Quotes: Rick Barnes and Uros Plavsic Preview Ole Miss

Rick Barnes Transcript
 
On freshman Zakai Zeigler’s performance at Alabama…
“We have a lot of confidence in Zakai, because the one thing we know is he’s going to do what he does every day in practice. What you see him do during the game, that’s what he does every day. He’s fearless. He’s going to go at it. I think he’s a player who’s able to let mistakes roll off of him really quickly and keep competing. When you play as hard as he plays, and really he tries to get at it every possession on both ends, that is what coaches want and that gives you a great deal of confidence. When you have a guy like that, you realize that he’s giving you everything he has. That’s why you want him out there.”

Vols HC Rick Barnes / Credit: UT Athletics

On if he likes point guards that are fearless…
“Absolutely, they have to be in so many different ways. They’ve got a tough job because defensively, they’re asked to do a lot. They’re going to get hit a lot, especially in today’s game with a lot of ball screens. Then, you’re expecting them to run your offense for you. It’s a lot that you’re putting on them. He’s done a terrific job from getting in here a week after school started and picking up the system. We had a day off yesterday and I came over, walked into Pratt Pavilion and he was up in the gym with one of the coaches, working on his own. That’s the kind of person he is and the kind of player he is. We keep telling him what he has to do to get better and he’s up there working at it, even on his own time. It’s above and beyond what we ask him to do.”
 
On how much confidence he believes some players gained having to step up in place of Kennedy Chandler and John Fulkerson at Alabama…
“I think the key was, once those guys went down, we didn’t mention to them, ‘Hey, we don’t have Fulkerson.’ We really do have a mentality that with what we have, we’re going to go play and we believe it today. With the group we have, we could have won the game. Once we found out those guys weren’t going to play, we didn’t make a big deal about it. We said, ‘Okay, we’re putting our game plan in. This is what we’re going to do.’ We went in fully expecting to win. We’ve seen it happen. The one thing, as a coaching staff, that we talked about was, if you think back to last year and the game with Vanderbilt over there, they had two players out, (Scotty) Pippen Jr. and (Dylan) Disu. They played well because the guys who didn’t get an opportunity (now got a chance.) Again, I think that every guy we have, we’ve recruited. We believe in them. We just know that, yes, some of them are still learning what it’s all about. But overall, the work they put in when given an opportunity, I think everybody did a pretty good job with it.”
 
On execution late in the game…
“When we were up six, we had three bad possessions in a row. We took two quick shots in transition that we shouldn’t have taken from the three when we weren’t balanced and a had a mid-range shot that we should have kicked out. And that was a time when Santi wasn’t in the game too where I think he would’ve controlled it a little bit more, but those three possessions to us as a staff was the biggest three possessions of the game. Even though coming down the end, you have to give them credit for scoring way they did at the end of the first half and at the end of the game. You know, we had two breakdowns, we had one in the zone, late, and we had a ball-screen breakdown. When we had them down there those three possessions, when we didn’t really work the game the way we should have, we really let it get away from us.”
 
On changing structures to lessen COVID’s impact…
“No, not really. You know, we went through that a year ago and it was really difficult and again, our guys have done a good job. In the last couple days, they all went and got booster shots and all that. We’re trying to do what we’ve done up to this point. What we need, we just need to make sure our guys know when they walk out of this building, they make good decisions on where they go and things they do because all that’s going to in some way affect us if you put yourself in a position where you’re exposed to a lot of people that you don’t know. That’s where we have to be really thinking about where we are in today’s time and everything that is going on with COVID. That’s what we have to ask them to do, make good when they walk out of this building.”
 
On what he saw from Uros Plavsic on film…
“He did a really good job. He worked his tail off on the boards, and he did the same thing running our break. He tried to get down, and he was the guy who created a lot of angles for Zakai mostly. He played hard, and again, there’s a great example—I think the more he plays and the more he will do what we want him to do, especially when he gets the ball. Maybe will continue to get more consistent on ball-screen defense. He has to be a factor around the rim. We’re not asking him to block a lot of shots, we’re asking him to put himself in a position to affect shots. Whether it’s taking a charge, or going straight up with two hands up and making guys score over him, but those are the areas he needs to improve in.”
 
On who Tennessee’s best 3-point shooter is…
Well, I mean you look at numbers, I would say this team, we talked about our shooting percentages right now and we tried to show the guys the difference in a good shot and a bad shot in terms of balance. You know, I can tell you this, Santi obviously is a guy that can shoot the basketball, but he’s being guarded harder than anybody on the court. Zakai is a guy that can really shoot it, if you went out there every day and had a shooting contest, I mean those two guys would be right there. Josiah is a guy that when he has his balance and he shoots rhythm shots, I think he’s a 44% 3-point shooter. When he’s forcing it and not balanced, that’s where he is right now. After we showed him that, the very next day in practice, I think he was 6-for-8 from the 3-point line because you know he was taking just smooth, rhythm shots. Justin Powell, same thing, if he gets his feet under him. I think we have guys that can shoot it, I think one of the reasons our percentages aren’t what they need to be, we haven’t taken those shots the way we practiced. Off-balance, not doing our work early, anxious, because you haven’t made one. It’s a lot of the mental side to it. Olivier is a terrific shooter, but you can tell in the game when he gets anxious, he misses one and says, ‘Well I have to make the next one,’ and it doesn’t have to be that way. That’s a part of some of these guys being out there for the first time, but I think we have guys who can shoot the ball. But if you ask me at the end who we set plays up for, I think it would depend on the game and who’s being guarded by who.”  
 
On what Ole Miss brings defensively…
“Kermit Davis, he’s a terrific coach and he does a really good job mixing his defenses. From his man, back to his 1-3-1, 2-3, he’s always changing things up trying to keep you out of rhythm, keep you off balance. Working the game and last year down there they lately did the 1-3-1. Basically, put three guys on the ball trying to trap. Getting very aggressive. We didn’t handle it very well and with all that said and done, that night we were not very good from the free throw line and we were getting the ball places that we wanted, but we couldn’t get anything done with it. Kermit Davis does a terrific job, he’s going to work hard at getting his players in a position to get them a chance to be successful. If you look at his teams over the past, he’s been consistent with his man defense, his 1-3-1, back to a 2-3. Mixing it up, maybe on a missed shot he’ll go man, on a made shot he might go 2-3, out of timeouts he’ll go 1-3-1 get it to the baseline it kind of rolls into a 2-3. They can stay with it too as he did a year ago with the 1-3-1.”
 
On if Justin Powell’s playing time is tied to defense…
“Yes. You know we have a really high standard. Here’s what I try to get all of those guys to understand, we go in that film room and when you’re watching a play on film while we’re sitting in there as a team. It’s difficult for a player to watch that sometimes, because it’s not me, it’s just a film showing it to them. You’re watching two or three guys out there maxing out other guys. It’s not just Justin, there were plays that we showed last game where Zakai as far as he plays maybe getting done what he needs to get done on a procession. Or it’s Santiago (Vescovi) on a block out. Nobody’s perfect, but what we’re trying to get to is we are trying to get as many guys on the same page as possible. The biggest thing is that they understand that we’re in a possession league if teams are playing well. You think about it, we’ve played three games where it’s been a one-possession game, we’re 1-2 in those games. You go back, both of those games we had pretty good looks to win the game or put us up, so getting guys to understand that every possession matters is a big, big thing. It can happen when we were up six, we had three straight bad possessions on offense. Same thing on defense, you score a basket, you get back and give up two straight baskets because you don’t get the right angle on defense. Again, I’m not just talking about Justin, I’m talking about anybody on our team. It’s about consistency, it’s about who can we rely on at certain different times. All the guys have to do a better job with their passes some. Justin, we need him, we need him in a big way. We need them all to be ready because who knows where we are this year with the COVID, we see it, we see it happen we’ve got to have everybody ready to play.”
 
On if playing without Kennedy Chandler and John Fulkerson will benefit Tennessee in future…
“Well you like to think every game you do that, yeah. I think we have a confident team, our guys work hard and they should expect good things. We keep talking about you have to be better at it. We have to practice every day like every possession matters, like every day matters. These guys as a group, they work hard and they’ve done the things we’ve asked them to do. We can get a whole lot better. Can we play without certain guys? I think we can. I said it at the beginning of the year, we have quality depth and it’s up to them to make us use that depth. The way they do it is they show every day that they’re ready to buy into exactly what we need them to do and if every guy on this team does that, we will play 10 or 11 guys.”
 
Uros Plavsic Quotables
 
On how his performance at Alabama helps boost his confidence going forward…
“Honestly, I think it does a lot. At the same time though, I want to give credit to my teammates and coaches. That confidence doesn’t come from myself doing things, it comes from teammates pushing me and making me better every single day in practice. Getting offensive rebounds and working on my free throw game obviously was a big thing in the second half, but I don’t want to make it about myself. It’s something that I do every single day in practice and my teammates help me out with it every single day.”
 
On the mindset of the team going into the Alabama game without John Fulkerson and Kennedy Chandler
“I’ll say one thing—this team has great chemistry. These guys are so close to each other, they love each other and I think missing two important guys like John and Kennedy was really big for us, but at the same time, we knew we had to group up, get together and give our best to go up against a really good Alabama team.”
 
On where he’s improved most since arriving at Tennessee…
“A lot of places. I don’t think I can separate one single thing to talk about, but I would say really everything. I’ve improved on and off the court. The way I’ve grown as a person here with all of these people around me, with this community—that has helped me a lot on the basketball court too. I feel like this is a great environment for me and people around here, you can just feel that they care about you every single day and they love you, they truly do. It’s really easy to be around people and there isn’t one thing that I want to say that I’ve specifically improved, but I feel like I’ve gotten better in every single aspect of my life.”

-UT Athletics

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