James Johnson talked today about Friday’s big showdown with No. 1 Michigan State (and about Marquis Rankin, who will not play in Brooklyn)
“It’s an unbelievable opportunity any time you get a chance to play the No. 1 team in the country. … Transition offense, they’re very good at and rebounding they’re very good at. They’ve always hung their hat on their toughness and their rebounding. They’re going to push the ball up the floor.”
MSU has a formidable trio of Gary Harris, Keith Appling and Adreian Payne.
On Harris: “He can put the ball on the floor, he can shoot the 3, he gets out and runs in transition. … Not sure who’s going to start on him now, but at some point Eddie’s going to have to guard him and the freshman Emelogu’s going to have to guard him. We’ve got our hands full with him. …. They’re going to put him over there on Payne’s side and go inside out with him. We’ve got to try to keep him out of transition.
On the three MSU stars: “They’ve got a 1-2-3 punch and two of them are veteran guys, seniors (Appling and Payne). When we talk to Devin Wilson in the scouting report today, we’re going to tell him, Here we go again, your matchup is another senior, another very good player, another all-league player and you as a freshman, Devin Wilson, you’ve got him with Appling.
On Payne: “We’ve got some bodies up front with Payne, with Raines and Thompson and van Zegeren to throw in there at him. .. We’ve got to mix it up on him.
On the Spartans: “We’ve got to take away transition baskets. We’ve got to control the backboards…… We’re going to have to be able to put some points on the board because they’re going to be able to score. …. They’re very good defensively…. They’re going to pack it in, they’re going to play kind of like Virginia’s defense, where they pack it in but they’re big and they’re long, the big guards and the big men in the middle. So getting to the paint, which is one of the things that we have had some success with with driving the basketball and getting to the basket, is going to be difficult for us this game. They do a really good job with that.”
On Marquis Rankin: “Marquis had to take some time for some personal situation. We’ll welcome him back to the team when he wants to come back. I think it’s a little bit of everything. Personally he felt like he needed some time. …. He’s academically eligible. … I think he would like to continue playing. Being a student athlete, there’s a lot that goes on the plate. I think he would like to definitely continue playing.”
And continue playing for the Hokies again?
Has Johnson told him he needs to do something to play again?
“No I have not told him that. When Marquis is ready to come back to the team, we will welcome him back. If everything works out and he wants to come back to the team, we’ll take him back. …. Once he thinks that he’s got everything in order that he needs to get in order, that he’ll come back. But it’s not a situation where I said You’ve got to do this, this or this, or You’ve got to sit out until this game.
“It’s more important that the young man, whatever he’s got going on, if he thinks he’s got certain things in his life he needs to take care of, it’s more important that he gets right and gets everything in order, .’. that he can feel comfortable with everything, the load that he has. If that includes basketball, that includes basketball. If it doesn’t include basketball, it doesn’t include basketball. But I want to make sure the young man is right. I’m not mad at him. We could definitely use him but I want to make sure everything’s right with him.”
On MSU: “We’re really excited. It’s a grand opportunity and we know that. It’s not every day you get to play the No. 1 team in the country so we’re going to prepare and try to go out there and seize the moment.
“Very winnable. I watched their past two games … and I think we match up pretty well with them.
On playing in Brooklyn: “Everybody’s really excited about the trip itself.”
On his roommate Rankin: “He’s been really talking to us (on the sideline), really vocal.
“He eats with us after practice. In the locker room he’s always with us.”
What has Rankin told Smith about why he is not playing?
“We haven’t really gotten into all that. He’s just really staying to himself about that.”