FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Following is a transcript of Arkansas head basketball coach Nolan Richardson’s Thursday afternoon press conference. Arkansas opens its exhibition schedule Oct. 29 with the Red/White Game, an intrasquad scrimmage scheduled for 8 p.m. at Bud Walton Arena. (How is practice going?)
“We are still working on our offense and trying to get our break game going. We are working on some of our offenses and when we don’t have a good shot moving into our continuity offenses. I think that takes the longest to teach.
“I’ve been pleased. I think our guys are catching on pretty well. We will continue to do that. Hopefully by Saturday or Sunday we can start working on defense and our pressing game. Once we get all the offense in, than we can work on defense.
“Of course next Friday is our scrimmage game and we won’t be able to do all that then. We are just going to try to work on some of the basic things. We probably won’t have any zone and we won’t press much in the Red vs. White game. We only have 12 bodies right now. (Anyone that has stood out?)
“I think the Baker kid has looked impressive at times. He has impressed me with his conditioning. He has tremendous stamina. I think Gomez is working extremely hard. Sometimes he works so hard that he gets in a hurry. Here lately, Alonzo is beginning to move pretty well around the basket. He is beginning to get more comfortable. He has played his whole life with his back to the basket. I think he is beginning to pick it up. He is going to play kind of the same position a Corliss Williamson played. He could play small forward, power forward and center. He is the strongest kid we have around the paint. (Is he your best big man in the paint?)
“He probably has the best understanding because that is where he played. Baker played a little of everywhere on his high school team. We only have three guys with any size right now and that is Baker, Lane and Gomez. So right now there is no question that Lane would be the best right now at the inside game. (How important is it that Gomez got to practice last year?)
“When you can practice at least that gives you something. He watched almost every game we played at home. The biggest deal with redshirting is once the season starts, the redshirt doesn’t get a whole lot of practice time. I think going into the season he got a lot of practice time, but once the season starts you have to get your regular guys ready. He wouldn’t get as much practice time.
“The little bit he got was very valuable. I think the little bit he got when he played with his country’s team (Panama) was valuable. He got to play a lot. You can say that little bit of time will give us some help. (Do you need Gomez to get off to a quick start?)
“From day one. Day one to tell you the truth. If you talk about expectations, you have to hope that they all do. We certainly hope that with the size that we have that Dionisio would come on right now. (What are Dionisio Gomez’s strengths?)
“I think what sometimes is tough is that you can’t judge a guy’s heart. He has a big heart. A lot of guys may be more skillful, out run him and out jump him and those kind of things, but I don’t think I know of anyone that has a big a heart as he does.
“I think he is the one I’d have to worry about fouling out of a ball game, he is so aggressive. Even though we have to be aggressive, we may have to pull him off a little bit because that is his nature.
“I think for is size his skill level is good. Being able to put the ball on the floor at 6-8 is very good. He isn’t what you call a great shooter, but he is probably what you would call streaky in the shooting department. He can run as well.
“We just hope that in time he will get better and better. (How long will you go with the 6 a.m. practices?)
“Right now I have it set up for 10 days and hopefully we won’t have to go that long. We have already had three. I try to set it up for a couple of weeks and then go from there. I can cut it short if they pick things up a little quicker. (Have you been pleased with the players’ focus?)
“The thing that I like is that we were off yesterday and when we came back today they were ready to go. We were off yesterday and usually when you are off a day, people straggle in and come out of the locker room at practice time. I got here about 5:42 a.m. and everyone was already on the court. Usually guys are still coming out of the locker room at 6 a.m. So that was a beautiful sight to me that after a day off they were here 15 minutes early. Even though they were a little tired they were ready to go. That’s a good sign and I like that. (Last year T.J. played what you called a fixer role, what role will he play this year?)
“At this stage of the game, I’m trying to get them all to understand what we are trying to accomplish. I think as we get closer to the season. Each week I will put different combinations out there. They won’t know who the starters are going to be. I started today working with Dionisio and Alonzo as my forwards. Instead of having three out there, we only have three period. Everybody else will just be the other type. Everyone will get a chance to play with everybody.
“I think the real key is not going to be what happens on offense, but who will be there in a defensive position. Who is going to play the point. Baker would probably be a point guy on the press. Gomez has a chance to be a point man on the press. Our bigger guys will be in the front and our smaller guys will be in the back.
“Right now if you asked me who would be in the starting lineup today, I wouldn’t have a starting lineup. (Do you think that lets the younger players have a chance to get in the lineup?)
“I think that is the biggest plus they have going for them. We don’t have a lot of guys coming back. There are no spots that someone can walk in and count on and start counting numbers as far as first string. I don’t think we have that type of situation this year.
“I think that everyone would say Chris Walker is going to start, but that leaves four positions open. Even though there may be some guys that have a edge in some spots, they aren’t in concrete.”