Additional Keno Davis Q & A
But I also asked him how the team is shaping up since practice started. Here is what he had to say:
Q: How has the team looked in practice so far?
A: We are so far ahead of where we would have been without the summer work, without the mini-camp, without our individual or team work before Oct. 12. When Oct. 12 came, it felt like we had been going for a while and gotten a lot accomplished. Now we are trying to transfer our drill work, our half-court work into a full-court game. It's going to take some time, but we've got a little bit of time here before the first game and we'll have some scrimmages that we will announce to the public. We'll open the doors to give our fans, to give our students, and to give our alumni an opportunity to see this ball club. They'll be excited by watching, they'll be optimistic about the future. But more importantly, when they come back two or three weeks later I think they are going to see improvement in the ball club and that should really be able to get some momentum going our way.
Q: The returners from last year, are they still getting used to the speed of the game?
A: They are. I think especially going before Oct. 12 when we were limited to two hours per week to now where we are going over two hours a day, the speed of the game tends to catch up to you after 20 or 30 minutes of practice where you almost finishing before. Now we're just getting started. So to be able to keep that intensity over a couple-hour practice is something that our guys are not used to, but something where in week two I hope we are a much better ball club and able to get used to the speed of the game and also the length of a game so we are able to win games in the last few minutes. Be the fresher team and the team able to have fresher legs, to have that endurance that you can only learn this time of year. It's too late if you wait until November or December.
Q: Austin Keel mentioned at media day that he played in a fast-paced offense in high school and AAU. Is this a system that is going to benefit him?
A: I think for shooters, to be able to be in a fast-paced game gives you more opportunities to get the ball in shooting areas before the defense gets set. So for guys that are able to shoot the 3-pointer and we have quite a few of them, I think it gives them that opportunity. We just don't have a team built for a half-court game. We've got to figure out how to score in the half-court, how to defend in the half-court. But we are ahead of where I thought we would be for the full-court.
Q: Any particular areas of focus over these next couple weeks of practice?
A: On the offensive end, we're focusing on running the court harder. On the defensive end, we're trying to communicate more and talk more. I think as you improve that, your intensity goes up. Then we are trying to make sure we rebound as a team. I don't think we are going to have the rebounder on this team that is going to be in the top-five in the conference or lead the conference in rebounding. But that doesn't mean we can't out-rebound our opponents. If our point guards rebound, if our off-guards rebound. If our other players are coming up with loose ball rebounds or doing a good job boxing out. And if after each game we win the rebounding margin as a smaller team, I think that shows our fans our intensity and work ethic. It also shows that as we become bigger and stronger, that now we can go from maybe winning the boards by a marginal amount to being dominant on the boards here in the future.
Q: Will maybe some of the biggest challenges be against teams like Eastern Michigan that really like to slow down the pace and work the 35-second shot clock?
A: Being able to control tempo is going to be important for us, to be able to speed opponents up that want to slow down. That doesn't mean that is going to work every night. There are going to be some teams that are just so patient and so slow that even when we press them they'll slow it down again. But I think teams that do that, they give you an advantage in being able to press them in that even if you don't turn them over you haven't given up any buckets on the other end because they'll be patient again. So you get a chance to get steals and be aggressive on the defensive end without giving up those layups and those easy opportunities. So I think teams that want to slow it down even more might give us an even bigger advantage, although we might not get the score up to the number that we would like.