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October 24, 2017

Shaka Smart

Kansas City, Missouri

THE MODERATOR: We're now joined by Texas Coach, Shaka Smart. Coach, welcome and your thoughts about the upcoming season?

SHAKA SMART: Really excited about this season coming up. Have Mo Bamba, Andrew Jones and Dylan Osetkowski here with me today. They and their teammates have done a great job all season long. We took a trip to Australia which was good in terms of chemistry and spending time together. Also played some really good competition over there, learned a lot about our team. Looking forward to getting started in 17 days, our first game, and super excited about the Big 12 season as well.

THE MODERATOR: Questions for Coach?

Q. You talked at home about how Dylan was still kind of an under-the-radar player. Bringing him to Media Day doesn't that put him on the radar and jokingly aside, he does deserve it, correct?
SHAKA SMART: To be here? Well, the thing that's different anytime you sit out and transfer, you're just not seen for that whole year and before that he was a guy that was under recruited, played at Tulane, which is in a good conference but not a league that maybe receives as much national attention as the Big 12. I just told him actually back in the back about 5 minutes ago, I said, you know what's really neat? As we walk around here and there are all these other teams and players and coaches, a lot of them know each other. None of them know you. Now they get a chance to -- he gets a chance to introduce himself as a basketball player to the rest of the league and everyone else we play.

Q. Shaka, as you look at this team right now and admittedly still trying to fit everybody in, what strikes you about where you've most improved from last year with this team? How much improvement have you seen?
SHAKA SMART: We just have a lot more versatility than we had last year. Last year there was a couple of positions where we didn't have a guy at that spot that that was his true position. And a lot of people talk about point guard, that was one of them, but the other one was the four spot which is really important in what we do, the way we play. Jarrett Allen did a phenomenal job of proving to that position from where he played around the basket just in high school and he got better and better as the course of the year went on.

But for us it is important for us to have at least one big on the floor that can pass, handle, shoot, and is comfortable on the basket. So we've taken a big step in that area with Dylan and even a couple of our other guys.

How much have we improved? I think we've improved a great deal. But then again, we haven't played a game since March, whatever it was, when we played here against West Virginia. So the exciting thing is getting on the court in a real game against real competition on November 10th and moving forward and getting a chance to test how well we're able to carry over all the things we have worked on culturally and all of the things we have worked on on the court.

Q. Talking with Dylan, he said you guys met pretty soon after last season and talked about starting a new culture or setting a new culture. How much can he help you guys playing with an edge and being just kind of a tone setter and is that something you guys really need?
SHAKA SMART: There is no question. I think the fact that he's someone that was under recruited, has always been a guy with a chip on his shoulder, it's huge for our team. We have some other guys on our team that were very highly recruited and always were, you know, maybe in that position where they were used to a lot of things being done for them. Dylan has been on the other side of that. He came to me as soon as the season got done he had a bunch of notes he had written down. He wanted to talk about leadership and how he could be a good leader for our team. We ended up formalizing our culture, putting it down on paper about a month or two after that, giving it to our whole team, something that we talk about and meet about on a weekly basis and he's been a really good culture driver from that regard. So we're excited to see him get the opportunity to actually play, because it's been a long time for him.

Q. Are you confident this will be a better shooting team?
SHAKA SMART: It better be! You know, that's definitely an area where we need to take a big jump from last year. We shot a lot better in practice, but as you know, carryover to the game is what really matters. I think we have some guys on our team that are better shooters than they shot last year. It's a matter of putting them in position to get high-quality shots as much as possible and then for them to jump up and knock 'em down.

I do think we will have better passers. There is an old saying in coaching, the passer makes the shooter. I think we will have better guys to hit guys on time and on target with passes to create more high-quality shots. But, yeah, to answer your question, I think we will be a much-improved shooting team. Do I think we will be the best shooting team in the country? Probably not, but I think we will be much improved.

Q. How much easier does Matt Coleman make it for the rest of the perimeter guys to play off the ball?
SHAKA SMART: It makes it easier for him because he doesn't want to shoot as his first option. He will shoot. He shot the ball pretty well from outside, but the first thing he wants to do is get other guys involved and it's so powerful to have someone like that. Between him and Dylan, those guys can create offense for teammates and for people around them and we just didn't have that last year.

I think guys are starting to recognize and learn the value of playing with Matt and that will get even more powerful as he gets his feet under him. Right now in practice, those other guards they go at him when they're playing against him because he came in as the guy that everyone anointed as our point guard but he's handled it really well.

Q. How difficult is the first year for a coach in this league and considering that. What do you think of the job Jamie Dixon did in his first year?
SHAKA SMART: I thought he did a great job. I think it's challenging your first year anywhere, because there is just so much transition and so much unknown. But I think he did a really nice job getting that team to reflect the way that he believes the game of basketball should be played with the level of toughness and a team orientation. They showed that almost from day one, that seemed like. The players did a great job buying in, because as a coach you learn it doesn't matter what philosophy you teach unless the players are all in. And it seemed like they had buy-in with all that. They're going to be a team to watch this year because they had such a strong year last year and they got the vast majority of those guys back.

Q. To touch on Matt again, you have in him a true point guard that you really didn't have last year. But obviously a freshman will come with problems. How much freedom are you going to give him to work through the issues that are going to come this season?
SHAKA SMART: That's a great point. He's not going to play perfectly. He's not going to play mistake free and we not don't want his confidence to drop when things do -- when challenges do present themselves. I think that's one of the benefits of the fact that we went on a foreign tour. He's already been in some game situations where he's had some success. He's taken some lumps. He's been in some different situations and he's a fast learner. I think he is a guy that has a lot of internal belief. But to answer your question, we believe he's a really good point guard and he is a guy that can facilitate the game for those around him and make the game easier for those around him. That belief is not going to change and he's certainly going to have some good games and he will have some games that probably aren't great. But he's a guy that we believe has grown considerably since he got here in June and he's going to continue doing so.

THE MODERATOR: Coach, thanks for your comments and good luck.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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