Rick Barnes Monday Press Conference Transcript (1.13.20)

Credit: UT Athletics

Head coach Rick Barnes met with the media on Monday afternoon inside the Ray and Lucy Hand Studio.

On how he expects his players to respond to shooting slumps
“Well, I think when you’re a player that’s struggling, I don’t think you can take bad shots to get out of a slump. I think that’s when you have to get lost in other parts of the game. I think when you’re struggling shooting the ball, you still have to take open shots, shots you’re supposed to take. The next one won’t go in unless you shoot it. What you can’t do is start pressing, jumping higher than you jumped in practice or do things you don’t practice in terms of those shots. I think that takes you only further into the hole. We’ve told our guys that we’re going to take open shots, shots that we have practiced. You’re also talking about Jordan Bowden, and he has to stop pressing and taking shots that he knows he doesn’t practice. But with that said, he played really well defensively Saturday. And that’s one of the things we asked him to do. We’ve told him to not get lost on the defensive end and find a way to affect the game other ways. Whether it’s with your defense—which we expect every night—getting to the offensive boards, trying to get out in transition or trying to get fouled. There’s a lot that goes into it, more than just missing shots. Defensively he was really good Saturday.”

On John Fulkerson’s habits from the offseason and next
“Not really, in all honesty he didn’t do anything different than he has. As a program, we have a culture where you work and do certain things. We’re still waiting on him to take it a step further and he is capable of doing that. There is no doubt that he plays hard. He gets tired because he’s in there often, many nights with guys with more weight. Guys push around this and that. Getting pushed when he sets ball screens, all those body blows can eventually wear on him. I think he can be even better though. I think if he can lock in even more and put more time in from this end, both mentally and physically. I think he can continue to be a much better player.

On John Fulkerson’s next steps
“For him to understand that there’s a next level that he can get to. That he’s not as good a player as he truly can be. He hasn’t maxed out where he is right now. There’s another two, three, four steps that he can get to. But he’s going to have to make that effort to do that.”

On Drew Pember’s film and what he needs from him in the future
“I think it’s a little bit of everything. I thought this was a really hard game. I thought both teams played hard, struggled to score, blocking shots, trying to get the balls off the glass, and get fouled any way they could. And (Drew) handled himself well with the pressure. He obviously made a big three for us. He defended well. He got tired, there’s no doubt he got tired and you could see it. He probably stayed in a few minutes longer than he should have. But he’s getting better. Watching him at practice, watching him run harder, watching him get into a stance, watching him not shy away from physicality. And we see all that in practice. Our practices are pretty intense. I think the fact that we’ve used him on our scout team has helped him some too. Where he continues to get rep after rep. Like any of these young guys, he’s finding out it’s a whole different game than what he signed up for. He’s definitely getting better and if he will continue to do that, he can really help us. He has a feel for the game. He sees things on the offensive end. He’s got instincts that he is blessed with. So, all that can help us. Again, it all starts with work ethic and playing hard and understanding what that means.

On what jumps out to him when it comes to Georgia’s basketball team:
“They get out in transition and score in transition. They really drive the ball hard. They are the second, third, fourth best offensive team in the league in terms of the numbers they put up. When they can run like they run and drive like they drive, our defense is going to have to be good. Not only one-on-one because they drive it. They drive it hard. We are going to help each other. We are going to rebound. We are going to continue to rebound better. And defensively, we expect them to do a lot of switching. I don’t think we have one guy to guard (Anthony) Edwards. I don’t think that. I don’t think anybody does. When he’s on, he is one of the toughest players to play in the country. We are going to have to, as a team, make sure we are locked in. We have to get back and we just have to get back (down the floor). You just can’t let them run the floor against you, because they are really lethal when they do that.”

On where he thinks the team has progressed so far this season:
“I think we have progressed because we finally feel like the guys we have right now – knock on wood, we hope nothing else happens – are the guys that we are going to be playing. We are trying to settle in. Santiago (Vescovi) is still trying to figure some things out. He has to figure out how to not carry the ball and how quickly those gaps fill when he tries to get into them. We have to cut our turnovers down. That is plain and simple. We have to be able to do that. I do know this, on Saturday as a group – when you think about our young guys – they worked hard and that is what we ask them to do to understand how hard you have to play. For the most part, our older guys have done that all year. But our younger guys would have lapses and they couldn’t sustain it. You could tell they were engaged. We started seeing it a little bit last week in practice where they were starting to realize that we had to change. This is harder than we signed up for. Going forward, there is nothing that we don’t have to get better at. We have added some things since Santiago has been here. You see we are ball screening more than we ever have to try and simplify some things for him. I think Josiah has gotten better. He is starting to get more of a feel for things. He still hasn’t totally gotten the grasp of what we want to do in our transition game. Our transition game hasn’t been anywhere near what it has been in the past. The way we want to play overall, we haven’t gotten to yet. That is what we will keep trying to do as we go forward.”

On if there is anything he wants Josiah-Jordan James to work on in practice this week:
“I think both him and Santiago (Vescovi) need to realize you can’t foul when the shot clock gets to under 10 seconds. You can’t do that. They both did that. That is just resetting the clock for both teams. The thing that I would say not just Josiah, but all our guys, need to take care of the basketball. Not just our young guys, it is our old guys too. I mean, they are playing a lot of minutes and they are turning the ball over as much as anybody. We need to protect the ball and give ourselves a chance. We know we didn’t shoot it well, but we think we can shoot the ball well. We shot well at Missouri. We shot well before that against LSU. We had some looks the other night that we were sitting there thinking sooner or later one or two will go in. I think if they do, it changes everything. I don’t want us to get like we were in the Wisconsin game where people were turning down shots and trying to create things that weren’t there. We were just timid or scared – whatever you want to say. I don’t want our guys to ever play like that. We are going to shoot the ball when we are open. We work too hard at shooting to not to do that. But all of our guys have to find a way to understand how important taking care of the ball is.”

On Santiago Vescovi ‘s turnovers thus far this season and how he can adjust:
“The first turnover he had, he literally put his hand underneath the ball while not even being guarded and stepped forward to get ready to set himself up on a ball screen, which he didn’t even have to do because he wasn’t being pressured. He was just doing it based on a bad habit. Then the way they played their defense throughout the game, people can adjust on ball screens but with him he has to understand getting in that gap is like a running back going through the line, you have to protect that ball, he’s too loose with it where he has it too far from his body and people are reaching in. He got down the lane and threw a pass to Olivier (Nkamhoua) where I don’t think even Jerry Rice could have caught it. He is going to get there, he’s more deceptive then people might think, quicker than people might think, he knows how to do that, but now he’s going to have to learn how to get there against the athletes he’s playing against and make those plays. The first one he turned over, he looked at me like ‘What’d I do’ and I said ‘Well, you just picked the ball up basically and stepped a foot and put it back down’ but that’s what he’s done and those plays really aren’t called so those are situations he needs to work on. Pivoting, we’re working with him every day to understand he has to establish a pivot foot. But it’s not just him, we do it with all of our guys, when we they are in a triple threat position that they don’t shuffle their feet because it’s an easy call for officials to make. And out front there it’s pretty much exposed and coaches are always yelling for traveling. So those are things we have to clean up and he’s got to realize it’s a different game.”

On Lamonte Turner’s role with the team the rest of the season:
“I think everybody was excited to see him. He’s done the surgery and now he’s back to start rehabbing. The guys love seeing him around. He’s going to have to do what he needs to do. He told me he’s lost ten pounds, and he feels like he has a hole right where they took that rib out. But I’m sure rehabilitation will be the most important thing he’s going concentrate on the next two months.”

On how important Victor Bailey and Uros Plavsic have been on scout team so far this season:
“They’ve been huge. What VJ has done for Santiago probably has been the biggest thing. We tell VJ every day to get after him, foul him, do whatever you want to do. VJ is competitive and obviously Santiago knows what he’s doing, but he’s really helped. Uros has gotten better from the scout team reps that he has gotten. He’s physical and he’s obviously helped those guys. Those two guys have gotten better this year and there’s no doubt that if they were eligible they would both be playing. But they have embraced that their role is to get those other guys better. Again, they both have to keep getting better, and they know that. That’s where our practices get better when we are competing and being competitive like that where we are really trying to help each other. In practice when we are going against each other most of these guys don’t want to come out unless you got an ego where you’re saying ‘I’m going to get back in there,’ because it’s not like I’m paying attention to subbing who’s in and whose out in practice. I expect those guys to get in and get their reps. But if your passive, which Drew has been at times, where he would sit out two or three reps and it shouldn’t be like that, he should be alternating every other rep. So, when he’s on the scout team there’s nowhere to go but out there to play and get better.”

On Josiah-Jordan James’ improved shooting as of late:
“He’s changed his shot a lot since the first time we saw him back when he was in high school. If you took a picture, which we have of what he did shoot it like and now where he is today it would show you how driven he is and how hard he works because it’s not an easy thing to do. I’ve always said to you guys that if you’re going to change your shot it gets down to that person wanting to be diligent in doing it. He has been as diligent as anybody and I know that he’s confident in his shot, there’s no doubt about that. As he continues to get better and better footwork it’s only going to translate more into being an even better shooter. When he gets stationary and raises up, he’s one of those guys that we think it’s going to go in every time because we have watched the time he puts in. I know prior to a recent game he went back out on the floor and worked on his skills and the little things that he does the night before and then the morning before the game he came in and did the exact same thing. That’s what we need John Fulkerson to do, that’s what we need other guys to do. That’s when you know that they are locked into themselves and they want to be that good and they are going to go above and beyond what we need them to do.”

On Tom Crean and what stands out most about him:
“He’s a guy that as you know is very intense, puts a lot of time into this game, puts a lot of time into his players. There’s no doubt that he has love for the sport and what he does. He’s been really successful, and I’m not surprised about what he’s been able to do at Georgia. He’s been around the game a long time. I first met him when he was at Michigan state, he’s been around a really a long time. I’ve said before when you’ve been around awhile, and you want to work at it and get better, you continue to find ways to improve not only your team but yourself. I believe Tom is like that, he’s always trying to find ways to get better.”

On how much he thinks some of the younger players will benefit from this season moving into next season:
“I think it’s going to help us even over the next month. I think they’re finding things out more in conference play then anything, the timing of Lamonte going down wasn’t the perfect timing for us. You look around College Basketball, everybody has adversity they have to deal with in terms of basketball. Our guys have done the one thing we have asked them to do, to stay locked in, help each other. I do think the experience they’re getting right now is going to pay big dividends eventually. I think more than anything, once we do head into the offseason it will help them understand how hard it is and how everybody can play. You have to find a way to get better because as the old saying goes if you’re not getting better, then you’re getting worse and I think that’s true.”


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