COLUMBIA — Missouri's Frank Haith touched on a number of topics on the Southeastern Conference summer basketball coaches' teleconference Monday, including scheduling, the Tigers' incoming freshman class and the buzz surrounding point guard Phil Pressey, forward Alex Oriakhi and forward Laurence Bowers entering the NBA Draft on Thursday.
By TEREZ A. PAYLOR
The Kansas City Star
Here’s a transcript:
• On the team he has coming back:
“I think we’re a young team with only two seniors in Earnest Ross and Tony Criswell returning, and we’ve got some newcomers and freshmen and junior college transfers in Keanau Post, but I like what we’ve done in terms of putting together a roster. The returning guys have all worked really, really hard. Earnest Ross, Jabari Brown, even a guy like Jordan Clarkson, who was a sit-out guy, Tony Criswell, those guys have worked their tails off and gotten better, which gives a great foundation to work with going into next season.”
• On the new block/charge rule:
“First of all, I don’t ever think it’s going to be easy (to make that call). It’s the toughest call in the college game. And if you watched the NBA playoffs, it was probably the toughest call in the NBA because of the movement (of the play). I do think we need some things like (the new rule) to help the game offensively, help the flow of the game. So we’ll see how it goes. I know they’ve tried for years. I think we’ve all heard the talk of trying to clean that part of the game up … we’ll see how it goes in terms of the new tweaks.”
• On whether the new rule, which mandates that defenders must be stationary with two feet on the floor before an offensive player goes airborne to draw a charge, will help offenses:
“I think if it’s called that way, I do. I think when guys are in motion in the air, a lot of times we’ll see guys slide underneath and even though they’re outside of the circle, that’s a charge. But that would help. It’s still such a difficult call. It’s a bangbang play, there’s still going to be mistakes in making that call.”
• On his first impressions of the incoming recruiting class:
“It’s been really good. I think Wes Clark is very talented, and Keanau Post has really been just a joy to work with. He’s got such a great attitude and he wants to be really, really good. Those two guys are the newcomers that really stand out. But I think it’s so early, you know. A guy like Johnathan Williams III, I mean, he’s got a chance to be an outstanding player. He’s catching on. I think they’re all working tremendously in the weight room. I think the one thing you notice when you look at our team, those guys stand next to our returning guys, there’s a difference. They’re younger but their bodies are different. It’s such an important eight weeks for them in terms of their conditioning with (strength coach) Todor (Pandov). I think they’ve all worked really hard in the weight room.”
• On what he’s heard about Pressey, Oriakhi and Bowers from NBA teams, and what they have to do to make it in the league:
“I have gotten calls on all three, and I think some guys have done well for themselves and helped themselves a little bit. In Phil’s case, I think the biggest thing is that he’s got to be who we all know Phil to be, and that is a playmaking point guard. I think if Phil gets out of that element and tries to be something else, maybe, say, like a Nate Robinson, I think he struggles. I think when he plays (like) who he is, I think he’s as good as there is. That’s playmaking and making guys around him better and all that good stuff.
“And then Alex has really done well in his workouts. He’s had some really good ones. It’s always good to have one thing you do great, and if Alex would just be a tremendous rebounder and position defender, I think he’ll have a chance to make a roster.
“Laurence is kind of a tweener because he’s caught in between positions. He’s got the size of small forward in that league, and he’s probably not quite the skill-set or mobility-wise of a small forward in that league. But he’ll find a way to play somewhere, I believe that. He’s a determined young man, and I think he’ll have the opportunity to hopefully play on a summer league team to prove he’s capable of playing out there on the perimeter in that league.”
• On St. Louis possibly hosting the 2017 SEC tournament:
“We have an opportunity to play there every year in the Braggin’ Rights game and it’s a great venue, a tremendous venue. I think it would be awesome if that happens and we have the ability to play in St. Louis for our fanbase, but it’s a tremendous arena and it would be just terrific for the SEC to bring SEC basketball to the Midwest.”• On the SEC’s request to review each school’s hoops schedule:
“Ours was done pretty much when we got down to Destin. I think that was just to really inform us and give us great information about scheduling in terms of RPI and strength of scheduling … I think we’ve done a great job these last two years of scheduling in the nonconference. It is an art — sometimes you kind of hope a team, based on their RPI the year before, will be what it is the next year, and sometimes it’s not. But I think for us, this year, we have a heavy load, like we did last year in the non conference. We play UCLA at home, we’ve got West Virginia at home, we’ve got Illinois in the Braggin’ Rights game, we’ve got Nevada and Northwestern in Vegas and we have N.C. State on the road in Raleigh.
“I think the biggest thing (when) you’re scheduling (is that in) some of those games, you play teams in the top 150 and 200 range. We’re playing Long Beach State and Western Michigan — both teams were very good in their conference last year and will be very good in their conference this year. A team like Hawaii, along with Long Beach State, will contend for their league championship. So I think we’ve done a great job of scheduling. It’s part of strengthening our league and giving yourself a chance to have an opportunity in the postseason.”