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March 8, 2006

Wesley Morgan

Charles Rhodes

Rick Stansbury


THE MODERATOR: If you'll take your seats. We're ready to continue on with Mississippi State. Remind you again, please turn off your cell phones. No flash photography.
We'll ask Coach to give us some opening thoughts on the tournament and his first game, and then we'll take questions just for the student athletes and excuse them so they can get ready to go, and then we'll continue on with the coach.
So, Coach, if you'd begin.
COACH RICK STANSBURY: Well, like always, we're very excited to be a part of this tournament. This is a great, one of the great times of the year when you can bring all 12 teams together in this setting and, you know, we're always excited to be a part of this, and we looked look forward to playing a very good SEC Tournament team here tomorrow afternoon.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for either of the student athletes. We'll take questions just for them first, and we'll start right here in the front.
Go ahead.
Q. Charles, have you gone back and looked at or examined like your first eight or so games this year. I think were you only averaging 7 points or something like that. Have you looked at why there's been such a difference from the first half of your season to the -- to this recent half?
CHARLES RHODES: Well, my first half of the season, I didn't approach it like I approached it in the SEC play, but when I was coming in the SEC play, I really stepped it up because I really want to be at the end of the season a champion.
So that's why I really stepped it up, but I really didn't look at the last part of my games. I think through the games if I was averaging about 7 points a game, whatever you said my team was more productive than I was, and we still came out with victories, so it was a team effort.
THE MODERATOR: Other questions for either of the student athletes? All right. Go ahead. We'll take it right here.
Q. Coach Odom, before you guys came up here, was saying that he thought that Mississippi State was one of the dark horse teams that you needed to look out. Do you guys approach this tournament as if it's wide open and that really any team could kind of come in and kind of win a few and maybe get that tournament bid?
THE MODERATOR: Is that for both players?
Q. Yes.
THE MODERATOR: Wesley, you take that first.
WESLEY MORGAN: The SEC Tournament, it's that time of year. It's a completely new season. It's four games that you play, and you can win a championship off those four games, and the SEC season is over so now you just have to look at this next game play SEC Tournament and just take it from there one game at a time.
THE MODERATOR: Same for Charles?
CHARLES RHODES: I take it, I appreciate it as, you know, right now, we just trying to get in post-season play, trying to get in the NCAA Tournament so we got approach every game like it's our last.
THE MODERATOR: Other questions? All right. Let's go right over here. Go ahead.
Q. This is for both players. Can you guys kind of talk about the difference that Coach Stansbury has approached this team versus last year's team? The makeup of the two teams are totally different. Talk about his approach and what do you guys think of his coaching performance this year.
WESLEY MORGAN: Last year's team was -- try not to get in trouble. Last year's team was veterans, proven players, people had been through the system, people that you could pretty much say "Go out there" and you could give them the game plan before the game, and they would know what to do, how to execute, you know, you can let them -- there was some freedom there and this year's team there's been a lot more coaching, lot more talking, lot more working players through things, you know, especially with such a young team, people that hadn't played, hadn't produced, and the freshmen we had everybody, had to kind of bring them along a little bit more than last year's team.
THE MODERATOR: Same for Charles Rhodes.
CHARLES RHODES: I think it's the same. Coach approached me the same as I'm a freshman, so I get hollered at all the time. So our approach is the same.
COACH RICK STANSBURY: I don't yell at him.
CHARLES RHODES: Coach got the same coaching staff. It's been great.
THE MODERATOR: Okay. Did you have a question? Go ahead.
Q. Charles, South Carolina's coach called you a nasty player. He said he meant that in a good kind of way. Have you ever been called nasty before?
CHARLES RHODES: I don't think I've been called "nasty," but I know coaches don't like that, but I guess it's a good compliment, I guess.
THE MODERATOR: Okay. Next question right here.
Q. Wesley, can you talk about Charles a little bit and what you've seen the difference is in his game from the beginning of the year to what we've seen recently.
WESLEY MORGAN: Just, you know, kind of hit on what he said, just his approach to the game, approach to practice, approach to just everything about the team and the fact that he's just developed, you know, they gave him some freedom offensively, and he went with it. And he's flourished. He's had some huge game for us. He's been very aggressive. When he's aggressive, the team does well. We need for him to be aggressive to continue to put these wins we have as of late, you know, to be the dominant force inside, he rebound and scoring as well as getting some stops.
THE MODERATOR: Okay. Other questions for either of the student athletes? Time for one more. Anybody? Okay. Fellas, we'll excuse you and you can return to the locker room and we'll continue on with questions for Coach Stansbury. If you'll raise your hand, go ahead.
Q. Rick, can you update the status of Jamail and Vernon and Dietric?
COACH RICK STANSBURY: Dietric is no go for sure. Jamail hadn't gone for two weeks and, you know, figure that in. Vernon is back from his sickness, but I guess he'll be available if we need him. At least we have his body.
I can't -- he's there, but the young man hadn't done anything. He's lost about 17 pounds during that fight with pneumonia, and, I mean, we have his body. Is his body able to do anything? I'll be very surprised so --
THE MODERATOR: Other questions? Raise your hand. Other questions for Coach Stansbury? All right. Let's go right over here, and we'll get you. Go ahead.
Q. Rick, how much do you think momentum is going to play into the game tomorrow? You guys finished the regular season on a pretty good note; SEC Tournament not so much.
COACH RICK STANSBURY: You want to think it figures in some. Considering everything we've gone through, you say "momentum." I thought we were really playing with a lot of momentum until we lost Dietric Slater.
Dietric was a kid that averaged 20 points, 9 rebounds in his three previous games. Since then we found a way to play well. Our last game against Alabama, we just don't. We just don't quite have the depth and the weapons without Dietric Slater that we once had. Our kids are playing with a lot of confidence, they believe. We're playing a lot better than we were the first time we played them.
THE MODERATOR: Did you have a question Go ahead.
Q. Coach, about six weeks ago you said that having children at home was probably the best thing for you in terms of approaching this team. Just talk about this team has grown up and how far it's come, and just talk about coaching it this year versus some of the talent you had last year.
COACH RICK STANSBURY: I told my team after our last win against Alabama I believe this: We've had a lot of wins over last four, five years and been a part of some championships and a lot of exciting moments.
I'm not so sure I'm any more proud of any of those teams than I am this team right here, what they've been able to accomplish considering everything they've been through. That started from way back in the season. We knew we were going to be young. We lose a kid to the NBA, and I still thought we would be fine. We lost our only player we had coming back with any experience, and at the most valuable position, point guard spot, and we've been without Jamail Edmondson basically all year long. Halfway through the season, get rid of a guy that we thought probably was our best player going into the season.
Then you lose a Dietric Slater again late in the season. So you look back on it, you know, I thought Jamail Edmondson, the kid we dismissed, would be our two leading scorers and probably Dietric Slater would be our third leading scorer.
We're playing right now without all of those guys, and for these young kids to have made the adjustments they've had and to have been as competitive as they've been and to make all the different adjustments we've had to put them through. Point guard spots are very difficult spot to play, and you don't want to start off SEC play changing point guard spots. We had to change Jamont Gordon, a power forward, and move him to point guard.
That was quite an adjustment with our team. Everybody has hung in there. As Charles Rhodes said, there's no question he's stepped up and become a much more competitive player for us. Those Delk twins have gotten better. Again, they're playing with a lot of confidence.
So from that standpoint, I'm just very proud of these young men. They've stayed together, had great attitudes, come to practice every day willing to work. That they bounced back after losses and came and give me the same attitude and effort every time. Because of that they've developed into a pretty good basketball team.
Q. Is Charles capable of carrying you guys, and does he need to?
COACH RICK STANSBURY: I don't know about carry. We need several of them to carry us. I don't know if one guy in any league can carry any team anymore. You've got to have -- everybody is too good for that.
You've got to have good players around a guy who can't carry you, and you need a couple carriers to compete and win championships in that way. It's very obvious Charles Rhodes has developed into an awful productive player for us. That's been a carryover, that question you asked, that's a carryover in his practice habits.
Last year as a freshman he didn't play a lot for us. Basically his first two months he played very little. He started figuring out a little bit late in the season, last three, four weeks, you know, that he's going to have to do all the little things and by then he started getting a little bit of time, and I thought by the end of the season, particularly against Duke he gave us great minutes. I thought that carried over to the off-season and, no question, he had to play into that role. He's never been a go-to-guy on anybody's team. When he's in high school, Monty Ellis was his guy. This is the first time even though he's our best inside player, he's never had to play that role on any basketball team.
So it's something he had to grow into and develop into and understand that responsibility comes from being a guy that we're going to get the basketball to a lot. You have best player has got to be your hardest worker every day. That's his biggest challenge. I think once he realized that, became more consistent in practice, his game continued to become consistent and that was the key to being consistent.
THE MODERATOR: Other questions, raise your hand. Okay. Let's go ahead right over here.
Q. Coach, how I do approach the SEC Tournament differently when you know you're going into it within a tournament -- NCAA Tournament bid secured that you have to kind win it? How do you approach it differently?
COACH RICK STANSBURY: Well, I mean that's a good question. I hadn't thought about that a whole lot from the standpoint except we've kind of approached this tournament the same way every year since I've been there, and you know there is a brand new season. You can't control what you've done before then. All you can control now it's one game at a time. It's a four-game season. If you win those games, you win a championship. Naturally, if you win a championship, you're in NCAA Tournament. That's kind of our approach again. We're going to approach it not as if we got to win this tournament, get the NCAA bid. We're going to approach it as one game at a time.
Before you get the second game you have to win the first game. All of our approach and thoughts are hundred percent towards South Carolina. Now, players understand, players read, players know where we're at. I don't have to tell them we have to win the SEC Tournament to get in the NCAA Tournament. I don't have to do that. That's not our approach. Our approach is going to be very similar. I think everybody takes a different approach this tournament. We've always been one enjoining playing in it. We've been one in the -- gets excited playing in the tournament because I think it's a new life.
Naturally it's different for us this year. We've gone into it I guess the last four years with the NCAA being already set. Now we don't. But even, again, we're going approach it from the standpoint we've got to win games. SEC Tournament is the first team we have to play.
THE MODERATOR: Hands up, other questions? Let's go right to the front, and we'll catch you over there. Go ahead.

Q. Rick, what's the biggest improvement you need to make from the first time you played South Carolina to tomorrow?
COACH RICK STANSBURY: Well, you know, to be honest with you, one team that really thumped up. They thumped us on the road of all teams. I look back and see who beat us anymore, but I think that's the one team that got us -- even with that, I know with four minutes to go in the first half, it's three-basketball game and we let what happened to us happened so many times in games. We let them go on spurts. I think it went on like a 15, 14 spurt right there before half. That was kind of the basketball game.
SEC Tournament is a team that's -- we don't have an advantage with that we have with some teams playing small. We lost our advantage when we lost Dietric Slater. That's what made our team so good.
SEC Tournament played small, basically, you know, 35, 38 minutes a game. They're quick. You've got to get back and stop the transition. It's very obvious when SEC Tournament plays well, when they shoot the basketball, South Carolina can beat anybody anywhere, and they've proven that this year with road wins at the places they've had.
But because they rely on the 3-pointer shot so much, when it doesn't go for them, then, you know, they haven't been quite as successful, but it's very -- you know, they're defending NIT champs. They've got the whole team back. Anytime you can go on the road and win at Florida, that tells you the abilities your team has.
So we know it's going to be a very difficult game for us and big challenge for us and in particular, you know, with the things we're battling with right now.
THE MODERATOR: Okay. Other questions. I think we had one over -- okay. Go ahead and I'll get you.
Q. Rick, can you talk about need to go move Jamail into the point. Kind of what happened there and how he's been able to play there and what advantages especially with his size, make the point, just what has happened.
COACH RICK STANSBURY: He's had to play it out of necessity, number one. We lost Jamail Edmondson early. Got him back and forth, and then we lose Rich Ardel, our backup point guard for five straight weeks. Then going into SEC play, Jamail Edmondson is out again. Can't go at all. Richard is not healthy enough to go. We're forced to put Jamont Gordon there. Basically he has not worked at all spring and all fall -- excuse me, all fall and winter.
But to his credit, early and you put a small forward at point guard, a guy who believes every time he touches the ball he can go score. That's not a good recipe. It's kind of what it was. Every time he touched the ball, he didn't see a shot he didn't like or a drive he didn't go get.
To his credit. He's gotten better. He's playing with a lot more poise. You look at his stats. He's the second leading scorer -- excuse me. He's the leading scorer among all freshman. Is that correct? He's the second leading rebounder among all freshmen? He's leading assist guys among all freshmen? Is that correct statistics? Can anybody back those up?
One thing he gives you at the point guard, a powerful young man that, number one, you have to stop in transition, and number two, you better keep him off the backboards and he's advantaged about 8 1/2 rebounds a game in SEC play from the point guard spot.
And about right at five assists from the point guard spot. The assist/turnover ratio has gotten much better. Again that's something he's had too play himself into a little bit. He's gained more poise, and naturally the more he plays it, the better he's going to be. One thing you get every day and every possession you get a tough young man guarding that basketball who is very, very competitive and for a position on his floor, you want some toughness.
It's the point guard spot.
You know, I think he has great ability in the future to become a terrific point guard. Everything he doesn't have, he can gain. It's basically mental from here on out. Nothing to do with physical because he's a very good passer. He sees the floor. He just has to learn the mental part of it.
THE MODERATOR: Time for one or two more. Last question right there. Ron.
Q. Rick, how much did it help Jamont to play at Oak Hill? You played against great competition and kind of come out unfazed when you play with those guys with that type talent level.
COACH RICK STANSBURY: He's coming from, like I say, probably, the best high school program in the country. It helped him understand the importance of going to class and study hall and those things that carry over to the court. Naturally, Steve was a young man who made him do the right thing. He was more straight line on that court.
He's just a very, very competitive player. Every day, every possession. I never have to worry about Jamont Gordon taking days and possessions off. I just have to get him so he understands he can't go beat that guy every time. He has a hard time. You tell him that, he don't want to believe that because he thinks he can. When he understands pick those spots and pick those times and places to go do it, he's going to become a terrific player.
No question, coming from a program like Oak Hill where he's played at that level against that kind of competition every day and got good coaching, his adjustment was minimized.

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