On what the team misses with Festus Ezeli's injury... "(The team) misses some leadership. It misses (Ezeli's) presence both offensively and defensively. One of the underrated things about Festus is he was third in the country in college basketball last year in number of fouls drawn. That's a real underrated thing to have because what that does is it gets your team into the bonus more quickly, so you shoot more free throws as a team, as a result of the things that he does down in the low post. Obviously our low post offense isn't going to be as good without him nor is our presence at the basket defensively. He was our second best defensive rebounder a year ago. There's just a lot of things that we miss.
"This team will do the very best it can. We still have some talented players. We'll do the best we can to absolve his absence and make up for it. But we're not the same team that's picked in the Top 10 without him. There's no way of getting around that. It still doesn't mean that we can't be successful with what we have. We just have to survive this stretch while he's out and then hopefully when he comes back and is able to get back into shape, probably around conference time, maybe we can look forward to being the kind of team that we hope to be when he was playing.
"I hate it for Festus, that's the biggest thing. He obviously has a lot riding on this season from a personal standpoint and to get it started off like this is really a shame for him. He's been nothing but a great ambassador and a great college student-athlete, and a very coachable, likable, young man. I just really hate it for him.
On having three legitimate players at point guard... "We're going to try to utilize that to our advantage. Brad (Tinsley) is certainly going to have to play some time on the wing. We desperately need to play Jeff (Talyor) and John (Jenkins) less than we did a year ago. They played too many minutes as the season wore on and it hurt their productivity because of fatigue and all that we were asking from them. We have to do a better job of getting those guys out of the game and having guys that can come in and play well enough to justify us having them out of the game in some respects.
"Early in the season, this team will win or lose based on what those guys that we've been watching for multiple years do. It will be the Tinsley's, the Taylor's, the Jenkins, the Goulbourne's, and the Tchiengang's. Those will be the guys who we're relying most heavily on as this season starts."
On if he's seen any difference in the team's preparations due to high expectations... "No I really haven't seen any difference in their preparation because I said a year ago that our team had worked harder than any team I ever had in the offseason. And as disappointed as everyone was, including me, with our loss in the tournament last year, my biggest disappointment was for the players and how hard they had worked in preparation to do more than they had done in the prior year and then see it not work out. It would be difficult for guys to work any harder as a group than these guys have worked the last two years. Now that's not every single guy, but it's most of them. And certainly, the top-end workers have been phenomenal in their preparation.
"I think that maybe because of the expectations we've seen a step up in the leadership department. I don't know that in the preparation of their skills and the work that they put it in the offseason. In terms of the leadership that they see that was missing a year ago, and the need for it this year, I think that we've seen a great deal more leadership and buy in to what needs to take place in that regard than maybe we've ever had before. Hopefully that will manifest itself in good ways, and I think it will."