Hoops Quotes - 10/26

Lorenzo Romar (Max Waugh/Dawgman.com)

Here are quotes from Head Coach Lorenzo Romar, center Aziz N'Diaye, forward Darnell Gant and Co-Captain/guard Isaiah Thomas as they continue to work their way through pre-season practice. Their first game is less than two weeks away, when they take on St. Martins during an exhibition game on Saturday, Nov. 6 at Hec Ed.

Head Coach Lorenzo Romar:

On the scrimmage over this weekend…
"I don't know what to say. It was good to—we scrimmage everyday anyway. But this was more of a prolonged scrimmage, more minutes. So it was good to get that many minutes out, just to see where we were."

What did you accomplish?
"We accomplished—it was a parameter, for us to look back and say, as a staff, we need to turn up the heat here, or we're going to be pretty good in this particular situation. Just kind of showed us where we need to go from here, so to speak."

On the first two weeks…
"We're making progress, moving the right direction. Just at this time of year, you have a vision of what things are supposed to look like, and it looks nothing like your vision, so you just feel like maybe you are behind. If we had to go play a game tonight, I don't know what would happen."

Is that your way of tempering expectations?
"No, I don't play those games, it's the truth. If I was to say that last year, you might've said the same thing. I think this year is different than last year though in that, I think it's because we're not as far as long and practice we'll take care of some of these issues. Last year maybe we had a fall essential where we were. Our guys have worked hard."

What are the issues right now?
"We just have to get better defensively. And we have to get better with our spacing, offensively. Those are the main things. There are some absolutes when you are playing the game that we don't have down yet. Certain areas that are just going to kill you if they're not taken care of, not addressed, and you can't get away with those."

What kind of defense?
"Positioning, floor positioning, stopping the basketball, things in that nature. Things that don't get done in the summer when you play pick up, that are essential for you to win in organized situations."

On injuries…
"Desmond was full practice the entire time. The only one out is Venoy still."

Is it still the first week of November for Venoy coming back?
"Hopefully. Again, with hamstrings, it's hard."

On closing in on decisions with freshmen. Will they play or red shirt?
"That's not the plan of anyone redshirting right now. This year all of our freshmen are kind of ready to play. We have two that we brought in, Desmond and Terrence. Aziz is a sophomore."

On Desmond…
"You know we keep track of deflections in our scheme, our defensive scheme, it's very important. It's not as important that you get steals, but get deflections. Because often times, those lead to steals. And it disrupts the offense. Yesterday, he was at the top of the charts with those. You know, we do a plus minus system every day at practice, to kind of evaluate the things that we hold our hat on, rebounding, taking charges, getting the loose balls. But on the flip side, missed box outs, you can be penalized for those, defensive errors, negative assist turnovers. We just weigh them out, and he was on the plus side. That doesn't happen very often with freshmen, even when they've been there a week. Well he practiced the first time, everyone had been going for about a week and a half. He did his thing that way. I don't know if he scored a basket, but his present was felt."

Is he in shape?
"For what? Being out five weeks? He was in decent enough shape. He got through the whole practice."

On Aziz and his injury…
"You would not know that he was injured, the way he moves up the floor. What he's working on is his timing. When you sit out a year, your timing isn't there, his timing his touch, conditioning also. Even though he ran an impressive mile time he still is getting in condition."

On roles…
"You know last year we talked about that. About understanding roles, and that was before we began to win. Guys started to assume different roles, and I think they saw what it brought to the team, how it made us successful. Then going into this year, I think it was just a general idea, a general thought—that we all have a role to play."

On pleasant surprises…
"I felt we've done a decent job of trying to put a body on people trying to box them out. Sometimes we struggle with that going into the season, we play a few games, and we're still struggling with that. We're looking to do that more. So that will be the main thing."

On the new Pac-12 coming next year…
"Given the situation, with the two additions, as far as I'm concerned my opinion is that that's about the best we could come out of it. I'm pleased with how it shaped out."

On the brackets of the new Pac-12…
"That I'm not sure. I should probably know that, but I'm not sure yet."

On players having specific things they're looking forward to playing…
"You mentioned roles earlier. I think it's important for guys to understand the identity of this team, and the identity of this program, and to do those things, and then the cream rises to the top after that. But the essentials, defending, rebounding, being tough out there, playing hard, and being unselfish, now those are the essentials. Now, what stems from that, if some guys score more than others, some guys are shooting the ball better than others, some are penetrators, slashers, penetrators slash better than others. But those essentials are what are important for our guys to understand."

On Terrence…
"He is very pleasant to work with. He wants to be coached. He picks things up really well. He is a very good pupil. You love to work with guys like that, especially when they have the talent package that he does."
Center Aziz N'Diaye:

How are you coming along?
"Good!"

What are you finding most difficult?
"Not a lot—So far it has been good."

On what the coaches have stopped you on to improve on… "Right now we're having individual time, like an hour during the week—and the coaches just work with you individually. I've been working on my offensive end. Stuff like that, more thinking of stuff like drop step and other foot work."

How hard is that?
"It's not bad. It's something you have to learn, I mean, I've been making progress with that."

On what you're most pleased with…
"Like I've been getting better on the moves, my go- to moves, and stuff like that. And working on—and finishing—and working on a lot of touches."

On you go-to move…
"One dribble hook shot in the middle."

Do you feel pretty comfortable with that?
"Yeah, Yeah. Of course trying to build from there— "

On the defense…
"I meant it's basically the same thing [as junior college defense]. Defense, you just have to be n the right spot. When you are big you have to be on the line and help side, and help recovering. I mean it's been good."

On rebounding…
"Rebounding is doing good. I've been rebounding the ball, you know getting on the glass, going up, trying to get offensive rebounds. So far, I've been doing a good job."

On with you being such a big guy, is it mostly effort?
"Yeah, I mean, it's mostly effort and being in the right spot. In time, when the ball hit the rims, and where it is exactly going. When you are big you have the height advantage to get the ball and rebound, but that is a skill I can keep getting better at, and just help the team by rebounding."

On conditioning…
"Just a little bit, like—I'm not feeling like I'm out of shape. I'm in pretty good shape where i'm at right now. It's just sometimes. I don't get tired, it's just my leg that gets sore from my knee and stuff. It's coming along though. The first year back from an injury is a process. So I'm getting there."

On the practices being demanding…
"Not really, I mean, because I think our practices really come with the mindset and attitude, if you come with that, you will be fine. Coaches do a good job at teaching us how to play, and how to play together and stuff like that. Talking about team defense and stuff like that. So, I think so far we're doing good."

What guy surprises you on a daily basis?
"I think everybody is getting better. But out of anybody, I think Justin Holiday—he's a senior, he's been here for four years, he knows the system. He's doing a pretty good in practice by like deflections and stuff like that, or the defensive end. He's fast and he knows the system. He runs the floor pretty good, so he's doing a good job, so I'm pretty impressed."

On your weight…
"Just around like 250—I'm in pretty good shape, I can run and jump."

Favorite food at the training tables…
"I like the beef, I like steak, you know I love steak."
Forward Darnell Gant:

On the first couple of weeks…
"The first couple of weeks have been good. Everybody has been working hard, getting after it, it's been really competitive. We've been playing the real up-tempo game, we're trying to just get the defensive scheme down."

On the skinny little kid who showed up a few years ago to the guy we're looking at now…
"I'm just a little bit more mature now. I've grown a lot the past three years, they've been a real test and trial for me, just learning everything and getting everything, and getting my feet wet, and just playing in front of big crowds like this night in and night out. I'm just a different guy now days, just waiting to have a good season, that's all."

On feeling like a veteran…
"Yeah I do. I mean I felt like a veteran last year, I mean even though I was a sophomore I was still here, definitely my third year. I've felt like I've been through some things, I've been on the championship winning team, Pac-10 Tournament championship winning team, Sweet Sixteen, all of that. So I've been around, definitely been around. But like I said, I'm just waiting to have a good year. I'm feeling more confident in myself."

On how good the team can be this year…
"We could be really good. But we can only be as good as we make ourselves out to be. If we work hard day in and day out then we're going to be fine. I feel if we reach our potential then you know, the sky is the limit for us. Just buy in to the defensive scheme, we have too many weapons on this team to under achieve. And we don't have any dudes that don't work hard, so that shouldn't be a way that we'd under achieve. But things can happen, and we can get a big head, but hopefully we won't do that. Just stay cool, calm and collective thorough every game and we'll just work hard and just every night get after it."

On Lorenzo riding you a little bit harder than last year…
"Most definitely. He's on us a lot this year. He's been working us out really hard. Yelling and doing a lot. He's being more vocal this year than the past years. He's always been vocal but I feel like there is a difference this year, and I think he knows because what our potential can be. So he's really looking into that. But other than that, he's still the same guy, he's always going to work you and bring out the best of you. That's just how he is."

On what point do you start getting ready for a game…
"I'm ready now. I've been ready since I've got back. We just have to go through this whole process where we have to get ready. We're definitely not ready, I'm definitely not ready. I want to play, but in terms of defense, and being ready, all the way conditioned for the game—I would love to play a game, but the whole team isn't there yet, and we want to show our full potential in the first game. Show people what we can really do and I feel like when you guys get a glimpse of that, you guys are going to be in awe."
Co-Captain/Guard Isaiah Thomas:

On having a big guy…
"It's working good. He's legit, he does what big dudes are supposed to do. He rebounds, blocks shots and makes lay ups around the bucket. So he's going to help us a lot."

On throwing stuff up for him…
"Yeah. Sometimes when you are out of control, you can just throw it to the rim and he's going to go get it."

On him helping you getting to where you want to go…
"Yeah, because it starts out at the defensive end, and he's a big part of what we do. And he's going to help us in a lot of different ways."

On how everyone is feeling?
"Feeling good. I mean we still got a lot of work to do. But in the mean time we're working hard and doing what we can to do gel. We still got sometime before this first game."

On what player has been a surprise for you so far…
"Probably Aziz. You didn't think he would catch on so fast, being away from the game for a year and plus the stuff we do is kind of more difficult than what others do. Probably him, a lot of other players too, but him is the main one."

On Aziz's attitude…
"Yeah, he's going to play hard no matter what. No matter if he's making shots, or doing whatever it is he needs to do, he's going to play hard. You want those kind of players around you. You want those kid of players that are going to fight to the end and do whatever it takes to win."

On what you are doing, and your shot…
"I'm doing alright. I'm doing cool. Just trying to get everybody built together, and get this chemistry right. And if the team is doing good then I'm doing fine."

On roles…
"Like I said before, I think if we get our chemistry down early, and gel quicker than we did last year, then we can be a good team. We can be a little better than we were last year. Because that was key to the season last year. Once we gelled and came together, we were a hard team to beat. Once we do that this year with the new guys and the returners we'll be pretty good."

How do you do that?
"Just work hard. Just try to get better at everything you can possibly do. And at the end of the day, it's not about any individual, it's about this team. We have that mindset, we can make some noise."

Do you feel honored they selected you to go down to L.A. (for media day)?
"Yeah, it's something fun to do. I mean being here—seeing Brock did it, and Quincy did it. So I was looking forward to do it, but I'm glad they picked me."

On Lorenzo being tougher this year compared to last year…
"It's about the same. He's more detailed in what he once in us. He's going after it. He wants everything to start in the defensive end, and he's making that a true factor."

On tempering high expectations…
"Yeah, I mean, he's always going to do that. That's what coaches are supposed to do, especially if you are winning at a high level. He's always going to make sure your head is leveled, and make sure you guys are working hard. So we're going to keep at it and work hard and try to win as many ball games as possible."

On being out there without Venoy…
"Yeah it is. It really is. Because I mean, I'm probably the best defender other than him… Nah, I'm juts playin."

On Desmond Simmons
"He's like a mode of a Holiday. It's crazy because in pick-up games in the summer, dudes don't really play defense, but he's the one that gets his hands on everything, rebounds. He's not even that athletic, but he always gets rebounds, always gets loose balls. He practiced yesterday, a full practice, and he was on everything, deflections. He's going to be a good guy for us, because he works hard and he's always around the ball."

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