Herb Sendek Media Day Quotes

Oct. 16, 2008

Herb Sendek met with the media Thursday and answered a bunch of questions (26 of them to be exact).

THOUGHTS ON THIS YEAR'S TEAM
'It's a little bit of an oxymoron. We're an experienced team but we have one senior and three juniors, so from that standpoint our upper classes are still not flooded. We have guys who have played in games, we have guys who have gone through the Pac-10 and as a result we do have some experience on our basketball team.'

LAST SEASON AFFECTING THIS SEASON
'I think we always want to learn from ever experience. We come to this moment bringing forward all the things that we have gone through in our past, but at the same time, I think it's important, although we've learned from the past, that we really focus on the present. This is a new season, a new team, and I think we have to treat it as such. Our guys certainly remember the lessons learned from last year. But this is a new team, different dynamics and a brand new schedule to play.'

ON OFFENSE
'Some things will remain the same. We'll hold on to our core principles, the things we think have to be part of every team that we have. But we're always trying to put the players that we have in the best position to be successful. We learn more about the strengths of our returning players and we try to incorporate new guys. We're always going to make some shifts to hopefully improve and to put our guys in the best position to have a good season. It will be a little bit of both, there will be some things that look familiar, some things that look new from one year to the next. We will always have some new things, some things that best take advantage of our present personnel.'

ON BEING RANKED
'Our guys have a very nice balance of humility. They recognize that they have a great deal of work to do, offset by a reasonable self confidence, a sense of sureness about themselves. I don't see them getting carried away in either direction. You need both in sports to be successful. You have to have a sense of humility so you stay hungry. You keep striving to improve. At the same time, in order to compete at the highest level, to perform when the lights are on, you have to feel good about yourself, you have to have confidence, you have to believe in yourself and each other and I see our team as being able to balance the two. I don't see them getting carried away with themselves and at the same time I don't see it being a shrinking violence either.'

ON IMPACT OF RECRUITS
'Last year, out of necessity, our freshman had to play immediately. They had to play in many cases significant roles the first day of practice. I don't know that that will be the case with this year's team. Obviously that's why we'll practice and begin to shape and define roles and our rotation will be determined on the practice floor the next several weeks.'

ON THE EXPECTATIONS
'I think expectations are a good thing. I'm glad that people are talking positively about Arizona State basketball. I'm glad we're in the discussion. I don't want to shy away from that. We welcome that. It certainly beats the alternative. If people expect you to do badly, and if they don't think highly of you, that's a problem of different sorts. Of the two I'd much rather have people thinking well of us. I like the challenge of the higher expectations much better. But at the same time it's clear that we have a lot of work to do yet. We have a lot of improvement ahead of us. It's important that we keep our feet on the ground and we maintain that grinding mentality.'

ON James Harden's PRESEASON PUBLICITY
'James has deserved everything that's come his way. He clearly distinguished himself as one of the best players in the country last year. When he decided to return he automatically became one of the preseason favorites for All-American teams and for other notorieties. He's earned it. He's a special player and those of you who know him and talk with him know he's even a better person. He's the best. He's a gentleman and he has a great personality and a tremendous sense of humor. He's just easy to like, and he is so unselfish and so team centered that you couldn't ask for a guy with his talent quotient to be better in those areas.

ON James Harden's LEADERSHIP
'I think we started to see it throughout last season. We typically don't reserve leadership for the oldest guys on the team, but we ask everybody to offer their leadership through their own way as opportunities present themselves throughout the season. You're constantly cultivating your leadership skills and everybody can offer in that area. James was able to provide excellent leadership last year. Not just by what he said, but by his example. For instance he was really sick in Tucson and didn't play his best game of the year, but our team found strength in the fact that he was on the court. He wasn't himself, he was very sick, he gutted it out and he played. We didn't benefit from his points but our team benefited by his presence. They believed because he was still on the floor.'

DID YOU EXPECT JAMES TO SUCH A LEADER AS A FRESHMAN?
'I knew we had an extraordinary young man. At every turn he stepped up and delivered last year. We put an awful lot on his plate and asked him to do so many things right from the get go.'

ON PUSHING THE BALL OUR FIRST SEASON
'Our first year, we really tried to take the air out of the ball. We tried to keep it as close as we could in hopes that somebody would bank one in from half court for us at the buzzer in order to win. Our second year, we really tried to push it on every make and miss. We always didn't do that, but that was our intention. It's much easier to talk about that than it is to do it. It takes tremendous constitution and great conditioning to actually push it at that pace from beginning to end makes and misses. Our intention was to do that last year and I thought we scored a number of baskets in that manner. We'll once again make that a focal point and I think our team will be better in that area.'

ON DEVELOPMENT OF POINT GUARD
'That's a part of it but it takes everybody. Your point guard can't run by himself. It takes everybody committed to that. You'll hear teams around the country talking about playing up tempo, pushing it and playing faster. Especially when you get into conference play you better be able to execute in the quarter court. You better be able to play half court basketball because good teams get back in transition. They don't give you a lot of easy baskets. We talked about that being a fun component of basketball and we most certainly want to incorporate it, as do most teams. In the middle of the season, whether you turn on a Big 10 game or an NBA game you better be able to score in the quarter court.'

DOES MORE EXPERIENCE MEAN YOU WILL PUSH IT MORE?
I don't think our intention is to push it anymore or less than last year. Our intention is simply to do it well, and I thought we were fairly good at is last year.'

ON Eric Boateng
'Eric has had a terrific off-season. Believe it or not his body fat percentage is at eight from 18 percent last year. He literally has carved out a new body. Last year he regained experience after a two-year layoff. He played his best basketball down the home stretch. With the kind of off-season he's had, I fully expect him to pick up where he left off and have a terrific junior year for us.'

CAN JEFF AND ERIC PLAY TOGETHER?
I think Jeff and Eric can play together. Our team will be able to be a little bit more flexible in the kinds of line-ups that we put together.

ON WHAT Jeff Pendergraph MEANS TO THIS TEAM
'When I arrived here I asked Jeff to be not just a great player on the floor, but a real ambassador. He's somebody who has really embraced that role. We've used him to help us in recruiting and we've used him to help us with marketing. If guests come to practice he's always the guy who seems to stay after and spend an extra five minutes with them. He's done a terrific job in the classroom. He's improved as a basketball player every step of the way. He's really been the face of our program on and off the court for the last four years. He's meant a tremendous amount to our basketball program. We're delighted he's decided to come back for his senior year and I know he's looking forward to it. It's always a little bit more special when you go through some challenging times and then you start to see some breakthroughs.'

ON JEFF AND JAMES GETTING MEDIA ATTENTION
'We're fortunate to play the ultimate team game. Our guys are great about sharing the credit and about turning the spot light to each other. We have a group that has no trouble at all checking their egos at the door, and I love that about them. It's really something that I think those guys look forward to is talking about their teammates. They enjoy each other being uplifted and that's been a real positive attribute to this team.'

ON JEFF BEING AN AMBASSADOR FOR THE PROGRAM
Jeff immediately struck me as a guy who had credibility, because he obviously was the best player on the team. He had status. But at the same time, he really took his studies seriously. His school work and degree were important to him. He was a consummate student athlete. On top of that, he's a gentleman. He's a genuinely nice person so he's somebody that's easier for other to connect with. He enjoys spending time with young people. He's easy to smile. Those things stood out to me. We wanted him to be a guy that we could put out in front and help us on all those levels and he's been able to do that.

ON THE THREE-POINT LINE MOVING BACK
'It remains to be seen how much of a dramatic affect it has on basketball. I would guess the percentages will drop, perhaps marginally. I don't know that they'll plummet. There might be some coaches who will say they need to play more zone because of it. Back in '87 when the line first came in I said that it would increase upsets, and I think that's happened. I just wish that when they had moved the line back that they also would have considered looking at the lane. Every year it seems points of emphasis include rough low post play, rugged play off the ball and congestion. When you move the line back you tempt some coaches to contract their defenses even more. I think moving the line back is fine. The three point shot as it was, was fairly close, especially in light of the international and NBA lines. I would have also been a proponent of opening up the lane. I still think the ability for the offense to move is good. Over the years our game has become more and more physical. I would also be in favor of just going to the international lane and international line. Our sport is a global sport right now. It's played and loved all over the world, and I think we should just join ranks and have the same markings on the floor as they do internationally. I don't know that we have to stand alone as a country and keep the traditional markings we have in college basketball. I think it would be good to join the rest of the world.

ON THE URGENCY TO PERFORM WELL THIS YEAR
'We always have urgency. The first day of practice I came here I had a great urgency. I don't know that it's possible to have a greater urgency. We always try our best and prepare. We always work as hard as we can while trying to maintain appropriate prospective and balance in intercollegiate athletics. We were trying to dive for balls last year and we were trying to take charges last year. It's just a normal way of going about it. Hopefully as you compete and strive you never lose sight of your responsibility to represent the institution the right way. Most importantly you're the best leader you can be for the players on your team and you have a proper perspective and balance. Sometimes that can get out of whack if you're not careful.'

ON THE SCHEDULE
'Our schedule turned out very challenging. It was going to be even more challenging but we had a couple things fall through at the stroke of midnight. Scheduling is a two way street, there has to be some reciprocity from the other side. I think our schedule is very competitive. Keep in mind, unlike every power conference, the Pac-10 plays 18 conference games. They have this single number they use to judge non-conference schedule strength. For some conferences, that includes two more games than the Pac-10. You know your conference games are going to be all high competition games.'

TALKING ABOUT SCHEDULING AFTER LAST YEAR
'I think we always want a schedule with the intent of giving our team the best chance of making the NCAA tournament. To the extent you can forecast how good anybody is going to be. Last year when we put our schedule together we were coming off our first year where we won eight games. We knew we would start three or four freshman. From the perspective we had before it all happened, it seemed more than a bite size piece. To do more than our schedule last year could have been suicidal. This year, our schedule reflects our team's needs to the extent that we could control who we wanted to play. I think our schedule this year will be more than challenging for us.'

ON DEVELOPING CONSISTENCY WITH ALL THE PLAYERS
'The best teams have great players who step up and can get things done. Good teams also have the ability to have different guys step up on different nights. I thought we had some of that last year and I expect us to do the same this year. Guys just have to understand their roles. At the end of the day it's still the ultimate team game. Ty (Abbott) had some terrific games. Time and time again he made big threes. He had a tremendous capacity to make big shots.'

ON TY ABBOT DRIVING MORE
'I'd like to see all of our players advancing and adding different things to their games. At the same time, it's ok to do what you do. If you're good at something, it's ok to do that. I think he set the ASU record last year for three pointers made as a freshman.'

ON NEW PLAYERS GETTING PLAYING TIME
'It's not fair to go in with your mind made up as a coach. You have to let guys earn playing time on the practice floor. We have three freshman we added: Johnny Coy from St. Joseph, Mo. and Taylor Rohde and Stephen Rogers from here in the Valley. Those guys will compliment our returners.'

ON DIFFERENCE IN Jamelle McMillan AFTER SUMMER
'Jamelle has always been a very serious-minded young man. He's been mature beyond his years and has tremendous leadership capabilities. Jamel is always about doing what's best and what's right. I have tremendous confidence in him as a leader and as a player. He didn't need Beijing to show him for the first time. He's been around it all of his life and he understands it.'

ON COMPETITION FOR POINT GUARD SPOT WITH DEREK AND JAMELLE
'It's important that they both do well for us. It's important for both of those guys together to give us great point guard play.'

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