Men's Basketball Press Conference Transcript



Oct. 18, 2012

Alabama Head Coach Anthony Grant
Opening Statement
“Well first of all, welcome. Glad to see all of you here. Obviously, the start of preparation of the upcoming season is upon us, so right now for our basketball team we have been practicing since last Friday. I have been pleased with what I have seen out of our guys in terms of the work ethic and what we’ve been able to get accomplished up to this point. I think you’re all familiar with, from a personnel standpoint, what we have, but obviously we’ve got the majority of guys on our team return from last year so there is a level of familiarity that I have and that they have in terms of this system. Being year four, I think we’ve been able to get at least part of our identity in terms of our guys understanding who we are and what we’re trying to accomplish. We’ve gotten part of that in and I think that with one freshman, Devonta Pollard, I think that some of the veteran guys have been able to speed the process up for him in terms of understanding what the expectations are and what we’ve got to do. [I am] very excited about the group of young men that we have this year and the potential that we have as a basketball team. Even though we have several guys that we apart of our team in years past, we’re still a relatively young team, so I’m excited about the potential we have to improve over the course of the season as we learn each other and re-familiarize ourselves with what it takes to compete in the SEC and throughout college basketball. It’s the beginning and just looking forward to the journey.”

On how Pollard has been looking so far:
He’s doing well, obviously as a freshman there’s certainly a lot to learn in terms of what the expectations are and the system. Like I said, I think our veteran guys have done a good job of helping that learning curve for him. He’s got a very high basketball IQ as well, so he has been able to pick things up.

On where Devonta Pollard plays:
Devonta is a basketball player as I like to call it. Our team this year, I guess we have got good size when you look at Nick (Jacobs), Carl (Engstorm), and Moussa (Gueye). But outside of those three guys, who are centers, were somewhat of an undersized team, outside of that. So we will play a variety of different line-ups. He (Pollard) and a lot of our other players will be asked to do a lot of different things.

On their being like a power forward:
We have been practicing for about a week, we haven’t played any games. So, right now the whole mindset is to get our system in, to get prepared for what coming, and like I said for us you look at our team and we have got one senior in Andrew Steele, who is a fifth-year senior. He’s played the most games of anybody on our team, but he’s, I think, has got maybe the fourth or fifth most starts of anybody on this team. So guys will be in different roles this year, in terms of what the expectations are. So everybody is going to have to do their part and as a team, we have the potential to get better over the course of the year. Provided we keep doing the things that we have to do on a daily basis.

On if he anticipated Hankerson and Eblen not coming back and did that affect recruiting at all:
They were discussions at the end of last year. So, I think both of those decisions were probably made sometime at the end of last season. It did not impact recruiting.

On perimeter shooting:
This year, the NCAA allowed us two hours a week in the summer to work with our guys, and we tried to take advantage of that with the guys that were on campus. We did a lot of shooting a lot of different things that we did to try and promote that. When you look at the make-up of our team, the majority of our perimeter guys were young guys, outside of Andrew Steele, we had a lot of young guys this last year that were learning college basketball and trying to figure out their roles and what they could and couldn’t do. I think as a coach, what you see a lot of times is a big jump between guys’ freshman and sophomore years in terms of the comfort and understanding the expectations. I’m confident that we have got a basketball team that has a lot of diversity in terms of the skills that we can put on the floor. I feel like we will be a better shooting team.

On Retin (Obasohan) stepping into the backup point guard:
We are a week into practice, so to try and label guys and to put guys into certain positions is premature. I’m excited about Retin, I think he gained some valuable experience last year as a red-shirt in understanding our system and college basketball. I think he’s worked extremely hard, he is a great kid, and has high basketball IQ , is  a great worker and we’re excited for him to be in the program, as well as the other guys.

On leadership with only one senior:
The thing we talk about, I think our guys have really been hit with a lot is ownership of our program. It’s my responsibility as a coach to provide the leadership. So what we need from our guys is to take ownership in the vision that we have and the identity that we have as a basketball team. The thing I ask them to bring is the accountability, among themselves. To hold each other accountable and reliable and to be available in terms of doing the things that we have to do on a daily basis to make sure that we are there for each other.

On the most improved player:
That’s a good question. I have seen a lot of these guys over the course of the summer. So I think we are able to put a lot of good work in. I think everybody really has done something that has been needed. I wouldn’t want to single out one guy because I think probably a lot of guys that have put a lot of hard work in.

On Moussa’s knee:
You look at last year when he came in here. I think when you look at the whole story, coming from Senegal, he came three years ago. His first experience was junior college basketball at a small level in a small town in Indiana, he played that season and did well enough to gain a reputation and gain a lot of recruiting interest. Sometime in May or June after his first season in the United States playing organized basketball, he got injured and did not play the entire season as a sophomore. Then he came here and was here maybe a month and a half and got injured again and did not go through and practice until probably early to mid-December. Then once he was available he got thrown right into the fire, he’s a guy that even though he is an older guy, is relatively new to the game so I think with every opportunity, like we talked about with Engstrom, every practice for him is an opportunity to learn and get better. He’s done a really good job of getting better to where it needs in a physical standpoint. I’ve been very pleased with the work he has put in. He feels a lot more confident, I think, from a physical standpoint . Now, for him it’s going to be about continuing to learn the game and continuing to learn what he can and cannot do and how he can provide what is needed for our team and continue to improve his game.

On Moussa’s game this year compared to last year:
I can’t predict the future. But like I said I am excited about where he is from a physical standpoint. I’m happy he had the opportunity to be here over the summer to continue to work on his game, to be healthy, to have pre-season conditioning, and learn the terminology. Obviously, being in the states three years, understanding the language barrier, even though he is fluent in English, but terminology from a basketball standpoint. I think there will be comfort level. I think like anybody does anything, when you have a comfort level and your familiar with the walk so to speak, it’s a little easier for you. I think there will be a little more familiarity like we talked about between your freshman year and sophomore year, you have kind of been around the block. I think it’s the same thing for him.

On Moussa being a key player:
We have 10 guys on scholarship, so everyone on our team will be asked to contribute in a significant way.

On Trevor Releford:
You look at Trevor, Andrew Steele has the most games played, but I think Trevor may have the most minutes played. He may have the most starts on our team. So he’s probably the most veteran guy in terms of playing time. I think he is in a position where he can help the younger guys in what is coming and what to expect. As a junior, he has got some valuable experience through what he’s been through over the last couple of years that we hope will be an asset to our team.

On Nick (Jacobs) role:
I think Nick, like all the young guys, the guys that were freshman last year. You look at a guy like a Levi Randolph, I think started just about every game last year as a freshman. Between Trevor Lacey and Rodney Cooper and Nick Jacobs, I think they each started probably half the games last year. That experience will, hopefully, pay dividends for all of them. Where there is a little bit more of an understanding of what the expectations are and what is coming down the pipe.

#22 Andrew Steele, Guard
On this year’s team:
“It’s early but I’m excited. I think we have a chance to build on the progress we made last year. With the pieces we’ve got and with what we add, we’ve got a chance to be really special.”

On what kind of team we should expect to see:
“The same things we saw last year. We always pride ourselves on being a great defensive team, on our ability to defend. Offensively, I think we will be a little more comfortable. We will be a little more opened up and I think you will see a big improvement there too.”

On Devonta Pollard:
“He’s really good. It’s tough for a freshman to come in, but I think he’s picked up everything in stride. He’s going to end up being a really big part of our success this year. I’m really excited to see him get a chance to play. In terms of his athleticism and how long he is, how quick he can jump, how fast he can run, he’s been all over the place and for the way we play defensively in the press; I think he’s going to be a nightmare for a lot of teams.”

On where Pollard fits in on this team:
“I think he can fit in more as a play maker. We won’t have to run a lot of plays for him to be a great rebounder, great defender and great finisher. His skill level is better than I thought it was, he can really shoot and handle the ball and he’s a good decision maker. I think he’s going to be really versatile.”

On where he (Steele) fits in on this team:
“The same place. I try to make plays for everybody to make their job easy. I try to go out there and be a leader and be one of our better defenders. Each game brings on a different role, but whatever way I can help our team, I like that role.”

On who is the most improved from last year:
“Retin Obasohan. I think he has improved a lot. We saw him a lot in practice, but I think him playing in Belgium helped him out a lot. His jump shot has gotten better and he’s gotten used to the pace of the game and how fast it is to play in college. He’s another one I’m really excited to see play.”

On what we are going to see out of Moussa Gueye:
“He’s got his leg back so I think you will see a more athletic Moussa. That will make his defensive presence even better. He’ll be improved offensively too. Everybody took major steps forward and that’s what it takes when you want your team to get better.”

On the challenges of being on a team with a smaller roster:
“Everybody is going to have to step their game up, but it’s one of those things that will make us better. If you look at last year, we played those four games without JaMychal and Tony and it caused everybody to step up. I think it helped us out in the long run, but going into a situation where we are short on numbers, I think everybody’s roles are going to increase.”

On whether Obasohan is ready to step up and take that role behind Releford:
“I think he’s going to come in a do a great job. His athleticism is crazy like Tony and Devonta’s. When I see Retin play it reminds me of the athleticism and quickness of Russell Westbrook. It blows you away. You can’t really describe it. For him to only be 6-1, 6-2, he’s another one of those people that can be nightmares defensively.”

#20 Levi Randolph, Guard
On how practice has been going so far:
“Practice has been good. Everybody is working hard and just trying to get ready for the upcoming season.”

On how valuable this summer’s work was:
“It plays a big part in everything that we do throughout the year. It gets us ready for the practices and the preseason and it gets us ready for the game. That’s the biggest thing.”

On Devonta Pollard:
“I feel like this year as a team, we know what coach expects, so it’s easier for us to help Devonta because there are more of us. Last year there were more newcomers than what we already had.”

On the excitement of starting his sophomore season:
“It’s exciting. Having played last year, I feel like I have a little bit more experience, just having a year under my belt. It’s very exciting to able to come in and know what to expect.”

On how Pollard is fitting in:
“He’s fitting in very well. He’s doing great. He has a lot of energy and he’s good on both ends of the floors, so he’s going to bring a lot to the team.”

On what he worked on in the offseason as an individual:
“In the offseason you just try and develop yourself and try to get better with the guys around you. As a team, since we all worked together, we tried to develop our skill level on offense. We worked on our shooting, ball handling and all those things.”

On what role he (Randolph) will have this year:
“It’s hard to tell right now because we’ve only had a couple of practices. As the season goes on, we will see everybody’s role and position. Right now we are just trying to get used to this year.”

On whether there has been an emphasis on outside shooting:
“We work on shooting every day in practice. Coach hasn’t really stressed it much but I think the team is trying to develop it together. We come in and get extra shots up. During the summer, we did a lot of shooting drills. I think we’ve taken on that challenge of becoming a better shooting team. It’s really just stepping up and knocking down the shots. A lot of teams play off of us. They want to make us shoot. We have to step up and knock them down.”