Mark Gottfried's Press Conference Transcript

ROLLTIDEDOTCOM
ROLLTIDEDOTCOM

ROLLTIDEDOTCOM

Following are quotes from University of Alabama starting basketball players Demetrius Jemison and Richard Hendrix for us use in stories previewing Monday’s 7 p.m. CT game at home against Wofford in the Findlay Toyota Las Vegas Classic as well as a transcript from Alabama head basketball coach Mark Gottfried’s December 14 weekly press conference.

Demetrius Jemison, 6-7, 234, SO, Forward, Birmingham:
On having a week off from play during finals week:
“I think it’s important to have a week off  from playing a game during finals because you want guys to be able to concentrate on their school work. That’s the primary reason they are here, to get an education, and we also play basketball. And the week has been important to us because it helps get better at things we may have gotten wrong in the first couple of games of the season. The first part of the season is almost over, so you want to correct those mistakes that you made and prepare for SEC play in January.”

Is this a fun time for players---a couple of weeks without worry about classes and schoolwork and getting to just play hoops?
“It’s definitely fun because all you have to concentrate on is basketball. You get to catch up on sleep you may have missed staying up late night’s studying and from going to class and practicing and being tired. You get to catch up on that sleep and focus on ball.”

Richard Hendrix, 6-9, 250, JR, Forward, Athens:
On the Findlay Toyota Las Vegas Classic where the team is about to play four games:
“We’re excited about the opportunity to get to play some good teams. Whatever is on the schedule, we’re excited about every game. We just have to keep in mind to take it game by game.”

On importance of having a big win, 91-53, against Nicholls to take into the week-long break from play:
“I think it’s helped our confidence, playing well and coming off the last win. Even though we lost the Georgetown game we can see improvement. We’re working hard in practice and hopefully we can see the outcome of that in this tournament.”

Alabama Basketball Coach Mark Gottfried, December 14 Press Conference Transcript:
On Wofford & the Findlay Toyota Las Vegas Classic:
“First of all it’s been a good week for us with final exams. I think our guys have done really well. I’ve been real please with how well we’ve done academically this semester. I think we’ve done pretty well every semester. I think this one has been exceptionally good for our guys. We’ve got three guys graduating Saturday which we are all very proud of in (Mykal) Riley, (Ronald) Steele and John Dill. I’m very excited for them for this weekend. And we’ve had a good week from a practice perspective. We were able to take a little bit of time off. The practices that we have had have been very intense, very good. Guys have zeroed in and concentrated real hard. Brandon Hollinger came out of one with five stitches the other day which wasn’t great. I think he’s okay but our guys have battled each other pretty good this week. By the time everybody’s done with tests they’ll feel relieved and good and ready to get back and play some basketball.”

On what he “feels good about” and “what has him concerned” at this point in the season:
“I think we’re at a point right now and where we’ve been the last few, three or four weeks is we’re still trying to figure out our roles, trying to figure out our chemistry, trying to figure out who’s going to come off the bench at what point in time? Who needs to be the point guard? Who’s our best wing sub? How do we get the young guys more playing time? Sometimes it looks like they’re not really ready but you’ve got to get them in there. You want to play them. Our post subs---so we’ve had all of those questions. And I think we’ve looked at our team a lot of different ways. But at some point you’ve got to start settling in and get a good rotation down with your team, and that’s kind of where we are. We’re still learning a lot about our team. We’re trying to figure our team out. Again, I think that’s kind of where our team is right now.”

On how much longer he thinks it will be settled:
“Soon. And you want to give everybody a chance. At practice a lot of times if there’s not a lot of separation between guys, it could be that one player plays good one day, one player plays good another day and you’re trying to figure out what your team really needs. But at some point I think your players have got to get comfortable with what their role is. And I think we’re getting there. I think we’re a lot farther along this week than we were a week or two ago, but I don’t think we’re settled on a whole lot just yet.”

On Wofford,  is it another “guard oriented team?”:
“They shoot the three really well. I think last year their team set a school record for the most three pointers made in the history of their program, so that tells you right away that they are trying to create some three-point shots for each other. Interesting, when you watch them on tape, the couple of games that we have, their best player has not played until the other night. He comes right back in and takes 18 shots in his first game, (Shane) Nichols. So they’re a little bit different team right now than they were even a week or two ago. They have a conference game. They play Saturday night before they come in here on Monday. I think they are a very good basketball team. I think they are very capable with the way they shoot the three, so we’ve got to make sure that we know how to guard them and those type things.”

On when he puts together a schedule, does he look for teams that will contend for conference titles, or, a particular style of play (reporter asking question refers to UA playing a lot of guard-oriented teams this season):
“The one thing that we’ve tried to do in the last five or six years is, when you are scheduling teams in December, you’re going to try to get some marquee matchups like we had with Georgetown and Texas A&M. But you’re also trying to find teams that we think are going to end up with a good overall record and potentially be an NCAA tournament team because the RPI numbers, when you start calculating all that, it takes into consideration your opponents’ records. And what you want to stay away from is teams that are going to end up 4-25. Those teams really hurt your RPI. So what we’ll try to do is schedule teams, and ask, when you look at it, ‘Who is going to be good in this league? Is this team going to have a good year? Do they have a lot of guys coming back? Do they have potential to be good teams?’ So we’re trying to find good teams. This is another one of those teams to play. If you look back at some of the teams that we’ve played this year, teams that we think are going to have good records, I think those things end up helping your team. Plus, you’re playing against good teams. It’s going to make you learn a lot more about yourself when you play good teams.”

On whether that has helped him with breaking in point guards and working on the perimeter play, etc:
“Yes, and you know it’s just interesting and it wasn’t by design that when we made our schedule we didn’t anticipate having a freshman in there either. That was a little bit different five or six months ago. But what’s happened is is that some of the teams that we’ve played, our young guards like Rico (Pickett), a lot of times you’re looking out there and you are seeing a freshman versus a senior. And it’s happened to us by chance a bunch this year. And it makes it a lot more difficult for a young player when your third or fourth college basketball game you’re playing against a guy that’s played 100 college basketball games. That necessarily wasn’t by design. It’s just happened. But it seems like it’s happened a lot this year.”

On the intensity of practice of late and whether or not that’s because players sense that spots are being settled and want to be the ones in those spots:
“No. I think our practices have been pretty good all year. I think this week we just have had a couple where they have really gotten after each other a little bit harder. I don’t know if that’s the case because I think they’ve competed every day, since the start. When you are in the midst of final exams, you’re always worried about guys walking in there and they’re not really into practicing because, ‘I’ve been studying; I’m over here; I just took a test for two hours. I had a lot of pressure on me; I was worried about it all night long. I’m coming to practice. And now I’m just not into practice.’ But we’ve had good practices. I like that about our guys. I like that about our week. It’s been a pretty good week from that perspective. You never know for sure when you have layoff like we have from a Saturday all the way to the following Monday, how to figure all that out in the midst of final exams but I think we’ve kind of managed it pretty good so far.”

On which players have maybe “helped themselves” in terms of getting into position for more playing time or a bigger role:
“I think the one guy is Brandon Hollinger. Try to figure out where he should be playing. He played early on this season as a point guard which I think he can. We had the game where Rico was suspended and all those kinds of things. And we went on the road and played at Mercer and Brandon gave us some leadership there from an experienced standpoint. We brought him in the other day as the first wing sub. He came in, he came in for (Mykal) Riley and then we kind of started rotating our wing guys off of bringing Brandon in first and he had a great game. He had 14 points and nine assists with one turnover. So that’s kind of an example of just trying to figure out our team. Who should be doing what? That’s kind of where we are. We feel like we’ve made a little progress in that regard.”

On Brandon Hollinger’s cut to the face at practice:
“He got caught by Richard Hendrix’s elbow---wasn’t intentional, just part of the game. But he’s got some (stitches) underneath his eye and he’s got some above his eye. He’s got them in two spots. We’re trying to get him situated with either a mask to wear or some type of padding where he doesn’t open those things up again.”

Did it mess up the bone underneath?
“No. I think just stitches. He’s swollen. He looks like he just got done fighting George Forman. But he’s okay.”

On Alabama’s defensive play:
“I think this year we’re a different defensive-type team. We don’t have the shot-blocking presence of Jermareo Davidson. I think we might be a little quicker out on the floor. We’ve got some young guys who are still learning defensively how to defend guys at our level. Most freshmen, when they come in, they think it’s easy and they get in there and they start seeing all the different things you can see in the game, whether it’s a ball screen, it’s a ball screen with a good shooter or a bad shooter; it’s a flair screen; it’s a cross screen; it’s a down screen; it’s help side: all the things. So for your young players, it’s hard for them just to pick it up like that. So they’ve just got to see those things. The more they see them in games, the more they get comfortable. So we’ve got some of that on our team defensively this year where we’re still learning a little bit. But I do think we can still become a pretty solid defensive basketball team. We’ve got to be a better rebounding team. If you don’t rebound the ball, then you’re not a very good defensive team because teams are going to get it back or score on you. So I think we’re getting there. We’re not there yet; we’ve got a long way to go but I like the potential of our team defensively.”

On Alabama’s younger players’ guard play against more experienced teams:
“Experience is something you just can’t teach. You’ve got to get in there and get experience by playing. Not what’s been hard for us, too, is we’re playing against experienced teams and good teams. We’ve had some times where we’ve had Rico (Pickett) and Senario (Hillman) in the game together. It’s difficult for two freshmen together to try to figure things out, especially sometimes when they’re playing against two seniors or a junior/senior in the backcourt. So that’s been difficult a few times for us. And you’re wanting to get them in there and  you’ve got to get them in there and you’ve got to find opportunities for them to play and become better. But I do think there will be a payoff later. There’s always growing pains when you play young players and when you depend on young guys. We’re not in a situation like I was—I can go back. I remember my second year here. We started four freshmen. It’s the only time in my career that we’ve ever done that. That was hard. It paid off two years later. They were SEC champions, won 27 basketball games. So you’ve got to play them. You’ve got to play your young guys. You’ve got to get them in there. You’ve got to give them an opportunity to make mistakes. They’re going to make mistakes. You’ve got to teach and coach and all those type things, so that’s a little bit where we are right now.”

On whether he’s seen any surprises in the SEC so far this year:
“No, I really haven’t been surprised, but I have reiterated the fact to people that I think Vanderbilt has got a chance to have a terrific team and Arkansas. Vanderbilt should enter into the SEC at 15-0. I don’t know that they should love before now and then. They’ve had a great start. I think Arkansas has got a chance. You’ve got to remember, Arkansas now, they’re a back-to-back NCAA tournament team with everybody back and they’re a senior-dominated team. So they should be good and they are good. We haven’t had the major non-conference wins outside the league that maybe we’ve had some different years. But it’s all about how you finish. It’s not about how you start. It’s not about how you’re playing in November/December. You’ve got to play well in February and March and hopefully our league is going to do that as a whole.”

On if he believes the parity in the league makes for more opportunity:
“Yes. I do. I do. I think our league is playing a lot of young guys, too. You look at Florida; they play a lot of inexperienced guys. They’re trying to figure their team out a little bit. LSU is playing some young guys. I watched them the other day play. They’ve got some young guys and new guys on the floor. So I think our league is a little bit like in transition with a lot of younger guys. We just haven’t had big wins early, the December wins our league has normally had.”

On how concerned he is that Alabama is shooting 59% at the free throw line:
“It’s a concern, a big concern. We’ve got to get better. I was asked the other day. I was speaking in Montgomery and a guy says, ‘Coach, you’ve always had really good foul shooting teams. Why isn’t this year’s team shooting foul shots good?’ The first thing you’ve got to remember is over the last couple of years when you have a guy like Ronald (Steele) who was a 94% shooter, who is shooting a lot of foul shots—he’s getting fouled a lot late in the game. That’ll change your whole team’s shooting percentage. So now, we’ve got a situation where we’ve got some other guys stepping up there. Richard (Hendrix) has to be a better foul shooter. He’s going to get to the line a lot. We’ve talked to him about that. We work on it a lot. We shoot a lot of foul shots. We also went through a period there where young freshmen were getting to the line, where they were just nervous or uncomfortable. They were missing some front ends of one-and-one. A guy like Mykal Riley had a couple of games where he was shooting well at the line (also) Alonzo Gee. I think those guys are all going to make foul shots. So, kind of a combination of all that stuff, we’re starting down here kind of low with our foul shooting percentage. But we’ve got to be a lot better. End of story. You’re going to hurt yourself and make the game way too hard if you’re going to shoot 50 percent as a team. That can’t happen.”