Q&A With Randy WielOctober 13, 2001 · MT Media Relations
The preseason has been very fruitful. Now you can work with four players and with our six new players, which has given us ample time to teach our philosophy. I think our early morning workouts have been good for us, too. They are designed to teach leadership and give us conditioning which gives us more time to teach in our individual workout sessions. The kids really seemed to like [the early-morning workout sessions] and I think it will be a positive for us as the season gets underway.
The individual workouts are a new development within the NCAA rules. How are those set up and what can you accomplish with them?
We can have four players at a time this year, but in the past couple of years you could only have three. In the beginning we set our workouts up according to size. In these workouts we worked a lot on fundamentals, defense, and teaching our philosophy on the game. We can help to implement certain schemes within these groups. After the first month, we changed up the groups so we had a mix of guards, forwards, and big guys in each group. You can simulate more of what we do within the team concept with these groups. We want to work on defense first because the offense is easier to pick up. We really have to stress fundamentals in these early workouts. These sessions are good to help us get some of these guys brushed up on things like dribbling, moving their feet, pivoting, and things like that. It's not that they don't have these skills, it's just that we want to make sure that they are brushed up on them. We don't want to have to take time away from our regular practice to teach these things.
How many hours a week can you conduct individual workouts?
We can have each player in for two hours a week. The way we usually work our schedule is to bring the guys in for 45 minutes twice a week. That leaves an extra 30 minutes so guys can come in and just shoot the basketball. We work a lot on shooting, but it is a process that continues throughout the year.
It looks like both of your big men will start practice fairly healthy. How does that change the dynamic of your team from last year?
I think for us to be successful, one of the two [C Lee Nosse and F Iiro Tenngren] has to be healthy all year. Lee has been cleared to do everything. He even ran a very good time in our mile run. He says that he is pain free and he seems to be in good condition. He has been lifting with us, too. I would like for him to add a little bulk, but for some reason he just doesn't bulk up. He is getting stronger, though. He hasn't played now in about a year, but he has still got his shooting eye. He appears to be rebounding the ball better, which is always the part of the game that I thought he could improve his game the most. In addition, Iiro has gotten his cast off and has started running. He is participating in some of the light workouts, but he is not quite 100 percent. They [the training staff] have said that he should be full-go in about a month. Both of these guys give us some size and give us a chance to compete.
What is your impression of your newcomers?
Well, I'm anxious to see them in a five-on-five situation because we can't really simulate that in our individual workouts. We have four new wings and all of them are very athletic. In fact, John Humphrey lifted more than anyone in the weight room. William Pippen has been a standout for us. He won the mile run and, in fact, came back and ran it again because he felt he could improve on his time. That shows that he has pride and is competitive. Garrick White is a walk-on that we recruited and he chose to come here rather than go somewhere else. Now we have to see which one of these guys wants to step up and contribute. Charlie Anderson is the big guy who has tremendous drive and can score. He's raw talent, but he's going to be a good one. He ran hard in the mile and had the fastest time of all of the big people, which is really good because he carries some size on him. We spend a lot of time with Charlie because if anything was to happen with Lee or Iiro, then he would get thrown to the wolves.
You're in a similar situation to last season with a returning point guard and a newcomer. Can you give us an idea of what we can look for at that spot?
Eric Parham and Dee Wilkes have different styles at point guard. Eric has a little more size and both of them are similar in speed. Dee seems to be a guy that sets things up well. That's just the style that he plays. Eric is more of a scoring point guard, but that is because it is more of what he was called on to do. Eric is a good shooter, but the best shooter at the point guard is Jermale Wilkerson. He also has the most size of the other two. We'll have to take a look at everybody and see who fits the best. We're going to have good competition at nearly every spot on the floor. No one has been penciled into the lineup just yet.
What has Gerald Harris added to your staff so far?
Gerald has been working in the individual workouts and, so far, he seems to be an excellent teacher. His main duty is to help develop the point guards. He has a lot of knowledge and he was one of the best point guards ever to play here, so he brings instant credibility. He is a very personable guy. I'm looking very forward to getting practice started and working with him.
Where do you think your team's strengths lie right now?
I think we're very athletic, we'll have speed, and I think we have scorers. Last year we struggled to score. We have to take those scorers and hone their skills. We will have to find out things about them like who's the better shooter, who's the better driver, and hopefully we'll improve our rebounding. That was the biggest thing from last year. We weren't a good rebounding team and then we got smaller [when Nosse got injured]. Rebounding will be a focal point of our team this fall. You can control defense. I thought that last year we worked our tail off defensively, but we couldn't score. We just got outscored. A guy like Pippen gives us some flexibility. He's really a small forward, but he stands about 6-8 with long arms. He gives us some size in a spot where we can use it. Derek Glasper is a very aggressive kid and Steven Jackson has improved drastically, so we feel like we're going to be OK. I really think we'll turn things around this season as long as we can stay healthy.
You have perhaps the best depth you've ever had here, especially at the wings. How will this impact your team?
All of them are capable of playing. Now, in the very first week of practice we have to see who is really basketball smart and who can do the little things. All of the junior college players we signed were the focal point of their team's attack, so we know we have scorers. Some of them have never played within a scheme. We give them a lot of freedom, but each player has to learn what the others will do. Some players come off screens and curl in while others will fan out and look to shoot. You have to get a feel for that and learn to read the tendencies of your own teammates. We need to coach them to be able to make those reads.
What are your impressions of the Sun Belt after playing in it last year and where do you think we're going to fit into this year's race?
The league is strong, there's no doubt about it. Western Kentucky has about 98 percent of their team back from last year, so they should be the favorite on our side. It has to do with Chris Marcus, because he creates problems for everybody. The other teams in the league are kind of in a rebuilding situation. Florida International and the two Arkansas schools lost some key players and will be working in some new ones. Even last year we battled and kept scores close in most games. With the improvements I feel we've made, we should be right there competing for the top. I don't know what everybody else has, so you can't say for sure exactly where we fit in, but I feel like we should be able to play with anybody. If we have a full squad heading into the season then I will have the same optimism that I had going into last season.
On the other side, New Mexico State and South Alabama will both be good. New Mexico State signed one of the top big men in junior college last year. There are some teams with new coaches and a lot of new players in that division, so it should be an interesting year. The one thing I do know is that we're better, much better, than we were last year. I think right now you have several teams in our division that look, on paper, to be each other's equals.
Did the first season in the SBC change your philosophy at all either in what you do on the floor and/or in recruiting?
The Sun Belt is as athletic as the OVC, but the SBC has quality big men. Every team has players with size and those guys can really play. In the OVC you could get away with a 6-7 center, but in this league you have to go after guys that are like 6-10 or 6-9 with bulk. You have to have size to play in the post in this league. The half court game is more prevalent in this league. Your offense in the half court has to be really good because the opposition forces you to do that. The league has opened up some doors for us to get in contact with some really good players. The Sun Belt, the Colonial, the Southern Conference, we all vie for the same type of players, but we've been able to get in on some guys that some of the others can't. I know that a lot of the strides we have made in recruiting have been due completely to the league.
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