Jan. 11, 2010
AMHERST, Mass. -
The Atlantic 10 Conference held its second weekly men's basketball coaches teleconference of the season on Monday. UMass head coach Derek Kellogg answered questions on a variety of topics including, the Minutemen's first two conference games, the development of his young players, and what he expects from Richmond on Wednesday.
Below is the complete transcript of Coach Kellogg's portion of the teleconference.
On the first two conference games:
Well, the Fordham game was very interesting. I thought they came in with high energy, a fresh start for them, starting the Atlantic 10 Conference. They played particularly well in the second half. Butler really knocked down some threes, the freshman Gaston played well and they really put a scare into us in a home game here at the Mullins. They tied it with 30 seconds left and we were fortunate that Ricky Harris banked that tough shot in really to win the game. And I give credit to Fordham, I think they really competed and I was impressed with how hard they played that particular night.
Yesterday we had a very hard-fought battle with La Salle. They did a nice job of physically taking us out of our game; they really crashed the boards on us. I think the freshman Murray was fantastic in the second half, changing the game on both ends of the floor. The rest of the guys really did what they do - Rodney Green at the point is one of the best players in the league. Their other guys also played really well, making shots and really playing physical and tough on the boards.
We're sitting at 1-1 with a tough stretch ahead of us, going to Richmond on Wednesday and going to Temple on Saturday; two of the teams that are both thought of as NCAA Tournament teams and I'd say two of the top three or four teams in the league. We have our hands full and for me I'm just trying to really concentrate on UMass and getting this team and program where it needs to be. We've got a lot of young guys and new faces that are really maturing at a rate not quite as quickly as any coach would like, but we're putting forth an effort. In the last four out of five games it's been a one-pointer, or two-pointer and then a six-pointer, so we've been in quite a few tough, hard-fought battles.
On the balance of bringing the new players along without overloading them with information:
I think so because sometimes they look at me like I'm crazy and I'm coming at them with way too much stuff. You really want them to feel comfortable and not lose their natural instincts. At times when you're coming at them with too much stuff - whether it's offense or defense or even schoolwork - to compile all those things at once in their first semester has been pretty difficult. Now that we've had a little break from school I think I can see these guys be a little more relieved and concentrate on basketball a little more and their growth has come along a little more. Freddie Riley
had 22 points for us last night and I thought he did some good things. Terrell Vinson
went for 13 points and five rebounds. You never know, though, with freshmen if you're going to get a consistent effort every night out, so that's been difficult in that one game may be 22 and the next six be 15, so I think as they mature and become older, they're able to be more consistent, and I have to continue to push their process and that envelope along with not only those to but Sampson Carter
and Javorn Farrell
, whose been hurt for us.
On the adjustment freshmen have to make, not only with basketball, but with school:
It is no question. I always said even as a player that the first semester coming into college is the most difficult. Time management - the classwork, all the practice time that's put on you - that's a semester of really learning time management, what's important. It's probably the most difficult and that's why you see so many kids transfer - a lot of coaches don't want them to transfer after that first semester because it's never totally like they expected and if they're mature enough to get through the first semester and even through this winter-session scenario, I think a lot of people start to settle in and finally realize that, the first time on their own, what's important - time management. Academically you have to put in quite a bit of time and I think it's gotta be a delicate balance, academics and athletics.
Well, they're one of the teams that's very mature with a bunch of seniors and juniors and the coach has a great style that he has them playing and I think that they're one of the teams that's an NCAA Tournament team of our league and any time you're going to an NCAA Tournament team on the road which we unfortunately get to do twice this week. We're going to have our hands full, especially with a young team. I don't think that any of these guys, except maybe three of them, have played against that style, and against a team that runs it as crisp and at a pace that they do. We're going to have our hands full, but like I said right now we're just trying to get the UMass team and program playing at a rate and a level that I want them to play at, and I haven't worried so much about the opponents, but we will definitely study Richmond and have a better feel for what they're doing for Wednesday's game.
On if he has seen improvement in road games between the start of the season and now:
I really hope so because the Central Florida and Seton Hall games were painful to watch. I think they're becoming more business-like. They are understanding what it takes to compete on the road. From how you eat to how you sleep, to the whole process of going to a shootaround and to studying film, there really is a science or a technique to making sure you can compete at a higher level, and I think our guys have matured since the Central Florida and Seton Hall games. Even the Memphis game was in Boston which gave us a chance to travel down there and stay over and play then and then the Boston College and Davidson games and even the La Salle game yesterday was in Springfield which meant, even though it was a home game, it was still a game that we could stay over and get that atmosphere. The more we can do as far as playing high-level teams and opponents, we can prepare for the Atlantic 10 this year, which is so difficult and tough. I'm looking at the schedule and every game is just a battle and a tough game and I'm not sure if any coach in the league knew it was going to be quite this difficult before the season began. While it's great for the league and everybody involved, it's also tough to be a coach this year.