MBB: Crean Looking at Big Picture

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MBB: Crean Looking at Big Picture

Tom Crean
Tom Crean

On what he’d tell fans who are getting frustrated with Georgia’s start in SEC play…

“Well, I think you’ve got to keep the big picture in mind, We’re looking to get better. We’re looking to change the style of play, working to create fundamentals. I know at times it doesn’t look very fundamentally sound with our defense, but I think you’re seeing flashes of what we can become. No one is sitting back acceptant of any of it, right? We’ve got to keep getting better and better, but the bottom line is we’ve got to deal with it on a daily basis and try to get the guys to understand the level of consistency that goes into this, and no greater example than the other day [against Florida]. The first half, we’re not very good; second half, we’re playing extremely well, and we’ve had too many situations like that where our consistency has been our main enemy. It’ll come, I have no doubt in that. It’s like you said in the beginning- it’s the first year of our program. We just hit the 10-month mark the other day. It’s not an excuse, it’s fact. The bottom line is we’ve got a bunch of guys who are working really, really hard to get better, and they are getting better. There are things that are maybe different than what was expected of them in the past, and at the same time, there’s no security blanket player out there. In the last couple of years at Georgia, there’s been that security player; obviously, with the Player of the Year in Yante [Maten]. That’s not an excuse; that’s a fact. So, bottom line, we need to keep developing it, and the last thing I want anyone in our program to lose is confidence, so we certainly don’t want any fans losing confidence. I mean, if people want to see the program continue to develop, grow and move forward, we’ve got to keep having this energy in the building. We’ve got to keep having it for us, and we’ve got to keep having it for the future, so that the recruits and people like that see what’s capable here. I don’t have anything to judge it by, but I tell you what; when people come here and see it, or a recruit sees it, or a parent sees it or comments on it, it’s a big deal. It’s really, really important.” 

On what his thoughts are on Rick Barnes’ rebuilding of Tennessee’s program/on what he takes away from that…

“[It’s his fourth year]. It takes time to rebuild a program. I mean, it just does. I’m focused on the day-to-day, without question, but you’ve got to have a vision for the future. I think that’s exactly what the fans have got to have, too. You want to win in the present, and you want to do well, but you’ve also got to be Abel to look at it and say, ‘Okay, we’re making some changes.’ There’s some changes going on in the program, and change is hard. Change is painful, and you’ve got to work through it. But I think just [Tennessee’s] stability, the way they’ve recruited. The biggest thing that stands out to me about them is their togetherness, their camaraderie. Obviously, they have skill, they have talent, they have physicality, they have toughness; but, they’ve got a really, really strong togetherness, and that doesn’t happen overnight. That doesn’t happen over months. It takes time to build that.”

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On if the way LSU is scoring in SEC play accentuates what Crean has been telling his players about cuts…

“Tremont Waters is about as good a short-range, long-range passer, probably in college basketball. I mean, he can really score— that’s obvious— but it’s his passing that really beats you. He has got a unique and uncanny ability to find people close to him and long distances from him, and the velocity of the passes he throws… you’ve got to be active. You cannot be in an over-help situation and, at the same time, they’re one of the best offensive rebounding teams, as far as consistently going, right? Their numbers are really good. They’re No. 13 and gaining in the league, but it’s the consistency in which they go with and the way they basically are blocking you out when the shot goes up. So, there’s no question that they’ve got a ton of talent. They’ve recruited extremely well, and [head coach Will Wade] doing a really great job with them. They defend well, and Tremont brings a whole other dimension to their team.”

On seeing Nicolas Claxton and Rayshaun Hammonds becoming ‘security blanket’ players…

“They’re not there yet. They’re sophomores, and I think there’s an inconsistency with that. Now, are they talented and getting better and working hard and absolutely trying? No question about it. But we can’t have too high of an expectation for guys in college that have never done it either. Their improvement level from one year to the next is really high, and we don’t have great decision-making at any position right now. At the same time, we can’t come down and try to really slow the game down. We’ll score even less than what we’re scoring now, so we’ve got to make sure that we just keep developing their confidence, getting them to play with energy, not feeling pressure that they have to do certain things that are out of their control and continue to grow and blossom because of that.”

On Claxton and Hammonds taking on more of a leadership role…

“I think so, but it’s got to be more consistent.  It’s got to be more consistent. This is not a program right now that has one guy that we’re going to rely on day in and day out to be the emotional leader and compass of this team, the one that’s going to challenge and inspire. We don’t have that, so we’ve got to have it collectively. We’re working towards it, but that’s not a role that people are naturally falling into yet, but over a period of time if you continue to develop and work at it, those things come, and our biggest thing is we’ve just got to absolutely stay together when things start to go wrong and get it back or when they’re going right, stay with it. What happens sometimes is when you have a team, and I’ve said this all along, it’s just the way that it is, it’s been pretty clear who the man was or who the people were that were the go-to’s the last couple years, but we really don’t have that, so when you don’t have that, you’ve got a lot of people that are trying to become that and they don’t realize how easy it is if you just keep moving the ball and moving without the ball. We showed that so many different people scored in the second half on Saturday because the ball was absolutely moving at a crisp rate, but more importantly, the bodies were moving at a fast and crisp rate. That’s basketball. That’s the way we want to play. Right now, we’ve love to be able to get slot three’s off drive and kick, just throw it right there. It’s one of the reasons that my teams in Indiana were the leaders over nine years in 3-point percentage. We could knock that shot down. If you wanted to lay off us right there, we could kick that and knock it off. You couldn’t always lay off it because you had to bring help because we had so many downhill players, guys that could create other shots or create shots for others and create shots for themselves. That’s not our strength. That’s not our strength right now, so we’ve got to have even more cutting time and time again because the last thing we want to lose is confidence to shoot the ball. That’s not going to help anybody if we can’t feel like we’re going to make those three’s because we don’t have the downhill, get-your-own-shot player that you can ride and say, ‘go get us something.’ Most teams in this league don’t have one or two, they’ve got three or four more that when things break down, they can go get that shot, and because they’re such good teams, Tennessee’s a great example. Numerous guys at Tennessee can go make a basket. Numerous guys at Tennessee can break off and isolate  and go get something, but because they work so well together they don’t need to do that as much. That’s the difference, and we’ve got to continue to build that. That’s just a fact. We have to work through that. We have to work around it at times, but we have to work through it on a daily basis and help them to continue to get better with their skills. The one thing that’s probably a little different for this staff than my previous staffs is they just haven’t been with me. We’re never going to get away from getting guys better individually on a daily basis. We’re never going to get away from developing the off hand. We’re never going to get away from shooting. We’re never going to get away from driving and making decisions. We’re never going to get away from footwork, spacing, guarding the ball. We’re going to continue to build skills on a daily basis. You don’t want to have them out there all day long, so you give something on that, but we’ve got to develop skills because the only thing that gives you true confidence and true energy at the end of the day is your own improvement. When you’re improving, and you’ve got a team full of guys that are improving, and then you start to win, it takes off. Right now, we’re in the midst of a lot of improvement and trying to get that understood.”

On whether Derek Ogbeide is dealing with a hip injury:  

“It affected him Friday, it affected him a little bit Saturday. He didn’t practice on Friday, and that hurt us a little bit when the game started, not in his opinion but in mine. He was out of sync a little bit. But he was better, we didn’t practice Sunday, we practiced yesterday and he was better he’s been doing a good job with the rehab and hopefully he’ll continue to improve.”

On Nicolas Claxton as a special 6’11” player with ball handling abilities and if he is where he needs to be…

“It’s coming. Consistency, being able to finish, quicker decisions with the ball. You know, when you have bigger guys like we have that we’re trying to have handle the ball that are playing away from the rim, when they don’t cut as well it shows up a lot more than when they’re around the post. So, I don’t know what it looked like last year. But, when you’ve got them away from the basket if they’re not making hard cuts, if they’re not making quick cuts, if they’re not separating from the defense better, you know that shows up and they don’t look as quick. Well that’s the way we’re trying to play. We’re trying to get guys that are skilled and developed as basketball players and that makes our team that much better. So being able to move better without the ball, being able to make quicker decisions with the ball like I said, the finishing is better, continuing to work on his shooting. But defensively and what he can create, his vision, those type of things, absolutely unique. And as he’s learning on a daily basis, too much is given much is required right, the Bible? When you’ve got that type of talent you’re going to pull it out of him every day. There is not, I will never go to bed at night by regretting that I didn’t try to pull out enough of a guy on a team, especially when they’ve got talent like that. And I think that’s one of the reasons we’ve had the relationships and success we’ve had over a period of with time not only teams but with players because they don’t have any idea of how good they can be. As long as they trust that you’re going to push them in that direction, alright even when they don’t like it, you keep doing it. Because you have a responsibility not only to each and every person on your team, but to each and every person’s talent and potential on your team and that’s what we’re continuing to build. This is not just ‘we’ll we’re just going to develop pros.’ No, we want to develop pros and great players and win a lot of games, win championships. A lot of times they go hand in hand. But, you’ve got to get them to understand the work capacity that they have to have. The level of energy and endurance that they’ve got to have, and the ability to impact the game on both ends for longer periods of time that they’ve got to have. And, if you don’t do that you’re cheating them and that’s not going to happen here.”

On how much time in practice is spent working on individual drills…

“Oh, we’re going to focus, I mean we’re getting ready for games there’s no question about that. We’re practicing and every game’s got special things that we put into it and we do our team things. But, every day. I wouldn’t put a percentage on it because it’s a part of every day. The shooting, driving, the weak hand or off hand development, the spacing. This is one of the things that I have to keep in perspective, this again goes back to Anthony’s question at the beginning because it’s making me think this. We’ve been working on spacing since I got here the first week I was here in March. You know March 19th now, we’ve been working on really understanding the 3-point line in the NBA, the spacing in the corners. I can pick out dozens of times in games that we don’t get to those spots, and we work on it every day. Every day. And it’s a huge part of every day when you’re on the offensive end because of our spacing. It takes time for guys to learn what you really, really want. It takes time, it takes time to build habits, it takes time to break habits. It’s not that my style is better, it’s not about that. It’s about ‘this is how we’re going to play,’ right? And so to get them to understand that has taken a lot of time. Well along the way, we’re understand them and the defenses of this league. We’ve got to make the defenses of this league respect our offense more by getting more movement. So, if we ever get away from spacing, cutting, shooting, driving we’re just playing into the hands of the defense that much more no matter what we do game plan wise. But we’re trying to get a great mix without wearing them out, this is the time of year, it’s really a few weeks before that you really got to be sure that they’re keeping their energy. It’s not only a long season, it’s a long year because of what you get to do with them in the summer time, in the fall and things like that. I think most coaches, I know I have, you have to adjust a lot earlier to that. Well, that’s easier said than done because we still got a lot to learn, not to mention getting ready for games we’ve got a lot of learning to do about what we’re trying to do.”

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