UGA coach Tom Crean Has "Animosity" Before Dawgs' Season Opener

November 4, 2019
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Head Coach Tom Crean
On how he feels about the first regular season game against Western Carolina…
"I’m feeling a little animosity. I wish we were practicing better, and some of it is because we’ve had some early exhibitions and charity exhibitions. We’re just trying to get so many things solidified. Bottom line is, the youth comes out most every day. The work ethic is really good. The energy is pretty strong. The concentration, focus and adaptability isn't always so good, but we're learning. That's what it is, and [the season] is here now, so I think this will give us an opportunity to go against somebody that's well coached and very experienced. [Western Carolina does] things very well that we're not real good at yet. Now, we don’t understand the concept of guarding our man really well and not over helping off penetration, and [Western Carolina] is a tremendous 3-point shooting team. They averaged nine threes a game. They get a lot of their offense from the three, and they've got good inside play. There's just a lot of things we've got to get better at. We’ve got to cover more and be a physical, aggressive team without turning it over and without fouling. Hopefully we're going to get straight the numbers as we go along with being able to play more guys and being able to put more pressure on the other team, whether it's full court defensively, whether it’s with our driving game, whether it's on the back boards – right now, that all remains to be seen."
 
On when/why he adopted the position-less style of play…
"This year is the first time we've done it. It just makes sense. We really don't recruit with those connotations maybe other than the point guard, and point guards have to be able to play numerous things, too. It just makes sense, based on how we play, how I see the game and, really, in all honesty, the future of the game. It's already in the present in some programs –  in college and quite a few NBA teams. You’ve got to have a level of versatility, and kids want to be able to play at the next level and to be able to play in a good way. You have to be able to be a very versatile, multidimensional, two-way player, that can do numerous things on offense and defense. It's as much about defense as it is about offense – a basketball player. We should be able to pass it, catch it, shoot it, drive it, screen, make plays for one, and then move without [the ball]. We have to be able to do the same things on the defensive end, and that's where kids sometimes get the misnomer that they don't have to do all this. They do, just like some of my best players guarding the post did in the past – Yogi Ferrell and Victor Oladipo. I want our guys to understand they've got to be able to play the entire game in a versatile way, so it just makes sense to me to call them basketball players.”
 
On how he views Anthony Edwards and his progress heading into tomorrow’s game…
"He's got to get better, just like everybody else does. He has his moments, too. Some are not so good, and he's got a lot to learn. He's a very young man. He’s 18 years old since August 5. He should be in his second week of high school basketball practice in a normal world, but he's here. He's getting ready to take everybody's best shot, and I think that's what he's going to have to adjust to, as is our entire team. The bottom line is building his versatility, being able to do more without the ball. He can be a tremendous defensive player, and my hope is that, at some point in time this year, you see that. Right now, he's got to learn to put more and more effort into it after that first or second effort. It’s no different than any other high school kid. The possession keeps going, and going, and going. Whatever it is, you've got to be able to cover a lot of ground defensively and do a lot of different things, because there's a lot of movement and offenses. That's the stuff that I'm more focused on – what he can do but mostly, what he's got to get better at, and that's kind of how we go in to each practice and each film session each day.”
 
On what the team chemistry and reactions have been on the team since adding Anthony Edwards...
"I think [Anthony] has been really good. He can really pass the ball, and he moves the ball, and there's times that he overpasses in practice. We’ve go to find that happy medium on getting really good shots and being ready to shoot it. He's got an infectious energy, and that's why we have to get more of, longer. Again, he's no different than any other freshman who doesn't understand how hard he has to play and or how long, and how many possessions in a row they [all] have to do it. That's what takes time. They all go through a period of adjustment, some longer than others, where they're looking for that coast; where they're looking for that rest; when they're looking for that settle of a shot where it gets hard. They don't want to go to the glass, or they don't want to get back. Those are the things that make me apprehensive. We're very, very young – seven freshmen on scholarship and two walk ons. We’re very, very young to be understanding how hard you have to play, for how long you have to play, but an answer to your question is that when [Anthony] is rolling, he brings a lot of energy. He brings confidence to everybody else, and that's ultimately what you want. Ultimately, he needs the same thing – guys knocking down shots, rolling on the drives and the pick and rolls. He is a very good teammate.
 
On how Crean and his coaching staff have been preparing Edwards for the fans/intimidation factors…
“We find moments in practice, situationally with double teams and going after them. He's still trying to learn the game, so it doesn't matter what he's projected. He's got to get a level of confidence at this level. When you're working with confidence in somebody who hasn't played a college basketball game, it's going to take time for him to understand how to have his bearings. As that time goes, and we have to do more of that, there's no question that's going to come. We just have to be able to help him, and there's no experience like actually going through it. We can practice it and work on it, and we can set situations up and set drills up for it, but he's actually got to go through it on the court, and that's what's going to take some time."
 
On Crean’s take on how Edwards has adjusted...
“He's got a humility about him, and he really wants to get better and knows he has to get better. He has to continue to build this focus, to build his concentration, to build his wherewithal to see in the game like he's capable of understanding. He’s got to build on what he's capable of defensively. With a guy like [Anthony], his teammates do feed off him so much. You can't have any bad possessions. You can't have many, if any, downtimes. When you're coming in as a high school kid, it's very easy to know how to get your rest spots in a game, and that's just not the case here. It’s not the case for any of them, and it's certainly not the case for [Anthony] because he will be getting every other team's best shot. We’re going to have to help him work through that, but that's all going to be a work in progress for him when he goes through struggles, and when he goes through success. When it comes to having a level head, and when it comes to being a very good person, to being a thoughtful, caring, well-raised person – considering all the things he's been through in his background – he's pretty strong.”
 
On the impact a talent like Anthony Edwards can have on Georgia Basketball…
"I think it'll be good. I think we just kind of recruit the way that we recruit and, does it come up more? Certainly, but we haven't recruited in the sense of, "you're going to be the next Anthony Edwards.” It is just like I never told him he was going to be the next Dwayne Wade or Victor Oladipo. It just doesn't work that way. You take bits and pieces of those people and maybe there is some background comparison or things that you can show them. But, everybody is their own person and every recruit is a case study unto itself. And what we've got to do is we've got to make sure that we are hitting this for what we need. We have to start stacking recruiting classes together. I mean there's no doubt about that. And there's absolutely no doubt about that. All you have to do is look at football over there and see how that's working out for them. They just keep stacking classes together. We’re in the same boat, much to the same degree. So we want to keep making sure that we're not only adding need but we're adding talent while making sure to get caught up in what doesn’t fit. Anthony Edwards fits. He fits a lot of things for Georgia. He is hungry, he has a desire to get better, all those types of things. And it was it was a great thing for us to have somebody like that that would take a chance on the program in the first year, like that, with that kind of stature. For us, right now, every time we look at somebody else we have to think about seeing them fitting in the program. Do we see them having a projection to be able to help us and having a future that not only they're going to fit well but they're going to fit in with everybody else and make them better? So that's kind of how we look at the recruiting as we go along with it and keep looking at what's absolutely going to matter because we've got to keep improving our shooting, and our recruiting. There’s no question that we've got to keep building on this athleticism that we did in this last class. We've got to build size, but we have to get our shooting to a high level. If we're going to compete in this league on a yearly basis, we've got to get our shooting to where we have knocked down shooters in the program. That’s the kind of stuff we have to continue to recruit towards."


On the challenges, personally, coaching a talent like Anthony Edwards… 
“That is a good question. From time to time, yes. I think that I learn something from every conversation I have with him, even at that age. I learn something and then I learn a better way to coach him. But, the last thing he needs is from me is to back off  – for his present or for his future. I have to make sure that I'm understanding that we're still going a good speed for him. This is not a deal where you look and say well we'll get to that down the road or we'll get to that in a couple years. That's not the case. It's very hard to look at that in any case, with a player in this day and age, with all the things that go on and with all the ways players change. You’re trying to intensify the situation and expedite it; but, at the same time, you don't want to get too fast. Because what happens is every time you skip a step, it ends up costing you something else down the line. And that's what you got to be so careful of with a talented player, with an older player, with a new player, with a talent like that. You've got to make sure you're not skipping steps or sometimes it's a little bit harder to figure that out. But there's many a day I'm reminded that this a very, very young guy that came to college a year early. He is really, really working in a really good pace. And so we just have to keep putting things in him and be patient with him when it's not there. But we still have to stay firm, to help him grow to get that level of consistency that he's going to have to have.”


On the youth coming out in practice and if that is more mental or physical… 
“It’s more mental. There's some physical to it but it's more mental. I mean, the concentration spans and focuses of young players, it happens to older players too. It's very  hard to keep that up for a period of time, but that's where mental toughness comes in. We have to grow and develop mental toughness. It's an ongoing process and when you're starting with a lot of young guys like we are, 10 newcomers, nine freshmen, seven scholarship freshmen, you're starting in a very low place. Whatever mental toughness they had, whatever competitive value they, whatever playing to win value they had coming up, it gets ratcheted up big time at a level like this. So you've got to be able to ratchet it up in practice and get them to try to understand what that is. You can only do so much at practice. Now they have to play and they have to see. And the thing about tomorrow is we're playing a team that there's no way we're looking at them based on the record a year ago. I think they returned six out of their top seven or six out of their top eight. I know Mark Prosser since he was a young kid because I knew his dad, Skip Prosser, so well as he was a friend of mine. They're getting better and better and that three point shooting is scary, especially when you have a team that doesn't understand how you cannot be chasing the ball consistently. We have got to keep the ball in front of us and not be overreacting to the ball because that's where a team like this just crushes you if you give them open threes or if we give Dotson open looks inside the post. We don't have anybody like Dotson and it's not about his physical height, it's about his size and quickness in the post. We don't have anybody that's like that, that they deal with right now. We would have had it a year ago with Derek but we don't have that. So we've got to get used to that. There is going to be a lot of things to get used to inside of the games that we've got to learn about. How long we have to compete and how hard we have to compete, and I am not just putting it on the freshman. We have some upperclassmen that have to pick it up competitively. I mean there's no doubt about that. They have to pick it up on a daily basis for how competitive they have to be, because that sometimes can be their best form of leadership. Tyree Crump and Donnell Gresham are great examples of this. Those guys are really good examples of bringing a competitive value every day, trying to lead. Donnell is getting more comfortable and Tyree tries to lead everyday. His competitiveness comes out and we need more of that from others. That’s where we feel losing those seniors a year ago, not having a guy like Nic that had the success. But that is kind of where we are at for November 4."

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UGA coach Tom Crean Has "Animosity" Before Dawgs' Season Opener

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