James Johnson met with the media Monday to talk about how his team is looking with two scrimmages and many practices under its belt, and with the season opening next week. Here is what he said.
On how the team is looking: “Offensively we’re picking up what we’re trying to do. We’re running. We’re getting out and running. I’d like to run on makes a little bit more, get the basketball out quick and run a little bit more on makes. But I think we’re making progress, definitely offensively. Defensively, we’ve got some things we’ve got to work on. We’re trying to determine how we’re going to guard ball screens.”
On what the scrimmages have told you about how much you will be able to run: “We’re going to be able to run offensively. I think that the guys are buying into it. It’s fun, but I think they’re kind of figuring out exactly what it takes and how much energy and what type of condition you need to be in to run.”
On why he’s running this year instead of waiting till next year when you have more bodies: “I’ve got to try to implement the program I want piece by piece. Because I only have one senior, I don’t want it to be a complete new rebuilding thing or new teaching thimg next year. I want to kind of implement a lot of the things we’re going to try to do in the program in the future. Offensively right now, it fits our personnel also. I want to try to get that in and try to get up and down the floor and try to get some easy baskets too, where we don’t have to grind it out five on five … and the defense is kind of zoning in on Erick Green the whole time.”
On whether the team has a second scorer: “We’ve got some guys out there I think will be able to put the basketball in the hole for us. Robert Brown, Jarell Eddie, Cadarian Raines. … We’ve got some guys that will be able to help take the load off of Erick where it’s not just going to have to be him every night. He’s going to be a primary scorer for us, but we’ve got some other guys.
“Brown can get his own (shot), and Jarell Eddie with the way we’re going to play, that’s going to fit right into him getting out, running, spotting up and he’s getting better at putting the ball on the floor, getting his own shot. I’m going to do some things with him as far as maybe post him up a little bit, run him off some screens into the post to help create some baskets for him. But he’s getting better at putting the ball on the floor, one or two dribbles and getting a pull-up shot.”
On Brown’s return from foot surgery in the offseason: “A little bit of rust … His timing is just off a little bit with getting up and down the floor.”
On the big guys in the offense: “I’m really pleased with the way those big guys are running the floor. I want our guards to look at them and try to get them the ball a little more.”
On the walk-ons who are most impressive: “Johnston, because of our lack of depth in the backcourt. might be a guy that can come in and give us some minutes. He can really shoot. … Beyer, 6-7 athletic guy that can shoot.”
On the starting forward jobs: “Right now Jarell Eddie is looking sold at the 3 and CJ Barksdale is looking solid at the 4.”
On Raines: “The biggest difference is mentally. We’re going to him. We have a couple plays, isolation plays just for him. He knows they’re his plays.”
On Marshall Wood: “He comes to work every day. He brings his lunchpail … He works hard. .. He’s got very good instincts around the glass. He knows where the ball is. That’s been a big surprise.”
On whether this can be a better rebounding team than last year: “I don’t know if it will be a better rebounding team. We can be as good. We don’t have a dominant rebounder. We need all guys to rebound. I’m counting on Jarell Eddie to rebound a lot from the 3 spot. I’m counting on CJ Barksdale. I’m counting on Cadarian Raines, Joey.”
But don’t you need to be better at rebounding than you were last season? “We’ve got to be better. You’ve got to rebound the basketball. We can’t allow second shots. To play the way we want to play, to run, you’ve got to get stops and rebound and get an outlet (pass). You don’t want to have to take the ball out every single time and try to grind it up the floor.”
On the defense: “I want to get to where we’re extending the defense, we’re pressing and trapping fullcourt. I think right now that’s going to have to be a situational thing this year with the lack of depth.”