Virginia Tech coach James Johnson addressed the media right before the Hokies opened preseason practice today.
before we get to that, by the way, here is a link to my A1 feature on Johnson’s life and career from this morning’s paper http://www.roanoke.com/sports/vtbasketball/wb/315265
Now, here is the new stuff from what he said before practice:
On what he wants to learn about his team in preseason practice: “If we can kind of learn the way we want to play. We want to play a little faster, try to get up and down the floor. We’re going to learn who can play multiple positions. See what we can get out of our freshman, Marshall Wood. And maybe see whether we can get one of the walk-ons, … see if they can give us some minutes. Hopefully one or two of those [walk-on] guys can step up and show me something in … practice where I can maybe put those guys in a game.”
On conditioning: “That’s part of trying to get up and down and play at a little faster pace. And also we want to make sure we’re in condition — we don’t have a lot of bodies, so the guys that are playing, I want to make sure they’re in really good condition to be able to play an extensive amount of time.”
On whether he can really play an up-tempo offense with just eight scholarship players: “Right away we’re going to try to play fast offensvely, as fast as we can. And then we’ll kind of see where we are . That’s something we’re going to learn in preseason practice with a couple of intrsasquad sicrmmages, [and] a couple of scrimmage games we have also.”
On his emphasis on defense: “Defense is my staple. It was as a player. It was at my stop at George Mason [as an assistant]. … Defense is always going to be a key for us.”
On the transition to head coach from already having been a Tech assistant: “They [the players] kind of know me, kind of know what to expect from me, and I know them. I know their strengths, their weaknesses, things they need to work on. The type of person they are also. So it makes the transition smooth.”
On Erick Green and the rest of the team: “We’re going to lean on him. He’s going to be a focal point of our offense, our entire team. But we also have some [other] guys — Cadarian Raines evolved in the last 10 or 12 games last year. He gives us a post presence down low that we can throw the ball in and have a scoring threat down low. Robert Brown, his last game in the ACC tournament – 16 points, eight rebounds against Duke And then Jarell Eddie, he’s a guy that’s going to help us on the offensive end also.”
On just how set the starting lineup is: “We’ve got some positions out there that we’re still looking at. The 4 spot, we’re still looking at. C.J. Barksdale comes in with most of the experience. Marshall Wood has been the young man, freshman, that’s having some great individual workouts — can really shoot the basketball, very athletic. So we’re looking forward to seeing what h’es able to do, where he’ll fit in. We have Robert Brown and Marquis Rankin – we might be able to play three guards, or we might have Jarell Eddie there [at small forward and thus just play two guards]. So I think we’re kind of set, but we’re looking at a couple things.”
On how he will conduct practice: ”It’s going to be a little bit more up and down. We’ll do a few more … full-court drills. We’ll do a lot more competitive things — guys going against each other, the maroon team going against the orange team and the losers having to run or do some push-ups. So it’ll be a little more competitive.”
On how much of his game plan VT will be able to do this season: “What we try to do this year is going to be a small amount to what we want to try, to what [we want] the program … to be built on. We can’t play this year the way we want to play on the defensive end, but we’re going to try to press and trap a litle more. But that’ll come when we have more bodies.”
On Green: “He’s had an unbelievable summer. He’s had a great fall. So we do look forward to him upping his points per game average and his total game.”
On how he will use Green: “We’re going to play him at the point. [But] if we have to play three guards, we’ll do some things if we want to get up and down the floor — any of the guards can have the basketball in their hands and make plays. I think that’s a luxury we have. We’ve got some guys that can have the ball in their hands in full court and be able to make plays. And at that time, we maybe get Erick out in space, hit ahead to him and let him make plays.”
On Eddie: he will play exclusively at the 3 this year.
On the low expectations in the national magazines: “It is what it is. People are looking at the team, at the numbers, what we have coming back, and they can say whatever. But we’ve got to play the games regardless. Whether we’re picked first or whether we’re picked 12th, you’ve still got to play.”