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Rick Barnes Press Conference — Monday, Feb. 22

RICK BARNES
“I’m really happy for Armani Moore being Player of the Week this week in the Southeastern Conference. As you all know, he has done so much for us. Whatever the challenge is, he just keeps accepting that challenge. He would be the first to deflect that to his teammates, but we all appreciate what he has done for us all year long.

“In Kevin Punter’s situation, he is dealing with a stress fracture in his right foot. It is day-to-day. We have no idea other than that. He has been working. I saw him a little bit this morning. He is doing his training and everything with (athletic trainer) Chad Newman and (strength coach) Garrett Medenwald and his rehabilitation and what he has to do with that. The fact is he was over in the gym this morning and had a boot on. He said it was feeling a little bit better, but it is still going to just be day-to-day. I don’t see him playing, certainly, Wednesday night, but I have been fooled before. We are just going to monitor it day-to-day.”

(On earning the win over LSU without Kevin Punter Jr.)
“I don’t think we surprised them because in a situation like that, we didn’t change anything that we have done all year. Shembari (Phillips) obviously played more minutes, but we just told our team that this is what they have worked for all year. Guys that haven’t had the minutes–when you are called on, you have to be the next guy up to do your job. We didn’t change a lot. We prepared the same way. We didn’t make a big deal about it. We pretty much felt after the Kentucky game and especially the next day that (Punter) probably wouldn’t be around to play because he didn’t practice. Not that we did anything in practice, but he really didn’t even do the walkthrough with us. Nonetheless, I think it’s just a credit to our team. They showed some character. Derek Reese, who had not played very much, stepped up and did some nice things for us. Everyone made a contribution. We didn’t change a whole lot, didn’t really change anything.”

(On difficulty of seeing Punter’s injury this late in the season)
“It is tough. Looking back, I did not think he had been himself for the past three to four games. Actually, at the start of the Kentucky game, it’s probably the first time all year that I took him out [two minutes into the game]. I asked him, ‘What was going on? You don’t look yourself.’ He said, ‘I’m all right.’ He told me that the last couple weeks, his foot would hurt a little bit, then it’d go away a couple days, then come back. He said it really started bothering him in the warmups of the Kentucky game. It’s hard. I hurt for him. We all do because he is, first of all, a great person. He works hard. He is a great teammate. He has been a joy to be around. You hope that he will have a way to maybe get back and work through it. For him, it is tough on him because he is a competitor. He loves the game. He has done everything a coaching staff could ask him to do, so to see him in this situation at this time of year, we all feel for him.”

(On potential of Kevin Punter Jr. playing in the NBA)
“There is no doubt, I think, that he will get a shot at it. I think he will be one of those guys that will be invited to some camps. Once people really get into it and get to know him, they are going to want him because of all the intangibles. He is just getting started (as to) how good of a basketball player he can be, (especially) when you can score the ball like he can score it. He can score it in a variety of ways and has improved his shot to the point where you think it is almost automatic when he shoots his perimeter jump shot. He is long-armed. He has a really nice midrange game. He is still learning. I think what he had to go through this year, really trying to learn to play the point guard, is going to help him tremendously going forward. He has just scratched the surface, and I don’t think there is any question. There are too many good basketball people out there that will look at him and say, ‘We want to have him in and see what we can do.'”

(On the consistent success of home teams through SEC play this season)
“You have to look at your team, that is all you can really do. Our fan base has been tremendous this year. I think they have fallen in love with this group of guys and they see the effort they play with. Our guys don’t want to let them down. They want to compete and play hard. I think you can say that about other teams in the league on the road. Looking at it statistically, you will see that most teams do play better at home. To go on the road in a very balanced league, the talent level is probably more than people might want to give credit towards. To win in this league you have to have a competitive spirit about you. When you go on the road and play tough games there are a lot of factors that go into it. Refereeing is a part of it. You have to hope you get good referees and they have good days. Referees have good days just like teams do. When things are really close it is like a perfect storm coming, you obviously don’t have the emotional lift on the road like you do at home unless it comes from within, but that comes down to competitive spirit. I think there are trends that we go through. With the league, if you look at the coaches you see there are a lot of coaches in this league with a lot of experience. Every game is a grind. It is what it is. I wish we could all put our finger on it, but we earlier in the year we played well on the road and sometimes in the league we have and sometimes we haven’t.”

(On if senior Armani Moore is feeling a sense of urgency as the season winds down)
“I don’t know. That’s a good question, too. It’s one that you’d probably have to ask him. I think he’s been competitive for us, and there’s certain things that we know that we can count on every night. I said before, he doesn’t play perfect. He’ll take some shots at the wrong time, but I think that comes back from maybe his frustration, too. He wants to pass the ball, but he knows there’s times where we need to score. We all know–our coaching staff and our players–by our players’ body language if they’re playing with the kind of confidence that they need to be playing with. The one thing I know, Armani enjoys seeing his teammates playing with that kind of confidence. He’s often barking at them for not carrying themselves the way that he thinks you have to, and he’s right. I don’t think he tries to force a lot of things when he knows his team’s engaged with him. It’s when he senses that they’re not, that he’s going to try to do a lot, and sometimes a little bit too much. You’d rather have that than the other way. In terms of if he’s coming down the stretch, I don’t know. That’s a good question. I think his effort’s been good all year. I do know this, that he realized going into the game Saturday that (he’s) going to have to really help Shembari (Phillips) through this now. I thought he was great with Shembari. We try not to put a whole lot on his plate, knowing that he’s going to have to do a lot of different things. We weren’t really fluid offensively because Shembari, I’d rather have him play at the pace he was playing than that out-of-control pace he was playing at earlier in the year, but he still didn’t get us in the offense as smoothly as I know that he can. Armani was really trying to help him with that. He took the ball at the point a little bit. It’s good having a guy that’s willing to do that.”

(On maintaining a defensive intensity on the road)
“It’s focus. It’s understanding. You go back to the (earlier) South Carolina game (Jan. 23), a huge stat in that game was we were 30-for-32 from the free throw line. They’re a team, I think they average about 19 or 20 (free throw attempts). Defensively, we’ve got to work hard at not fouling against a team that’s aggressive and puts you in situations where you do have to foul. It’s a mindset, and it’s a nine o’clock game, so that’s a little rhythm. We’re all asking the question, ‘What’s different on the road?’ One, it’s going to be that late game, so you have to try to get guys to understand that when it’s time to play, you’ve got to be ready to play. You hope there’s not a lot that changes their rhythm throughout the day in a routine. It’s just being on edge, concentrating, and knowing that you’ve got a job to do, and you’ve got to do it.”

(On being short-handed at South Carolina and what that means to the younger players)
“I think going forward, there’s always those blessings in disguise. The minutes that Shembari’s (Phillips) getting right now, the minutes that Admiral’s (Schofield) played into this year, and Kyle (Alexander), and you throw in Detrick Mostella. Those are big minutes for those guys. The thing I like about this group, and again, we didn’t make a big deal about it. It’s not like I stood up in front of the team (at Mississippi State) and made this great pep talk about, ‘Armani’s not going to play here.’ We did the same thing with (Kevin Punter Jr.). This is what it is. You other guys that have been here, we’re not going to ask you to do something that you can’t do. We didn’t say, ‘Let’s win one for the gipper here.’ We didn’t do any of that. We said we’ve got enough, and we’ve just got to go and everybody’s go to be willing to do more. I think it goes back to our team showed a lot of character. I think the players individually did, and we need to build on it. I think we can. I think this time of year, you’ve got to love it. If you’re a player, there’s four regular season games. They’re huge for everybody. If you’re a competitor, you’ve got to love it, knowing that you’ve still got four games to play and a chance to do some things.”

(On South Carolina’s recent play)
“Well, I think when you really look at the program that Frank Martin inherited, and for him, where they started, what, two years ago and be where they are this year, playing in a game, I can only imagine the hype before (last week’s) game (between) South Carolina and Kentucky–both teams tied for first place, playing for outright first place. So you’ve got a group of guys who have never been there in South Carolina, and I’m sure they were anxious, but that’s just part of the building process. I think it’s great that for Frank and his team, and I think he even said it, a game of so much meaning for a group of guys who have never experienced that. So, I mean, that’s part of building a program that guys understand that, hey, it’s a game, but it’s not any bigger (than any other game). But I can imagine the hype around it all, going around town there and everything. But when you look at their team and what he’s done, I’m not surprised. We became good friends while he was at Kansas State and his teams are tough, hard-nosed; they truly do personify his personality. He looks for a certain kind of player that he wants to have in his program. He believes in fighting you on every inch of the court. He’s not going to let you think that you’re going walk out and get the ball on this area of the floor or this area of the floor, he’s not going to let you reverse it easily. On offense, I think he’s like everybody. He puts his system in on getting everyone to play to their roles. But it’ll be a much different game in terms of they’re going to be a much more aggressive team. I would arguably say that they might be the most aggressive team in the league in terms of their half court defense, really getting after you and contesting every pass and every shot. That’s what they do.”

(On Shembari Phillips’ development as a point guard)
“Well, that is a big surprise because he certainly found a way to turn it over early on in the year. He was playing way too fast, and some of it was his footwork, where he’d get in a hurry and travel. But it goes back from the time that he got here this summer, he had to play the point and he’s never played it before. So he and Kevin Punter started a position where they had to guard each other every day and they had to try to learn what we’re trying to do. You know, Shembari has really good vision, he’s not afraid to throw some passes down the floor. He threw a great over-the-top pass and a baseball pass the other day at the end of the game. He seized the floor and he’s working. He’s a guy that, I think, he takes the ball hard to the basket, he’s our best guy on the team with movement without the ball. He makes great cuts, he does a great job on getting fouled with his cuts. He’s got great pace to his game there. But he’s not a point guard yet. He’s not, but he is a guy, that when you look at certain guys, you think, you know he could possibly really develop those traits because of the fact that he does see it. He doesn’t totally understand the position yet, but he’s learning it. In the past, he’s been a guy that just runs and shoots and jumps, those types of things, but now he’s being asked to make everybody else know where they’re supposed to be and what they’re supposed to do. Overall, again, I think he’s come a long way and I think moving forward is going to help him grow and develop as a player.”

(On how he determines Ray Kasongo’s minutes)
“Practice and match-ups and different things. One reason we wanted Derek Reese in the game the other day, was that Derek does handle the ball well, he sees things well, he’s a guy that understands what we’re trying to do defensively, whereas Ray is still trying to figure out that part of himself, where he fits in and what we need from him. But, again, I give Ray credit for continuing to work and do the things that we ask him to do. But we go into games, I will tell you this last couple of weeks, thinking that there’s not a guy that we’re not willing to use if we need him. But the situation and what happens in the game really determine what ends up happening.”

Grant Ramey covers Tennessee men’s basketball. Follow him at twitter.com/GrantRamey

Kevin Punter Jr. out against LSU; Devon Baulkman will try to go

Tennessee senior point guard Kevin Punter Jr. is out for today’s game (TV: ESPNU, 5 p.m.) against LSU (16-10, 9-4) at Thompson-Boling Arena with a right foot injury.

First-year Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said Punter played through “a little ankle” injury during Thursday’s 80-70 loss to Kentucky at Rupp Arena. Punter scored 17 of his 19 points in the second half of the loss, playing 34 minutes.

More on injuries to Punter, Baulkman: Not much time for ailing Vols to recover

Punter leads the Vols in scoring at 22.2 points per game and is second in the SEC behind only Ole Miss guard Stefan Moody. Punter is 10th nationally in scoring.

Devon Baulkman left the game in the second half with an injured left shoulder, but will attempt to play today against LSU.

Baulkman went through pregame with his teammates. Punter did not dress for warmups.

Grant Ramey covers Tennessee men’s basketball. Follow him at twitter.com/GrantRamey

Tuesday Press Conference — Rick Barnes, Kyle Alexander

Rick Barnes

(On if he’s ever had a player with similar experience to Kyle Alexander)
“It’s been a long time. I’d have to think back, probably while I was an assistant at George Mason, and we were trying to build that program. We took some guys like that, that hadn’t been playing very long, and guys that ended up having pretty good careers. I think with Kyle, what you see with him and what you like about him as a coaching staff is he listens. He wants to do it. There’s a lot of things that he’s done well for a guy that’s only played two years, but he knows he’s got a long way to go. He’s got to still develop a real feel for the game offensively. As he gets stronger, it’s going to change so much of how he plays. The fact is, he wants to be a good basketball player. He wants to be a great teammate, and he’s willing to put in the time that you have to do to not only do that, but be a good student, too. He takes it very seriously. Everything about Kyle Alexander, he takes very seriously.”

(On if he expected Kyle Alexander to develop so quickly)
“He’s probably helped us more than we probably wanted him to. We thought we would get some more out of some other guys on the front line that we haven’t. What he’s done, and the reason he’s played – it’s not like he’s been, you look at his numbers, overwhelming there – it’s just that he’s trying to do what we need done at that position. That’s what you like about him. He’s really trying to do the things we ask, that we think it’s going to take to win. Sometimes he gets over-matched physically, but I would say there’s no doubt, we think he’s got a terrific future. How much we thought he would play? We knew through the summer that he was going to play more than probably he might have thought, because we watched the way that he would run the floor and do things. We watched how much time he put in the gym. We watched him hit a wall, too, where it really just flooded him all at once, I think the grind of the summer, the academic side, everything. He’s bounced back pretty nicely. If you watch him on tape, I think what he’s tried to do is really put his thought process on the defensive end. We still tell him that we think he needs to be more competitive in terms of trying to score the ball, and want the ball and be a factor there. He’s trying, and we’re just all pleased to death that he’s a part of this program.”

(On if the Feb. 2 comeback win over Kentucky lit a fire under the Wildcats)
“I thought they were playing really good basketball coming in, before us. If you go back before that game, I made the comment. I thought they were starting to take on [John Calipari’s] personality and the way his teams play. They really take great advantage every time they have the ball. They’re not going to have too many empty possessions offensively. Defensively, I thought they were really starting to come into their own. I think you look at it in roles. I mentioned their roles, and I think that’s more so now than ever. I thought they were playing good defense coming in, too. I think they’ve done that extremely well. I do think that they’ve continued to mesh really well. The roles are even more defined now than when we played them, because I thought that they were coming into that. It’s impressive when you think about it. I don’t think Alex Poythress has played, what, two or three games now? It’s allowed other guys to do some things. I also think that you can’t say enough about a guy like Tyler [Ulis]. He’s terrific. I just love his competitive fire. As a group, they just seem to have a real belief in each other right now.”

(On needing greater consistency up and down the roster)
“You could go back and look at every game that we have played well and we had more than one or two people play (effectively). We need Admiral (Schofield) to be a factor; we need Robert Hubbs III to be a factor. We need those guys to score for us because we can’t put all of that on Kevin Punter Jr. He’s had to do a lot this year and he’s carried the weight for so long. I feel like Armani (Moore) has gotten himself into a good spot but we need Admiral to be the factor that he can be. We need Robert Hubbs and consistent play from Detrick (Mostella) and Devon Baulkman. We need those guys and to just know what we’re going to get from them every single night whether we’re home or on the road, but that’s just what we haven’t had.”

(On needing better ball movement on the offensive end)
“I think (the ball) sticks with certain guys. I’ve explained to our guys that we start the game (at Missouri) and have great execution on the first possession then Armani comes down and throws up a terrible shot. Then the play right after that, Shembari was open on the wing and took a three. When you’re going one-pass three’s early in the game, those guys have to be 45 percent 3-point shooters. We’re 10-1 when we get to the foul line more than our opponent. You can’t get to the foul line making plays like that. We want all guys to shoot the ball when they’re open and in the rhythm, but they have to understand the possession. They have to understand that any time a guy is open, you expect him to shoot it and sometimes when he might not be all the way open (but still shoot) is Kevin Punter. Everybody else, we should be working a little bit deeper into the clock. Sometimes those guys are open by design. But we can’t settle; we’ve done that too much. Some of that has to do with the fact that we have some young guys. Admiral has taken some quick early shots that I think kind of unsettles him a little bit. Shembari has gotten so much better and he’s trying to understand that we’re not telling him not to shoot the ball but we’re telling him that he has to pick his spots when he does shoot it. If you’re that open its maybe by a reason and plus he’s a guy that we know can get fouled, drive the ball and make some things happen. Sometimes that’s just youth, but we need Admiral and Robert Hubbs. Robert has a tendency that when the ball gets in his hands to hesitate but if he would just move more within the offense and let the offense work for him he’ll score better that way. Detrick (Mostella) is a guy who will take some tough shots at the wrong time. I’ve talked to Armani a lot about his threes and he’s going to have a chance to shoot threes all he wants to. He just has to be selective. When we’ve gone three or four possessions without scoring, he can’t settle at that point in time unless the shot clock is down. The concentration has to be there better; I think they always give effort. I just think our concentration and our basketball decisions have to be a lot better especially in the way that we’ve lost some of these games. ”

(On whether or not the players have a comfort level with his offensive schemes at this point in the season)
“At times, they are. Whether you would believe this or not, there’s still some guys that don’t quite see it they way they should Now, it’s a matter of making it work I think the majority of them understand what we’re trying to do. You’d still be surprised at how we talk about spacing. We still talk about it every game. We still talk about having to fight for your space on the floor, talking about setting your cuts up, hard cuts, scoring cuts, finishing your cuts. We still talk about it today as a staff. We’ve talked about how we’ve got to keep getting better. You need to continue to understand those type of things, and trust it and let it work. It’s such a fine line there… just space on the floor. If I showed you tape today, and showed you the difference of the guy getting to the corner, and a guy coming two feet short of that, and how it takes away the space that Kevin Punter needs. It’s those things. To be quite honest, some guys still don’t get it the way we need it to be. By now, we should have all of that. So, it goes back to them being totally committed to doing their job even if they don’t get the ball. So many guys don’t know how to play if they don’t have the ball in their hands. We’ve gotten better at that. Overall and defensively, we’ve gotten better. We’re not as consistent there as we need to be, but we are better there. It goes back to when the ball starts sticking, we really bog down.”


 

Kyle Alexander

(On his growth since the beginning of the season)
“I think I’ve definitely had my games where the coaches told me I’ve played well and definitely some games where I’ve had the coaches tell me there are some things I need to improve on. I haven’t been really consistent in the last couple months, so I’m just trying to work on being consistent and giving the team something they need every single night. But in terms of my progression, I think as long as I’m on the floor and I’m playing I think I’m always getting better.”

(On how his preseason expectations match his current role)
“I think, as a freshman, I didn’t really expect to much. You just kind of hope that you can make an impact on the team and just kind of contribute a little bit. But I think I’m definitely doing a lot more than I thought I could. You know, only playing basketball for two years I didn’t think that I could come in and have a major role on the team, but I’m liking how much I’m being able to contribute right now.”

(On if he and the other players hear Coach Barnes’ candid evaluations of them after games)
“I always hear it. It’s always good to hear what the coaches have to say after a game because you’re trying to improve. Getting good criticism, bad criticism from a coach after a game is almost like watching film. You get to hear what was going through (Coach Barnes’) mind right after the game, his honest thoughts. The coaches are always really honest with their opinions right after the games when it’s fresh in their minds. So I’m always listening to what (Coach Barnes) has to say and I’m always taking that into account when I go into the next game.”

(On becoming more of an offensive presence)
“I’m working right now on (becoming) a low-post presence, working on my shot around the basket. That’s where our team needs something right now is somebody they can throw the ball into on the inside. I’ve been making an impact defensively a little bit right now, so if I can add some on the offensive end I can really help contribute to the team a little bit more.”

(On if they can take anything from this season’s earlier win vs. Kentucky into Rupp Arena on Thursday)
“We came out with a win in that game and it was a great team win. Everybody was really hyped up about it and that does give us confidence because we know we can get the job done if we come out with the same energy that we did. And as long as we stay poised the whole game, I think we definitely have a chance — at least a good a chance as anybody else. We’ve definitely seen film (on Kentucky) from the last couple games and we noticed that they came out fighting and hitting hard with people. But I think that if we do the same thing we did last game that we could be surprised at what we do.”

(On UK’s loss at Tennessee ‘lit a fire under them’ over the past three games)
“I think that could have something to do with it.”

(On the confidence he’s gained after moving into the starting lineup)
“I think that it’s kind of shown me that the coaches have faith in me and have faith in my abilities and what I can be and in what I’m doing right now. So I just have to keep working not to let them down. (I’ve been) trying to stay in the gym and just make sure I come out every game with the mindset that I need to do something special so that the coaches don’t lose their trust in me.”

(On his relationship with Kentucky’s Jamal Murray, a former AAU teammate and prep school roommate)
“Living with someone for two years, seeing them every single minute of every day, sometimes every single day for seven weeks straight when you’re traveling every weekend, you learn a lot about someone. He’s like a brother to me. It was different the first time we played with him being on an opposite team as me. It was a different experience, but we both loved it. We talked after the game, we talked before the game. I’m looking forward to playing him again.”

(On his learning curve under Coach Barnes while having only two years of basketball experience under his belt)
“(The coaches) have done a great job of helping me this whole time. Since they day I got here they’ve told me what they expect from me, they told me what they want from me, and they’re really helping me and pushing me along the way. I don’t have a big role on the team right now. I just need to do what I’ve got to do.”

(On looking to the future with fellow freshmen Admiral Schofield and Shembari Phillips)
“It’s really exciting to think about what the future can hold for our team. We have a great recruiting class coming in. (Coach Barnes) did a great job with the recruiting and everybody on our team right now that is going to be coming back next year is doing a great job developing their skills. Admiral has been really impressive, Shembari in the last couple games has done a great job playing his position. So I think that next year we could do something really special.”

(On how he’s adjusted to living to East Tennessee from Canada)
“I love it here, to be honest with you. In the summer it took a while for me to adjust going through the weather adjustment from Canada back to here, but everybody here is treating me well. So it wasn’t a big adjustment.”

Grant Ramey covers Tennessee men’s basketball. Follow him at twitter.com/GrantRamey

Postgame Quotes — Missouri 75, Vols 64

Missouri 75, Tennessee 64: Struggling Missouri adds to Vols’ road woes

RICK BARNES

“I think the most important thing that went on here today was what Missouri did for Rhyan Loos. It’s unbelievable that they would do that. I’ve always had great respect for the University of Missouri and their fans. To have a fundraiser like that, for obviously that disease that we all hate, that was the biggest win of all.

“I think you have to give the Missouri basketball team all the credit. I thought they came out knowing it was a game they could win. I know what it’s like to struggle when you haven’t won games in a while.

“Every time we would try to get back in the game we would have some missed free throws or turnovers, those type things.

“The bottom line is, if it wasn’t for our zone turning them over … then they shot, you look at their (shooting percentages), they were great.

“One of the big things we thought we couldn’t do coming in is let them get to the free-throw line. Again, they did a great job. You have to give them credit.

“Certainly, I’ve got a lot of respect for Kim (Anderson), and I know he’s walked into a tough situation here. But they certainly made the right to get it turned around. I know a lot about this program, the great tradition they have, and he’s going to restore it back to where people here want to see it.”

On Missouri forward Ryan Rosburg
“We normally play five guards, but when we play zone we like (Kyle Alexander) back there. I think Kyle is going to be terrific for us. He’s only been playing basketball for two years. I mean, literally only two years. We’re watching him get better and better.

“When (Rosburg) was scoring there we had some blown assignments. In our zone, we’re always looking to double the post and we doubled the short corner. Early Kyle let them walk up the lane when we were man (defense).

“We’re not surprised when people really look to go inside. We’ve had trouble with that all year. We’re the kind of team, we can’t be relying on two or three guys every night.

“We haven’t been good on the road because we haven’t gotten consistent play. We don’t know what we’re going to get from certain guys and it shows up. It gets down to having that competitive spirit, and we don’t have enough of it when we need it on the road.

“When we got it down to a working number there we missed key free throws, some huge free throws. (Kevin) Punter and Armani (Moore), free throws were big at the time. We got in the open court and should’ve had easy plays. I think we ended up (shooting a 3) when we missed one of the layups.

“A couple big offensive rebounds we gave up. Then another crucial play, I thought we kind of had them a little out of sorts, then we fouled with four seconds left on the shot clock. That was a big play. When you’re fighting uphill, those plays mount up on you.”

On missing 10 free throws
“We’ve been good at it all year. I can’t tell you. Armani has struggled.

“We start the game doing what we exactly what we want. Then the second possession Armani puts his head down and throws up a shot that he’s not going to make. Then he drove it one other time.

“We just gave away some possessions we don’t give away. You expect Kevin (to make free throws). What was Kevin shooting, 80-something percent from the free-throw line? And he has a tough day.

“It’s the timing of all of it. When we had a chance to get (the lead) down, put some pressure on them, we just kept giving them enough breathing room. We couldn’t mount the kind of pressure we wanted to.

“The free-throw line, again, they were 22-for-30. Anytime you can make almost more than the other team shoots (24), you’re going to win a lot of it there. Then you look at the field goal percentage. They shot the ball well.

“The only things that kept it close was we turned them over. I think there were a little confused with our zone. We still had some chances but we didn’t make the winning plays when we had to and they did.”

On message to his team after the loss
“I just told them, again, I don’t know why anybody would get worried about us coming on the road. You look at our record.

“It goes back, I mean, you go down our lineup. I think Kyle is doing a lot for us. KP’s free throws are huge there. Shembari I thought did a good job today. Baulk (Devon Baulkman), you look at his line, it looks pretty good other than he only had one rebound.

“Ray (Kasongo) played eight minutes, no rebounds. Robert Hubbs, a guy that I’ve said before should be our second leading scorer, plays 19 minutes, has one rebound, has two points, two turnovers. And a big turnover. Admiral plays, what, seven minutes? Doesn’t do much. Detrick, guys we’re counting on, eleven minutes, doesn’t do much. Derek was in there trying to rest Kyle and that’s when Rosburg really went to work on us a little bit more in there. When Kyle’s in there we have a better chance in the low post.

“We just need everybody to play. It goes back, we’ve simply put too much on certain guys and we need other guys to help us.”

On the frustrations that come with inconsistency
“It’s frustrating. It really is. I think as coaches, if we knew what we we’re going to get … and certain things you want to get. We have to rebound the ball. You can’t look down and see certain guys you’re counting on.

“We’re small anyway. And the best games we’ve played this year are when we rebound the ball collectively, as a group.

“Again, our rebounding today was 41-26 (Missouri). You look at certain guys that don’t do that for us. It’s frustrating, it is.

“That’s why you don’t take playing hard for granted. I think playing hard is a talent. Not everybody plays hard. Not everybody can figure out what it is they can do well and can’t do well. But there is certain things that have to be non-negotiable. That’s your effort on the boards, in the zone, coming over (and helping on defense) and doing your job, basically.

“We just aren’t consistent with everybody doing that. And we have to have that as a group.
“The question is why do teams play well at home, as opposed to on the road. I think it’s confidence, but more than confidence I think it’s toughness. I think to be a really good road team you have to be really tough, tough-minded.

On players not staying with the game plan early in games
“I think it goes back to not understanding what goes into losing. I think you have to understand what goes into losing, too. Everybody talks about what you have to do to win.

“(Armani Moore) has played enough to know those are empty possessions. Again, we want him to do it. We don’t care if he takes the right three at the right time, but he takes some at the most inopportune time for him, when we haven’t scored.

“At some point in time you have to know your teammates and know we’ve gone three possessions without scoring. We got to get something good here.

“There are a lot of guys that are open by design. Believe me, we leave certain guys open hoping they shoot it. The (Missouri) guy that hit two today, I don’t know if he’s hit two (threes) this year, has he? Hadn’t hit any from the corner. And he had two that went in and out. Those were shots that were too easy. We didn’t bump off them when we needed to.

“Still, I think it gets back to being competitively tough on the road. I just don’t think we’ve shown it but one time this year. We’ve shown it early, gone on the road and played well early. But later on, we haven’t done as well. It goes back to what you’re saying. Scouting report, not putting them on the free-throw line and we did. Reaching fouls, stupid fouls. Can’t foul with four seconds left on the (shot) clock, stuff like that.”

On if fatigue is a factor this time of year
“I think we’ve rested them, we’ve done that. I think some guys, Kevin, we put a lot on him, but still, he hasn’t played well the last three games. He’s gotten himself in foul trouble. It goes back, when he’s really playing well he’s running our offense. And he’s scoring his points.

“I’ve said to you guys before, we don’t run a lot of set plays for him. When he was scoring 25, 30 points a game, we weren’t running set plays for him. It was all happening in the flow of our offense. But he’s a guy that’s got to get it going. And we can’t get it going when we’re making quick, poor decisions in transition. Putting our head down, driving, not getting the ball moving.

“I don’t think fatigue (is a factor). I think this time of year what you’re playing for and hoping your seniors, your seniors have to give you that leadership when you come down the stretch. Some of these guys have never gone through this. We have to get better leadership and got to keep going with it, get our seniors to do that for us.”


 

KEVIN PUNTER JR.
“It’s rough anytime you go on the road and lose.

“We’ve got to stick to the game plan. That’s it, really.

“I don’t really have much to say. I’m not going to lie to you.”

“I missed what, four (free throws)? I missed way too many. I shoot it too much to come up to the free-throw line and miss.”


DEVON BAULKMAN

“It’s just me coming into the game with a defensive mindset, taking open shots.

“We have to continue to stick to the game plan, execute our plans. At the end of the day we need everybody to do their work and jobs.

“We just have to go into the game, stick to the game plan and scouting report. Defend and bring energy.

“It’s really aggravating. We spend so much time in the gym. In big times, we need to knock those down. We have to continue to keep working. Be positive.

“It’s just a mind thing at the end of the day. We practice it a lot. It’s just something we have to overlook and do better the next game.”

Grant Ramey covers Tennessee men’s basketball. Follow him at twitter.com/GrantRamey

Rick Barnes Transcript — Friday, Jan. 29

RICK BARNES, Friday, Jan. 29

On mistakes made at Alabama

“Our defense had pretty done much what we needed it to do, but once we got the lead — and we knew they would make a run, we missed some shots — but I thought when they started coming back we simply didn’t defend the way we had to.

“We were very sloppy with the ball in areas where we didn’t need to do that. When we got the ball moving and kept it moving as opposed to trying to thread the needle on some passes we were getting some looks.

“I thought when the momentum flipped we didn’t fight back the way we were going to have to to win the game.”

On Alabama double-teaming Kevin Punter Jr.

“We’ve expected that all year. The thing you obviously have to do if they’re going to take him out is that other guys are going to have to make some plays and score some baskets.

“When they first started trapping him we dunked the ball once, hit a three, but then during that run we got away from that. I would expect people to do that. We’ve got enough balanced scoring to overcome that. And if we take care of the little things there they can’t stay in it. If they want to keep doubling, fine. Our whole thing is based on getting open, rhythm shots. If one of our guys is open we expect them to take it.”

On not being a “joystick coach”

“I think one of the most important things in coaching is for players to be able to play with a free mind. You have to get them to understand the game and what goes into it. To me ‘joy-stick’ is more every time down the court you want to call a play. We did not guard coming down the stretch. That was the bottom-line.

“It started with giving up an offensive rebound and a foul, but that’s where we got hurt, the defensive end. We got sloppy on the offensive end and I think the poor offense led to poor defense, and you can say the same thing vice versa sometimes. We were simply very sloppy.

On Armani Moore’s turnovers at Alabama

“It makes it tough. Armani needs to handle the ball and he’s better than that. He gets in too big of a hurry. He’s just sloppy with the ball. He does see some things and I think KP likes being off the ball a little bit. We need to get Shembari better, he’s been up and down. We just need to know what we’re going to get from him from day-to-day. The fact of the matter is that if he doesn’t practice well the day before we’re probably not going to play him in the game.”

On Shembari Phillips

“It has been (a pattern). Normally when he practices well he plays well. When he doesn’t practice well he’s normally not on edge and he’s very careless with the ball.”

On stepping out of conference play after the loss at Alabama

“I don’t think it’s a change of pace because you’re still playing a team in TCU that’s similar to and will do a lot of the same things that Georgia would do. Trent and Mark worked together so they do a lot of the same things. It’s going to be very much like a conference game.

“This time of year where conference (play) is different is where you’re playing a round-robin, then when you go outside the league…but we don’t play a round-robin, as you know we only play some conference teams once. It’s going to be the same feel as a conference game.”

On TCU

“They’re very disciplined. Simple. I think like Georgia they know what they’re looking for. They’re going to play deep into the (shot) clock if it takes that. I think they’re very solid defensively, they’ll probably mix it 60-40 man to zone, or maybe more than that depending on how we react to that.

“I’ve known Trent for a long time, coached against him. His teams aren’t going to beat themselves. They’re going to stay in it. They’re going to keep grinding, keep fighting. They have some size and I’m sure like anybody they’re going to try and go inside on us.

On Devon Baulkman on the road versus at home

“I think what we look at more than anything is we know our guys, we’re with them every game. Body language is important, how they look out there, if they’re engaged or not. He’s gotten better defensively. Where he gets himself in trouble is when he starts dribble, dribble, dribble, like any player. Not just him. When the ball starts sticking on any team, it’s not good. And it’s really not good for us. When he gets in trouble, and some of that is not his fault, because if he has to dribble, that means his teammates aren’t doing what they need to do to get the ball moving.”

On Kevin Punter adjusting to similar double-teams from Alabama game

“He’s seen some of that. But at the first of the game, Armani (Moore) set a screen in the middle of the floor at halfcourt. You knew (Alabama was) going to double, we knew that going in they were going to take that. So we didn’t execute there.

“What we showed them is we didn’t execute our offense early. You’ve got to come into a game with a game plan. You have to at least try to get it going and we didn’t do that.

“People would be shocked. We don’t run that much stuff for KP. What he gets is in the flow of what we do. When we went into this season, we weren’t sure, you think about foul trouble, all this. We wanted an offense and a team that, everybody if they do their job would find a role and do those type things. He got himself in trouble. Think about early, he charged. Came up the floor, didn’t have the numbers.

“I don’t think the double-teaming (is a factor). If we do what we’re supposed to do, we should be scoring at a very high clip because when they’re double-teaming, you’ve got an advantage somewhere. You’re playing 4-on-3 somewhere, and we ought to be able to pick that up.”

On Admiral Schofield

“I think he’s like any young player right now. We’re trying to make him understand there’s got to be more to his game than making shots. He’s got to rebound the ball better, he has to defend better. It’s not so much what the other teams are doing, it’s what he’s not doing to help us at the position he’s playing. He’s got to be a guy that’s constantly going to the offensive boards.

“When you play a front-line position, that has to be a constant. Both offense and defense, you’re going to the glass. He has a tendency to stand out and shoot 3s, which we want him to do, he’s good at shooting 3s, but at some point in time, he has to do the other things.

“Defensively, he had two fouls. One early in the game that he shouldn’t have fouled and the last one at the free-throw line was a huge play. The guy had secured the ball. And you tell those guys once they get the ball they’ve got to get out of there and not mess around. That’s, again, just immaturity and continuing to learn the game.”

Grant Ramey covers Tennessee men’s basketball. Follow him at twitter.com/GrantRamey

Rick Barnes on News Sentinel Sports Page

Tennessee men’s basketball coach Rick Barnes joined WNML’s News Sentinel Sports Page Tuesday morning, discussing everything from his current Vols, coming off the win at Mississippi State, to his grand kids and any past NBA coaching aspirations.

Full audio of the interview can be found here. Below are some of the highlights from the coach’s appearance with myself and Vince Ferrara:

Barnes said there hasn’t been a different vibe from his basketball team following Saturday’s 80-75 win at Mississippi State, the Vols’ first road win in eight tries this season:

“Not really, I don’t think. These guys really have been pretty much the same all year. I do think they want to get better. I know that after we watched tape with them yesterday they realized we still have to get better. We still make mistakes, as you’re going to make in some games. The ones that we’re making are things we’ve emphasized. Getting better defensively. I thought we did a good job offensively of really taking care of the ball; didn’t have too many real bad possessions on the offensive end that led to easy baskets for them. We still have to get better defensively.”

Barnes noted both which player on Tennessee’s roster is best in the film room and provides the most laughs on film:

“I think overall, from start to finish, the guy that is probably the most efficient player is Armani Moore. He’s a guy that … he can go from one play to the next play. Then there’s guys that have had their moments, obviously. But consistently I would say it’s Armani that makes the scouting report work for him.

“In terms of funny guys, although there are a couple of them, right now from start to finish I would probably have to give that award to Detrick Mostella. I mean sometimes he’ll go set screens on guys that aren’t even there. You’re looking around and he kind of fumbles all over himself. At times, it’s really funny when you see a guy motioning for a screen and there’s nobody there to screen. We have fun in there. It gets pretty intense, obviously at times.”

After nothing his team’s increased communication helping lead to the win in Starkville, Barnes touched on how it needs to continue to grow and build from here:

“I think it really does make the game easier for (the players) themselves, when they do talk. It remains to be seen if we’re smart enough to understand we have build off communication as well as you have to continue to build your defense, offense. If they will continue to improve (their communication), the game will get much easier for all of them. As you know, guys are talking and helping each other through situations, it’s a much easier game to play.”

Detrick Mostella said during Monday’s press conference that Barnes refers to his players as “stealing money” if they’re not giving as much as they can and earning their scholarships. Barnes expanded on that metaphor:

“I put great value on a scholarship. You know as well as anybody, I guess, that there are a lot of kids that have to pay their way through school. And when they get done, they have these big loans out there. And it takes some of them up until their 30s or 40s to pay off. I just think sometimes I don’t know if players, athletes understand the value of that scholarship.

“When I brought it up that day, and I brought in the full cost of tuition, where they get the extra money this year, I said if I were a player on a team now, I’d want to start a union and I would put all of our (cost of attendance) money together and I’d have it all there for incentive. As soon as I said that, Kevin Punter and Armani Moore said, ‘I’m all for that right now.’ So I just think it’s the fact that they’re here, we’re doing a lot to help them grow, there are obviously a lot of opportunities for them. But I want them to take advantage of it, because I don’t want them to ever think that somebody is not paying that scholarship. Because it’s costing the university money to do that.”

Barnes discussed how the offense flows through the player with the best match-up on the floor, specific to scoring points through Robert Hubbs III when he can be productive in the paint:

“We really try to go through match-ups. It depends on who has the match-up at the time that we think we can take advantage of, (that’s) what we’re really looking for. One thing with Robert (Hubbs), one thing we want him to do when we say ‘play through him,’ we want him to go inside. We don’t need him thinking, ‘OK, I can raise up and shoot jump shots,’ because I think 70 percent or more of his points come from inside the high-percentage area. And that’s where we want him. He has a tendency sometimes to drift out. But when he gets in that area, yeah, we’re going to play through him. But it goes back to match-ups.”

Barnes said on Monday that at Texas, he generally coached taller teams and dreaded facing smaller lineups. Now with a four-guard lineup and 6-foot-5 Admiral Schofield being the tallest projected starter, the Vols face Vanderbilt, which has two 7-footers in its projected starting five:

“I guess what my ideal team would be, I’d prefer a bunch of 6-7 guys that could all have guard skills and could switch everything. Players like that, where you can really spread the floor. I think the game has gotten more to where you have to spread out a little bit. The tough thing about having, if you’re playing against a Vanderbilt that not only has a 7-footer that can score inside, but also step outside and shoot it, he can also pass over you. That’s a major concern when you have a player that can do both of them. But then on the other end, you have to think defensively, how can we take advantage of that? Offensively how can we take advantage of them? It’s a back and forth game.

“If you asked me the ideal team, you need length. Especially if you want to be a multiple defensive team … at Texas we had big teams, but we also tried to always try to find a 6-5, 6-7 kid that could match-up. When we had to play mid-major schools we played with 6-7 post players that could step out and do somethings. We really tried to build a team that we could play any style we had to play.”

Barnes described convincing his grandchildren, via pictures and text messages, that he owns monster trucks, elephants and tigers (after Monster Jam and the circus came through Thompson-Boling Arena):

“Every time something comes into Thompson-Boling Arena, like when the circus was here, I stood by and Tom Satkowiak and I talked like I was going to buy a couple tigers and send to them, all that. I have a great time with it. He has a great imagination so we have a great time playing. We have some secret friends that we talk about together. I really miss him. That’s probably has been the toughest, has been being away from them. If my family was here right now, I don’t think I would think about anything other than what I’m doing. But I do miss them because I got to spend a lot of time with them (in Austin).”

Barnes was asked if he had NBA coaching aspirations at any point in his career:

“I think at one time I probably did, but I was very fortunate when I was at Providence to have a great mentor in Dave Gavitt, who was the founder of the Big East. He had left, he formed the Big East, was really the catalyst behind it, then left and became the the general manager of the Boston Celtics. I would go up and have lunch with him some. He would, just in passing, say if you’re going to do this, ever want to do this, make sure it’s your hobby. Because if you come in to this league, I can assure you that you’re going to get fired. You go back and look, Pat Riley, Phil Jackson, all those guys, as good as they were, there were times when they had to move on. He said to make it your hobby.

“My former strength coach is now the strength coach for the 76ers. It’s a totally different game. It’s a totally different lifestyle. I’ve been doing this so long now. I don’t know if I ever really thought about it, to be honest with you, because I was fortunate to work for some great people at George Mason, then Providence, Clemson and Texas. And I can’t recollect ever thinking, man, this is something I really want to do, to pursue that. I’ve honestly always wanted to build a team that could win a national championship.”

Grant Ramey covers Tennessee men’s basketball. Follow him at twitter.com/GrantRamey

Asheville coach Nick McDevitt previews Vols

UNC Asheville head coach Nick McDevitt joined WNML Sports Radio’s ‘News Sentinel Sports Page’ on Thursday to preview tonight’s season opener against Tennessee at Thompson-Boling Arena:

[Full audio can be found here: News Sentinel Sports Page]

Nick McDevitt, UNC Asheville head coach
On this UNCA team compared to last two years
“Well, this year’s team, you mentioned, we obviously have some key losses from last year due to a graduation and other reason. So we’re a really young team this year. We have five freshmen and several sophomores that are key contributors for us. We’ve been mixing up our lineup a little bit each day in practice. For our exhibition game and scrimmage, we started two freshmen and two sophomores and a junior.

“Again, a really young team, so we’re learning a lot about each other. Hopefully we keep getting better day in and day out.”

On their style of play
“I think we have a little bit more versatility on this team than we’ve had in the past. We’ve had some really good players over the last several years, but we’ve also had 6-11, 7-foot shot-blockers at center. This year’s team, we’re a little bit smaller in our front court, sometimes playing 6-5 and 6-6 (players) in the post. Similar to Tennessee, in they’re not really big, but they also have some versatile players.

“But on the flip side, our backcourt is a little bit bigger than we’ve been in the past. We’ve started a 6-5 point and had a 6-5 at wing. When you have guys with that kind of size in the backcourt, they can help your smaller bigs rebound the basketball. That’s the challenge you face if you’ve got a small frontcourt, at 6-5 and 6-6, is the fear of getting out-rebounded night in and night out. But when you’ve got some backcourt players that are 6-5 and have length and athleticism, they can help you on the defensive end of the floor, particularly with not getting beat too bad on the glass.

“We can do some different things than we’ve done in the past — press a little bit more, zone defense a little bit more than we’ve done in the past, particularly with the rule change, going to a 30-second shot clock. And (we) may kind of entice some teams this year, in my opinion, to try and smoke press, make teams use shot-clock in the backcourt. And if you’re using seven or eight seconds to get it up, and you’re crossing at 22, 23, most teams have a shot-clock play at eight the ten (second) mark. So if you’re forcing teams to only be able to run 10 or 12 second of offense, you can be pretty good defensively. We’ll try to get good at those things before the year is through.”

On freshman forward Dwayne Sutton (6-5, 195)
“Well, he’s 6-5 and he’s athletic and he plays hard. So you throw those kind of combination of things together and you can get a lot of things done. But he brings a maturity to the team in terms of each day (he) tries to get better. I love that about Dwayne. Although he’s playing really well, he’s still very humble and wants to get better each day. (He’s) coming along quickly. He’s gained about seven or eight pounds of muscle since he’s been on campus, so he’s approaching 200 pounds. To have a 6-5, 200-pound athlete on the wing, at our level, is certainly a commodity and we’re proud of what he’s done so far.

“Obviously, real games haven’t started. And it will be an adjustment period for him. We’ll experience ups and downs for him as well as our other freshmen. But real proud of our freshmen so far.”

On junior guard David Robertson (6-5, 195), the team’s leading returning scorer
“I think certainly we’re going to be leaning on Dave to provide some leadership for this young group. Although he is just a junior, I say just a junior; he’s been a two year starter for us, starting as a freshman and a sophomore. He’s been on the floor a lot in a lot of big games, so we’ll certainly rely on his experience and leadership to help us. He’s really a crafty player. He won’t ever be the most athletic guy on the floor, but he kind of gets to where he needs to get to because he is such a smart player, a heady player, high basketball IQ. He can shoot the basketball from behind the arc. So he’s just a solid college basketball player. We’re really happy with his progression through his career, the last two years, and expecting big things for him the next two.”

On Rick Barnes
“I’ve gotten to know coach Barnes over the years quite well. My former boss, Eddie Biedenbach, obviously gave me my first job (at UNCA), but he also gave Rick is first job (in 1978 as an assistant) at Davidson. Through my relationship and his relationship with Eddie Biedenbach, we’ve gotten to know each other through the years.

“We’ve held a celebrity golf tournament here at UNC Asheville for the last four or five years and Rick has played in that very often. He’s been really good to me growing up. Coming up as a young assistant coach, he was a guy that out on the road always spoke. When you’re a 23-. 24-, 25-year-old assistant coach, just getting out on the road recruiting, when guys are at Texas as head coach, they don’t have to speak, and there are some guys that don’t. But Rick has been very generous with his time and been good to me and UNC Asheville.”

On what he sees from this Tennessee basketball team
“They’re smaller than most SEC teams, but man they get up and down the floor. Just looking at some of the scores and looking at some of the things he’s talked about to the community, reading some of the things on their team, they’re certainly going to get up and down the floor.
“As I said, they’re smaller but they’ve got some athletes that really want to get up and down the floor. We’re going to have to try and keep up with them, that’s for sure. Scoring 96 points the other night against Huntsville, and we can’t allow them to get to 100 here on Friday night and expect to win the game.

“That’s a challenge when you’ve got guys like Armani Moore and (Kevin) Punter. Those two guys are hard to handle. We’ll have our work cut out for us, but we’re looking forward to it (Friday) night.”

Grant Ramey covers Tennessee basketball. Follow him at twitter.com/GrantRamey

Chris Ogden breaks down exhibition win, regular-season opener

Tennessee assistant basketball coach Chris Ogden joined Sports Radio WNML’s Sports180 with Josh Ward and Will West on Monday, discussing UT’s 96-83 exhibition win last week against Alabama-Huntsville and looking forward to Friday’s regular season-opener against UNC Asheville (7 p.m.; online stream: WatchESPN).

Audio of the interview will be online here: Sports180. Here’s some of what Ogden had to say:


CHRIS OGDEN, Tennessee assistant basketball coach

On his takeaways, good and bad, from the exhibition game against Huntsville

“The good thing is we put the ball in the hole. Shot the ball decent, did some good things offensively. There’s a lot to clean up there and recognizing a great shot from a good shot.

“The bad is we can’t guard us three and two more civilians. We didn’t guard anybody.”

On this team relying on scoring a lot of points to make up for poor defense

“Yeah, that’s our plan. We’re definitely going to have to play that way. We’re smaller as everybody knows. We’re going to spread people out. We’re going to have to shoot 3’s. But we’re going to also have to, at some point, sit down and guard somebody, be able to get a stop when we need to.

“The good thing is we can score. But we’re going to have to, we’ve got to, defend and rebound better than what we did the other night.”

On how much of that is process versus players being held accountability

“It’s both. The accountability is going to be there and is always going to be there. It’s a mindset that they’re going to have to adapt.”

On what they can do to be better around the basket, both in rebounding and defending

“The big thing is knowing who we are. We can’t give up position. We’ve got to have inside position as much as we can and the second thing, be physical and pursue the ball. We’ve got to have our guards really help us rebound. Then, post defense, we’ll do some things as time goes along to help our guys. Trap a little bit, here and there in the post. But first things first, we have to make sure we’re not giving up position.”

On how much they’re asking of Armani Moore

“A lot. As you can see, a lot. We’re going to have to monitor that. But we need him to do a lot. He’s a playmaker, makes other players better. And so, as other guys figure out how to play off of that, it will take some pressure off of him.”

On how tough the acclimation process has been for this team, the buy-in to a new staff

“You know what, it hasn’t been tough. These guys have bought in and I think the third staff in three years plays into that a little bit because I think they’re searching. They were searching for some stability, and with Coach (Rick) Barnes it brings automatic respect in what he’s done over his career. They’ve bought in to what we’re trying to do. We just have to keep coaching them everyday and get better at the things we’re not good at right now.”

On other players that have impressed this staff behind the scenes

“(Devon) Baulkman can really shoot the ball, so getting him to buy into being more than just that is something to look for. And then (Robert) Hubbs. Hubbs is a very talented player, but we’re going to need more. Same thing, not just scoring the ball, he’s got a good basketball IQ. We need him to rebound and really fill the stat sheet for us.”

On having size at guard to help with rebound numbers

“It does. You can be a good rebounding team because of that, (because of) those guys. There’s a lot of rebounds that come off in the midrange area that those guys can really help us get.”

On what they’re best at right now, biggest strength as a team

“Pushing tempo and shooting the ball is are best strengths right now.”

On if turnovers are a concern without a true point guard on roster in this transition scheme

“It does concern us, but so far in competition settings we’ve had, our assist-to-turnover ratio has been pretty good. It’s because we’re taking shots. A lot of times, when you start turning down shots is when you start turning the ball over. Now, with that, we’re going to have to recognize a good shot from a great shot to continue to keep those turnovers down. But yeah, it does. Turnovers concern you all the time as a coach.”

On a coaching staff transitioning from one conference to the other

“We’re going to go about it as coach always has. Get the players that fit him. He’s won in every league he’s been in and he’s done it by getting players that suit him. And that’s what we’re doing.”

On Friday’s regular-season opener against UNC Asheville, then quick turnaround to play at Georgia Tech on Monday

“Well, what you can look forward to is the same deal offensively, points being scored. Hopefully we’re better defensively. Then the quick turnaround for us coaches means Saturday we’re right into Georgia Tech. Scout, prepare and we’ll learn real quick from things we did well and didn’t do well the night before. We’ll move right on into preparing for Georgia Tech.”

 

Grant Ramey covers Tennessee basketball. Follow him at twitter.com/GrantRamey

Five Vols basketball opponents in AP Preseason Top 25

The Associated Press released its men’s basketball preseason Top 25 on Monday and five of Tennessee’s opponents made the cut.

Kentucky, receiving 10 first-place votes, is No. 2, behind top-ranked North Carolina (35). The Vols play the Wildcats twice in a 16-day window in February — Feb. 2 in Knoxville (7 p.m.; ESPN, ESPNU or SEC Network) and Feb. 18 at Rupp Arena (7 or 8 p.m.; ESPN or ESPN2).

Tennessee will face No. 9 Gonzaga in the “Battle in Seattle,” on Dec. 19 at Key Arena in Seattle (11 p.m.; ESPNU), a week after playing No. 24 Butler at Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis on Dec. 12 (2:30 p.m.; Fox Sports 1).

Tennessee hosts No. 18 Vanderbilt on Jan. 20 (9 p.m.; SEC Network) and travels to Nashville to face the Commodores  on March 1 (7 p.m.; SEC Network). The Vols face No. 21 LSU in Knoxville on Feb. 20 (5:30 p.m.; ESPNU).

No. 2 Kentucky, No. 18 Vanderbilt and No. 21 LSU were the only three SEC teams ranked in the preseason poll.

Tennessee will begin the Rick Barnes era Friday night with a 7 p.m. exhibition game (SEC Network+) against Division II Alabama-Huntsville.

The Vols, who held a closed-door scrimmage against Davidson last Saturday, open the regular season on Friday, Nov. 13 at 7 p.m. (SEC Network+) against UNC Asheville.


 

 

AP Preseason Top 25

  1. North Carolina (35)
  2. Kentucky (10)
  3. Maryland (14)
  4. Kansas (5)
  5. Duke
  6. Virginia (1)
  7. Iowa State
  8. Oklahoma
  9. Gonzaga
  10. Wichita State
  11. Villanova
  12. Arizona
  13. Michigan State
  14. California
  15. Indiana
  16. Utah
  17. Wisconsin
  18. Vanderbilt
  19. Notre Dame
  20. Connecticut
  21. LSU
  22. Baylor
  23. Purdue
  24. Butler
  25. Michigan

Leftovers from Windy City Grill

It doesn’t take long after starting to dig into the past of Rick Barnes — or ‘Ricky from Hickory’ or ‘Rifle Rick’ or whatever you want to call him — that you realize the man is a walking, talking anecdote.

There are seemingly endless stories from Barnes’ childhood growing up in Hickory, centered around what was the Hickory Foundation Center — Rick’s home away from home growing up, where basketball became his obsession — and the Windy City Grill, the restaurant where the Barnes’ boys hung out and ate their meals more often than not.

Here’s some leftover from Hickory, from both Barnes and a couple close friends, that didn’t make my story in Sunday’s paper:


 

RICK BARNES

On Hickory
“It’s home, it’s always been home. But (Knoxville) is home too, now. I want to be involved here in Knoxville. Like I’ve said before, I love my job but I don’t want to be defined as a basketball coach.

“There are so many other people that are doing things far more important than what I’m doing (in Hickory). It’s important, what we do and all that. But there are some people in this town that I’ve met that are doing some unbelievable things for the youth of Knoxville.”

On those who helped mentor him in Hickory
“God has been awfully good to us. I can tell you, I could sit here all day and talk about all the blessings He has given us. One of them was the people he put in my life at a very important time. Teachers, coaches, that for whatever reason, they took an interest in me.”

On Windy City Grill
“You know what, as far as I’m concerned, they can have three things on the menu and I’m good with it.”

“What it is, in the morning I would always eat a bologna sandwich on a bun with mustard and coleslaw. Or a livermush (sandwich), deep fried with mustard and coleslaw.

“Then I love their sliced (pork) barbecue. That’s pretty much the three things I eat when I go there. And crispy French fries.”

On handling his players as a college basketball coach
“One thing I do think they want, and they do need, they want accountability. I think they want to know that you’re fair, but they want to be held accountable. They need to be held accountable.

“You have to put your core values out there, tell them what it’s about, what we’re going to do, knowing that at some point in time that this program, this athletic world is going to end, and those core values can lead them to something else.

“I can look back, I had coaches along the way that, and I had people, that have always told me the truth.”

How Hickory molded him

“I do think it goes back to my hometown. I don’t think there’s any question that at a very young age, I knew the people that were my mentors were my coaches and teachers. I knew I wanted to be a coach and a teacher from probably eighth and ninth grade on.

“Going to school there and obviously I met my wife (Candy) there. She was the one that, when I told her I wanted to get into college coaching, she was the first one that said let’s do this. We were in it together.”

Getting started in coaching

“My first couple of years I worked part-time in a lumber company. I worked at EquiFax services, and then went and worked in the basketball offices. She (Candy) was basically going, doing most of the work for us to live on.”

On treating players the way he was treated growing up, the influence he wants to have
“I just know that kids, and I have a special place in my heart for kids, because I know that the people that work at that level, that grassroots level, the influence they can have on kids because of that grassroots level when I was growing up. I look back, I love my family. We were taught the difference between right and wrong, good and bad. We knew that.

“But other people along the way, at that grassroots level, helped me tremendously. I think so many lessons that I learned back then have helped me today.

“You want to help kids develop a passion and keep fueling that passion. You ask, where do kids lose that passion? Why do they stop? I think most kids that came up through my generation dreamed of being big league ballplayers.

“But along the way, it dwindles down but some keep going. For those, I think there’s so many core values you can learn. I know people that maybe didn’t pursue the athletic world, but they developed core values that led them in different walks of life.”


 

BO STARNES, Windy City Grill owner and friend of Barnes family

On Rick and Candy Barnes’ children
“His kids, even in Austin, as long as he was able to, he attended the church there. His daughter and son both have gone on mission trips. His daughter adopted two kids. His son has been in Libya.

“I actually got a photo the other day. (Rick’s son) was standing beside a militia guy, with the bullet vest and all that stuff, and then the next picture he had he was holding the guy’s gun. The guy gave him his gun to hold.”

On Rick Barnes’ recruiting style
“It takes a whole group, persistence and a philosophy, an ability to recruit. One of the things Rick has always had was he would be creative in his recruiting.

“There was a kid they were after, I don’t know if it was Indiana or Illinois or whatever, and he had gone to the community there, found out who the mailman was there and gave the guy money, said ‘I want to make you a list of every University that mails this kid a letter.’ And the mailman did it. It’s not illegal.

“Rick always said over half of recruiting is knowing who you’re competing against. He said if you know who’s after a kid, it gives you an advantage; it really makes a big difference. So that’s what he did. I don’t know if he got this kid or not. I think he did.”


 

JOHN LENTZ, former Lenoir-Rhyne head coach and teammate/roommate of Rick Barnes

On staying in touch with Rick Barnes
“He actually brought us (Lenoir-Rhyne) out there three different times as a team to exhibition Texas. So that was nice, it was a great trip for the kids. Then my son worked for him for four years. They called him a special assistant. He had him move on only because he needed recruiting experience. People wouldn’t hire him without recruiting experience.

“We always stayed in touch a little bit. But it’s been more the last 15 years or so.”

On the kind of program run by Barnes
“I remember my son telling me his first year out there, and they were really talented, and he said ‘Dad, even those kids that are big-time kids, they’re really good kids, good people.’ I gave that compliment to Rick. He said ‘John, I don’t do real well with those other kind of kids. I just can’t coach them. They’re hard headed.’”

On the two becoming roommates at Lenoir-Rhyne
“My senior year, I don’t know how I swung it, but I became head resident of one of the men’s dorms. I got that about November and I told Rick, to save him a little bit of money, just tell people you were living at home and he could just move in with me, because I had a two-bedroom apartment.”

On Rick Barnes’ introduction to college basketball, as a player
“We were playing up at Western Carolina one year. Rick hadn’t played much yet, and coach put him in the game. We went on about three or four straight fast breaks. And I’m standing at half-court because we have a guy shooting free throws.

“He walks up to me and goes, ‘John, I’m really tired.’ I said ‘Tell coach to give you a breather.’ He said ‘Well, if he takes me out, he might not put me back in.’ I told him ‘You better make a decision, whether you want to play or sit.’ He didn’t tell coach. He stayed in, finished out the game.”