.
And Adreian Payne is another one. We did lose Russell Byrd probably for the year with a stress fracture that did not heal and had to get re-operated on.
So our depth at the guard position, which has normally been our strength, or at the wing position is lacking a little bit. Keith will be a very important part to make sure that we have enough at position in the 1, 2, 3, where we rotate guys pretty frequently.
MINNESOTA COACH TUBBY SMITH
COACH SMITH: It's good to be here today. This time last year my father had passed away and I didn't make the Big Ten Media Day. But it's been a fun finish to a very tough season last year.
And we're renewed, I think, with so many returning players. We're really excited about this coming season. We believe we have a chance to be very competitive. And we're looking forward to it.
Q. Can you talk about the addition of Trevor Mbakwe and what you think he's going to add to your team this season?
COACH SMITH: We think that Trevor, he went through a tough situation having to sit out last year because of legal problems and being suspended. So he's a kid that left Marquette after injuring his knee and went to junior college, Miami Dade Junior College, and had an outstanding year. We recruited him because we knew he could bring that type of athleticism, a lot of maturity and experience to our program.
And certainly he's proven that in the preseason, and on the Canadian trip that we took back in the first of September. He's really a guy that's going to give us some depth and some size, some physical presence inside to go along with Colton Iverson and Ralph Sampson on the front line.
He's been doing everything we've asked him to do. Playing extremely well in practice. He's in great physical shape and mentally in good shape, especially coming off of last year.
I love that he stuck with us. And because of the adversity he went through it's made him a stronger person and a better person.
Q. You mentioned taking a trip to Canada. I just wonder what you got out of that as a team and how you think that might help you this year?
COACH SMITH: Well, number one, it was a nice, fun trip. We didn't go far going to Vancouver, Canada, a beautiful place, and to Victoria.
It was a good learning experience for all of our players, coaches. I thought getting the 10 practices in this summer, I've never really taken a team on a foreign tour but I can see how beneficial it can be.
Guys in that type of scenario and that type of setting, where we're not really competing for playing time. We're just having fun. We're bonding. So I think that the sooner you can get started, that's one of the things we've talked about having access to our players in the summer as coaches.
I think that helps us nurture them, learn more about them, especially the incoming players, because this was the first year that the NCAA allowed players that had gone to summer school, freshmen, to go along.
So we had five freshmen along with us, along with Trevor Mbakwe, and the seven returning players. So it was a full team, and I thought guys again learned a lot about themselves. It was a great experience for them and helped us as a coaching staff recognize where some of the weaknesses are and some of the strengths that we have on our team, the things that we have to come back and work on.
I think that's helped us, and I think it will help us as we go into start the season.
Q. You spoke about weaknesses that you saw on the trip in Canada. What were those weaknesses that you saw?
COACH SMITH: The weaknesses that we saw, one of the things that we recognized is that I thought getting better strength wise, and just when you ask that question because I'm always the optimist. I think everything was better than it was the year before.
So if we had a weakness, I thought it was just communicating. Again, the teams that really communicate together, talk defensively, but it was early on. And we played against some very tough teams.
I thought the University of British Columbia, Vancouver University, Victoria, those teams were very physical and very mature guys we played against.
So I saw that we needed to be a little more we had to be more aggressive. But I liked the way our kids responded. We came away with three wins and we did respond the right way.
But I thought that was one of the weaknesses that we needed to work on communicating better.
Q. Question about kind of the makeup of your team, you lose so many good veteran players off that team, (Lawrence) Westbrook, you have (Blake) Hoffarber back. Are you just concerned with the direction and production, where it's going to come from this year?
COACH SMITH: Absolutely, you're always concerned about that. But I thought that was one of our strengths. I've been so impressed with our freshmen and our incoming players. And having a player like Trevor Mbakwe, you don't really appreciate him until you see him on the court with your team, playing, knowing he's out there. And I saw that.
You're right, when you lose a guy like Damian Johnson, Lawrence Westbrook, Paul Carter, Devron Bostick, they were all veteran senior players that had gone through the wars here in the Big Ten.
But we do have quite a few guys that have tasted success by going to the Big Ten championship game and really getting pounded by Ohio State.
But they understand now we want to do better and we want to get better. I think guys like Blake Hoffarber and Al Nolen, Devoe Joseph, Ralph Sampson, Colton Iverson, again, Rodney Williams, they know what it takes, and they're the nucleus of our team that have to carry us.
I hope I answered your question. I'm not sure if I did or not.
Q. Everybody talks about how good the Big Ten's going to be this year. What are two or three things you look at and say these are reasons the league's really good this year?
COACH SMITH: Well, first thing the reason the Big Ten is so much better, which it wasn't bad to start with, I don't know it's just the best. Let's put it that way. We've been one of the best since I've been here. This year we're by far the best conference in the country, because we have so many returning players.
Evan Turner being the only player drafted in the top I guess 20 or 30 in the league, but guys like Kalin Lucas, E'Twaun Moore, JaJuan Johnson. And we probably lost one of the best players in the country in Robbie Hummel, and certainly our heart goes out to him. But I think that's the number one reason that we have so many returning players.
The other thing is that with Michigan State going all the way to the Final Four, and having a three way tie at the top the way we did, I think those teams that were there, Purdue and Ohio State, felt like, hey, we can be a Final Four team as well. That's the third thing.
And I think it gives a team like us, a program like us who had a chance to get a victory against all those top teams at some point in time last year, gives us hope that we can be a top team.
And I think media as well as other basketball people recognize and sports people recognize that the league is well positioned because of the Big Ten Network and other things and because recruiting has gone so well in this league. I think all those things we benefit by bringing in outstanding I know we have we've attracted some very good players.
Those are the reasons why we will be competing for a national championship at the end of the year, and maybe multiple teams in the Final Four.
NORTHWESTERN COACH BILL CARMODY
COACH CARMODY: Like all teams right now, 335 or so Division I teams, we're excited to get going. As mentioned, we're a veteran team. We're going to try to build -- two years ago, 17 wins, and that was good for us. Last year, 20 wins.
And we were going pretty strong for a while but then we faltered in February. And now the focus for us is just to recognize that it's a long season and you have to finish the race.
But we have some good guys back. Our practices have been very good. And so just anxious to get going. And I think we have some talented guys. And they just seem more focused than they have been and hungrier than they have been in the past, which is a real good thing.
Q. Can you talk about John Shurna and his involvement in U.S.A. Basketball. I know he was a member of the Select Team that trained with the eventual gold medal winning championship team and how that's improved his game, what you've seen from him since then.
COACH CARMODY: This year being on the Select Team was sort of a continuation of the summer before when he was chosen for the Under 19 Team which won the gold medal in New Zealand.
And for him to make that team was an accomplishment. This is after his freshman year, because they basically picked 12 guys and eight of them had already been chosen for the most part. He just had a terrific tryout. They kept him.
And he was an important contributor to that team. And so guys had seen him and it carried over to last year, when he just seemed to make this big jump, because as a freshman I think he averaged seven and a half points a game and last year close to 20.
So he was feeling better and better about himself. And then just playing with those guys, you know, I guess he was out in Vegas for maybe ten days or so in July.
And we talked. We happened to be out there recruiting at the time. So I saw him. And I asked him: How are you doing today? How did it go today in practice? Well, (Lamar) Odom was guarding me. I said, How'd you do? He said, Well, he didn't really guard me, so I just shot the ball and a bunch of them went in, which was good. So he feels good about himself.
He also said that anytime he put the ball on the ground guys were all over him attacking him, the speed and the strength.
He just thinks that -- he's a pretty humble kid and shy kid. But he just needs to be growing, not just physically. But he sees himself a little differently because of that experience.
Q. Can you comment on (Michael) Juice Thompson's presence as a floor leader and his leadership as one of the returning seniors on the team this year?
COACH CARMODY: Mike, he's always had that leadership ability. He came in as a freshman. I just gave him the ball. And early on if something would go wrong or he would call the play that really wasn't what to call, he'd be looking over at me all the time, and I just told him: Hey, kid, forget it. Just take over. You know what you're doing.
He's always been a leader and a terrific floor general. The thing that's been great about Mike is he's just improved. He's a guy you've got to guard now. He's not like one of these old fashioned point guards that just brings the ball down the court, starts the offense and is never heard from again.
He shot over 40 percent in his career from the 3 point range. And I wish he was a little more vocal at times, because he knows what to do. But he's just he's developed into one of the elite guards in this league, for sure.
Q. What's your take on the discussions about the July evaluation period and what would you like to see happen there?
COACH CARMODY: I'm not too sure what the alternative is. And you know we had a coaches meeting last night down at the studio. And we talked for an hour and a half. And there were a lot of different ideas about what to do.
And I think sometimes in the past with recruiting, you know, there have been some knee jerk reactions, and then a year later the rules changed. So I think people they recognize that there's a need to do something here. And I think just more thought has to go into what's the best, not just for our conference, what's the best thing for college basketball.
And the NBA's starting to get involved a little bit, and, you know, there's some discussions going on. But even last night we couldn't really come up with an alternative that we could all agree upon.
And there were some good ideas. So I think it's great that we're tossing it about, because certainly there's some things about it that have to improve.
Q. The relative depth of the Big Ten and especially that top half, what does the next group need to do in order to compete with the Michigan State and Ohio State and Purdue top 3?
COACH CARMODY: I've been saying for five years that it's like one of my favorite movies, Usual Suspects, that's what you have here. And so some of these teams have been up there for a long time. And until someone does anything about it and breaks into that, then those are the teams that are favored.
And I just think it's consistency. You have to there's some teams that are on the verge of breaking through, say into the top 5, which basically guarantees you a place in the tournament.
But to say what do you have to do, I think it's about getting better players and more depth, more good players. Because there are no bad coaches in this conference. You don't really outcoach too many guys. Occasional game here and there. But it's about the players and that's the way it should be.
So I think just recruiting and going through a full year, going through a full year and having your guys play it out.
Q. John Shurna said a little bit the other day about Drew Crawford and his development. What have you seen in him since last March?
COACH CARMODY: Drew was I guess Co Rookie of the Year last year in the league. And he just looks better. I've had guys in the past when they take their shirt off I don't enjoy seeing it. But he went to work in the spring, the summer, he looks good. And we spent a lot of time on his ball handling in the spring because he's good along the baseline, but now you have to we've always tried to develop our guys.
And that was one area where, you know, improvement was needed. So he's really worked hard on that. So I think I can throw him in the back court this year a little bit. Although with Mike back there, you could play in the back court and do okay.
But Drew's really improved, I think. And last year he had some tremendous games. And he was responsible for some wins in conference. But he was a little bit like a freshman, a little up and down. So just the consistency that every night you gotta be on.
And in the first week and a half of practice he just seems like he's ready to go.
OHIO STATE COACH THAD MATTA
COACH MATTA: Well, we're at the unknown here 15 practices in, six new guys, as you said, four returning starters, which is very exciting. The leadership that those guys have provided to this point, couldn't be happier with.
The good thing for us is we've still got a couple of weeks before we actually tip off. But have been very pleased with our guys' work ethic and the freshmen stick to itiveness to come in every day and work hard at practice.
Q. I'm curious about Deshaun Thomas, how he looks so far. What do you see from him and what do you hope to see from him?
COACH MATTA: I couldn't be happier with Deshaun right now. First and foremost he's a guy that came in at 14.6 percent body fat and he's down to 8.2, I think it is.
He's had a smile on his face every day. I've really talked to him about just bringing the right mindset in knowing that you've got a lot to learn.
His work ethic has been great. I think that as he continues, you know, the one thing Deshaun can do is put the ball in the basket. We've had a couple of scrimmages. I think he's led us in scoring in all of them.
The big thing we've got to get him to understand is you have to stop the other guy down at the other end from scoring, too. But he's been great. Couldn't be happier with him.
Q. You spoke about leadership values with your returning starters. What have they given to the new freshmen given that they've tasted success winning the Big Ten Conference Championship, they also tasted beat by being bounced over from the NCAA Tournament last year?
COACH MATTA: I think you said what have the veteran players given the new guys? The thing I asked them the most was I'd like to think we do things a certain way at Ohio State in terms of the culture we have set for our program and teaching those guys how we do things, from going to class, to being respectful, to professors, whoever they come in contact with.
But also a work ethic. And I think that the four veterans have done a tremendous job of teaching that. It's like I told the freshmen on our first team meeting. I said: We've got a great tradition going here at Ohio State right now and you guys haven't contributed one ounce of anything to it and you have to earn your stripes here; I want you to follow these guys' lead.
And as I told them, I think we've got four great leaders, but if you don't want to be led it's not going to work. And to those guys' credit, they've done a tremendous job of engaging themselves and following the lead of those guys.
Q. You've obviously coached highly ranked big men prospects, Greg Oden, BJ Mullens, among others. Without necessarily comparing them, how do you feel Jared Sullinger is coming along at this early stage and sort of what do you project for him over the course of the season?
COACH MATTA: I think Jared has been very good to this point. I think the biggest thing was he's really resurrected his body. He's gotten himself in very good shape.
For his size, his hands and his feet are very good. He's got a great touch. And I've said this: The thing I like about Jared is, number one, he knows how to play. But he also wins. He's won at every level that he's ever played at.
So I think our guys have seen a great unselfishness out of him, but by the same at the same time, you know, he can put the ball in the basket from down on the block, finishing around the basket. He steps out, shoots 3s. He can show he can handle the ball. And that's been exciting to see. Because I think for the four new guys, Jared is a guy that you enjoy playing with.
And I think he's one of those guys that can make guys better around him.
Q. What's your take on the July evaluation period discussions and what would you like to see happen there?
COACH MATTA: You know, I don't know if I have a definitive answer. It's kind of like everybody asks me about the one and done.
I don't know what's right, what's wrong. I think that if they were to take the July or cut it back, hopefully they would give us the days throughout the course of the year.
I actually haven't 00 they had some notes up in my office or not in my office but in my bag. I just found them about 20 minutes ago and I didn't have time to read through them.
So I don't know exactly what's going to happen. I think that since I've been in college coaching 17 years or whatever it is, I've always gone out in July. But I don't know. I understand where they're going. I think that the agents and that to me right now is the biggest thing of what's going on.
And I love what football is doing. They had a blowup and they took the bull by the horns. And they're getting this thing corrected. And the same thing goes on in football goes on in basketball.
Q. Just want to ask about Aaron Craft and maybe the status of your point guard position, just how that's been broken up and what you've seen out of Aaron so far after a couple of weeks working with him.
COACH MATTA: Well, Aaron has been a pleasant surprise in how well he's played to this point. The thing you love about Aaron Craft is he was sitting in with the coaches two nights ago watching film. I asked him, I said, How did you do on your chemistry exam? He said, Coach, I think I may have got them all right, but I'll find out tonight because the professor let us take the test home. And he said, I'm going to look it up online. He texted me about 11:00 that night and said, Coach, I wasn't lying, I got them all right.
That's how he plays basketball. He's got a tremendous understanding. He's got a toughness about him. He as a freshman appears to have a great feel for where the ball needs to be when it needs to be there. And he shot the ball a lot better than we had seen him coming in out of high school.
So a lot like I said about Jared. He wins. He's accustomed to winning.
Q. Seemed like you guys were very successful last year when you were very loose. And one of the guys that kept everybody loose was, of course, blogger extraordinaire Mark Titus. How are you keeping that attitude coming out of the season, especially with all the competition you're facing?
COACH MATTA: I think that may be the greatest question I've ever been asked. Everybody's been asking me how do you replace Evan Turner. I'm not concerned about replacing Evan; I'm concerned about replacing Mark Titus. No, I think that Mark is very unique. He's still in Columbus.
I never read the blog. But I always tell our players to use this opportunity at Ohio State to help yourself be successful for the rest of your life. And I really believe this, I think Mark did that.
But he still -- he was in the gym the other day watching practice. And it's always good for me to see him, because he makes me laugh like nobody I've ever met before.
PURDUE COACH MATT PAINTER
COACH PAINTER: Well, we are obviously very excited about this season. I think we have two of the best players in the country in E'Twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson, both who have had great careers. Anytime you return experience but also return experience of having success, that's even more important. A lot of times guys will be happy that they have three or four seniors but they haven't necessarily had a great deal of experience having that success, and our guys have.
So hopefully those guys will be good leaders like they have been in the past and continue to grow. And I think both of those guys have made some improvements this summer, improved their bodies and gotten better.
But we have a tall task, I think, in our conference just because of the quality of teams and the quality of coaches. I think we've got a chance to have a special season this year from a conference standpoint. There's going to be a lot of people banging heads and going after each other.
But really excited to get ready and to get going with this year and really like some of our new guys. But also a little anxious to watch them play in some exhibition games and some non conference games so we can figure some things out and kind of get into a rotation before we get into conference play.
Q. Can you explain how you're going to use your two point guards in Lewis Jackson and Kelsey Barlow this year and how the roles might vary as time goes on into conference play?
COACH PAINTER: I would have bet a lot of money that would be the first question. But I appreciate you having that be the first question. I think they give us two different looks. Kelsey's obviously a guy that can play multiple positions, and we've played him at the point guard. Lewis is a guy that's just strictly a point guard, kind of the quintessential point guard at 5'7'' using his quickness.
Both of them we talk about them being defenders first like we do with all of our players. And they're able to go and put pressure on the basketball. And so I feel very comfortable that we can keep 40 minutes of pressure on somebody else's point guard, 94 feet. And we put a lot of time into it.
They put absolutely zero time into that in the summer. In the summer, you shoot 3s and you work on your pull up and your individual game and then you come back to practice and then we start guarding the basketball.
But I think both of those guys are really going to set the table for us defensively. Kelsey's a guy at 6'5", 6'6", long. He's our second best shot blocker on the team, outside of JaJuan.
He gets in the passing lanes. He gets steals. He understands things. He just makes athletic plays and he's got a chance to be a very good player in our league.
Lew is a natural leader. He's a guy that really brings it every single day and gets after it. And that's what we're going to need. We have a quiet team. And it's obviously not a good thing once you step on the floor, but Lew's not a quiet guy and he gets us going and gets us charged up. But both of those guys are going to be used in that point guard role.
I can see Barlow slipping away and playing other positions to help us. So that will be interesting.
Q. I'll ask the Robbie Hummel question. Where were you when you heard the news and what was sort of the initial response when you found out that he'd be out for the year again?
COACH PAINTER: Well, we were practicing and a lot of times sometimes people make a big deal about the first day of practice.
And we didn't have Midnight Madness because we're having construction, we're renovating our arena. So we didn't have Midnight Madness so we were able to practice for two hours the night before. We used our two hours during the week on Wednesday and Thursday.
So we practiced for one hour Wednesday, one hour Thursday, two hours Friday. And Rob practiced that whole time. So a lot of people just think he got cleared and he practiced ten minutes into his first practice. He did that. He did individual work.
And I was recruiting a lot obviously in September. And the early part of October. But I probably watched him 10 times do individual work before that. And your only real experience, your only real reference point is the guys you had before who have torn their ACL and come back. I've been around a couple of guys, David Teague and Carl Landry, when they've come back and been cleared, they look good but they're not the same guy. You know early on after they're cleared they're not going to be the same guy to start with.
You hope in four months, five months, six months, you know, depends on each guy, that they become that player. Obviously David Teague was All Conference and Carl Landry having a successful NBA career. Both guys bounced back. That was my reference point.
When I saw Rob, that's the exact same thing I thought about those guys. Is it the same guy? No, it's not the same guy. Is he kind of in that first stage after being cleared and starting to do workouts and getting ready and going in the right direction? Yes.
I always have dialogue with guys on a daily basis when I watch them play: How do you feel? Some guys will tell you David Teague would always tell you he was fine when he wasn't. Carl Landry would always say everything was wrong when it wasn't.
And so Rob's a very cerebral guy. But this was his first time going through something like that. And, you know, he's very mature, and he would just tell you how he felt. And actually with Rob, his tendonitis in the other knee was something he complained about. They took the tendon out of the other knee to repair that knee. He was always saying: My other knee is on fire. What about your torn ACL? No, it's fine, it's fine, it's coming. And a lot of people were able to watch him.
When he went out there and obviously he has his brace on, he was just in a very simple start of the practice progression drill, 3 on 2 into 2 on 1 break, and the ball just kind of came towards him and he jumped up to kind of half block a shot. You know when you jump to block a shot, then you know you're not going to get to it and you kind of hold? Well, that's what he did. And he landed and there was no physical contact and it buckled.
When you saw him tear his ACL at Minnesota, everybody in here that saw that, you saw it get loose. And when you saw it get loose right away you say: Hey, he tore his ACL. Everybody said that. It's very common.
On this, he just jumped up, came down, and it buckled. But then right away from his reaction you knew he tore his ACL, but not from what happened. At Minnesota, from what happened, you could see that.
So for us, we have some experience of going through this. It stinks. I compare it to it's like Groundhog's Day for us. But we have been through this with not having him or not having him at 100 percent. And we've been able to make some adjustments. We've had some bumps in the road, and I think we've learned from that.
So hopefully it's made us stronger. It's better. And it's going to give us some opportunities for some other guys.
Q. How are freshmen Anthony Johnson and Terone Johnson and Travis Carroll working in with the new guys really and what kind of roles do you see for them going forward?
COACH PAINTER: They've done a good job. They've worked very hard. Travis Carroll has lost 20 pounds. So staying up with the game is very, very important.
I always say: If you're not in shape to play major college basketball, you're not improving; you're surviving.
And you have to be in shape so you can make improvements. He's got himself in shape. And he's learning on the fly. You're throwing a lot at guys early on. Anthony Johnson is a guy I compared to David Teague. He can make baskets and he can rebound his position. He's got some athleticism. He can move laterally.
So to me that's very important. That means he can defend when you can move laterally and you have athleticism. So just trying to get him to learn our system and compete every single day, which he has.
And then Terone Johnson gives us a guy with a big strong body that can make plays, break people down, can score the ball, and can defend. And I think he's got a chance to be very successful at Purdue.
But I'll get excited when they do something, when the popcorn's turning. They're freshmen. And right now we're just trying to get their feet wet a little bit, get some experience, learn our system, and keep try to keep them playing at a high level. But there's obviously going to be some competition.
Q. Can you talk about Sandi (Marcius) and how he's progressed and what you need from him?
COACH PAINTER: Sandi has had a good week of practice. He sprained his ankle and was out for about a month. He's done a good job. He's done a very good job. I've been pleasantly surprised in his production in practice.
He's done a good job rebounding, a good job adapting. We haven't had a horse like that, the 6'10", 260 pound guys. Sometimes how we flow offensively, he breaks us down a little bit. So we've got to adjust to him more than anything and give him some rules to help him feel comfortable in our offense. And then defensively, as long as he can kind of plug that middle and allow JaJuan to step out a little bit or replace JaJuan and give him a spell, it gives us that true post.
He does not have a high level of experience of playing, though. He's not a guy that's been playing organized basketball since he was five years old. And that concerns me. And we just we need to get him in there.
That's what's been so important for him last year, if he wouldn't have broke his foot, kind of getting in there, getting a little bit of experience and getting himself ready for this season.
But I've been pleasantly surprised with him coming off that injury, being that productive. Not because he's been productive, but just it's hard when you sit out a month when you haven't played and you're a new guy.
Q. With Robbie out, how will you adjust your style of play?
COACH PAINTER: We won't change anything, obviously, defensively. We'll do a lot of the same things defensively. You know, he's a point forward. He's a guy that you can use as a facilitator.
He's a skilled guy. He can drive the basketball. He can do a lot of different things. We'd obviously like to have a replica of Rob Hummel to sub in there. It doesn't work quite that way.
So we're trying your question there is kind of my question. And I want them to give me the answer to that, just to say I can talk about each guy that possibly could plug into that equation and to have options. But I really don't have that answer.
The guy that has stepped up in my opinion to this point is Patrick Bade. He's lost a lot of weight and he's in better shape and he's been very productive. He's done a very good job of rebounding for us so far in practice. That's something that he was not consistent with last year in practices.
And I don't really gauge guys on games when they play five to ten minutes. It's not fair. But I do gauge them two and a half hours every day. And he's done a very good job in practice of rebounding the basketball.
But I think we have to do a better job. We've gotten beat at the end of the year the past two years in the Sweet 16, and just gotten crushed on the glass by UConn and then this year by Duke. And we have to do a better job rebounding.
So I think those young bigs, if they can run, rebound, defend and play off of JaJuan, I think we can have some success with that.
Q. Obviously there's a lot of talk about Robbie, but about how about replacing (Chris) Kramer? How difficult is that for you?
COACH PAINTER: That's a very good question. I had somebody ask in our Media Day who is going to be your Chris Kramer? And I was like the Riddler, asked them the question: Well, who was the second Chris Kramer last year in college basketball? Who was that other guy that you would say is like Chris Kramer in college basketball, period? And they said, Well, nobody really comes to mind. And I said, Yeah, because there's not very many of them.
He literally took guys out of their game. And the guys he really struggled against were pros. And those are the guys that would get him. He struggled against a guy like an Evan Turner. But the other guys, Chris, he would knock them out of what they wanted to do and really frustrate them.
I think that's by committee. I don't think we have a guy. I think Terone Johnson could be a very good defender down the road. I think Anthony Johnson could be a good defender down the road.
They're just freshmen and just kind of learning our defensive system. E'Twaun Moore has made a lot of strides. Can he carry the load and be a scorer and be a shut down guy like a Kenny Lowe or a Cuonzo Martin in the past for Purdue, those guys have been able to do it? I think he can. I really think he can.
I know we'll have good pressure on the ball with Lewis and Kelsey. It could end up being if we can't get to that with other guys, with a guy like John Hart or Ryne Smith, can't be a defensive presence for us, we can move Kelsey over because I know he has the athleticism and ability to do it. We've just kept him at the point so far in his career.
WISCONSIN COACH BO RYAN
COACH RYAN: It's certainly nice to be here. Anybody that drove yesterday to arrive here in Chicago, it was quite an experience. They had to get one of the bellhops to come out to my car when I arrived and they peeled my fingers off one at a time from the steering wheel.
I've never seen or experienced anything like that. There was a truck that went up on all its wheels on the left side. Thank goodness it wasn't a unicycle car. But it actually came up and tilted. It was about 100 yards in front of me.
So just to arrive here and be here to talk Big Ten basketball, I'm pretty excited, as you can tell.
Q. Asking a lot of coaches their opinions. July evaluation period, getting a lot of conversation. What are your thoughts? What would you like to see be done?
COACH RYAN: Well, for me, some of the best players that have ended up that I've coached I saw during the July period, because I've coached at every different level. So you have to remember that the Big Ten's a part of the NCAA basketball from one to 350, meaning there's 350 teams. I've experienced some good luck in seeing kids in July. Maybe not as long as the period is now. But I think some coaches, they can just snap their fingers and get whoever they want. So they probably don't want to be out in July.
I don't think you're ever going to eliminate third party influences simply by saying you're not going to have July recruiting. I think whoever had that idea definitely hasn't been with us.
Because you're always going to have elements in anything in life, any walk of life, that's going to be a little bit seedier or not ethical.
But I think in July, for us, to evaluate talent, we'd like to see them with their high school teams a lot. We like to see them. Some of the better players, as I mentioned, I got a chance to see when they weren't with their high school programs and ended up doing things where a Dylan Page at UW-Milwaukee, we had an assistant watch him play several times and say he wasn't good enough. He ends up I see him in an AAU game. We got him committed to UWM and he was Player of the Year in the Horizon League.
So there's stories both ways, I'm sure, but I like to stick with the basketball part of it and what it means to be able to see young men play rather than always talk about the negatives that might surround five kids.
So I like July. I don't like it extended. Because towards the end of it, in Orlando, for example, the basketball became very selfish, sluggish. Teams weren't executing the same way. It's not because they were in Orlando, it was a great tournament and all that, but the kids were just a little bit out of sync. You always by that time have the parents who realize that their kid who started the July period were going to be lottery picks; that by the time the end of July came around, they were hoping to be picked up.
And that gets to be a little frustrating. So I think shortening it is a pretty good idea.
Q. The question I have is you lose (Jason) Bohannon, you lose Trevon Hughes, the college game is so much a guard oriented type game. Just talk about that transition, playing without those guys who have helped you win so many games the last four years.
COACH RYAN: Well, you make a good point. You sure have to have them, guards. And the fact that they accomplished what they did averaging 26 wins a year, those two put in their time wisely. They were very diligent about learning to play defense on the college level. That's the area right now. Jordan Taylor is the one proven guard.
The other guards have potential in some different areas, but for us, everybody will look at where you have to replace points, you have to replace this. We have to replace the defensive intensity with which those guards played. And that's what I'm looking for now. That's not to say the bigs don't have to get better.
But I think that's the area of concern. But I think it's a good area in that it's very competitive, there's some young men showing they're a little bit better in some ways that maybe we didn't even see.
We know there's potential, like with the freshmen or with a walk on like a Wquinton Smith. There's some things that they do well. Now we have to find out what the end result of that can be and how long can they sustain it and what's their learning curve and things like that.
So we definitely need to pick up our guard play to replace the two young men that you mentioned.
Q. With that in mind, how has Rob Wilson done and (Ben) Brust and (Josh) Gasser and Wquinton Smith? How have they been so far?
COACH RYAN: Again, I'm sure a lot of coaches can tell you it depends on what practice I can refer to or what intersquad game or what scrimmage or what set of possessions at any given time.
Josh is better than people realize. He's better than we even anticipated as a freshman.
Ben moves away from the ball even better than Jason Bohannon did coming in, as far as knowing how to get open, how to read things, things like that. I'm not saying he's a Jason Bohannon. But there's strengths in each one of these guys.
Rob Wilson. He can attack. He's fearless going to the basket. He's wiry.
But, again, with all three of those names I just mentioned, and then along with Wquinton Smith, is the guys that are going to get the other minutes that were vacated at the guard spot are going to be the better defensive players.
So right now, when we do our breakdown defensive drills, some days we'll do a little more possessions, 5 versus 5, other days it's more 3