Pac-12 coaches teleconference: Sean Miller, others talk freshman Aaron Gordon
Arizona coach Sean Miller and a few other Pac-12 coaches used the weekly teleconference call on Tuesday to touch on freshman Aaron Gordon's strengths, weaknesses and NBA potential. Also during the teleconference, coaches were asked to review the officiating changes implemented by the NCAA – unanimously, it's a work in progress.
[Note: Oregon's Dana Altman was not on the call and Stanford's Johnny Dawkins did not field any questions.]
Arizona's Sean Miller
What's so unique about Aaron Gordon's defense? Miller thinks it comes in the versatility that allows the freshman forward to handle big men and perimeter players alike. “I can say that I don't think anyone that I've coached have been successful as a freshman doing that," Miller said.
Instincts and talent can define Gordon's game, but Miller sees that his mind is in the right place. Gordon is not concerned about a shooting slump that was lifted Sunday against Oregon State. “Because he knows the type of player that he is, he doesn't always judge himself by points per game or shot attempts,” Miller said. “There's a lot of times he'll apologize after a game because he had single-digit rebounds. He's sincere about it.”
Arizona visits Tempe on Valentine's Day, where there certainly won't be much love between the two teams. But Miller showed a little love to ASU center Jordan Bachynski, who is coming off a Pac-12 Player of the Week honor. "Jordan Bachynski's numbers jump out at you. He continues to be more assertive on offense, which is scary," Miller said.
Arizona State associate head coach Eric Musselman
Standing in for head coach Herb Sendek during the teleconference call, associate head coach Eric Musselman said the biggest improvement in Jordan Bachynski's game has been offensively. He's scored 17 and 26 points in the last two games on just 12 and eight field goals attempts, respectively. “If you look at his shot attempts, he doesn't have a lot of attempts,” Musselman said. “He does have the ability to get free throws attempted.”
On point guard Jahii Carson doing more than scoring the ball: “The Oregon game, it was him surprisingly rebounding the basketball and getting loose balls for us. Jahii does so many different things, and he's a guy who finds people in transition much better than he did last year.”
Musselman wasn't sure there was enough time to commit to expressing how good Arizona freshman Aaron Gordon is, but he gave it a shot. “He gets them so many extra possessions. He runs the floor like a perimeter player. He's a matchup nightmare,” Musselman said. “He's a phenomenal passer and has great vision for his size.”
Utah's Larry Krystkowiak
Utah forward Jordan Loveridge worked himself out of a slump this weekend. He combined to shoot 11-for-13 after recording double-digit attempts in each of his nine prior games. “I think one of the themes I've been visiting to him about is trying to impact the game on a lot of different levels other than scoring,” Krystkowiak said. “Sometimes his energy is predicated by whether or not his shot is going for him. I challenged him against Washington to try to get double-digit rebounds. I think maybe what you saw offensively, he didn't force the issue.”
Everyone has been waiting for guard Delon Wright's shooting percentages to come back down to earth. It's still not happening. He's still hitting 59.7 percent of his shots. “Some of that is his basketball IQ. He knows what a good shot is,” Krystkowiak said. “He's not going to put himself in a position where he takes a low-percentage shot.”
As a former NBA coach, Krystkowiak was asked to evaluate Arizona forward Aaron Gordon's game, and more specifically, about whether his shooting woes would hurt him at the next level. Long story short, it's not a big problem. “Once you move on to that next level and you've got the body that Aaron has and the motor and kind of the natural feel for the game, all of a sudden when he's not going to class, he's going to be put himself in the position where he can really eat, sleep and drink basketball,” Krystkowiak said. “I don't think there's any reason at all his game won't develop.”
Colorado's Tad Boyle
Asked if UCLA posed a problem because so many of their players are perimeter-oriented, Boyle conceded he'd had the same conversation with his coaching staff earlier in the day. “They are a unique team, unlike any team in our conference,” he said. “Their size gives you lots of problems for every position, especially when you get some small guards starting like we do. They really beat us up on the backboards here when we played in Boulder.”
Point guard Askia Booker is showing more willingness to distribute the ball now that he's tasked with operating the Buffs' offense in place of the injured Spencer Dinwiddie. Boyle hasn't viewed it as a challenge for Booker, who prior to the role change was a deadly scorer. “Askia has really welcomed, and in many ways, relished that change,” Boyle said. “He's playing the way we always wanted him to play. He is a prolific scorer. He is an aggressive player offensively. What's changed is his understanding of his teammates. He's really grown and evolved.”
Boyle might fall under the category of critics regarding the supposed NCAA rule changes this season. “Supposed,” because he doesn't see them anymore. “It's being called right now the same ways as it's been called. Officiating changes have gone out the window. I do think the new block-charge call has made the officials' jobs more difficult,” he said.
Oregon State's Craig Robinson
In a 76-54 loss to Arizona Sunday, the Pac-12's leading scorer, Roberto Nelson, went 3-for-12 and scored just 10 points. Robinson doesn't see it as a big issue moving forward. Devon Collier, Angus Brandt, Eric Moreland and even freshman Hallice Cooke can all score the ball. It was just hard against one of the nation's best defensive teams. “Any one of those guys are able to step up if … (Nelson's) the guy other teams are trying to keep from scoring,” the coach said.
Robinson looked into the crystal ball of next season and said he feels as if the depth of returning players – plus commits Isaiah Manderson, Chai Baker and Gary Payton II – will give Oregon State a steady roster despite all the losses. “Losing the guys we anticipate losing, that's a lot of points, a lot of rebounds, a lot of game time,” Robinson said.
On ASU center Jordan Bachynski, who scored 17 points to go with 15 rebounds and seven blocks against OSU: “Offensively, his footwork is better. His shot's better. I think he has a nice touch. He can probably shoot some 12-to-15-footers if he wanted to.”
USC's Andy Enfield
On guard Byron Wesley: ”He's driving the ball to the basket for us. He keeps improving and we obviously rely on him. He needs to be productive. He also needs to keep rebounding and playing defense.”
California's Mike Montgomery
Montgomery attacked the officiating changes head-on. Not only does it change how coaches coach and how players defend, but the other challenge has been in the officiating. “I don't think all the officials know how to interpret the rules; they're having a hard time,” he said. “I think they would tell you the same thing.”
On the Oklahoma State guard Marcus Smart's shoving incident and fan-athlete interactions. “I think it started with fans being clever. Now it's just gotten raunchy; there's no real rhyme or reason to it.”
Washington State's Ken Bone
Bone benched converted point guard Royce Woolridge in the second half of a loss to Utah this weekend, but it's about more than his point guard abilities. He's just not making shots, having failed to score more than five points in his last six games. “I think he did a pretty good job earlier in the season,” Bone said. “As of late he's had some struggles. He's not been making shots. Defensively he's done a really good job. He's doing a decent job of attempting to (run the offense) but … in some sense it's all for naught because we haven't shot the ball well.”
Washington State hosts Cal and Stanford this week, and Bone sees two well-rounded opponents. “Statistically speaking, neither one of them is outstanding in any certain area, but they've both proven they're really good at everything. When I think Stanford and Cal, I just think balance,” Bone said.
On if the Cougars need a motivational carrot dangling in front of them: “If you're struggling, you're still trying to compete, you're still trying to win. It showed up again in practice. On the outside, you think, 'What's the incentive?' You come to one of our practices and see the effort the guys are giving, they want to get better.”
UCLA's Steve Alford
The Bruins host the mountain schools this week and know that they shouldn't mess around against a Colorado squad that's begun to find itself since the ACL injury to Spencer Dinwiddie. “They won three games in a row in this league; they're right in the middle of this race,” Alford said. “Got a lot of guys playing well. Those three in particular – (Askia) Booker, (Xavier) Johnson, (Josh) Scott – are really having good years.”
Alford thinks freshman guard Zach LaVine's tremendous start to the season made the expectations on him a little too out there, but that start also makes the UCLA coach believe LaVine will eventually work out of a slump. After all, he's still averaging 11.1 points per game on 49 percent shooting and 43 percent accuracy from three-point range. “The expectations were at an incredible level for him, just because of the way he started the season,” Alford said. “He's doing a lot of good. He's got a 2-to-1 assists-to-turnover ratio.”
Washington's Lorenzo Romar
Romar said point guard Nigel Williams-Goss has found comfort simply by knowing that he can be a leader as a freshman. “He's a natural leader. I don't think he wanted to step on anybody's toes (when he arrived),” Romar said. “He's not intimidated.”