By Chris Williams, CycloneFanatic.com Publisher
Due to the fact that it is finals week, there was no Iowa State athletics press conference on Monday in Ames. Head basketball coach Fred Hoiberg did participate in the Big 12’s inaugural 2011-12 teleconference though. Below is the transcript from that event.
Q: Before the season, we asked a lot about how this team’s personality would be shaped and its personality throughout a handful of games. Do you have a better feel for that now?
FH: We had our best game of the season against Iowa this last game. We came out and really got out to a great start. I switched some things around with the lineup after doing a lot of thinking about how we can get the most out of our players. After we lost Diante (Garrett) last year, one of the things that I talked a lot about was who was going to fill his shoes and play the point guard for us this year? We tried it with Scott (Christopherson). Scott did some good things for us but it kind of took him away from what he does best which is coming off of screens and shooting the ball. It took away from his aggressiveness I felt. The last two games we have gotten Chris Allen at the point guard spot and put Scott back to his natural two-guard position and both of those guys have played very well. Chris Allen, in his first game at the point, had seven assists and one turnover. The last game, he got into some foul trouble but I thought played a very good floor game. Scott came out and had a breakout game against Iowa. He hit shots, got to the basket and was getting to the free throw line. Hopefully we can build off of what we did against Iowa, especially that first half. We will continue to see how things go. Royce (White) had his best game as well. His first eight minutes were as good of a stretch as we’ve had anybody play here in a long time. It’s just about continuing to build and continuing to trust each other, which hopefully after that last game, we’ll be able to do that.
Q: How would you describe Royce White’s progress?
FH: He’s been really good for us. He had a great start in that first game against Lehigh when he scored 26 points. He had a couple of double-doubles right off the bat. He leads us in every major statistical category. The last game, you saw what he could do. He gets off two tomahawk dunks to start the game. He hits Melvin Ejim for a dunk with a no-look pass on the third play for us. And then he steps out and hits two jump shots. That’s the type of player that he is. He’s such a well-rounded player. He can do so many different things. He can protect the rim with his athletic ability. He’s got great instincts for steals. He is a very well-rounded player.
Q: In what area has your team made the most progress this year and are you happy with the overall progress that you’ve seen with the team?
FH: I think defensively is where we’ve made the most progress. You need to have a trust as far as the players in all aspects of the game but especially defensively. If one guy gets out of position, you’re not going to be a very sound defensive unit. We played the best that we have all year. We did a lot of toughness drills leading into the Iowa game and really leading into the Prairie View (A&M) game. I felt that we had two of our best defensive efforts, really from start to finish. That’s the thing that we’ve just got to continue to build on. In those first 20 minutes against Iowa, we made it very difficult for them to come out and get looks at the basket. It’s because guys were there, they were in gaps, they were helping. They were stunting for each other. We were fighting through screens. That’s the area where we need to continue to develop and get better.
Q: Is that the biggest area that you still need to work on going ahead or is there something else that you guys are going to work on during the week off for finals?
FH: It’s a unique week because of the finals schedule. We’ll practice today but then tomorrow is a very heavy test day for a lot of guys so we’ll take tomorrow off. Some guys will get in some individual work outs. On Wednesday and Thursday, we should be back to getting after it but you still have guys who have those tests. I remember as a student-athlete how that weighs on your mind. We have to manage that and be careful with it a little bit. At the same time, we do need to have good workouts, get these guys in and get them away from it, which well help them to stay fresh. We do have a lot of work to do to continue to get better. Like I said before, we changed the lineup and we need to get more familiar with the new positions, where guys are on the floor.
Q: Having all of the new guys and even though they practiced last year, has the season gone kind of how you thought it would or are you still trying to figure out how everything fits?
FH: That’s a great question. I felt that we would have some moments in our preseason schedule where we’d still be trying to figure each other out. We’ve definitely had that. We’ve had some very good stretches at times but when adversity has hit us, we have struggled to fight through it. We’re getting better at that and hopefully we continue to get better at that. That’s when you’re a really good team, when you play through the tough times. When you don’t let lack of shot making affect you on the other end of the floor. We’ve had a couple of incidents where we’ve done that this year, where we haven’t shot great and it affected our effort on the defensive end of the floor. That absolutely cannot happen. We continue to talk to our guys and you’ve got to find a way to fight through the tough times.
Q: With what you’ve seen so far, are you pretty certain due to the flashes that this team can get better and be really competitive in the Big 12?
FH: I liked the signs that I saw last week. We are improved. We are a much better team now than we were a week ago or two weeks ago. We’ve got room to grow and that’s where you’ve got to just continue to fight to get better and try to put them in situations where you have adversity. If they handle it in practice, hopefully it will be easier in games. I think that a lot of teams fight through this, especially early in seasons where you have a lot of new faces is how are you going to fight through those times? You have to find a way. It’s one of the hardest things in basketball, to put players in situations where things are not going well but you do it and you learn from it and I think our guys definitely have.