The weather outside was frightful (snapping my wonderful SHU umbrella that had never failed me for 3 years), but inside the New York Athletic Club on Wednesday, the event signifying the return of Big East Basketball was indeed delightful.
Attending for WSOU, I ran into several Twitter friends, including @friarblog, @jadendaly, and others. But on to the business- the quotes from the various players and coaches I talked to.
First up will be the Pirates (Kevin Willard was there with Jordan Theodore and Herb Pope as expected). I talked to Willard and Pope (Theodore was busy with other interviewers). The quotes from some of the other coaches I talked to will come out tomorrow in a separate post.
Kevin Willard, on possible lineups fans could see this year:
"Even if (Kevin Johnson) is ruled eligible, you'll see some 4-out, 1-in because you can't really depend on a freshman to play 30 minutes a game. So we'll have to adjust (based on Johnson's situation), but there's a lot of teams in college basketball that will have to adjust."
On Haralds Karlis and Aaron Cosby:
"Both of those guys have been great. Both were here the whole summer, so they kind of got a jump start on the other young guys, both strength-wise and understanding what to expect. Both those guys are going to see major minutes."
Herb Pope, on working out with John Lucas over the summer:
"I've know (John Lucas' son) Jai for a long time... and his dad was always like 'come work out sometime,' and I (thought) 'Aw, you're so strict.' But then I said 'you know what? I need to do that this summer... I'm not gonna waste any time.' So all I did this summer was train, and John (Lucas) opened his arms and said to go all-out."
On how he felt last year, and how he feels now:
"I felt horrible last year, man. I had times where I had a good first half, but couldn't do the same in the second half, or have a bad first half, and a good second half. So coach (Willard) said 'Let's go out there and have two good halves.' Now at practice when I get tired, (Willard) says 'Herb- it's time for that second half to go all-out.' I'm fighting through fatigue, I'm not really tired, I'm not bending over, not taking as many water breaks, so I'm really excited. I've got a little chip on my shoulder because I know my abilities and I guess the naysayers didn't see it coming into this year. I'm ready to go out there and play basketball now... time to roll out the balls and go."
On his rigorous schedule over the summer:
"We ran three miles at 7:30 in the morning, 9:00 you go to the gym until 11, you eat, counseling until 1:00, lift weights at 1:30, get back in the gym and play from 2:30 to 4:30. After that you chill, rest up, and then run two miles at night (it's not timed, you just have to run the two miles). And that's for 7 weeks with Sundays off. It was like boot camp. When I got back (to South Orange), I had 10 days to just relax, then Coach Willard says we want to run this up-tempo style. I go from distance running to sprinting, and I'm like 'Wow- I'm not tired, I'm not bending over, I'm ready for the workouts, and he says 'Wow- you really did do a lot of running'... when your head coach says that, you get excited. I'm just ready to go."
On the new, up-tempo system:
"It's back to what I did my sophomore year- running and gunning. There are a lot more Xs and Os- that's the main difference. But we're going up and down quick. No one has a set spot- we're all interchangable, and we're not very big, so everyone has to learn everybody's position, running and filling the spots on the breaks, and just go play basketball."
More quotes from Mike Rice, Oliver Purnell, Mick Cronin, Jay Wright, Ed Cooley, Buzz Williams and Rick Pitino coming up tomorrow!