SDSU Men's Basketball Press Conference
Dec. 13, 2012
SAN DIEGO -
Steve Fisher: "Finals are closing in on being over, which is good news for everybody, athlete, non athlete. But, it's been a disjointed week, as it is everywhere when this happens. We've changed our practice plans. We've given them extra days off and hopefully that will be helpful as we move forward getting prepared for Saturday's game against University of San Diego. Our team has gotten better. We obviously the last few games have shot the ball exceptionally well, but the core to being really good for us is defending and we've guarded effectively; and that's everybody. I think it's appropriate Jamaal is here with me. We've asked Jamaal to do a lot of things we don't talk about and one of them is guard multiple spots. You'll see him guarding out on the perimeter and you'll see him guarding 6 9 guys in the post, and he's effective with it. You win when you've got versatility like that. So we're excited about the game. I think it will be a great atmosphere. USD is playing very, very well right now. So we know that it will be a challenging game, but we are excited about where we are and what we're doing, and hope that we get a big crowd early for both sides. So any questions, for Jamaal, in particular?"
Q. How well do you know the players on USD, and how does that affect this game and the rivalry?
Jamaal Franklin: I know a few players. A lot of players have left that I really knew. But often in the summer we played against each other and in June we would see each other at local open gyms. It should be cool. They know our games and we know their games through open gyms and stuff, so it should be cool playing against each other again.
Q. How did you do on your finals? Do you have any left?
Jamaal Franklin: "No, I'm done. I finished on Tuesday. But I think I did good. I think I might get my scholar athlete. I want it this year."
Q. How were the two days off at the beginning of the week?
Jamaal Franklin: "Oh, they are great. They are the best thing that ever comes, I feel like the days off. But the days off, really it means a lot for us, but at the same time, when you get the days off, I mean, you're bored the rest of the day. You just go to school and you just stay at home. So days off mean a lot to you, but still you just want to get back on the court."
Q. Did you look at this game on the calendar before the season and really look forward to it?
Jamaal Franklin: "I look at everything on the calendar before the season. Every game means something because every game somebody could beat you, whether you're playing against UC Santa Barbara, Texas Southern, even against Point Loma, any day, if you're not bringing it, you can lose."
Q. They say that this isn't really a rivalry because San Diego State has won it so many times. Do you look at it that way?
Steve Fisher: "That's rhetoric playing your trump card. If you go back in the archives and I know you've got it on tape, I remember my fourth year here. I said, `it can't be a rivalry until we win.' When you play a team this close in proximity, as Jamaal said, and they know one another; it adds an extra edge to it for both sides. But also as Jamaal said, it's one game, so neither team can get so overly excited, but it will be an emotional game. It's a game that we have had a week to prepare for. So we know they are going to be ready but we'll be ready also."
Q. Some changes may be happening in the Big East basketball wise, what are your thoughts on that?
Steve Fisher: "I have none. My thoughts are all focused on what we can control and that's how we get ready for San Diego, and I listen to all the verbiage on the air, but I don't put a whole lot of thought into it. That will work itself out."
Q. You said at the beginning of the season you like to check where you are in December as months go on. Do you feel like you're a different team than you were at the start of the season? A better team?
Steve Fisher: "We hope that we are. You either get better or you take a step back, and I think we've made progress. Doesn't always show. We have had some moments where we've not played great. But if we can all believe and really commit to, we are going to be the best defending team around, and we are going to do it every single second, then when you don't make shots, you're still in games. And we've got enough athletes and talent and leadership that we'll find ways to may not look pretty but get balls off the floor and get them in; get balls off the glass and get them in. So I like what we're doing. We can't be satisfied. We're 7 1 right now. We need to be 8 1 after Saturday."
Q. Looking back at the last two games, what were the major concerns of the second half defense?
Steve Fisher: "I'm going to let Jamaal talk to that."
Q. Looking back at the last two games in the second half, defensively wise, looking at film, what have you guys noticed?
Jamaal Franklin: "We noticed that we give up a higher percentage in the second half, but we are going to get back to the drawing board and just keep working. Our first half, we were shutting people out real bad and made them shoot bad field goal percentages. But the second half, we have allowed people to shoot a little better and a higher percentage, but we've worked on that and coach stressed that in practice. Everybody is willing to get it and make sure we keep the field goals just how it is in the first half."
Q. Is it simply buckling down on defense, or is there more to it?
Jamaal Franklin: "It comes in different ways. Coaches, playing against opposite teams, maybe they find ways to make shots, Texas Southern, you see those two little guards, they were making some shots. Going against Santa Barbara, No. 10 made a lot of tough shots. But that comes from, like you said, we have got to buckle down a little bit more and get a little grimier and make sure we play defense stronger in the second half."
Q. How did last year's game against USC when you fell behind early 14 2, how does that affect your mentality?
Jamaal Franklin: "That's part of basketball. When we were 34 3, we were down 19 in Ohio, but it's just part of basketball. Basketball is a game of runs, as Coach Fisher always says, so we can't really worry about how we were down 14 2. We have to worry about just winning. We have to worry about the future, not the past."
Q. Is that something you'll remind the players of, how the game started last year?
Steve Fisher: "They are well aware and we show tape of it every day. We are showing tape on University of San Diego now, some of which included last year's game. These games have always been ebbs and flows, and you have to play every possession and make sure that you don't allow yourself to fall into a run by the opponent. And Jamaal's comment, one of the things we talk about is just that, controlling the pace and flow of the game and managing runs when you have got to keep them going, when they have got them squeeze them in quicker than normal."
Q. The majority of their team, all of their starters are returning for USD; how much can you take away from last year's game?
Steve Fisher: "Well, when we watch tape, human nature, they always enjoy watching themselves in activity. So we have the ability to watch last year's game or parts of it, where both teams got a lot of guys back. So we see things that they did to hurt us and vice versa that you can take from that. They are a different team, too. They are not the same team that we played last year. The faces might be the same, but this is a different team. We'll know what to do; they will know what to do and we just have to come out and play hard."
Q. Can you discuss Johnny Dee a little bit, West Coast Conference Player of the Week twice so far this year.
Steve Fisher: Deservedly so. He can score the ball. Knows how to score, finds ways to score, quick release. Very, very good player. He proved that from the moment he stepped on campus and now having been around the block and having played one year at this level, he's more comfortable, more confident, better prepared and better. He's very good; very good."
Q. Did he ever show interest coming out of high school?
Steve Fisher: "We were like everybody. Recruiting is an inexact science. UD didn't offer him a scholarship; he was a walk on. So a lot of us missed on him and good fortune happened that University of San Diego, when he plopped down there on no scholarship and wound up getting one, has turned out to be a pretty good find for them."
Q. What exactly has your practice been like this week? You said it was a little unorthodox with finals and time off.
Steve Fisher: "When we practice we gave them two days off after Santa Barbara and rarely do we give them two days off and then we gave them Wednesday off. So we have had three days off since the Santa Barbara game and I think it's been good for us. We came back and we competed hard and we'll have a shorter practice today and tomorrow, but it will be competitive. You try to do what you think is in the best interests of your own team at the moment and I think given everything, I may not have given them all those days off had we not had finals, but we had a long stretch with no game; I think it was healthy to do what we did. The fact that we have got guys like Jamaal who are veteran players, who trust that we are doing the right things with them, they come prepared and they do a good job as we get ready to play. So some of this is in consultation with our players, what are you feeling physically, what do you think and those sorts of things. But we've changed. Guys come running in late because they have taken finals. They have to leave early. So it's no different than what I'm sure USD goes through or everybody else when you have finals week. It's hard for anybody, especially hard for athletes that have competition going on at the same time."
Q. From a national perspective, not SDSU exclusively, you've been in so many conferences at different schools and you have some close friends around the country; as the NCAA landscape shifts do you think it's more important to tie your school to natural rivals or to a conference with name and a tradition? Where do you see it going forward?
Steve Fisher: "Well, change is inevitable. That's called life. And change in athletics is a big part of it. I think we've done a good job of saying, okay, we want to have games that are of interest to everybody: Fans, both locally and nationally. So we tried to schedule accordingly and we will continue to do that. You get a team that you play once or twice and now all of a sudden you get a rivalry going with them. So there may be some teams that we play down the road that folks say, what a great rivalry that is between San Diego State and School A. So we are looking to do that. It was great that we played UCLA for the first time in my 14 years here. I thought it made for great competition. Our fans loved it. And for us, obviously we won the game. We know we are going to be in a league, we know we'll schedule appropriately given the league that we are in, and we have got support and we'll make things work no matter what."
Q. What have you seen Johnson in practice?
Jamaal Franklin: "Strong, rebounds the ball, very competitive which I like because I'm a competitive person, and he's willing to do whatever it takes to win. If Coach Fisher told him he has to bring the ball up, I'm sure James Johnson will find a way to bring the ball up. He's very competitive and strong and he has nice little post moves in the post, and he's going to bring a lot of depth for us when he comes back and I can't wait for him to come back."
Q. And how much improvement have you seen from him when you came on campus to this week in practice?
Jamaal Franklin: "I want to say he's getting more comfortable with us. I think that's the most important thing. When he came in, he was already a great player, but I think he got way more comfortable with us in the system now. Because playing in the ACC with Virginia is probably a little different than us. We are more fast paced, guard-dominated team, and I feel he feels more comfortable with us that he's ready to come back and ready to do his role."
Q. What are you expecting from James Johnson, at least at first?
Steve Fisher: "We are going to have another big body in a spot that if you say, where do we need the most help in, size. So we have size and strength. He's big and strong.
He has not played competitively in a long time, so I think it will be nice that we'll be able to give him an opportunity to play a little bit before we go to Hawai'i and so he's going to have a baptism of fire in the next couple of weeks, which he's very excited and looking forward to."
Q. You're a guy who likes to work out late at night and a relentless worker in the off season; sounds like James is, as well.
Jamaal Franklin: "I have a lot of respect for guys like that, because I was a guy like that; that wasn't fortunately blessed to just have the things handed to them like that. You have to work for them. So I have respect for every guy that works out and puts a lot of time in the gym and just grind and works on getting better and not being satisfied with where they are at and being consistent and rise up to the top, so I have a lot of respect for that.