Richardson Previews SEC Tournament
BY ANDRES FOCIL
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – The following is a brief transcript of a press conference held by Arkansas head coach Nolan Richardson to preview Arkansas’ trip to the SEC Tournament in Atlanta, Ga. The Razorbacks will play Georgia in a first-round game at 8:45 p.m. CT (9:45 p.m. ET) on Thursday at the Georgia Dome.
(What do you think of the first round matchup with Georgia?)
“I don’t think it makes any difference who we play. I think it is important that we play. Right now we aren’t talking about who we play, we are talking about improvement. If you are going to improve, you need to improve on anyone you play. I think that is the mindset we must go at the rest of this year. Let’s just try to improve.
“That’s why we don’t talk about the NCAA or NIT. Let’s just try to improve. It doesn’t really matter who you play as long as you try to improve.”
(In the last game vs. Georgia, Teddy Gipson started to come on before his father passed away the next week. Have you seen that type of play from him since?)
“He has never come back yet really. He has had some descent games, but he hasn’t been the Teddy that had the jumpy, spunky type of play. The other night he had a turnover right when he got in, but then some good things happened.
“You never know what is on a young man’s mind or how that affected him. He or Brandon Dean haven’t had a good sophomore year. Teddy is a little more consistent than Brandon. When he came back from the holidays, it seemed like he had some things squared away and he was making a move, then he got slapped down.
“There have been guys that have never recovered from that. You never know how that affects a guy. I’m sure it affected him. He hasn’t been the same Teddy. That is why I was happy to see him have a pretty good ending against Auburn. He made some good things happen for us that we were waiting on all season.
“He made a slash to the basket against Auburn that was good. We see him do that all the time. I don’t know a guard that has a quicker step to the basket. He elevated up over the seven footer for an easy lay-up. You just have to take that and try to build on it.”
(Even though they have struggled a little, does it seem to you that Georgia has some great individual talent?)
“Georgia and Alabama always seem to have tremendous athletes year in and year out. They have the athletes that run well and jump well. That is the thing that I’m probably most concerned about.
“D.A. Layne didn’t have a good night against us last time. If he has a good night they are tough. Evans is out of junior college. He is like Alonzo Lane, if he catches it on the block he is strong. This kid one on one is awfully good.
“Coleman is another fine player. We can’t take anybody lightly because we haven’t been that successful ourselves.”
(Last time you played Georgia, your team shot well but you said you weren’t that happy with the defense. Do you still look back at that game and feel the same way?)
“I still didn’t think our defense was as good as it is now. That was one of those games that we shot the ball well. This team if they shoot the ball well they have a chance to beat you every time.
“I have a problem shooting 55 percent and not guarding anybody. Because in that game I saw a lot of open shots taken, they just didn’t make any. Our coverage wasn’t as good as I thought it should have been.
“I was right because it started to happen. That is why we were basically a perimeter basketball team. The defense has to help you take over the game.”
(How would you compare this team’s improvement to other teams that you’ve coached?)
“This team is probably the most improved team I’ve ever coached, simply because this is the youngest team I’ve ever coached. We had so far to go. It’s just difficult.
“I think you can win if you have five Joe Johnsons. The five Joe Johnsons take you to the Final Four. Sometimes when you take players and say they have freshmen, but some of them are like the kid down at Florida (Donnell Harvey) who was recruited by everyone in the world. Anybody that had a basketball in the world recruited that boy. Everybody didn’t recruit the freshmen I’ve got.
“So the question goes how long does it take for my freshmen to catch up with those great freshmen. I look at a guy like Larry Satchell who started with six minutes and now he is up to 19 minutes. I’ve got a guy like Blake (Eddins) that was the 13th guy on the end of the bench yelling and screaming like a cheerleader to almost becoming the second-best player on our team in about five or six games.
“You tell me I can’t see the improvement of a guy moving from the 13th all the way up to the second? When I stop to think where those guys were and where they are now, I say ‘Wow they have come a long ways.’
“This is a very improved group of young men. I’m proud of them because they have worked hard. It’s all about improving.”
(Will you be disappointed if Joe Johnson doesn’t make SEC Freshman of the Year?)
“I guess I will because you look at what Joe has done this year. I don’t know that much about the other freshmen in the league. I don’t know of a player that came to a team in the middle of the season with no practice, no weight program, didn’t know the offense, didn’t know the defense and do what that young man has done. He leads the team in almost every category. That is just an incredible feat. Show me one that has done that and he ought to be freshman of the year.”
(This is your first time playing on Thursday in the tournament. How odd will it be playing on the first day?)
“It will be very weird. We don’t know even how to make arrangements. My wife asked me, how many suits are you going to take? I said I don’t know I usually take three. That means you have three games.
“I told her I’ll take four. She said you never have taken four before are you going to have a cookout or something. She’s confused. I’m confused. There are times when things like this happen. We have been very fortunate the first eight years in the league. In four of those years we were first and in four years we were second. I was hoping we could bounce back up to first again, but it didn’t happen. We just have to take a different route this time around.
“If everything falls into place, it would be the most gratifying of any tournaments I’ve ever been in. Because of what has happened to these kids and how far they have gone. But we just have to take it one game at a time.”
(How tough is it to win four games to win the tournament?)
“It has been 15 years, that shows you how tough it is do that. That is a tall order. To do that with a young basketball team that we have would be one of the greatest accomplishments in my history. For me personally it would be bigger than the national championship because I knew we were going to win that one.”
“Improvement is all I’m looking for. Wherever improvement takes you, we are going. That is all I ask of them. Understand the offense better, understand the defense better, play harder that is all I’m asking.”
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