Bob Bender Press Meeting
Jan. 30, 2001
On Washington State's coming together through recent problems:
'They seem to be reacting after the adversity of Eddie Miller being sent home and released. It seems like it has brought them together very very well. Usually when something like this happens it takes two things. First, you have to recognize and believe that whatever the adversity was, be it disciplinary reasons or injuries that have occurred, that the team can benefit from it. If you make a mistake, admit to it, move on and be stronger for it. If the guys who were sent home felt that way and had the influence of their teammates who were still in Eugene playing then it brings them together. The other one is that kids need to know that in spite of what might not be the best situation, they need to seize the opportunity. In the case of Eddie Miller whose minutes were considerable and role was pretty important, other people can build on their own game and seize the opportunity. This is like the case of an injury where the result is devastating to the individual, but somebody else may be able to rise up to the occasion and take advantage of it. These are things that normally happen in the case of adversity and how a team reacts. In WSU's case I think they have been reacting very positively. I definitely think since that happened even though they have lost three, they are playing well. They have been playing better and better and better. That's a credit to Paul (Graham). He was in one of those positions where everyone talks about discipline and when something happens you have to do it and hope everyone responds to it and respects it.'
On Washington State Guard Marcus Moore:
'He's good. He's an exciting player. He can score but he really picks you apart with his passing and when he penetrates. There are different ways of playing guys like that once they get penetration. Some you say 'take away the pass' and make him be a finisher. Others you say 'we have to come to help' and make him have to find open people. With him you have to be able to first stop him from getting to the middle of the floor. When he is in the middle of the floor, he is in the middle of your defense and you are in trouble. He is really creative. His guys are starting to understand how to play with him. They are always ready because he is going to get you the ball. If you are not ready you are going to get hit in the head or fumble one out of bounds. He can also get hot from the three. He has good size. There are a lot of things he is going to have an impact on every game with, but you absolutely have to keep him out of the middle of the floor. Marcus Moore is starting to come into his own.'
On UW center David Dixon's improvement:
'He's starting to be a factor on the low block. He had his two best games of his career by far when you consider who they were against (Stanford and California). Sometimes that's all it takes to have some confidence built up and be better for it. After seeing what he does in practice this week maybe you can start to see that play with some consistency. The other part of it is when you are a big guy, your confidence has to go up and your teammates' confidence has to go up too to get you the ball. In the second half of the Cal game you could see just in how we fought and faced the basket that we were looking for him and that hasn't happened in a while. I am hoping the confidence he got from playing well will cause him to work even harder. In getting to know David it's not his nature to give up on things. He made the Dean's list this past quarter. That says a lot about a kid who has had a lot of scrutiny. We had one player make the Dean's list and that was David Dixon with a 3.60.'
On helping his freshman players' deal with a tough season:
'You don't change how you approach practice. That is where you have to get through tough times. You have to work harder and concentrate on the things you need to improve on. There are no short cuts in that regard. You can't let your work habits in practice reflect a losing record. They have to be maintained at a very high level and that is a hard thing for freshman to understand when you have a winning record and things are going well. These two are pretty interesting. Personality-wise they are both resilient. I haven't seen a whole lot change in them mentally, especially their energy. Their concentration at times is like freshmen, when you constantly have to remind them that hey 'what are getting ready to do, what are we trying to accomplish.' As far their spirits they are pretty resilient. Curtis is one of those guys who keep things loose. Whether he is a freshman or not he is pretty vocal and he'll make a comment that will ease the tension in practice or the locker room setting and that's helpful.'
On the possibility of starting both Allen and Massingale:
'Yes, we will consider that. Our biggest problem that is when they are on the floor together their defensive responsibilities have not been covered like they need to be. One will penetrate and one doesn't get back. But on Saturday (against Cal) they were starting to do that. They are taking away that one obstacle that has been there in our minds about putting them out there together. Curtis is going to start this Saturday along with David (Dixon) and Will (Perkins) but the other ones I'm leaving open this week for me to make a decision and certainly C.J. will be a consideration.'
On Washington State guard Mike Bush:
'Mike Bush has become a better player. He is just as aggressive and athletic as he's always been but his skills have improved. He's doing a lot of things that you didn't see him do a year ago. When he gets the ball off the glass on a defensive rebound he is more than capable and comfortable on pushing the ball upcourt him self and pulling up for a jumper or taking it all the way to the basket. Before you had to run the lanes with him because he would outrun you. Now he can put it in his own hands. It just shows his development. Both he and Moore have stepped up.'
On WSU coming to Seattle trying to end their road losing streak:
'We told our players that this is a much improved, better Washington State basketball team right now than it was two weeks ago and we had better respect that. I asked them 'what was the Cal score?' What was the Stanford score?' The reason was that they (WSU) played those teams better than we did and that is what we have to understand. Our hunger is that we need to win but we better respect the fact that this is a much better basketball team that their record indicates. Especially in the last three games. They have lost the same number we have but they have been playing really well.'
On his last two seasons:
'In coaching there will never be a year when there won't be a learning in how you deal with situations you are in or how you deal with individual on your team because that changes every year. I don't like to lose, no one likes to lose. It's how you deal with it. I sometimes walk into this building and I think some people wonder what kink of mood I'm going to be in. I am always going to be in a good mood. I'm doing great. I don't want people to feel sorry for me. I don't want people to feel sorry for us. I appreciate when people call and say 'keep your head up'. I appreciate it very much. We'll get through it. You know the thing I love most. The thing that I love about it. It's not like a computer game or a game on paper. I still thrive on the most basic of what it is. It's competition. You either go out and do it or you don't and I love that. I believe that we will find ways to win and we will get it done... this year. Every week maybe there is some new drama added to it in what we need to do and that's a quick motivator and it keeps you hungry and I like that.'
On the Huskies' recent shooting struggles:
'I wish we would shoot the ball better. You have to look at and break it down these ways. Look at number of attempts per person. Are the guys who you feel are your best shooters getting enough shots. Secondly, you have to look back at tape and say 'are they good shots.' When you are missing open shots and you have they guys you want shooting the ball I don't know much else you can do. Like in many sports skill is required and that skill is lacking right now. We have dedicated more time in practice to free throws and shooting drills just to maybe get somebody to break out and get into a rhythm just in practice so maybe they can be a spark in a game. It's probably a lot of confidence but that's the way it is. If the ball is not going in the basket you get a little tight, you don't shoot it in rhythm, you are not ready to shoot it because you are not really sure you want to, all those things.'