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February 21, 2011

Tony Bennett

COACH BENNETT: Coming off a hard fought game where we you played sound against Virginia Tech in a rivalry game. So it was good to be at home and finish out a game. Preparing for Georgia Tech. We're just continuing to try to get better, and still getting a lot of guys good experience.
It was nice to gets a home victory when Virginia Tech made a big run late in the game and we held them off. So that was a positive step for us.

Q. Saw Will Sherrill in uniform the other day with his leg packed. I assume that means he's a little closer to getting back on the floor?
COACH BENNETT: Yeah, it's slowly feeling better. I asked our trainer is he able to go, and he said, well, he'll warm up and we'll see how he does. I had our coaches watch him in warm-ups, and had they said he was favoring it quite a bit. Probably would have tried to go in there and wince around, but I didn't want to do anything that would have maybe slowed the process down for the next game or the following game.
So we'll see how he is today and the next day. As you said, I think he'll be closer, I just don't know to what extent. But it has been feeling better. He said he's moving better, but hasn't done a whole lot until yesterday -- I'm sorry, the day before on Friday. He didn't participate in the live stuff. There were just a few things he did, and then Saturday he warmed up. That's been the extent. So I think the next two days will be tell-tale.

Q. You've been able to watch Mustapha now develop over two years. How do you think his game has come on has he heads into the final few games of his senior career?
COACH BENNETT: Yeah, he's improved and matured. A lot of that has to do with, I think, experience of just playing time. In my first year here, his junior year, he got more time than he had, but it was still sporadic or inconsistent.
Well, this year he's evolved and then playing certainly a lot of minutes and has gotten better. When he's played his best ball, he's really just let it come. He's kind of seen the areas he can help the team.
The thing I've liked is he's handled when he's had a rough outing or we've had a rough outing as a team, he's bounced back better. I think he's more mature emotionally. That's the evolution of a lot of players.
But he's an emotional young man. Early in his career, he still does, but I think he handles it better if there is a bad stretch going on or something's not going well. He seems to bounce back better and has more of an even keel. I think that's helped him go to the next play or the next game and elevated his play.
Like I said, he's dangerous with his shot. He's an athletic guy. He really is trying to do the right things to help this program.

Q. When a coach is in year one at a new program as you were last season, away from the obvious coaching challenges, what are some of the sort of behind the scenes challenges of getting on the same page with the administration. Getting to know the boosters and learning the history of the program and all that kind of stuff?
COACH BENNETT: Those are things that really only time and just the experience of being around that help with it. But for me, I've got a great organization or great administration with our athletic director.
So I think just the familiarity of those things you mentioned, I think, the boosters, the people, that's just over time they get to know you. The hardest thing when you're building is if there aren't the results early to just hope that the people will support you and really give you the time to do what you came to do and set out to do.
But I think that's why if you have a strong administration and a loyal and faithful fan base, that it certainly helps. But as far as just time and familiarity with the people you get to know and they get to know a little bit more about you, seems to be the best thing.
When you're not sure and you've got a lot of things going in the season, it gets challenging behind the scenes. A little more after the season is when you're involved with the extracurricular fundraising and speaking and getting to know the boosters. That's just the longer it goes, the more comfortable you get with that.

Q. For you, what were some of the biggest keys of taking ownership and getting others around you to buy in right away?
COACH BENNETT: I think it starts without a doubt with your players. Having them understand what you're trying to establish. First you establish or choose your coaching staff wisely, but then the players, you really have to get after it recruiting right away.
Because when you get a job, it's usually in the spring you're behind, so trying to get your recruiting caught up or find some of those young men that you'll have a chance at. So I think you've got to start with your own players and your recruiting. To me those are it. Then branch out certainly to get to know the people. You get that through the speaking tour that you go on.
But I think you have to be true to your personality and really just say, hey, this is our plan. This is what we're going to stick to. Certainly you're going to hear a lot of suggestions and you take all those in. But you know you've got a lot of work before you, and you don't get too far to the left or right and know what you need to do.
You can't do it all at once. I know trying to take on every speaking responsibility and everything will just wear you out. You've got to focus on the things that you deem prioritized.

Q. Coach, how's the team morale doing after the performance against Virginia Tech on Saturday?
COACH BENNETT: We didn't say a whole lot after the game. Just said good win, and we had Sunday off, and we'll get back at it today. I think any time you win, they're excited to an extent. But we didn't celebrate. We just kind of handled it like it was played solid, and we'll hopefully come back ready to go.
I told them when you lose, you can't get too discouraged. When you win, you can't get too elated. You have to have that steadiness and that mindset of we're going to keep trying to get better. I think they've embraced it. But when it's a rivalry game and they've played well, I'm sure there is certainly satisfaction. Of course there is. Hopefully, it will give us some confidence moving forward.

Q. I know when you recruited and signed Akil Mitchell, there was some talk had a he might be red shirted this season. Obviously he's got to be something of a pleasant surprise to you. Did you know he was this kind of defensive rebounder?
COACH BENNETT: No, until you see him in this setting, you don't know for sure. But we knew he had a big upside athletically. He's got a strong lower body if you look at him. He's actually grown a little bit since we had signed him and gained weight. I think he's 225. So for him, he's developed.
The reason why red shirt was talked about is he's so young. He's our youngest player. He and K.T. could have been in the class behind them in the class of '11. So we're like we'll see maturity-wise.
But we realized he gives us an element of athleticism that is of activity. That is a surprise. He'll continue to develop his offensive game and his skill set. So that will certainly help his game as he moves forward. But the ability to be a good defender and get on the glass has helped us in a lot of games, not just last night.
And without Will and without Mike Scott, that's become a premium on that. And if Assane gets in foul trouble, he's done a nice job in those areas. So, yeah, definitely pleasantly surprised and it's been a plus. But saw the upside in him and we're glad he's getting this experience.

Q. As long as we're talking about freshmen, I'm just curious, because obviously we don't get to see him the Johnson kid that you're red shirting, can you talk about for the future of the program what he offers and what you've seen of him in the off-season?
COACH BENNETT: Yeah, he's 6'9, probably 230. But I use this word to describe him, he's real physical. He loves contact. He's rugged and aggressive. The red shirt at the time when we decided to red shirt him or that was discussed, we had Will Sherrill and Mike Scott. We thought Akil could give us a lift and Will Regan, so we felt we had depth in that spot.
But it was to let him really mature his game. He did not play high school basketball his junior year, and his senior year he played in a smaller league. So really it was to work on his skill set and work on his strength. The classic things you do with the red shirt. We thought he was comfortable that this was the best for his long range. That's really the reason why is to give him that chance to strengthen his body and get more skill development.
So whenever you can do that and get maturity in your program, and even balance our classes out with six guys and now with Billy Baron leaving, I guess it's five, so we have four in this class of 2010 class. It balanced it out a little more, which is a good thing approximate for the future as well.

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