VIDEO: Tom Crean Presser as Georgia Prepares for Kentucky

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VIDEO: Tom Crean Presser as Georgia Prepares for Kentucky

Tom Crean
Tom Crean
(Photo: Greg Poole/Bulldawg Illustrated) 

 

On the environment you expect tomorrow night…

“I think it is going to be a big week because actually I think Florida sold out right before Kentucky. No question about it, our fans have been great. They have been building up, but we need them to be here early, to be loud, to be crazy, obnoxious, whatever it takes early on to establish themselves. Just for them to be into the game and help us through everything. If we are on a run, help us keep going. If we have to get a run going, help us get that going. Continue to read the game the way they have and just be loud. It is our first ESPN audience of the year too so I think that is great to bring a lot of attention to not only our program, their program and the SEC but it brings a lot of attention to the fan base. I think it is a great opportunity to show off what we are trying to establish here when it comes to the crowd, the atmosphere, the tickets sold. Most importantly, we need them and that has been said since day one. That has been the case since game one and that is certainly the case if we are going to have success tomorrow night.”

On playing both Florida and Kentucky at home this week… 

“I think long-term it is a great opportunity but in short-term, we have to get ready for this game. I know that game is Saturday, everybody knows it is Saturday, but the bottom line is that this game tomorrow night is a pretty big game in itself because it is a home game against a nationally ranked school that has been dominant for years. They are extremely well-coached, they always have a deep, talented team and a team that can win a lot of different ways. They are proving that this year with what he is doing. I hate to use the term hands full because its more than that. We have to be clicking on a lot of cylinders tomorrow. You don’t always have to play a perfect game to win a game, but you don’t have much margin for error when you are playing against better teams and this week certainly brings that to us.”

On the recruiting of Ashton Hagans and the challenges he presents…

“I think first and foremost he had de-committed before we got here. I know him and we certainly went to visit him but he never came to campus. When you don’t have somebody on campus I don’t put into context that we didn’t get him. We never got him up here to see what we were doing and that’s fine. He made a choice for himself and that’s good. I would venture to say there isn’t a better defensive and attack minded guard in the freshman class throughout the country. He is playing that way. His ability to create steals, he had eight against North Carolina and his ability to create havoc on the ball, off the ball, getting to the rim, it is outstanding. He is playing with a ton of confidence. I think people who knew him, or knew of him, knew he had that and all of the sudden, as he got more opportunity at Kentucky and with the transfer of Green it came out even more. He is playing at an extremely high level. It is not like you can pinpoint your game plan on one or two or three guys or the backcourt or the front court. Whenever you play John’s team, you have to be ready for the whole team. He isn’t going to put anyone out there that can’t win the game for him or impact the game on both ends. Ashton Hagans is certainly doing that.”

On the preparation for this game through already playing Auburn and Tennessee on the road… 

“It prepares you for really good teams. When you look back and we opened up on the road with the two defending champions of the league, the co-champions, it does prepare you for the level of play that you are going to see. I hope it is also giving them an indication that they can compete with it and I think that is extremely important as well. The margin of error is just different, it is always different in league play and it is different against the best teams which we are seeing a lot of right now. I think on any given night, and I hope we are included in this, that anybody could beat anybody. That’s what happens when you have a great league. I have been apart of great leagues that have had that, and I haven’t been through this league but from everything I’ve seen, I think that is the case in this league but there are some teams that have more going. Kentucky has a lot going for them right now because of the system he (John Calipari) has had in place, the group that he has had in place for some time. We have to be able to compete with that. I think these guys are truly excited about that. The biggest breakthrough for us is that we have to go from being a team that works hard, which we do, to playing harder and longer. We have to do that. That means the competitive level is higher longer. That is what we have to understand because that is what these other teams that have had a chance to build their program, build their time up, they have set a standard that everyone in the program understands. That is the advantage of having your program in place. We are still building what it takes to have that standard. We are going through it in what is arguably one of the toughest leagues in the country. We are going against some of the best teams in this league right off the bat.”

On recruiting 2019-2020 point guard quality…

“There’s no question about it. There’s absolutely not question that you have to continue, again, having a point guard per se, as you can see we play Nic Claxton, at  7 foot, plays the point a lot on this team. The whole key is its not just the point guard it’s the decision making. You want to have numerous decision makers. Do we need to have someone moving down the road who can really help with that and pin point with that and rally people around them and people that command double-teams and keep making those decisions not only for the passer at the rim with the shot? Yeah, but our guys are getting better that’s all we can focus on right now. There’s no question about it as we recruit we have to continue to recruit people who can impact the game whether its from a guard position, a wing position, a bigger player position, whatever it is. If you’re here at Georgia, I think this is hopefully starting to come out and by no stretch of the imagination, are we playing at some extremely high level yet. It doesn’t matter if you’re big if you’re a guard you’re going to get more skilled and opportunities to play. Nic Claxton, Derek Ogbeide, Rayshau Hammonds, the ball is in their hands a lot. Not just in making plays situations or taking shots situations but making plays for others. So the better we get at that and the more that we can recruit down the road to get people who can really come in and impact this program, because of the presence that they bring to it and then you add the shot making and all of those things that are going to go into it, it’s extremely important. We’re well aware of that and we’ve been aware of that for some time and hopefully we’ll get more and more recruits that will be aware of it. Games like tomorrow night, the crowds, the attendance that’s going, games like Saturday coming up, all those things do when people see them on television or see it in person is that it helps sell our message. Without a doubt. It helps sell not only what Georgia basketball is all about but what the Georgia fan base is all about, probably more importantly because that’s what we have to show. Everything that happens over at that football stadium, which has a passion that is second to none, we have to build the same level of excitement and enthusiasm inside this 10,000 plus Stegeman Coliseum.”

On discussing the 2011 Indiana game against Kentucky with his team…

“I actually did, bring it up, last night, I gave them an analogy where I thought we let our guard down in that game. I just went through a couple of different scenarios and we haven’t gone through any of that film. I don’t think I will but we had a 10 point lead with 7:38 to go and Kentucky asked to call a timeout. And we took our foot off the gas and when you’re playing these great teams, no matter what it is, you can’t take your foot off the gas. It doesn’t matter if you’re up, it doesn’t matter if you’re down, even with Auburn the other day. That 10 point lead for them to me did not seem insurmountable to us yet we never did anything to really crack that. You’ve got to continue to come no matter if it’s going well no matter if it’s not going so well. You can’t have empty possessions, you can’t try to take things into your own hands, you can’t try to make plays that aren’t there, and you absolutely have to keep your foot down on what’s working for you and turn it up even more on defense. In that context I did but as far as going into the films and game winning shots, things like that, no not as much.”

On his relationship with Coach Cal…    

“We’ve had a friendship for a long time. I have a ton of respect for him, I have long before I ever met him and I certainly have during the years of our friendship and the times of competing against him. I think he’s a great coach, I think he’s built great programs wherever he’s been all the way back to UMass. I think he deserves to be in the hall of fame like the other ones who are coaching now deserve to be in it because he’s done it at such a high level and he keeps his foot on the gas constantly. He makes sure that his players keep their foot on the gas so you’re got that kind of standard of excellence that he has you can’t help but respect him.”

On working any Kentucky games for ESPN last season…

“No, I didn’t.”

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Greg is closing in on 10 years writing about and photographing UGA sports. While often wrong and/or out of focus, it has been a long, strange trip full of fun and new friends.