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Tony Barbee Talks Prior to Match-up with Missouri - LEX18.com | Continuous News and StormTracker Weather

Tony Barbee Talks Prior to Match-up with Missouri

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AP Photo/Jay Sailors AP Photo/Jay Sailors

Tony Barbee

On if there are specific things that the staff is doing in practice to try and make Jarred Vanderbilt more comfortable in his return …
“Yeah, you don’t miss as much time as he missed and there not be some unfamiliar area between him, the team, us – the staff – trying to figure out his strengths and weaknesses and where we can plug him this far along in the season. That’s just going to be a work in progress. Every game you see him getting more and more comfortable. The game is starting to really slow down for him. Those first couple of games, I think the game was going a million miles an hour for Jarred. When you watched him have the ball in his hands, he was flying. So everything he’s doing right now – defensively he’s getting more comfortable with our concepts and how we want our defense to look and the position that he’s playing. He’s getting more comfortable in the offense, but every day it’s going to be a work in progress trying to figure out how we insert him, how he helps his team going forward. But one of the things you see with him is he’s the type of player that doesn’t necessarily need to have his hands on the ball to impact the game, and those guys are invaluable in any kind of team system or program. He can defend, he can block shots, he’s shown he’s an elite rebounder – not just balls in his area but out of his area as well. He’s been a huge boost to the team here more than halfway through the season and we anticipate him continuing getting more comfortable and helping us even more.”
 
On if he sees the team kick it up a notch when Vanderbilt enters the game …
“His energy is incredible. He’s a guy who doesn’t need the ball to impact the game, and when he does have the ball in his hands, he can impact the game as well because he doesn’t need to shoot it and score it to impact it. He’s a great passer. He’s got a great feel for the game, but a lot like Wenyen (Gabriel): playing hard and energy levels and output levels is also a skill and it’s one of his strengths. His skill level is how hard he plays, how hard he competes, that becomes contagious.”
 
On where they are trying to get Vanderbilt the ball at on the floor …
“With Jarred’s skill package, he’s comfortable anywhere on the floor. I mean, you know, before – knock on wood – the injury in the preseason, he played everywhere from point guard to center and everywhere in between. He handles the ball like a point guard. He visually sees the game like a point guard. He just happens to be 6-foot-10, 245 pounds or whatever that is and you project him out as a Lamar Odom type or Ben Simmons type (of player) – a 6-foot-10 guy, who’s multi-faceted in his skill level. The guys like that, you can use them to your advantage in any offense. You can put high on the ball and let him be the point. You can post him up if they put a small on him. If they have bigs on him, then you can put him in pick-and-rolls where he’s handling the ball, or he can be the pick-and-pop guy in a ball screen. So his versatility has done nothing but boost our team and add to it.”

On the remaining schedule featuring 8-10 teams in the NCAA field …
“Well, I think it just has to do with our overall schedule from start to where we’re at at this point and how we finish. I mean, every year when Coach Cal builds his schedule, that’s what it’s built around preparing his teams for March, and that’s why historically you see his teams be one of the hottest late in the season, late in conference play, going into conference tournaments, and then on to postseason and NCAA Tournament time. That’s the reason why: because of the strength of the schedule. And then when you look at the SEC this year is one of the strongest years it’s had in a long time, it’s only going to help boost, not only our team, but all teams that are chasing the postseason.”

On comparing Cuonzo Martin’s teams from Tennessee to this year’s Missouri team …
“I mean, we’ve all been coaching against his teams forever. They all have one very persistent trait and that’s how tough they play. How tough physically, how tough they are mentally. They’re not going to beat themselves. They’re going to try to beat you up physically, and when you want them on tape that’s what you see. That’s what you saw at Tennessee with his teams, and that’s what you see at Missouri with his teams.”

On whether he’s empathetic to Michael Porter’s situation …
“A lot of empathy. He’s a special, unique talent. As a coach and as a player, you always want to measure yourself against the best. So, it’s unfortunate that he’s out. We wish him a speedy recovery and to get back healthy whether that’s this year or, you know, next year in the NBA. You know, we want to see him back to full strength because as a fan of the game you enjoy watching players like Michael. Their team is molded around the pieces they’ve got. They’re one of the most talented teams in this league. Don’t let their record fool you. I mean, they’ve had some great wins. Out of conference they’ve had some great wins. In conference, going to Alabama and winning. Beating Tennessee, beating Georgia, beating South Carolina. I mean, this team is good top to bottom as any team in this league and they present a lot of difference challenges for us.”

On if he’s coaching a lot more this season because of the amount of zone defense the team is playing …
“I think we, as assistants, I think we all fill our role, whatever that is. I’m kind of the pseudo defensive coordinator. It’s not just about zone for me. I’m very integrally involved in our man-to-man defense and how we play it and the concepts there. Obviously, Cal has the final say on anything we do, but with my background of playing zone, that’s kind of what everybody kind of identifies with me with this team. But, it’s not just the zone. I’m involved in the man-to-man defense as well.” 

On PJ Washington’s leadership after having two tough games …
“You know what, Cal’s never been a guy where he’s necessarily looking for one guy to lead his teams. Because if that one guy’s not going, guess what? Who are you turning to? So he wants a team full of leaders. And that’s what I think you see with this team. Like you’ve seen historically. Look at last year’s team. One day, one game Isaiah Briscoe led us. The next day it was Bam (Adebayo). The next day it was De’Aaron (Fox). The next day it was Malik (Monk). That’s what’s happening with this team. The benefit this team doesn’t have that some of the recent ones that Cal’s had here is we don’t have those veteran presences.  I mean, the Maliks, the De’Aarons, the Bams, those guys struggled. We all remember that run late in the year when we were one of the best teams in the country, but those first 25 was a struggle with those young guys. But, they were able to lean on Dom (Hawkins), Derek (Willis), Mychal Mulder, Isaiah, Isaac (Humphries). Those guys were veteran players that those young guys could lean, could watch and could learn from. And every day if they weren’t there, those veteran guys were there to carry them. Well, this team doesn’t have that benefit. And like typical freshmen, just like last year’s freshmen and the year before that, it’s going to be a rollercoaster ride. It’s up and it’s down. One day they’re at their peak. PJ a few games ago, as you referenced, and then the last couple of games he’s struggled. But, those are typical freshmen who don’t have the benefit having those veterans to lean on. So now it’s trial by fire for those guys. I think they’re progressing at about the pace normal freshmen progress. Late January, early February is when you see those guys now they really are no longer freshmen, and that’s the transition they’ve been going through all year long.”

On the importance of young players having shown at least glimpses of potential …
“Absolutely, there’s no question. I mean, we’ve talked about that as a staff. Again, you go back to freshmen. They’re freshmen for a reason, because they’re learning. None of them have ever played on this level, so it’s a learning process this entire season. And now as you get into this time of the year, mid-conference play, late January, early February is where you see your freshmen kind of turn into veterans. Then there’s no more excuses. We don’t accept excuses anyway, but that’s the process that these freshmen are going through. Seeing multiple different types of defenses on them individually and also as a team that they’ve never seen before. Learning those things, and now they see a defense similar to that the next time, they’re more comfortable in that way. What a team tries to do against you offensively, there are so many different styles of offense that we’re trying to defend with freshmen who’ve never seen that before. Again, you had those veterans that they could lean on and carry you through those tough moments, and when they grew up we became one of the best teams in the country and one that had a chance to win a national title last year and the year before and the year before and the year before. This team is no different. It’s just they don’t have the benefit of those veterans to lean on.”

On the staff looking at players’ body language …
“Typical freshmen. You know, they wear their frustration on their sleeve. Frustration with whether they’re playing or whatever the case may be, whether they miss a shot, they let that affect their next play. It’s just typical freshmen stuff that we’re dealing with in terms of the body language. It’s what we emphasize about the growing up process, the maturation process; that whether you miss a defensive assignment and coach is on you, whether you get a shot that you think you should have made, but you don’t make it. They tend to show that frustration, or them being disappointed in themselves on their sleeve, which leads to the perception of bad body language, but it’s not bad body language. They’re just disappointed that they let themselves down or their team down. We’re trying to get them to move on to the next play. Move on to the next play. That’s what that veteran process is, that veteran leadership that we talk about that we don’t have. That they haven’t had the benefit of watching a guy in front of them move on. So we’ve had to show not only Nick (Richards), but all of our freshmen on tape, ‘Here you missed that assignment, look how you let it impact your next two plays in a negative way.’ So that’s some of the stuff that we try to do tape-wise with our guys to help them grow up.”

On if they use Jarred Vanderbilt as an example of moving on to the next play …
“Because he has no idea what he’s doing out there. So he doesn’t know what to hang on to. He just moves on to the next play because he’s just out there trying to figure things out on the run, but it is a good example to watch Jarred just kind of play as hard as he possibly can every possession until he dies (gets exhausted). Then we get him out of the game. But no, Jarred’s been great, and he’s only getting better.”

On if there’s been a common thread in falling behind and coming back …
“Well, the common thread that we like is how we’ve come back. No, we don’t want to constantly dig ourselves holes, especially against the good teams that we’ve played. Is there a common thread? I don’t know. Both teams were so different in their styles. One a pressing, force the pace – West Virginia. The other one (Vanderbilt) was very deliberate, packed it in, sagged against our offense and moved the ball a ton offensively against our defense. So they were both different. The one thing you’ve got to say is we like the resilience of this team. They don’t hang their heads when they get down and they collectively fight together to get back in the game. Now we’ve got to figure out how we bottle that up and get us to start the game that way, but I think it was more – it had to do with styles of teams that we played as opposed to what this team’s not doing.”
 

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