Preseason Q&A: USF men's coach Brian Gregory
Moments before leading his team through its sixth preseason practice Thursday, new USF men's basketball coach Brian Gregory spent about 10 minutes with reporters in the Muma Center lobby. Here are some excerpts from that session.
How have practices been going? We hear they're real intense.
"Great work ethic. (Guys) have been playing extremely hard, picking up some stuff offensively. Obviously we've got to keep working on execution, taking care of the ball...but a lot of those have been due to playing extremely hard and trying to maybe do a little too much, a little too fast, which is fine at this stage. You've got to work on that stuff, but in terms of the chemistry and the work ethic and the intensity and the coachability, I've been very, very pleased through five practices."
You've got 10 new players, but despite that, you've kind of got an older team (three grad transfers). Think that gives you a bit of an advantage?
"Well I'm not sure right now in any aspect that we're at an advantage to be used. The one thing we wanted to do -- our goal in the spring -- was to kind of stabilize the program. You do that with older guys. But you also have to do that with some younger guys that are gonna have to play significant minutes, learn on the way a little bit. But you can see we're able to make some plays offensively and defensively that maybe haven't been gone over before or taught or whatever,
just due to the experience factor out there with three guys who have logged significant minutes in their career. ... We do have some game experience, we just don't have it together."
It's very early, but how things looking with your backcourt competition. Who's gonna handle the ball for you?
"Right now, (graduate transfer) Stephan Jiggetts and (freshman) David Collins are playing a lot with the ball in their hand, but our offense allows our off-guards, two-guards, three-men, our swing players to handle the ball as well. So as I said, taking care of the ball is very, very important for us offensively. At the same time, we want to play at a pace that's comfortable and in an attacking-type mode. And due to number-wise, you've got to be careful when you pick your spots, so the decision making from the perimeter is gonna be very, very important."
Have you ever been in a situation where you're trying to get this many new guys to mesh this quickly?
"No. I'm not sure many people have. It's a challenge, there's no doubt about it. So I think the biggest key with that, you have to establish your culture every single day. Guys have to start buying in to it. You can't necessarily hold 'em accountable to that because they haven't been taught it before, it's new to 'em. You have to teach 'em and then you help hold 'em accountable to those standards, and they're getting there.
At this point, which freshmen are looking like they're gonna be ready to contribute?
"Well all three, they're gonna have to. David, Justin (Brown) and 'Lex (Yetna) are all gonna have to contribute, and all are gonna have to play at times not as freshmen. The biggest challenge with freshmen, there's two of 'em: The first one is defensively. Most times with freshmen, you have to have an all-points-bulletin on campus to find someone they can guard. That's just the way it is, you can search for days and not find anybody. ... The second challenge for freshmen is being able to sustain that type of effort day-in and day-out, because in the past they've been able to have an off-day and still be the best player on the court. That's no longer the case, and they have to realize that."