Here are some quotes I transcribed from Steve Lavin, Kevin Willard, and Buzz Williams during today's Big East teleconference. Highlights include pre-game quotes for St. John's trip to Seton Hall tomorrow night, Kevin Willard dropping a hint about the 2014 recruiting class possibly gaining a member, and further explanation from Willard on the psyche of his team.
Steve Lavin on playing Seton Hall tomorrow night: "The team has made progress and we're pleased to have to picked up some wins along the way here and we face a very difficult challenge tomorrow night against Seton Hall, a team that has won at Xavier and at Georgetown. Enough said with those results. I don't think we've won there since the 1990s or even before. I think Fran Fraschilla was the coach the last time St. John's had a victory at Seton Hall."
St. John's has not won at Seton Hall since February 15th, 1998.
"It's a team that puts you in a bind, because Teague is so dominant down low. Oliver has the long-range marksmanship from distance. Gibbs beats you off the bounce and gets to the free throw line with frequency and play-makes and shot-makes at the mid-range as well as any guard in our conference. Edwin is a very dynamic slasher, athletic, shot-maker, play-maker as well, and that's just to name a few of their players.
"Our team knows we have our hands full, but we're pleased that we're making progress. Incremental, no doubt, taking baby steps here, but we have improved over the course of the season."
Kevin Willard on St. John's: "Getting ready for one of the hottest teams in college basketball right now. Steve has done a terrific job with this group, rounding them into form, and they're playing really good basketball.
"D`Angelo Harrison is, I think, playing as good as anybody in the conference right now, not only scoring the basketball, but all-around creating shots. It seems like ever since we played JaKarr [Sampson] last time, he has really picked up his game. His mid-range game is terrific.
"A really big test for us, obviously on a 1-day prep, but looking forward to the challenge."
Willard on St. John's freshman guard Rysheed Jordan: "I think his progression from the beginning of the year until now has been really fun to watch. He's passing the ball so well, he's defending, he's creating a lot of havoc, he's getting a lot of steals, he's creating their tempo for them, he's really pushing it at a great pace and he's making great decisions. Although he's a freshman, he's probably playing as good as anybody in the conference right now."
When asked by Jerry Carino about the team's focus: "It's frustrating. Going back last night and watching the tape, then watching it again this morning, it's not that they're not giving good effort. That's where I'm getting a little frustrated at, they're giving me good effort, they're trying to do what they can do, they're not understanding the opportunity... They just don't understand the fact that they have the chance to do something here. I just have to keep talking to them about it, keep showing it to them, and hopefully I can knock it through their heads."
Explaining the benefits of Seton Hall's top-15 2014 recruiting class: "I think the class has really generated some great excitement. And obviously with the guys that we're bringing in, the younger players in the area are excited about that and want to play with other great players. We're bringing in right now 5 guys and maybe even bringing in 6. We lose 4 seniors this year and 3 juniors next year, so there's an opportunity for more young guys to come in and play with these guys. Its definitely helped us, its given us good excitement. And I think the other thing that's helped us is that all the guys that we've signed and are coming next year are playing really good basketball right now."
Brendan Prunty asked if the upperclassmen are failing to take their opportunities because of seeing examples [Herb Pope, Jordan Theodore, Jeremy Hazell, etc.] fail to reach the NCAA tournament/have success before them: "The only problem with that, all kids think they're different than the kids before them. They all think ‘That guy was really screwed up, I'm not. He wasn't that good, I'm better than him.' I think that's part of the frustrating problem. Each group of kids sees the group before them as maybe not as good, ‘We're better than they are.'
"The tough thing about these guys is that the injuries, the injury to Eugene [Teague] has really derailed the season that he was having. He was really starting to play at a high level, he was in great shape. Missing three weeks, I think really kinda hurt where his progression was going. When he got hurt, it really hurt where we could go [progression-wise]. That's why I'm frustrated with this group. They've got to understand where we were, and what we're capable of, and not where we are right now. "
Prunty then followed up by asking if the team is used to dealing with injuries: "I think these guys are definitely used to injuries, but I think what I'm trying to say is we haven't had a whole lot of time for people to jell and get better, and now that everybody is back, we can't just sit back and say ‘Okay, everybody is back, we're going to play good.' We need to grasp the opportunity of everybody being back and everybody being healthy and work on getting better. That's my frustration. Everybody is kind of healthy right now, but the older guys aren't understanding their responsibility. We have to work on getting better. We have to take advantage of getting better and we've struggled with that over the last couple weeks."
Buzz Williams on last night's game: "Thankful we won. All it does is allow us to live to fight another day. As I said last night, I think Coach Willard's team is completely different almost every single time we play them just because of injuries they've had to fight through. I think it was 3, it could have been 4 of the guys they started at our place when we played them last month was completely different than who they were able to play with last night. I think they're a dangerous team when they're healthy."
I originally read Kevin Willard's line about bringing in a sixth member of the recruiting class as a sign that a) there may be an outgoing transfer or b) redshirt junior Patrik Auda is considering leaving the team after/if he graduates in the spring.
Jerry Carino brought up a good point that Willard could have also been inferring that one of Seton Hall's five current commitments will not qualify. While a possibility, this doesn't fully explain Willard saying that Seton Hall has four seniors and three juniors (Manga, Auda, Karlis, Mobley) on its roster. Perhaps he misspoke. It also wouldn't exactly be a six-man class (on paper, maybe, but not effectively) if one kid is already unlikely to qualify.
Any other possibilities that you guys can think of?
@CerasolisGhost Or an incoming recruit to not qualify. Could be more likely than Auda leaving.— Jerry Carino (@NJHoopsHaven) February 12, 2014