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Transcript: Chris Mack provides Louisville basketball update

Louisville v Virginia Photo by Ryan M. Kelly/Getty Images

You can find video of Friday’s Chris Mack presser here

(On Samuell Williamson and Josh Nickelberry’s status)

We felt like Sam was gonna give it a go against UNCG, but how he would have reacted, just a few days after dislocating that toe, is anyone’s guess. Would he have gone four/five minutes and said, ‘Coach, I don’t feel comfortable’. It’s probably best for him to really not play on it, the first couple days after the injury. He’s been doing workouts here, and we expect the next time we lace them up, he’ll be ready to go. And then, you know, Josh is, I know I feel like I’ve been evasive a little bit, but he had a couple setbacks in his therapy early on recovering from the knee. So we were sort of trying to figure out where that put him. No one was trying to mislead anybody. We’ve done a few different things with his knee, in the hopes that he’s turning the corner. I still can’t really give you a timeline, other than we’re hopeful that it’s sooner rather than later here in the next couple of weeks.

(On what players were up to during the pause, and what the transition is like)

So the pause has been a little unique. Never before do you really have - maybe the Christmas time you have the opportunity where you get a couple days away from the team. But we’ve had both staff and players that have been infected. With the protocols of quarantining and isolating, depending on if you’re around somebody, is it direct contact, you guys all know the deal. But we’ve also had guys that have had COVID in the past, and they’re sort of exempt from that, so they’ve been able to get in the gym and workout on their own, and that’s a good part of our team to be quite honest. Yesterday, and today, we’ve managed to have guys that weren’t direct contacts, along with former, what you’d call, COVID patients out on the floor. Tomorrow we’re going to return, and when I say return, we still won’t have everybody back. But with the guys that we have back, we’ll be conducting as full of practice as we can.

(On how he individual that tested positive caught the virus)

I don’t want to speculate. How our players, staff contracted the virus - all to takes is one guy in your program, one person in your program to expose others. I thought the Galt House did a terrific job. It was never an NBA bubble, but it was as protected as we could be. I don’t think every team followed all the guidelines that we asked them, but there are workers that are going in and out. Again, I know that they were extremely diligent, so for me to speculate would be just that, would be speculation.

(On the status of the upcoming game on Dec. 16 vs. NC State)

I know that our administration is in continuing talks with both the ACC and NC State, I just worry about our program. I worry about getting back to practice and what we have to do to ensure the safety. Not only from a COVID standpoint, but just returning to the floor after being off for a week, and different guys at different stages in their return. So we’re going to proceed, and that’s sort of how I feel is best, we’re just going to proceed as if the schedule is the schedule, and we’re supposed to play on Wednesday. If that would change, it goes in line with what I’ve talked to our players about, really from the very beginning of the summer, it’s that just be flexible. We’re going to have to be versatile. Things are going to change, things are going to be fluid, and they’ve been great about that. They know they’re anxious to get back and practice. We’ll proceed as if we’re playing NC State on Wednesday until we’re told otherwise.

(On Duke’s decision to play conference-only games)

I’ve been on Zoom calls, every Wednesday since the pandemic broke out, with all the head coaches. To say that Coach K’s only responding out of the fact that he’s lost the last couple games, it’s really off. This entire process over the pandemic has always been student-athlete driven, and that’s come across well before we even started practicing. Everybody has a different feel for what’s right. While I respect Coach K’s position, I don’t necessarily agree with it. I do think that he did it out of student-athletes in mind. But I’m sort of on the other end, in terms of, I think it’s, our student-athletes want to play. Our guys want to play basketball. We’re not playing games with players that are infected. Our guys are tested daily. Not only are our guys tested daily, they also have access to the best medical care possible. So what is the alternative? Just stop playing games? Not go to class, sit in your room? I don’t think, for the health and well being mentally for our guys, that’s the right thing to do. Nobody’s asking our players to play with COVID. We’re following all the protocols we can, that’s why they’re canceling games. I don’t think anybody has the right answer, but I can tell you that our guys want to play. Nobody’s forcing them to play.

(On his expectation that the season can be completed and the tournament can go on)

Yeah, I’d probably be guessing like most of us would. I think the NCAA is going to try to figure it out some way, some how. I do think over time, that vaccinations will alleviate a lot of the people that are really at the highest risk. Whether that’s elderly, that’s healthcare workers, people with underlying conditions. So do things change surrounding that? I don’t know. I do think there’s going to be an NCAA Tournament. But again, flexibility is what we preach from the very, very beginning. We can only really control what we can control. Our guys, like I said before, they want to play. To speculate on how the seasons can end up, your guess is as good as mine.

(On his impression of the team through the start of the season)

Well, I don’t think we’ve really accomplished anything yet. It’s a good start. I think that some players that didn’t really have much experience, gained some valuable experience in a very, very short period of time. Whether you win or you lose, you always, as a coach, as a program, as a team, want to continue to try to improve your team. We have very inexperienced players in a lot of areas, so it was good to see them have positive experience. I thought one of the games, we didn’t play very well. We were able to learn from it, and respond from it. But we’ve got a long way to go. I think our players recognize that. But agains, glad our younger guys got some experience. Hopefully we continue to get healthier, as we move on and start to add some guys to our roster and become more of a full team. But, really, really happy with some of the way our players formed, and responded, in playing major major minutes. In some cases guys not even getting a break.

(On his thoughts of rest vs. rust with the NC State game taking place two weeks after their last game)

It remains to be seen. I think that’s what we’re going to try to do in practice. Get back to getting up and down, getting our wind back, our timing back, execution. There’s still some things on both ends of the floor we had to clean up from from our tournament (bubble). So there’s really a lot that we need to do in addition to preparing for our next opponent, if that happens to be NC State on Wednesday. A lot of work to be done, and I think our players recognize that. We’re really anxious to get back to going here tomorrow.

(On SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey’s letter regarding long NCAA infractions processes)

Well I think it would have been expeditious, or at least as much as it could have been, if it weren’t in the criminal court system. That’s all I’m gonna say about that. I mean, I’ve been dealing with it since I got here.

(On potentially playing the cancelled game vs. UNCG, the postponed game vs. Wisconsin, and Charles Minlend’s health)

I highly doubt that we play UNCG. I think that ship is sort of sailed. Wisconsin, it may depend on what happens here with NC State just with the rest of the schedule. I don’t want to say that door is completely shut by any means. So, again, flexibility, versatility and being able to pivot and play someone new - seems like it’s happening all over the country. What’s on paper, and the dates that are set, may not be set. We may end up playing a different opponent, who knows. As far as Charles, it looked a little bit slower in the very beginning, just recovering from that MCL. I think over the last week or so, it’s feeling much much better. I think he’s a ways away from being on the court, though. So to put that into days and weeks, I would be off. I think it’s going to be a little ways away before he’s back practice hearing.

(On the performance of his freshmen)

I think our freshmen took advantage of an opportunity. I don’t know any other way to put it. I think Dre (Davis), from the very beginning when he got here in June, did not seem like a freshman. His body didn’t look like a freshman. His maturity, his voice on the floor, in the weight room and conditioning. He just carries himself like a junior or senior, and sometimes I forget, our staff forgets, heck I think his teammates forget that he’s a freshman. He is, both on and off the floor, mature beyond his years, I think that really carries over to how he prepares himself, how hard he works. I’m not really surprised with what Dre has done so far. Again, he’s just scratching the surface of this season, so don’t want to annoy him too quickly. I don’t worry about his where his head’s at, because again, he’s a really mature kid, JJ (Traynor), he’s been a bit of a surprise. I think that there have been times in practice where he looked completely lost early on in the season. He looks better sometimes when we’re scrimmaging than he does in break down drills. But he has remarkable makeup ability, whether it’s blocking a shot, getting back into play, affecting a pass, affecting a shot. On the defensive end, his long arms allow him to rebound. Maybe his strength doesn’t hold the position that he will in the future. Offensively, he’s our best finisher at times around the basket. He’s so long, he’s got really good timing, he’s got good instincts. His play here early on has really helped our team in the first four games. We’ve really come to rely on him on both ends the floor.