Pac-12 coaches teleconference: Battle of the Bachynski brothers
In this week's Pac-12 basketball coaches teleconference, Washington State's Ken Bone and Washington's Lorenzo Romar discussed how the recruiting philosophies have changed because of the new emphasis on hand-checking rules. Plus, two brothers face off when Utah and Arizona State battle, and Larry Krystkowiak thinks Delon Wright's shot is coming along.
Utah's Larry Krystkowiak
Krystkowiak was asked Tuesday about the Utes' field goal shooting that's third-best in the nation at 51 percent. He was quick to credit transfer Delon Wright for much of the improvement. “It's funny cause I don't feel like we've been shooting the ball all that well. I think Delon Wright, you can probably start with him in terms of individually taking high-percentage shots, in combination with him being a good passer. I think it's contagious,” Krystkowiak said.
Wright is shooting 63.5 percent but is only a 22.6 percent three-point shooter. Krystkowiak said the junior's shot is coming along. Utah coaches are “almost daring him to shoot jump shots,” Krystkowiak said. “I've watched him shoot the three, a little slower of a release. They're not bad misses, they're not left and right misses. Mechanically and fundamentally, he's a solid shooter and he's going to have to start making players pay for going under (pick-and-rolls).”
Fun storyline of the week: Utah center Dallin Bachynski faces big brother, ASU center Jordan Bachynski, who leads the NCAA with 4.5 blocks per game. “Dallin has been great, probably our highest-energy player,” Krystkowiak said. “Weightroom-wise, he's off the charts with a lot of our testing. The biggest thing with Dallin is maybe freeing up his mind … to kind of being that enforcer for us in the middle.”
Arizona State Sun Devils
Center Jordan Bachynski has had his successes and struggles at ASU, but Sendek said he's most glad about how the big man has approached his individual improvement. “He's done a great job of just honoring the process. He has stayed with it over the course of his four-year career. His body has gotten bigger, he's gotten stronger. He's really blessed with some amazing, unique gifts. He just kind of keeps choppin' wood,” Sendek said.
Sendek said guard Jermaine Marshall's status is still “uncertain” for a Thursday game against Utah. Marshall injured his groin and missed last week's game at No. 1 Arizona.
On Arizona point guard T.J. McConnell after ASU fell 91-68 last week to the rival Wildcats: “In a lot of ways, I think Nick Johnson is the most outstanding player. T.J. is the most valuable player for the team. He's the guy who pulls it all together for them. He's a winner in every way. He's a coach's dream.”
Washington State's Ken Bone
Bone said the NCAA rule changes that specifically deal with increased calls on hand-checking have changed recruiting philosophies. “Getting to the free throw line has always been important, but now it's at another level. It's kind of an art. Some guys are naturally gifted with that, and I think you emphasize that in who you recruit,” he said while referencing former Washington guard Isaiah Thomas as one such foul-drawing artist.
Guard DaVonte Lacy is still 2-4 weeks from returning from a rib injury, but Bone said he'll be working out in practice Tuesday and taking part in passing drills.
The league schedule now includes Wednesday-Saturday, Wednesday-Sunday and Thursday-Sunday weekend series, but Bone doesn't have a preference for which is better. “It's the same for both teams (playing each other within the same week),” Bone said. “I don't have a problem with it either way as long as there's parity in the schedule.”
Washington's Lorenzo Romar
Washington fell 79-67 to Stanford after losing by 26 points to Cal last weekend. Against the Cardinal, the Huskies allowed junior guard Chasson Randle to drop 33 points by going 11-for-15 from the floor and hitting just one three-pointer. “He knives through. Sometimes there were three bodies in the vicinity. I just think he's an exceptional slasher,” Romar said.
Where Bone said recruiting slashers helps a team's offense when playing with the new hand-checking rules, Romar said recruiting big men helps the defense. “When you don't have rim-protectors with the new rule, I think you're at a disadvantage,” he said, insinuating that slashers are now more able to get by their perimeter defenders.
Speaking of which, the Huskies host the Oregon Ducks on Thursday with the same issues. Neither team has much length inside and tend to be perimeter-oriented on offense. Why is the Ducks' defense struggling? “I know it has affected us at times, having a guy around the basket that can deter shots,” Romar said. “That can be a factor. They also have a lot of new players.”
Oregon's Dana Altman
Having lost four in a row following a top-10 ranking and perfect 13-0 start to the year, the Ducks are looking for answers. Like last week, most of the questions start on the defensive end. “Defensively, we haven't been very good,” Altman said. “I would say that has been the common denominator. For the most part I think we have scored enough points. Just haven't gotten stops when we've needed them, haven't gotten the rebounds when we've needed them.”
Oregon has suffered much from losing shot-blocker Tony Woods and rebounder Arsalan Kazemi since last season. “There's no quick fix; there's no magic wand,” Altman said. “We're not big at any position, so we don't have the size to cover up mistakes.”
Oregon State's Craig Robinson
Freshman guard Hallice Cooke has earned 20 minutes per game for the Beavers and has scored in double-figures in three of the last four games. Robinson likes what he sees, but he admitted Oregon State has “a little wild card with him. Sometimes he's a little out of sorts,” Robinson said.
Oregon State plays at Washington State on Wednesday and at Washington on Saturday. Robinson said the road trip is being challenged by the mountain school visit as the most difficult two-game trip in the Pac-12. “We really feel that mountain trip is the hardest. You're at altitude,” the Beavers coach said.
For the first time in more than a year, Oregon State has 13 scholarship players healthy. Center Angus Brandt is gaining confidence after missing most of last season with an injury, and forward Eric Moreland is back in the fold following a suspension. Moreland especially responded to his punishment with a new approach. “I think that from the outset of his suspension, he just really focused on a couple of things,” Robinson said. “Working as hard as he could in the weight room and when we started … we had him on the scout team. I think that really helped him make his transition.”
Cal's Mike Montgomery
Cal point guard Justin Cobbs came into the season attempting to be a pass-first point guard, but he's too valuable of a scorer to lack aggressiveness in searching for his own shots. “He originally was trying to lead the league in assists,” Montgomery said. “He's found a balance between the two.”
Forward Richard Solomon always had the tools, but now he's realizing that he need not do more than play to his own strengths. The senior is averaging 12.1 points and 10.3 rebounds per game. “He's big, he's long, he runs,” Montgomery said. “He's figured out he can make a living rebounding the ball. Set a goal and he can average a double-double.”
Highly rated freshman Jabari Bird wasn't granted any favors when an ankle injury hit just as the Pac-12 schedule began. He returned last weekend and is being brought back along slowly. “For Jabari, that time really set him back,” Montgomery said. “It's tough on these (freshman) kids. We've got four veterans out there who know what they're doing.”
UCLA's Steve Alford
The Bruins split games against Utah and Colorado last week, and the efficient and flowing offense they'd displayed prior just wasn't there. “I just thought the ball didn't move the way we'd been moving the ball,” Alford said. “We've had a just really good flow from transition to half-court. This trip we did not. That was a big part of our lack of execution.”
Don't look for Alford to complain about sophomore point-forward Kyle Anderson. Alford has seen the versatile 6'9" Bruin improve the two areas his new coaches asked him to improve upon. “One is his leadership. The other is shooting,” Alford said.
USC's Andy Enfield
The Trojans' efforts both in games and during practices have been excellent, but Enfield said the biggest issue is in how they respond to runs. Four-, six- and eight-point runs often snowball into eight-, 10- and 12-point runs, the coach said. “We're playing four freshmen, a few inexperienced upper-classmen. They haven't been in certain situations a lot,” Enfield said.
Byron Wesley leads USC with 16.5 points per game and 7.4 rebounds, and Enfield has been proud of how his leader has continued the process of improving despite the win-loss columns. “He's one of the elite drivers of getting into the lane and finishing," Enfield said. "Byron is working on his play-making abilities for his teammates. He's also working on his outside shooting. I give Byron a lot of credit because he's put the time in to improve as an individual.”
Senior J.T. Terrell continues to come off Enfield's bench, and the coach said that while his scoring punch is invaluable, shot selection leading to the guard's 37.4 percent shooting from the floor is one flaw that is a work in progress. “We need J.T. to score for us, but he needs to limit his turnovers and limit his bad shots,” Enfield said.
Stanford's Johnny Dawkins
As one of the many teams scrambling to keep pace with conference leaders Arizona and Cal, Stanford isn't panicking. This week is as important as them all, but there's no use in worrying about anything outside Stanford's own boundaries. “There's a lot of parity,” Dawkins said. “I think there's a lot that can happen between now and the end of the conference season."
Stanford held off Washington and Washington State at home this weekend and opens this week's set of games on Thursday against UCLA. Bruins guard Jordan Adams can score in bunches, but his defensive abilities have gone a bit under the radar. “He has really good anticipation and has really good hands. Whenever something happens near him, he can get the basketball,” Dawkins said.
Colorado's Tad Boyle
Without guard Spencer Dinwiddie, the Buffs are still adjusting. Backcourt mate Askia Booker will be relied upon to bring his usual scoring load and the swagger lost since Dinwiddie went down with a knee injury. Boyle said Booker has always been an emotional player, and while his leadership grows, Boyle hopes his guard's shot selection matures. “Let's be frank, he's a little guy," Boyle said. "He feels like he can get a shot – and he really can get a shot – anytime he wants. The big thing with him is shot selection.”
On Askia Booker and Josh Scott leading the Buffs by remaining positive: “When those bumps in the road come, it's imperative you're positive both with yourselves and with your teammates. It gets back to the old Magic Johnson line: 'Good teammates make themselves better; great teammates make those around them better.'"
Arizona's Sean Miller
Miller emphasizes winning 50-50 balls, but he doesn't have a statistic to determine how much hustle his team is playing with. That said, Miller places a lot of importance on the percentage of offensive rebounds available that his team grabs. “That really reflects aggressiveness, talent and size,” he added.
Arizona's opponent this Thursday, Colorado, lost Spencer Dinwiddie, but Miller still believes the Buffaloes are “no question” an NCAA tournament team. “They'll reinvent themselves to a certain degree, plugging different players in different roles,” Miller said. “If you just look at his free throw attempts alone and think about the damage that does to Colorado's opponents, it's mind-boggling. It made me sick when he got hurt.”
On what sets freshman forward Aaron Gordon apart: “I mean that in any sport, whether it be professional or any college sport, nobody has a higher breed of character than Aaron Gordon.”