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Rick Pitino Talks Wake Forest, Chris Jones And The Sate Of His Team Heading Into The ACC

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Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

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--We don't play too many Sunday night games. Wake Forest is a team that just keeps getting better. They're coming off a road win against Richmond who was 6-0 at home and is a very difficult team to play against.

--Wake is a very good transition team and they're very good in their halfcourt defense. They create a lot of havoc off of smackdowns, and they can shoot the 3. They also have a terrific lowpost player. This will be a challenge for us, but we've had a terrific week of practice, so hopefully we'll be ready for it.

--I can't pick a favorite to win the ACC right now because I haven't seen all the teams.

--Not being familiar with an arena isn't as much of a transition is preparing for the different styles of teams. We don't know a lot of the styles of these teams because we've never played them before.

--Chris Jones, like a lot of guys on our team, has a hard time listening. Once you identify a problem, you can start to solve it. What I talked to Chris the other day about was that he is 6-for-36 off the bounce taking off-balance shots. I told him he's a top three shooter on this team and maybe the best open shooter on the team, so he has to work on getting better shots for himself or his teammates. But he's one of our best shooters and we need him to take shots when they're open, and he wasn't taking open shots after we talked, which meant his translation of my message was not to shoot. That was the opposite of what I was saying. You can't solve problems unless you have the ability to listen, so that's the first thing we need him to do.

--Three of the worst freshmen I've coached in terms of practicing terribly and just struggling overall have been Russ, Gorgui and Peyton. Not only did they wind up being three of my favorites, but they got to a level where I wouldn't even have to tell them things because they already knew what I was going to say. As freshmen they all struggled mightily, but all three of those guys had the ability to listen. It's a maturation process.

--A lot of times the kids hear you and they're very respectful, but you know they're not listening because the same thing you're correcting is the same thing you have to correct the next time down the court. I've never seen anything like it in my life. It's a struggle. This team is the most challenging I've had in a while. They're very respectful, they just have a hard time listening. It's not just Chris, by the way, I was just using him as an example.

--Anas is a great listener. He knows what to do, he just physically can't do it right now. But he understands what we're telling him, and he's going to turn out like Gorgui did. We told Anas we were giving him a scholarship as long as he was willing to redshirt, and he was. We didn't think he could compete physically this year, but we've needed him.

--I don't know this, but I think Donovan Mitchell is going to be a classic example of someone who's going to be able to come in and contribute right away. Intellectually, physically, his attitude; he's a special young man.

--Anas is the most basketball-ready of the freshmen, he's just not physically ready. Anas also doesn't have any emotional baggage. He's never moody, he's always willing to work, and he doesn't listen to any of the outside voices.

--I consider myself a parent to these kids. When you're a parent or a teacher of any sort, you can't give in. You can't give in until they've understood you and changed. That's the thing we're dealing with right now. You have to draw a line in the sand, you can't give in and just accept them not listening. Some of these guys want to be taught and others want the headlines without doing any of the work. We're not giving in to any of that. All of these young men are going to be terrific basketball players, but there's a line drawn in the sand with all of them.

--We're gonna play a lot of people. I'm going to have to live with certain things that these guys do. Like I lived with some things Russ Smith did that I didn't like, I'm going to have to live with Quentin Snider's defense right now because he can play offense. I tried playing Shaqquan at the two, and it's not working right now because he struggles defending a 6'5 guard. Anas is Anas, he just needs to get bigger. Nanu needs to grow as a person. Nanu and Jaylen are both the same. They have talent, but they need to learn how to become men first before they become basketball players. That's just a normal maturation process. Once they learn that, look out, because they'll really blossom as basketball players.

--We have a lot of things we emphasize about playing on the road like being mentally tough, playing 40 minutes, and understanding what to do and digging in when the crowd gets loud.

--We want to get Shaqquan to 185 and Anas to 210 by the end of January. By the end of the season we want Anas to be 220.

--Montrezl was really embarrassed by the Western Kentucky incident. To tell you the truth, there were three guys standing over him. I'm not sure I agreed with anything that went on there, but it's not on me to pass judgment, I'm the coach, it's up to the league. I understand that you've got to curtail that stuff, because the liberties these kids will take today is just unbelievable. You saw that with the Oregon football players and their celebration.

--Trez needs to get back to playing his style of basketball. He has the green light to take threes, but I told him that I'd like him to take them at the end of a possession rather than at the beginning. Taking one with 26 or 27 seconds left on the shot clock is not a good shot for us.

--I'm very pleased with our record, but this team is not as good as the last three, but we want to get there. In order for us to get there, we've got to get these guys to mature as people. Not necessarily as basketball players, but we need our young players to mature as men. If we can do that, they'll get better as basketball players. I'm not confident that some of them can do it, but I'm very confident with Anas.

--Chris was very embarrassed when he watched the video of his flop. I don't know why he did it because you have to know they'll go to the monitor. I guess they don't have replays in junior college. But I think he was very embarrassed about getting a tongue lashing from Jay Bilas. I think he learned a valuable lesson.

--Long Beach State, in their 12 games, took 60 charge attempts and 24 were total flops. Now that's okay if you're trying to draw a charge, it happened to Wayne Blackshear at Kentucky last year, that's a good defensive play. In the NBA they don't like that at all. What Chris did, though, was wrong. It's against what the game is about from a principle standpoint.

--This is not an overly close team because the older players don't get the younger players, while the younger players are just trying to make it through the day. Guys like Montrezl Harrell and Wayne Blackshear can envision playing in  front of 84,000 people at the Final Four. The young players are juts trying to get through practice. It's tough because it's almost like having two different basketball teams. I'm just trying to get about three of our freshmen to mature as men and understand how to reach their goals.

--(On the '86 uniforms the team is wearing against Duke) I hope we can play half as good as that team. It's a cool-looking uniform. I know our players are going to love it. Adidas has done a fabulous job giving us a bunch of different uniforms. I think Tom is in favor of anything but infra-red.