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October 28, 2010

Thad Matta


THE MODERATOR: Joining us now is Ohio State head coach Thad Matta.
We'll start with an opening statement and then go to questions.
COACH MATTA: Well, we're at the unknown here 15 practices in, six new guys, as you said, four returning starters, which is very exciting. The leadership that those guys have provided to this point, couldn't be happier with.
The good thing for us is we've still got a couple of weeks before we actually tip-off. But have been very pleased with our guys' work ethic and the freshmen stick-to-itiveness to come in every day and work hard at practice.

Q. I'm curious about Deshaun Thomas, how he looks so far. What do you see from him and what do you hope to see from him?
COACH MATTA: I couldn't be happier with Deshaun right now. First and foremost he's a guy that came in at 14.6 percent body fat and he's down to 8.2, I think it is.
He's had a smile on his face every day. I've really talked to him about just bringing the right mindset in knowing that you've got a lot to learn.
His work ethic has been great. I think that as he continues, you know, the one thing Deshaun can do is put the ball in the basket. We've had a couple of scrimmages. I think he's led us in scoring in all of them.
The big thing we've got to get him to understand is you gotta stop the other guy down at the other end from scoring, too. But he's been great. Couldn't be happier with him.

Q. You spoke about leadership values with your returning starters. What have they given to the new freshmen given that they've tasted success winning the Big Ten Conference Championship, they also tasted beat by being bounced over from the NCAA Tournament last year?
COACH MATTA: I think you said what have the veteran players given the new guys? The thing I asked them the most was I'd like to think we do things a certain way at Ohio State in terms of the culture we have set for our program and teaching those guys how we do things, from going to class, to being respectful, to professors, whoever they come in contact with.
But also a work ethic. And I think that the four veterans have done a tremendous job of teaching that. It's like I told the freshmen on our first team meeting. I said: We've got a great tradition going here at Ohio State right now and you guys haven't contributed one ounce of anything to it and you have to earn your stripes here; I want you to follow these guys' lead.
And as I told them, I think we've got four great leaders, but if you don't want to be led it's not going to work. And to those guys' credit, they've done a tremendous job of engaging themselves and following the lead of those guys.

Q. You've obviously coached highly ranked big men prospects, Greg Oden, BJ Mullens, among others. Without necessarily comparing them, how do you feel Jared Sullinger is coming along at this early stage and sort of what do you project for him over the course of the season?
COACH MATTA: I think Jared has been very good to this point. I think the biggest thing was he's really resurrected his body. He's gotten himself in very good shape.
For his size, his hands and his feet are very good. He's got a great touch. And I've said this: The thing I like about Jared is, number one, he knows how to play. But he also wins. He's won at every level that he's ever played at.
So I think our guys have seen a great unselfishness out of him, but by the same -- at the same time, you know, he can put the ball in the basket from down on the block, finishing around the basket. He steps out, shoots 3s. He can show he can handle the ball. And that's been exciting to see. Because I think for the four new guys, Jared is a guy that you enjoy playing with.
And I think he's one of those guys that can make guys better around him.

Q. What's your take on the July evaluation period discussions and what would you like to see happen there?
COACH MATTA: You know, I don't know if I have a definitive answer. It's kind of like everybody asks me about the one and done.
I don't know what's right, what's wrong. I think that if they were to take the July or cut it back, hopefully they would give us the days throughout the course of the year.
I actually haven't -- they had some notes up in my office or not in my office but in my bag. I just found about 20 minutes ago and I didn't have time to read through them on it.
So I don't know exactly what's going to happen. I think that since I've been in college coaching 17 years or whatever it is, I've always gone out in July. But I don't know. I understand where they're going. I think that the agents -- and that to me right now is the biggest thing of what's going on.
And I love what football is doing. They had a blowup and they took the bull by the horns. And they're getting this thing corrected. And the same thing goes on in football goes on in basketball.

Q. Just want to ask about Aaron Craft and maybe the status of your point guard position, just how that's been broken up and what you've seen out of Aaron so far after a couple of weeks working with him.
COACH MATTA: Well, Aaron has been a pleasant surprise in how well he's played to this point. The thing you love about Aaron Craft is he was sitting in with the coaches two nights ago watching film. I asked him, I said, How did you do on your chemistry exam? He said, Coach, I think I may have got them all right, but I'll find out tonight because the professor let us take the test home. And he said, I'm going to look it up online. He texted me about 11:00 that night and said, Coach, I wasn't lying, I got them all right.
That's how he plays basketball. He's got a tremendous understanding. He's got a toughness about him. He as a freshman appears to have a great feel for where the ball needs to be when it needs to be there. And he shot the ball a lot better than we had seen him coming in out of high school.
So a lot like I said about Jared. He wins. He's accustomed to winning.

Q. Seemed like you guys were very successful last year when you were very loose. And one of the guys that kept everybody loose was, of course, blogger extraordinaire Mark Titus. How are you keeping that attitude coming out of the season, especially with all the competition you're facing?
COACH MATTA: I think that may be the greatest question I've ever been asked. Everybody's been asking me how do you replace Evan Turner. I'm not concerned about replacing Evan; I'm concerned about replacing Mark Titus. No, I think that Mark is very unique. He's still in Columbus.
I never read the blog. But I always tell our players to use this opportunity at Ohio State to help yourself be successful for the rest of your life. And I really believe this, I think Mark did that.
But he still -- he was in the gym the other day watching practice. And it's always good for me to see him, because he makes me laugh like nobody I've ever met before.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach.

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