Q&A with Coach Stallings, part 1

Oct. 14, 2008


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VUcommodores.com sat down with basketball head coach Kevin Stallings for a three-part Q&A session as the Commodores prepare for the first day of practice this Friday. In part one, Stallings gives his breakdown of the upcoming season.

What excites you about the upcoming season? What do you perceive as the strengths and weaknesses of this year's team?

"I think that the biggest thing that excites me about the upcoming season continues to be the kind of person we attract to this program...what good people we have, what good guys they are, at least so far. We certainly feel like we have some very talented players in our program and because of the lack of college experience that is prevalent on our team, it may take us some time to get it all put together the way we need it and want it. But, I'm excited about the kind of guys we've recruited. They love to play and they love to work. I think that they are people that genuinely have a concern and a passion for others, and I appreciate people who are "other-centered". I think we've got some guys on our team that aren't really caught up in themselves, and really have a true genuine concern for others and that's a truly refreshing thing."

Will you have a change of philosophy because of limited personnel experience?

"Because of our personnel, we'll have to modify what we do, but we have to do that from year to year, and I think that's the type of coach that I am anyway. I'm not going to stand there and do the same thing from one year to the next. We'll try to play to the strengths of our personnel."

Talk about this year's perimeter game.

"Obviously when you have two guys who started a large amount of games, that's a lot of minutes, a lot of three point baskets made, a lot of savvy leadership, a lot of winning mentality that just graduated. So we don't have anyone who is going to put up the kind of numbers that Shan did. But, I do think we can still be effective on the perimeter. Jermaine (Beal) is going to have to take a big leadership role with those guys, and play like a solid veteran. And I think he will. I think Jermaine has had a really good offseason. At the wing spots, George Drake and Andre Walker played last year, and Andre played a lot last year at the end of the season. You've got Brad Tinsley, Jeff Taylor, Lance Goulbourne, Charles Hinkle, Jordan Smart, Elliott Cole, they'll all get a crack at it in practice. Obviously George and Andre should have the advantage from the experience standpoint, but we think some of those incoming guys are very talented and in some cases very skilled. We're looking forward to getting those guys out on the court and seeing how much of Shan and Red's losses we can compensate for. Again, we're not going to have anyone averaging 20 points a game from the perimeter like Shan did."

Talk about last year's team? Thoughts?

"It was a very enjoyable team to coach, and I think Red and Shan really changed a lot of things in a positive way, and I give them a lot of credit for their contributions to this basketball program and this university, and I think this university was good for them as well. I would say that last year's team really did everything that was expected of them, aside that we didn't finish well. We didn't finish the regular season well, and obviously in post season very well. That was really a disappointment, and you never really know why things happen. But, I think last season we took our eye off the prize a little bit in the end. We just didn't have that focus going down the stretch that we needed. If we get in that position again, I've got to figure out the things I can do differently to keep the team engaged in a way that it needs to be to have the kind of postseason success we've become accustomed to."

What about not having any seniors on this year's roster?

"We lost some really good leaders. When you look at any season, leadership, toughness, experience, team chemistry, all of those things that are hard to put your thumb on that are so important to the success of any team, those are all questions that are going to have to be answered as the season unfolds. We can pick the captains, but we can't pick the leaders. So, Jermaine and George have been in the program the longest, and I think those guys are very capable of providing us with leadership. Obviously, with AJ's role as a primary player last year, hopefully he'll come through with some leadership. How are team gets along and how supportive they are with one another and how team oriented they are when the distribution of playing time occurs is going to be a critical element. Do we have guys step up and be really consistent, thoughtful, and tough-minded leaders? Does the team develop a toughness and an attitude about it where we defend, we rebound, we scratch, and do the things that tough minded teams do?"

Can you get leadership from freshmen?

"It's going to be hard for Brad Tinsley to lead Jermaine Beal. But, the thing that I like is that Brad Tinsley has leadership capabilities. We've got some really hard working, talented freshman. Lance has got some leadership skills, Steve looks like he has some, and again, what we feel in our program is that we want you to be one of two types of guys...we want you to be a really good leader or a really good follower. You don't have room for 14 leaders. We just need a couple of guys to step up and be the right kind of teammates and for the others to follow and take that lead and do something with it."

Talk about A.J. Ogilvy and his year last year.

"AJ had a terrific freshman year, got off to an unbelievable start, had a little lull in January, and was okay in February and March. I think he will be better this season, and I think that he still has a ways to go. I know that sounds a little out there, but AJ has a lot of things to get better at. His body has to get better, his strength level has to improve. The fact that he wasn't here in the summer time in that respect was somewhat of a deterrent. Now, he was trying to make the Australian National Team, which we were 100% in support of, so, be that as it may, when AJ spends an entire summer here and does the lifting that our guys have done historically in the summer time, I think we'll see a tremendous change. However, as it pertains to this year, we'll continue to see him draw a lot of fouls, score a lot of points inside. But, I also think we'll see him make more jump shots, I think he'll make some threes. That's not where we're going to live and die with him, but you'll see him step outside and make some jump shots and make a few three-point shots. He probably won't attempt a ton of threes, but I think he'll make a high percentage of the ones he does attempt."

What about his knack of getting to the free throw line?

"First of all, he is a "to the basket" type of offensive post player. He's not a fadeaway guy, he is a go to the basket player. He understands angles, he has great hips and legs, and he knows how to use them. He does a really good job of catching and receiving the ball, and he just has a knack of getting fouled. He is tremendously hard to guard without fouling, and he proved that with the number of free throws he shot last year. We think that will be an asset for us and for him, and the challenge will be how much defenses shore up their defenses for him. That will be an interesting part of the coaching equation, because last year we knew with Shan and Red there were going to be a few guys that were not going to be near him, so we'll see how that part plays out. We expect AJ to have another banner year."



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