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Rick Pitino And Terry Rozier Preview North Carolina, Talk NBA

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Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

Rick Pitino

Opening Statement

We were on the plane or the bus ride back from Boston, and checked out the ACC scores and it was quite a surprise. That's the nature of any great conference, it's full of surprises because the bottom is so close to the top. Boston College played Virginia to the mat, they pulled away at the end, we pulled away at the end. Any great league has to have the bottom close to the top. Georgia Tech I believe was winless and just blitzed Miami at Miami. That's the sign of any eally good league. If you're not at the top of your game, you're gonna come away with an L.

Carolina's playing a lot better than the first time we played them. They're on a winning streak and they're playing with more scoring and more confidence. They're better than the last time we played them, so we have to be better.

On why UNC is playing better

I think they're getting more scoring from more people.

On what has to be different in this game than the last one for Louisville to win

In the last few games we've built a lead and then we don't get the stops needed to hold the lead. It happened at BC and it happened at North Carolina. We're playing better offensively, but they're playing better too. Although I did think we played well at North Carolina.

Has your emphasis shifted back to defense with the offense playing better now?

Our emphasis is on every fundamental. This is a team that's not real gifted with proper fundamentals. We've gotta work on all aspects every single day. We've worked more on fundamentals this year than in any period I can remember in coaching.

On the Thursday night scrimmage

Well this is about the fifth scrimmage that we've had this year with guys that don't play, because it's a way of getting guys minutes in a game situation when they don't play.

Is your hope that one of those guys will have more confidence if he has to step up tomorrow?

Well what I'm looking for from those guys is who can execute offensively and defensively. You find out a lot of things in those scrimmages because there are no breaks. You find out who boxes out effectively, who can set screens, who knows how to execute the offense, and who can execute your defenses. You find that out in a game situation. A lot of those guys only get about 30 percent of practice in because they're the 13th, 14th or 15th man.

Who impressed you in the scrimmage?

If you look at the teams, the Red Team should have won. You've got Chinanu, Mangok, Shaqquan, and Q. They should have won by 10-15 points. The other team had Dillon and David Levitch in the backcourt, Anton played very well, and Jaylen and Anas got dominated on the glass. Nanu had 19 rebounds and those guys just got pushed all over the place ... but they won the game. At the end, Montrezl out-coached Chris Jones.

Who officiates those games?

The coaches do. We call it just like a game.

Were you able to draw any conclusions from the scrimmage?

If you're asking me who I was impressed with, I was impressed with Anton Gil and Quentin Snider. Quentin plays at a different level than the other freshmen in all phases of the game. We all know he's not great on defense, but he really works at it. Quentin has the same work ethic that Terry has. The other guys aren't close to his work ethic.

On the four players coaching

It's funny because Chris Jones was coaching with Wayne on the other team, and Chris was Quentin's biggest cheerleader throughout the whole game. It was great to see -- Terry and Montrezl on one team and Chris and Wayne on the other team were coaching their asses off. I mean they were getting into it. Every play, they were coaching. It was really nice to see.

On Montrezl getting enough touches from the guards

You know I think the more Montrezl goes inside the more touches he'll get. The more outside he goes the less touches he'll get. I think they're conscious of it. And then Montrezl is also getting double-teamed a lot, and he's finding open people.

But I think what makes Montrezl is rebounding, shot-blocking, dunking, running, scoring on the break, scoring in the low post, and scoring on mid-range jump shots. I think earlier in the year he got away from that a little bit, and now he's getting back to it.

On Anton Gill not getting many minutes

Anton's like Q -- he can go in the game and be a good offensive player. But both of those guys, we take a major drop-off on defense when they go in. Like Q went in for a single minute the other night and made three huge defensive mistakes. He didn't drop-off to the inside on a baseline drive, didn't get over a screen, and there was one other mistake. But you have to live with that because those two play so hard. They're not Chris and Terry on offense, but you don't lose a whole lot there, you lose it at the defensive end.

I have a choice sometimes when I bring Q in the game of playing Anton or Chris at the 2. If Chris is not fatigued -- Who would you rather go with? Who's the better defender? Who's the better shooter? Who's the better breakdown guy? You've got your answer, Jeff.

Is it sustainable to keep playing the guards so many minutes?

You can't believe -- you would think that I told Chris he couldn't go out for six months every time I take him out of a game. I say it to him every time I take him out of a game -- "Is there something wrong with you, son?" "I'm not tired." And I have to tell him that it's not about being tired, you can't play 40 minutes with this style, you need to rest, you're going right back in. He's cursing under his breath, I know it. But he hates to come out of the game, hates it, and that's a good thing to have, but what he's got to realize that we need him at the end of the game. I'm only taking him out for a minute. We do it right before the tv timeout and then he comes right back in. But he hates to come out. Terry doesn't mind coming out. I mean, he'd rather play, but he knows he needs the rest.

Do the media timeouts make it easier to play so many minutes?

Well the media timeouts are longer. Look, Chris is not going to fatigue. Everybody else can fatigue, but Chris is not going to because he's built so strong. Our practices are much tougher for him than the games because of what he's expected to do.

Do you expect them to keep playing this many minutes?

I'd like 35, yeah. But some at the two guard spot too. I'd like to rotate those three guards, and if Anton comes on -- Anton's just not shooting the ball as well as I'd hoped when he first came here. If you'd asked me to describe him in high school, he had a reputation for being a shooter, and now he's more of an athlete. He's a good athlete, good driver, but he's an erratic shooter. You can tell by his statistics and by his free-throws.

Why is Anton struggling with his shot?

I think he's got erratic form. I think he's got a little bit of a side-spin on his form, he doesn't shoot it straight up, his arc is a little flat.

In the last month, has there been a change in Chris and Terry's roles?

You know, these two get along so well -- you'll see Chris sometimes have to break the pressure on his own two or three times in a row, and he'll say to Terry you be the one and I'll be the two because he needs a break. And they do that on their own all the time. It's a way for those guys to just catch an extra 30 seconds.

Those two have great chemistry, they're both very, very happy when the other one does something well. They have a very unusual bond, those two guys, and they're both very tough city kids. So they have an unusual bond.

Can you tell when they're pressure is starting to get to opposing guards?

In a fast-paced game you can. In a slower game, you can't tell as much.

Do you see opposing guards getting frustrated?

Once in a while.

On Terry climbing up mock draft boards

The one thing I can tell you after being eight years in the pros: Tomorrow you could start your own mock draft for the Courier-Journal, and it will have some credence because you've been around the game a long time, but it'll have just as much credence as all these other people because you're relying on statistical data and what you're hearing. But I can tell you from being with the Knicks and the Celtics, we never even looked at the mock drafts. We paid no attention to it. The only time we look at it is right before the draft because everybody but the top two or three picks lies.

I'll give you an example: we're at 18, and we want Mark Jackson. We'll leak it out that we want six or seven guys and Mark Jackson is not one of them. We'll even get to the point where Mark Jackson comes in for a workout, and we'll spread it that he had a really bad workout. Why? Because you want your guy. It's really incredible what goes on.

So your guess is as good as any of those guys'. They're asking a lot of scouts, not GMs or coaches, scouts. They're never going to be right on the number, except that Jahlil Okafor will be the No. 1 pick in the draft. After that, you can guess that Karl Towns will be two or three or Stanley Johnson, but after that point you can't. After that you have to start looking at what the team needs. Depending on what the team needs, Terry could be the sixth pick in the draft, a scoring point.

Do you sense Terry's stock rising?

Yeah, very much so because Terry has mimicked D-Wade so much that I think sometimes he thinks he is. Terry can run the pick-and-roll well. In the NBA you really have 16 seconds to run your offense, and Terry is a creator with good size. He's also a very good athlete, he's a willing defender, and he acts like a pro. He's not going to come in and ever cause any trouble, not going to give you a bad day of practice. So I think when people start coming in and start interviewing, then his stock is really going to be high.

Why do you think he has a significantly higher rating than Russ did?

He's bigger. They don't like 165 pound guards. The length and things like that are important.

Terry just has all the things the pros like. I can't tell you how many times people tell me, "if we can just get Terry to come back." He's not coming back. You need to start looking at the future recruits. He's not coming back. And they keep saying, "do you think there's a chance?" And I just keep saying I told you last week, he's not coming back.

On the players' claims that the Yum Center rims are tighter

We'll have to check that out. That's the first I've heard of it. We'll check that out. Some teams have come into the yum and shot the lights out against us. What did Duke shoot? Kentucky shot great in the second half. It might be just tight in one end ... and then at halftime they go down and tighten the other end.

Kenny will you just check on that with facilities, please?

What can you change this time against North Carolina?

Well it was a great college basketball game. Anybody could have won. We were in command for 38 minutes and then we did some things that got us into trouble, but it was a great college game. Obviously we're looking forward to playing them at our place. Hopefully we're going to play better at home than we've been playing. We've really got to do a good job because they are the No. 1 offensive rebounding percentage team in the country. We can say that the last play was poorly played by our defense, but in essence, we gave up too many offensive rebounds to win that game. If you're playing against the No. 1 team in the country in offensive rebounding, you've got to do a much better job than we did last time. I expect Montrezl Harrell to have a much better game than he did the first time rebounding.

On UNC saying before the last game they thought they could take away his offense by blocking him out

If you want the ball, go block out Kenneth Faried and tell me if he doesn't go get the ball. Don't you think every NBA guy tries to block out Kenneth Fried with his reputation? See how many offensive rebounds he gets a night. If you have that desire you're gonna get around a block out. Pretty simple solution, huh?

Who's idea was the beard streak?

Mine

Why?

I think when you're 62 you just get tattoos, grow beards, and smoke cigars. You just do crazy things because you're gonna roll a 7 in your future.

Is there another tattoo in your future?

I hope so. I hope we win another one and I'd love to get another one.

No piercing?

No, piercings are not in the future.

Terry Rozier

Coach just said you're not coming back, are you that emphatic about it?

Did he say that?

He did say that

We haven't talked about that. Like I've been saying the whole year, it's something that me and him talked about, but we said that I was going to focus on being the best college basketball player I can be as of right now. I'd be selfish to be thinking about the pros right now. I mean I'm not going to lie and say I'm not thinking about it, it's something that's on my mind, but for me to be thinking about the draft and me leaving without taking care of business here first would be selfish of me. So that's what I'm thinking about. We have a goal to win a national championship, so that's what I'm thinking about.

So you're officially undecided?

Undecided. Let's go with that.

He was very emphatic that you weren't coming back

Was he? Undecided.

After yesterday are you thinking of foregoing your playing career in favor of becoming a coach?

Well I am 1-0. Me and Trez. We got there thanks to Jaylen Johnson hitting a buzzer-beater. But yeah, that might work out too. You never know.

Did that perspective make you relate to coach Pitino more?

Yeah, he said his goal with that was that we don't play hard enough and he wanted us to see that for ourselves -- to coach them and see that they're not playing hard enough. They were pretty tired out there. But me and Trez actually drew up some plays that coach would have, we yelled at them a little bit in timeouts. It was a lot of fun doing that, and it was good to see our team win. It was a whole lot of fun yesterday.

Do you hope that it gives some of those guys confidence?

Definitely. Q wasn't on my team, but he had a real good scrimmage yesterday. Anton stepped up and hit some big shots and did some good things. Jaylen Johnson was probably the MVP of the day, and he needs that, playing behind Trez. All the young guys need that with Coach P yelling at them all the time, saying that we need some energy from our bench. With all the veterans doing all the work, they don't get that much credit, so yesterday was good.

Can you tell when opposing guards are getting frustrated by your pressure?

I can't really tell when they're getting frustrated but I know that once me and him got things going, we got it going. It's great to see him doing real good in ACC play. And that starts in practice. It's hard not to want to play hard when you're playing along with Chris because he plays hard every possession, offense or defense. He's leading in a way by showing how hard he plays, and that makes us all pick up our energy.

What has this week done for you all in bringing you closer together as a team?

Well we looked at last game as the first round of the tournament, and now this game is the second round. You're getting to that point in the season now where every game is important. We've been struggling at home, so we know how important this game is for us, and we know how good of an offensive rebounding team this team is. We just want to take care of business, man. Keep winning games and keep doing the little things.

On shooting better away from the Yum Center

I don't really want to make it seem like I'm making excuses, I don't like to talk about it -- but if somebody could loosen up our rims that would really help us out a lot. It's not just shots, we're more focused on the road, I guess because we're going in with the mindset that it's just us and it's us against everyone in the building. Maybe at home we're thinking that we've got to turn on the fans, but we've just had a lot more focus on the road. But we've definitely got to take care of business tomorrow because it's a big game for us.

So it might be more of a psychological thing

You never know .... but loosen up the rims, Kenny.

Does it seem more tight at one end than the other?

Nah, both the same. If we were to play every game in this practice arena, we'd be undefeated right now. We don't miss shots here. But when we practice at the arena it's the same result, we miss shots. And maybe it could be an in our head type of thing. But like I said, we don't wanna make excuses, we know we're not gonna win every game .... but loosen up the rims, Kenny.

How can you tell that a rim is tight?

When we were at North Carolina in the shootaround we could tell right away. You could hit the front rim, it would bounce off the backboard and then go in. Our rims, it comes off hard. You can really tell if you're playing on a tight rim -- it's just kind of a basketball term, you can tell what a tight rim is and what a loose rim is.

On his bond with Chris Jones

Oh yeah, it's a strong bond. Me and him are very close off the court. He jokes a lot, but that's my guy, man. And that starts in practice. Me and him, we work so hard in practice. It goes back to what I was saying: he works so hard that it makes me want to work hard, even when I'm not around him. We've been doing real good in the backcourt together, and that starts in practice and it carries over into the games.

Does your similar backgrounds play a part in your relationship?

I think it definitely does. Me and him came in a little bit immature last year and have grown up. We both came in from pretty tough backgrounds, and we talk about that a lot. People may not know that, but we do talk about it a lot. We just got that bond, we understand each other. He's relentless, man, he's a great person to play alongside with.

Is Anton's problem confidence right now?

It's definitely confidence with Anton, because I witnessed Anton scoring 40 on any given night if he wanted to. And I know it's tough because I'm one of his best friends on the team. It's definitely a confidence thing for him.

I feel like he's our key guy. When he starts to play, he's going to be our key guy to the tournament because you know me and Chris we can't play 40 minutes every game and be productive. We're definitely going to need him. He's going to get his time, and when he does he's going to do some great things. Coach is going to realize that and give him some more time.

I'm not just saying this because he's a close friend. I honestly feel that he's the key to our team.

On Chris Jones' demeanor changing recently

He might get down on himself sometimes, but his actions and how hard he plays makes up for it. He may be mad about a missed shot, and it might affect him a little bit, but it's never going to affect his demeanor on defense. He's always going to play hard, nothing's going to change that.

On what they learned from playing UNC the last time

They don't really change much, so coach has just been preaching that we have to do things harder, better. We want to stick to doing the same things we were doing. It was a good game. it was tough playing at their place, but we were up 13 and we just let it slip away. So we don't want to change much. We just want to have the same mindset going into this game, and we've just got to pull it out this time.

Still undecided?

Still undecided, man.