Media Day Quotes From Rob Evans As Basketball Practice Begins Saturday

Oct. 9, 2002

Rob Evans met the media on Monday and talked about his Sun Devils, who will take to the court Saturday from 8-10 a.m. and from 3:30-5:30 p.m. at Wells Fargo Arena for the first practices of the year. Fans are encouraged to stop in any practice, as all are open to the public. Here is what Evans had to say about his squad heading into week one of practice.

ON MAKING THE TOURNAMENT'Every year the expectation is to make it to the NCAA tournament. With this basketball team it is more realistic because we have a lot of experience coming back in the backcourt and a lot of talent arriving. I'm excited about this team. We have a more experienced backcourt and to advance you need an experienced backcourt. I think sometimes last year I forgot that Jason Braxton was a freshman starting for us and Curtis Millage was a first-year guy. These guys have been through the Pac-10 battles once, so they know what to expect.'

ON THE PLAYERS BELIEVING THEY CAN WIN THE PAC-10'That's a great goal to have. Now we have to get out there and get it done. I would much rather have them think that then have any kind of negative thoughts. The team has worked very hard and I think the older guys see that we have some young guys that can come in and help them reach that goal.'

ON THE NEWCOMERS'We have some pretty good guys coming in. Ike Diogu is big time talent. I think that will be evident as the season goes on. He has some things to learn, but he's got a lot of talent. Serge Angounou is the same way, very athletic, hard working, long, really runs the floor well, guys I like to coach. Allen Morill same way. Jamal Hill is a guy that fits a lot of our needs. He can shoot outside, he's athletic, he can defend, he can play off guard, and he can play small forward. I'm very excited about the new guys coming in and about the work the old guys are putting in.'

ON THE PLAYERS WORKING IN THE OFF-SEASON'They have been working out extremely hard this off-season. All of them were here at some point during the summer except for Jamal Hill. They were working out on the weights, working on conditioning and working on the court. They had a little success last year against some of the teams in the Pac-10 and that is how you build a program. You start from square one and you start gaining confidence and then you start beating teams that you weren't supposed to beat. As you get better talent you start to believe you can play with those people.'

ON REPLACING CHAD PREWITT'Well its difficult to replace Chad Prewitt when you start talking about his experience and all the things he brought to the table. But I think Ike in his own right will establish himself. He's a guy who has the tools to help us right away. He can help us inside. He can move out to the perimeter and shoot from three-point range, run the floor well, rebound well and block shots. It's no secret why Illinois, Connecticut, Georgetown and everybody were recruiting him. He's big time talent.'

ON JAMAL HILL'He doesn't have the range of Eddie House, but nobody has the range that Eddie has. I think one of the things he does is he can shoot the basketball from the perimeter and he has a sense of the game. He has played a lot of basketball and he is a hard worker. So you add all those things together and he brings a lot to the table for us. We knew we needed someone from the perimeter so we went to the junior colleges and recruited him.'

ON THE BACKCOURT'I think it (the relationship) will be a lot stronger because they have played together along with Kyle and Kenny. They have all played together and know where each other want the basketball. I think its going to be huge. I think it was a difficult assignment last year for those guys initially, but I think they did an incredible job.'

ON BEING PHYSICAL'Everybody thought we were a real physical team last year. But I don't see that because we were sitting there with guys 6-9 and 190 pounds. The game of college basketball is a physical game, especially on the defensive end of the floor on the glass. One thing the young guys bring to the table is that they are already physically strong enough to compete at this level. Now its just the matter of understanding the mental aspect and how hard you have to play all the time and that comes with time.'

ON FREE THROW SHOOTING'We aren't doing anything different with free throw shooting, except getting better free throw shooters. We got some guys who are pretty good free throw shooters. If you look at the stats from last year, our weak free throw shooting came from two or three guys but I think we have improved. These guys have worked extremely hard and you have to understand a lot of that came from inexperience. You are putting young guys into situations where every point counts and on this level they have to feel comfortable with that. We got some guys who will shoot better free throws. It cost us some games, and it always does. It is interesting that I saw Sacramento lose a ball game to the Lakers because they didn't make free throws and those are the pros. It's not as easy as it seems. We will continually work on it and we are doing everything we can to make them better free throw shooters. I think you will see an improvement in Jason Braxton's shooting and in his free throw shooting. I think at the end of the season Curtis Millage became a good free throw shooter. I think Tommy Smith can become a better free throw shooter. You got guys like Jamal and Serge, who was 18-of-18 in the state tournament so I think we will be a better free throw shooting team and it is important in this league to make free throws because the games are going to be close.'

ON HIS FIRST RECRUITING CLASS'They meant a tremendous amount to me. Those guys came here when they had opportunities to go to other places, but they came here on a promise. They were going to build this program and they were going to be a huge part of it. Those guys have spent a tremendous amount of effort and time recruiting the guys that come after them. Donnell Knight worked as hard recruiting Jamal Hill as anybody knowing that he was going to compete against him. I can say the same thing about a lot of the other guys. They worked extremely hard recruiting these other guys. They mean a lot. The biggest thing for me is that all of those guys are on track to get their degree. No matter what happens, all of them walk out of here with a degree. I feel they have been successful.'

ON FOUR YEAR PLAYERS'We've only had Eddie House and Chad Prewitt who were four year guys over the course of the last few years. So it's important for us to have stability. Those guys have certainly done a good job of providing that for us and I think that will help us this year. Again, all of those guys have played an awful lot of basketball games in the Pac-10 against great competition. Now they are seniors, so the experience they have will help us not only with them in the basketball game but with they young guys we have in there as well. They are always talking to the young kids about what to expect. We only had Eddie House to tell everybody that since we've been here. Last year Chad Prewitt tried to tell the guys that, but he was only one year older than the rest of those guys.'

ON COMPARING MISSISSIPPI TO ARIZONA STATE'One thing about this league, is that this league doesn't come back to you, you have got to go to it because the Arizona's, the UCLA's, the Stanford's, the Cal's people like that won't become worse. They are going to get better. So it takes a little bit of time for you to get your pieces in place in order to compete. But I certainly feel like we can compete with anybody in this league and I do sense that it is somewhat like Mississippi because in the fourth year we were able to beat some people in our conference and the next year we were fortunate enough to win our league. Now we have some experience, we are starting to get into some homes we weren't able to get into early on, but that was the game plan when we came in to build this program on a sound foundation. Once we become successful all we have to do is keep re-tooling it and not revamp it all the way. We are pleased and excited. I'm excited and anxious to get practices started to see where we are.'

ON HIS DECISION TO STAY AT ASU'It wasn't real difficult for me, because my wife and, I as I have stated long ago, make decisions on people and we make decisions on what we feel is right, not finances. The finances were great, but we came to Arizona State to do some things. The people at Arizona State have been great to my wife and I. The patience has been show for us, so it wasn't that difficult. What the difficult part for me was that it was home and that a lot of the people we knew were calling and talking to us about it. In the end we felt it was right and we feel great about it now.'

ON SUPPORT OF HIS DECISION'Absolutely. I can't tell you how many emails and letters I've got still today. I was at a function last night for Ed and Nadine Carson at the Phoenician. One of the professors came up to me and said, 'I don't normally go to basketball games, but because of the commitment you made I bought four season tickets.' I've heard that from a lot of different people. I hope that what we decided to do helps in that regard, but regardless we are going to put some people in the stands because we are going to be an exciting basketball team. We are going to continue on the path that we started four years ago and that is building our program with solid kids and solid talent.'

ON JASON BRAXTON AND TOMMY SMITH IN THE OFF-SEASON'I think the biggest thing that happened to those guys is they had a chance to play with some of the pros this summer. They found out how hard they work and what they have to work on. Jason came back and I can't tell you how many hours he spent in the gym, alone. He said, 'I know what I have to do.' You can talk to them all day long, but once they go and actually see they understand. One of the pros told Jason, 'They can talk to you about shooting, they can talk to you about free throw shooting, but you have to get in the gym.' I think it was one of the young men from Philadelphia and he was just a so-so shooter, but he said, 'I spent tons of hours in the gym.' That's what Jason has done. Jason has been in the gym along with the rest of them. Tommy has just done a wonderful job of working. He went to the ABCD camp, and the pro scouts told me he was the best up there as far as work ethic. Some of the guys were taking drills off but Tommy did every drill. That made me feel good.'

ON THE ASU STYLE OF PLAY THIS SEASON'We will be a lot more athletic, we will be a better defensive basketball team, and we will be a lot deeper. At one point we were 14 and 9 late in the season last year. Then we lost Chad Prewitt, Awvee and Kenny. We couldn't sustain it with those three guys, that's three starters. If we loose a few guys this year we can sustain it because we've got depth. But its taken us a while to garner that depth. There is going to be a lot of competition. I didn't say anything about Kevin Kruger. Kevin Kruger may be the best shooter on this basketball team, he can really shoot the basketball. I'm excited about him. He is a gym rat and we may redshirt him this year and we probably will. That was the attitude we had coming in, but he may force us not to.'

ON EXPECTATIONS'My expectations are for this basketball team to be competitive in every basketball game we play, from Moorehead State to Kentucky to UCLA to Arizona. I expect us to be competitive and have a chance to win every basketball game. We haven't been able to do that on a consistent basis with this program up to this point. If you say how many games do you expect us to win, I don't know how many games we can win. But I do know we have an opportunity to win every basketball game we play.'

ON GOALS'Our goal is always to get to the NCAA tournament. I think it's a realistic goal with this basketball team. Our schedule is pretty heavy early on. It's going to be one of the toughest schedules in the country. I'm heading to Vegas tomorrow to have a meeting with ESPN on the doubleheader there with Purdue, Stanford and UNLV. We have Kentucky and the possibility of playing Virginia, Indiana and all of those people. I think its going to be a great schedule for us to get our guys ready for Pac-10 play. We need to win some of those games.'

ON THE SCHEDULE'This league is tough anyway. Your RPI ranking is going to be high anyway. But you have to have a certain amount of wins to get to the NCAA tournament no matter what. We don't have any easy basketball games. We have Lafayette. Some people say that's an easy basketball game, but we are coming back from Hawaii on one days rest, that's not an easy basketball game when you do that. It's a tough schedule. But I think the fact that we played in a tough league last year with these guys, who were able to win some of those games and able to compete in a lot of them, is the reason why these guys have a lot of the confidence going in.'

ON THE FRESHMEN CLASS'I'm not putting any heavy expectations on them. The older guys are, because the older guys get out there and play with them everyday. You are talking about Ike Diogu and Serge Angonou. Those guys aren't worried about expectations. They are very intelligent young men. I think Ike said it early on, he is just coming in to play. When Serge Angonou had 40-some points against Hobbs in the state tournament, I called him and said how many points did you get and he said, 'Points? I don't know, I just play.' Serge is just excited about playing. These guys know what the expectations are. Jamal knows the expectations. They have enough experience where the load is not on their shoulders. They are coming in here to help us be successful. They are not saviors for us.'

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