Video/Transcript: Tom Crean and Player Interviews in Advance of Auburn Game

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Video/Transcript: Tom Crean and Player Interviews in Advance of Auburn Game

On whether there is a home court advantage right now with limited crowds…

“I think there is one. I don’t know if there is right now, it’s different. I thought the atmosphere at Arkansas was really good. I think there’s just that ability of being at home and having that comfort level compared to being on the road and being in a different place. I thought it didn’t affect us as all at LSU. I don’t know. I don’t know if there’s really an answer to it. I think it all comes down to what your confidence is like and what your competitiveness is like and if you’re making shots. I think basketball stays the same in that. You rise to a level when you’re playing well and making shots and then you’re much better defensively and then when you’re not, you start thinking too much and that can happen at home or on the road.”

On where K.D. Johnson fits in on the team…

“We really missed having another pure guard. I think it’s pretty obvious. When you’re recruiting him, you’re recruiting him to play. There was no doubt he’s going to be a factor for our team. He is competitive as anybody that’s on the team. He’s strong, he has a tremendous mindset defensively, he moves the ball, he moves without it, he can shoot. He just has a contagious confidence, I’ll put it that way. He’s practiced with us, but it’s been different. There’s no question about it. Yesterday, there was just a different edge to him, and to everybody else. That allows us to do even more personnel wise with our backcourt and just allows us some different options. It’s obviously going to take some time for him to get well versed in it when it comes to playing games when everyone has played 10 and he hasn’t played one yet. He’s just an absolute baller and when you have that kind of mindset, you’re going to fit in well and impact the team.”

On Auburn guard Sharife Cooper and how much Georgia has focused on him in particular while preparing for the upcoming game…

“I think he has to be. I don’t think there’s any question about it because the ball is in his hands a lot. So, it will be very interesting to see how they play because Justin Powell is playing a lot of point guard and [Allen] Flanigan is playing a lot of point guard. So, it’ll be interesting as the game unfolds to see the changes that they’ve made since the Alabama game. He is a dominant ball handler, passer, he makes great decisions and they run a ton of ball screens with him. When you have the ball in your hands like that, there’s no question that he has to be a focus. At the end of the day, they’re making 11 threes in a game, shooting 30 threes in the league and there is no way we can become so focused on one player that we over help or we put ourselves in a situation where we’re not honoring everyone else on the floor.”

On whether there was any thought of traveling straight to LSU from Arkansas and whether the amount of travel impacted the team’s performance against the Razorbacks…

“I don’t think it had an impact. It could go either way. I think in a situation like that, because you’re not in school yet, you feel much better in the sense of being back at home, in your environment where you can kind of control things a little bit more especially with…I don’t want to say it’s entirely a bubble environment but it’s a little bit more like that. We talked about it, but at the end of the day we decided to come home, we got a practice in here and decided to go back on the road. I don’t think that was a huge factor, I think the fact that we didn’t come back out in the second half and play with nearly the same spirit and toughness and energy was more of a factor.”

On what he has seen from K.D. Johnson off the court/any stories he remembers from his time recruiting Johnson…

“I would just say a couple things. This doesn’t really answer your question, but it kind of does. Here’s what he’s done here— he just went and got a 3.25 GPA as a freshman who was not able to play in games because basically he was half a credit short in the situation of where he was at, and he had a lot of underlying circumstances in his life and has continued to deal with that while he’s been here. When it comes to death in his family, sickness of a grandfather, going through the struggles of all this, I think the character that he has shown in the semester here and what he’s done academically, and how he’s persevered when all his teammates are playing, is remarkable. Here’s a guy who loves basketball as much as anybody on our team and is as competitive as anybody on our team, and he hasn’t been able to do it. But I think what you’ll see over a period of time, as he gets comfortable, you’ll see that competitiveness and contagious confidence that he has come out in other people. I think you’ll also see just the absolute toughness that he plays with, and I think you’ll see leadership. He’s well-liked. I mean, yesterday was a very emotional time when we found out that he was eligible, because we didn’t see it coming at that point. I was going off from a film meeting into a zoom with the head coaches and the athletic administration, and Ryan Fish let me know. He had just found out, and it was emotional. It was emotional for me; it was emotional for [Johnson’s] teammates, and it was emotional for [Johnson]. So, I don’t think there’s any question that he is a well-liked, highly thought of guy on our team, who’s just got a giant heart, and I think you’ll see that come out.”

On whether he sees the need to do anything different going forward in regards to Georgia’s ability to shoot the three-point shot…

“No. I think we have to shoot them better. I think we got 12 at LSU. It really comes down to moving the ball better. We’ve taken some inopportune shots, there’s no doubt about that. Then again, Toumani Camara doesn’t have a high percentage, and he makes three [3-pointers] the other day. You know, we’ve got to make three-point shots. Now, do we need to shoot them really quick? Do we need to shoot them on the break? No. We don’t necessarily need to do that. We need to do it in a drive-and-kick, inside-out type of way. We need to make the next pass better. We’re missing some open shots. When we’re hunting threes is when I have a problem, and that’s what we’ve got to make sure we’re not doing. We pre-determine it. There might be plays, and there might be actions; when that ball is free flowing, knock it down. Knock it down, but we’ve got to make threes to win in this league. We’ve got to get closer to where we were in that LSU game than where we’ve been in the Mississippi State and the Arkansas game when it comes to makes. It’s going to be a huge factor tomorrow night, because like I mentioned earlier, Auburn is making 10 overall and 11 in the league. So, we’ve got to do a really good job of not only getting some threes, but we’ve got to really defend the three.”

On whether he is expecting the environment of the games to be different now that the students have returned to campus…

“I don’t think it’s going to change a lot on attendance, but yeah, I think there will be an energy uptick. In fact, I was really excited about the students who were here during the break and how great they were. I have no complaints. I thought [the students] have been outstanding, and I think we can continue to do more with game management [and] game operations to keep turning it up in here and keep trying to make it a fun environment. I think there’s no question that having students back with that energy is going to help us.” 

#4 Andrew Garcia | Graduate Student

On how the team needs to balance out a high tempo and what they do best..

“One of the things we wanted to focus on was our ball movement. Looking at the LSU game, I felt like that was our most complete game as a team and we moved the ball, played together and found some open shots. It was one of our best games, we want to continue that and build upon it. I feel if we use everybody as a team and play together we can increase our three-point percentage.”

On K.D. Johnson returning and what to expect from him…

“It was emotional for everybody, especially for Coach [Tom Crean] and K.D. himself. This dude is probably the greatest competitor I’ve ever seen or played with. I’m excited for him to get on the court and bring his energy every single day. It’s nonstop and it’s hard, you can’t obviously feel what he’s been feeling these past few weeks not being able to play. But, he’s consistently brought that energy in practice and now in the games, he’s going to bring a whole other level of competitiveness.”

On the contrast between the LSU game and the Arkansas game, what they can take going into Auburn…

“What we can take out for sure is our connectiveness. We did a lot of internal stuff, but the biggest takeaway is we need to play both sides of the game. Not worry about calls and just continue to play as a team. That’s really our focus and when we play as a team, it shows on the offensive and defensive end with our deflections, passes and keeping our turnovers down. Those were our biggest takeaways, and we want to keep staying positive in our approach to every game and stay together.”

#5 Justin Kier | Graduate Student

On being an older, more experienced player and bouncing back after losses…

“We’ve got to get better. Going on the road it’s a different environment, but you’ve got to come together as a team on the road with games like that. When you’re not shooting well and things aren’t going your way. You’ve got to be more together, and that’s something I think we can work on since that loss as well. That’s going to show if we’re mature or not, if we can win games on the road when things aren’t going our way. I think we’ll get better with that and, like I said, I think this group is special. When adversity hits, that shows when a true man is going to respond and how he is going to respond. I think we’re going to continue to pick this up.”

On Johnson returning…

“It’s a big advantage for us because he’s a great competitor, no matter how much he hasn’t been able to play. He’s been competing and making us better every single day in practice. So, having him on the floor with us right now has the guys excited, he’s really excited, I’m really excited. The entire program is excited to have him. I hope he can get those jitters out and he is ready to play because, as an 18-19 year old kid, I know being put in this position wasn’t easy for him and we try to have his back as much as we could. I’m really excited for him to be with his brothers and to be on that floor fighting with us.”

On playing against LSU, Arkansas and how the execution was different against both teams…

“When things aren’t going well, that’s when our team has to come together the most. For a couple of spirts we didn’t, I think we put our head down a few times when they were on runs. That’s what you can’t do in this league, the SEC. these teams are really well coached and they play us just like we scout and play them. When adversity hits we’ve got to step up and get it done. If we’re not going offensively, we’ve got to step up a little bit more on defense. If we’re not doing well on defense we’ve got to continue to maintain that maturity to come out and compete when things aren’t going well.”

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