I am very excited about our team and our potential and I think we have to be cautiously optimistic because we're still a very young team despite the fact that we have 87% of our offense back there is going to be a lot of young players in the mix. I think we're the biggest we've been in a long time and the deepest we've been in a long time, and I think we have a chance to be very good.
The challenge anytime you're coaching in this league is are you going to be good enough? Because there are so many good teams, and I think that's the fun of it. That, as I said, is the challenge, to see how we progress, how we develop, especially early with our young players.
Fran, yours is a team that people keep mentioning as a dark horse, somebody that isn't picked high, they could do real well. Do you embrace that idea? Do you think it's a good place to be? Seems like you're confident about that.
FRAN McCAFFERY: I think I would be foolish not to embrace that. I prefer to be much more optimistic. A lot of coaches try to temper any level of enthusiasm to take the pressure off themselves. I prefer to challenge our team and our players.
I recognize just how good this league is. As good as it's been since I've been in it this short time, I think it's even better now in terms of quality teams 1 through 12. The difficulty that we all experience winning on the road is huge, but we have some pieces. We can score. We have multiple options I can do to in terms of personnel, I can go big, I can go small, I think we can pressure more because we have more depth.
The key is, as you know, and you saw us, is defensively. We didn't defend last year, we didn't defend consistently. We defended some nights but we gave up high numbers from three, from the field, and the players in this league are just too good to play the way we played last year defensively. Part of that was we played fast. I thought in terms of turnovers and assists, I felt we were pretty good. We have to get better there, turnovers have to improve, despite the fact that we're playing fast and we have to play better defense and I think we will be a better rebounding team, which should limit the other teams shooting percentages a little bit. If you put it all together, obviously we hope to be substantially improved.
Coach, how does having the size of Woodbury affect what you guys are going to be able to do?
FRAN McCAFFERY: When you have a legitimate 7‑foot post presence and I refer to him as a post presence because he's pretty good offensively in the post, but what he is a guy that really understands how to play.
So you can run your offense through him, even if he's not getting 25, his best attribute offensively is passing. He will throw it in there, skip it to the weak side, we have a number of three‑point shooters, but he is a presence physically. He closes up the lane, holds his position,bangs people.
When you're going up against the really good post guys in the league like Zeller it gives him somebody who can match him physically in terms of size. Last year we had a tremendous player in Zach McCabe, and though he's 6‑7, it's a difficult task for him so it presents more promise for the teams that are preparing for us and gives us a weapon that we didn't have before.
Following up on that, what are the most important things for a freshman to not just be able to play in this league but to contribute to winning?
FRAN McCAFFERY: It starts quite frankly with how you live your life. The hardest thing for freshmen to do is to understand the discipline required to be good. From the minute they arrive on campus, organizing their day, getting through class, training and conditioning, training table, practice, academic appointments, get up and do it again and, again and, again and to have that discipline and then to understand the scouting report process, learn the position, learn more than one position and approach this thing not like an eight between year old freshman but as a professional. The ones that excel are oftentimes not necessarily the ones that are the most talented, they're the ones that are the most mature. I think Adam Woodbury is that kind of person. He's focused, he's diligent, his work ethic is incredibly consistent and that's how Aaron White ‑‑ last year, you looked at him, he was a skinny freshman, but he was mentally mature in his approach. There might be somebody who works as hard as Aaron White but there is nobody that works harder.
When you have a team consisting of players like that, then you have a chance to certainly be better and ultimately be very good.
Fran, establishing an offensive tempo on the road in this league is maybe one of the more difficult challenges, do you think that the freshmen like Mike Gesell and Pat Ingram can do that?
FRAN McCAFFERY: Absolutely they can do that, are they going to have bumps in the road, yes. They're going to see incredibly defensive teams and hostile environments. The other thing I can do is to put Roy Devyn Marble in that position who has played it for two years and played it extremely well and I still play him there a lot and make sure he is ready to go if I need him but his length, he's almost 6‑7 and his ability to understand how to play, I think you look at him and you think he's a 6‑7 scoring guard, averaged 28 in high school, slasher, city guy but Roy Devyn Marble is incredibly cerebral, he knows where to lineup in the 1, 2 and 3 spot in anything we do, he knows how to engineer victory, he likes to feed the post, he's probably our best low‑post feeder, we have the most low‑post guys in terms of opportunities to throw it in there that we've ever had, certainly since I've been there.
So I think from that standpoint it gives us the versatility to go with him if I need to but I have two guys that not only push it and make the decisions but they both can score and they both defend. With all due respect to Cartwright last year what was a great leader, a great offensive player he doesn't defend and that was his struggle and it affected our team and part of it was because I was playing him a thousand minutes and these guys can get rest and put better pressure on the basketball.