@LATechHoops Press Conference Transcript: Oct. 6
Oct. 6, 2014
RUSTON - Louisiana Tech head coach Michael White and senior forward Michale Kyser met with the media on Monday to discuss an array of topics including the start of fall practice and expectations for the 2014-15 season.
HEAD COACH Michael White
Opening Statement: "Recapping the offseason for us, we had a very productive trip to the Bahamas and had a great time. It was definitely a team bonding experience that was much needed, especially relative to the fact that we have nine new comers. We are a very unique team in that we can be perceived as experienced, deservedly so because we have four very good and experienced players. The rest of our team is unbelievably inexperienced. That trip for us was extremely valuable. It carried over to the first day of school where we had smoother workouts than we would have had normally under these different circumstances. We have had a good carry over from the summer. We have had probably a better fall than any other since I have been here.
Overall, the biggest positive of the fall has been our leadership. We have had very good leadership in the past but this class has a chance to be the winningest in school history, comprised of Michale [Kyser], Raheem [Appleby], and Speedy [Smith]. Those are three special young men. They have provided unbelievable leadership this fall. We are in better shape than we were at this time last year. They have been extensions of our staff and make sure we have the correct intensity and enthusiasm level. I'll credit Mike. Those two other guys, Speedy and Raheem, because they are backcourt guys since they have been here they have taken a leadership role. You always ask your guards to be more vocal than other positions. Mike has probably become our most improved leader. He has really put those other front court guys under his arm. I am very proud of the jump he has made in that regard.
Here we are in the first couple days of practice. We were off yesterday so we get back at it today. First couple of practices were pretty good. The enthusiasm level, intensity level and competitiveness were all there. Obviously we have a ton to do, as all college basketball programs in terms of cleaning up some things offensively and defensively. I am pretty pleased where we are at so far this early."
On where would this team be at without the Bahamas trip:
"I am scared about where our team is right now because we have so far to go. It would be very hard to sleep, I would probably have no sleep because of how far we have to go. Our nine new guys are talented and athletic and we are deep. They all have a chance to be really good players here, but Speedy, Raheem and Mike this time their freshman year had a ways to go. They were not ready win a regular season WAC game at that point, in fact it took us a couple of games before we could even win one. You have to keep it all in perspective, in that I am super excited about our freshman class and our junior college transfers in Erik McCree and Leo Edwards, but they are going to be much better in February than they are today. Without that Bahamas trip we would be even further behind."
On how the personnel has changed but the goals are still the same:
"We have been fortunate to be a part of a couple of championships. We would like to do that again. It will continue to be a goal for us, to at least be in the mix late in the conference season. For us, we are eager to take the next step. It is going to happen for this program, I hope it happens this year. I hope it happens with this class. I want it more for these three seniors than anything else and obviously our fan base who has been waiting for a very long time to get back into that NCAA Tournament. We picked individual words for each guy to focus on throughout the year. Our three seniors picked a team word and they quickly decided on our team word being `finish.' That will be our goal and our rallying cry, to finish. Whether that is to be this much more consistent in the regular season, which teams at our level need to do to get an at-large. Whether that is those one or two games that we have given up, where if we had not given them up the last couple of years, we would have gotten an at-large bid. Whether that is winning three in three days which we have had the opportunity to do twice and on day three we just came up a little bit short. Either way, finishing is our ultimate goal."
On setting defined goals:
"I have tried not talking about it, but these three seniors will not let me avoid it. That is what they talk about daily. I am a big ownership guys and I talk a lot, but I want our players to do a lot of talking, especially our leaders. These three seniors are all taking on that leadership ability and role. It is daily dialogue, NCAA Tournament, the next step, finishing. Those guys will not let me, not talk about it. It is out there."
On Raheem Appleby:
"Raheem is 100 percent. He has had his best practices these last couple, than he has had in a long time. In the Bahamas, athletically he was close. In the third game I thought he made some really big plays to get his confidence back. He made some winning plays and was the best player on the court the last 10 minutes of the game, if you include the overtime. I thought that would do some positive things for him. Mentally it has carried over to this fall. Justin Wheeler has done a really good job with him in terms of rehabbing and strengthening. With that type of injury you are dealing with scarring and pain tolerance, but he is playing really well right now. We expect a huge year out of him."
On the depth:
"I really like our depth, I do not like the experience of our depth, but hopefully we can grow. Hopefully two or three guys surprise you with their learning curve, it has happened before with us. We have tried to simplify some things, especially offensively to take advantage of our experienced backcourt. There are less calls, plays, sets, structure and we are more focused on space, taking good shots and valuing the basketball, which will hopefully allow our more inexperienced guys to focus on the more important things like defense and rebounding, championship plays. We are all happy about bringing in more length and more size. Now we have two guards out with injuries, in Jacobi Boykins and Dayon Griffin and we are on the opposite end of the spectrum. We are a program that has played four guard lineups the last three years. If you look at us in practice right now we have 5's playing the 4, 4's playing the 3, and 4's playing the 2 even, on our second team. Needless to say, the team with those three guards was pretty dominant those last couple of practices. I am looking forward to getting Dayon and Jacobi back here pretty soon."
On injury timetables:
"I think Dayon is a couple weeks out, while Jacobi is about four weeks out. Some of that will depend on the healing process. They will be back this year and both will be very good players. Both played really well in the Bahamas. As much as you need guards for games, it is underappreciated how much you need balance for practice. Heck, we may need to have an open tryout and get some of the students over here and pick a couple of guys out of the student section."
On how much the Bahama's trip will help the team get back into form when returning:
"If this was the freshman guards first go around they would be in trouble. They would have zero experience until we play at Southern for the season opener. To have that sort of mini-camp behind them was very valuable."
On the non-conference schedule:
"I hate to say it, but I am not overly pleased with our non-conference schedule. We took some more swings at other teams. You would like to have some SEC and ACC programs on your schedule. You would like to get one of them to come here and we struggle with it. We finished our schedule very late. We spent months and months on it. I put a lot of emails, phone calls and texts into it. We struck out a bunch honestly. I do feel like we bulked it up in a couple of areas, in the fact that we have Syracuse and NC State on the road. Those will obviously be huge challenges. The Coaches vs. Cancer allows us to go to Temple, who I think will be improved from last year. They have a storied tradition there and it will be a hard place to play. We have some opportunities these and some in state road games, which will be very difficult for us. Three rosters with a bunch of Louisiana kids who I am sure will be excited to play Louisiana Tech. We will need to be equally excited to play at Southern, Northwestern State and Lafayette. One of the positives is that with the Coaches vs. Cancer, a multi team event that we have the opportunity to host, it gave us three additional home games. We got to 16 home games after really struggling to generate those. Not a lot of teams are excited to come to Ruston right now, which I think is a testament to our guys. I think a lot of programs around the country, especially at our level that mid-tier level, struggle with the same thing."
"Budgets are different. We like to perceive ourselves as a higher tier mid-major. We have had success and we hope to continue to build on it. The highest tier of mid-majors are generating a lot of money, where they can pay teams to come in. Hopefully we can get to that here in the next few years. A lot of it comes from how you draw and how many home games you get to draw all of those fans. Scheduling is a constant grind. It is a year round grind, we are already working towards next year's schedule. We hope to someday be able to attract some of the higher level opponents to at least take a chance and come to Ruston. I would think, with the people we reached out to this year, when they see that Kyser, Appleby and Smith are about to graduate, I think they would consider us a little bit more strongly."
On the late-December opening date:
"We are really close right now and we are probably going to go with a non-Division 1. Again, we struggled to find a home game. We had a couple of options there late, probably a month ago, to consider road games, but our last non-conference game before Christmas is at NC State, then we open conference play with three on the road. I did not want to have five straight on the road. I did not want to have two straight on the road going into conference play, when we go that Saturday to Southern Miss. We will play a non-Division 1 at home, which will be our only non-Division 1 which will not affect our strength of schedule, RPI, KenPom or whatever numbers you want to talk about."
On replacing the three point shooting of Kenyon McNeail:
"We are going to have to do it by committee. Kenyon is the all-time best here. He was a great young man and he will be very hard to replace. He became such a consistent defender for us and was a tremendous leader. Jacobi Boykins is arguably our best shooter but he is out right now. Sometimes it does not look pretty in shooting drills. Raheem Appleby is shooting as well as he has shot it. Speedy Smith has really improved his stroke over time. Erik McCree is a step out 4 and he is streaky at this time, young in his career where we are focused on improving all of these other areas, as his strength coming here was being a spot up, stretch 4 who can really fill it up. I expect him to have games where he makes a bunch of shots. Hopefully it is more consistent than not. We do not have a Kenyon McNeail, but I think we have six or seven guys that are capable. You just hope that two or three of them are filling it up on certain nights that you need them to. I left out Xavian Stapleton, he is coming off a practice where he hit a bunch of three's. We just have to be consistent. Our percentages have to be up. It is not about going 8 of 10 and the next day going 1 of 10. Let's try to be 3 of 5, every day.
On Branden Sheppard:
"Branden is a great young man, he has really changed his body since he has been here. We challenged him to start eating a little bit better and getting in better shape. He has become a much better runner and athlete because of it. He is going to be a very good player here. He is a stretch 4 or 5, who can really shoot it. He has great hands and a good body. He is a physically tough kid. Branden's problem is Mike Kyser, on top of Joniah White and Leo Edwards which is a good problem to have. Having competition in practice every day, just helps these guys improve every day. They are going at each other's throats and that is what you want to see.
FORWARD Michale Kyser
On being a senior:
"It is a blessing for me to make it this far as a senior with the two other seniors, Speedy and Raheem. The progression has been a good process for me to be able to talk to the freshman and junior college transfers, to help us get to the next level in practice and do whatever it takes to make it to the NCAA Tournament."
On center Joniah White:
"It is great having him there. It is a good test for me having someone taller than me because it is making me better and it is making him better also, because he is a shot blocker as well. He is challenging me to do better and I am challenging him to do better as well and go into each other at practice."
"We had Gilbert Talbot last year, Joniah is probably the same situation except Joniah is even longer than me too. It is a good situation to have him on the team."
On the motto of finish:
"After we did our single words, we went out and talked about it. Every year we have gotten close to making it to the NCAA Tournament. We said we are always going to finish, whether it was in practice or any situation we were in, so that we can make it to the NCAA Tournament."
On being a leader:
"I have become a leader this year because in the past I do not think I have done as much as I could to be a vocal leader to my teammates. I just found the road to becoming a leader so I can help everyone out so we can take the next step."
On the team's defense:
"We are going to be a long athletic team just like last year. We will be even longer this year and shape up very well. We have a lot of athletic players in the front court and back court, so it should be a good process for us to make it to the top."
On who he has modeled his leadership after:
"I would have to say Speedy and Raheem. In the past I have been a player in the shadows not really talking. They talked to me this summer and said I have to be a more vocal person to help the team out. I have just followed their lead so that I can help this team out."
On transitioning to assistant coach Darris Nichols:
"It has been great. We have not focused much on offense yet, mainly defense and rebounding. He has been helping us out a lot, making us stronger and doing whatever we can to get ready for our season opener."
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