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October 27, 2011

Bruce Weber


THE MODERATOR: Coach, an opening statement.
COACH WEBER: I think we are a new team and a lot of new people. We have seven -- although we have eight letter winners back, we have seven new guys, six freshmen. And then one -- we took advantage of that graduate rule with one transfer, Sammy Maniscalco from Bradley, gave us some experience as fifth-year point guard.
But, when you look at that, you can look at it two ways: a lot of worries, what's going to happen, or excitement.
That's what I'm looking at. We have good athletes coming in, some kids that are very competitive. They've made practice competitive.
I'm excited about it. And a little different mindset, how we're going to play a lot more aggressive, get after people.
We had the good fortune of going to Italy this summer. So we had ten days of practice, and also five games over there. And great jump-start for our kids to figure it out to kind of -- also for our staff to get a little different culture with our kids as far as the intensity level that we'll play at.
And so I'm excited and I think we have a lot of unknowns. But I think in some ways it's a good thing we can take advantage of coming out of -- being the dark horse.
And I think our kids are looking forward to the season.

Q. With such a young team, can you talk about who you're going to look for for leadership?
COACH WEBER: Well, our young guys are going to have to play and give us something. But there's no doubt the returning letter winners have to step up. And they've got to be our consistency.
We have some very talented kids. D.J. Richardson, who was a freshman a couple of years ago, didn't have a great year last year. He has been our leader. He's a great recruiter, one of our best recruiters when kids come on campus, very social. The kids like him.
And then but your Brandon Pauls and Meyers Leonard, they really have to step up. They have all the ability, all the talent. And leaders can be guys that get everybody together and they enjoy each other, but you also have to have that leader on the court that gives you the intangible that makes the play, the loose ball, the rebound, all that stuff.
And that's what -- I hope it becomes a Brandon Paul, Meyers Leonard, maybe a Sammy Maniscalco. Those are guys that have to step up for us.

Q. Can you talk about what Maniscalco means in terms of bringing some experience and leadership to your team, and can you talk about the growth of Meyers Leonard?
COACH WEBER: With Sammy, just a good fortune to have -- we didn't have any seniors. We didn't have experience at the point guard. And then he came along last spring when Coach Les was let go at Bradley, he wanted to make a move. It was a perfect scenario for us.
He still has to get healthy. The ankle is still in progress. He had two surgeries last year. But he has a good feel of the game. He's crafty. He's a very good 3-point shooter. He can spread defenses.
And I really think, more than anything, he's a good person. I think in the future he may want to be a coach. And he can really help our young kids. So all those things are going to add up to being very valuable characteristics for us.
As far as Meyers goes, he can be as talented as -- physically gifted as anybody in the country. There's things he does as a 7'1" guy, the way he runs, his footwork, his skills, his jumping ability, you know, he has to continue to mature, develop the toughness, the physicality.
This summer he had a good summer. Made the USA Under-19. He is still a young kid. You can just -- by the age group he was in, you'd know that.
I think that gave him a good shot of confidence. And he's starting to understand that you gotta come every day and be consistent. And if he can get that, he's as good as anybody in the country.
We've given him a goal at 10-10, ten points, ten rebounds. If he can do that, he's going to have a great year. And I think he'll be very competitive.

Q. Can you talk a little bit about the freshmen and who you think is going to make a difference right from the start?
COACH WEBER: Well, you know, we need help at the point guard. So we're hoping Tracy Abrams will step up. He's had a few little injuries since we got back from the summer trip. And he's been slowed by it. But a tough bulldog. Sammy Maniscalco is more of a cerebral point guard, but Tracy is a guy that will be physical, get after you, take the ball to you.
We've got to get a little bit of him understanding that you can't go all the time. There's big people in the lane. You could do that in high school.
So he's got to help us. There's no doubt. And I think he will, just because he plays so hard.
We need help at the power forward. Mike Shaw from Chicago, De La Salle, has done a nice job of doing all the little things, the rebounding, being physical, defending, taking charges.
The thing we've emphasized with all of them, just find a niche. Do the things you can do and we can use that.
Nnanna Egwu might be the furthest along. He's a big kid from Chicago, Saint Ignatius, and it's just an amazing story. Really didn't play organized basketball until high school, and four years later he's MVP of our state high school All-Star game.
Just plays so hard. Runs the court. Very dedicated, puts a lot of time into it. Wants to be good. Loves it. And he pushes Meyers every day in practice with his intensity.
So I think they all can give us a little something, but right now those three guys look like -- it maybe separated himself a little bit.

Q. How are Devin's spirits after breaking his finger? Have you talked to him?
COACH WEBER: Yeah, I talked to him last night. He broke his finger in practice. Devin Langford is our freshman from Huntsville, Alabama. Very versatile kid. 6'6", 6'7". Maybe the best instincts of anybody on our team, passing and the feel of the game.
He didn't get to play this summer. He hurt his thigh, had a deep thigh bruise, and then came back and was just starting to get involved, and now he broke his finger. Had to have surgery yesterday, and he's probably going to be out four to six weeks. It's going to put him behind quite a bit.
But what can you say? It is what it is, and he's not -- I'm sure he's not happy about it. But we just talked about using the advantage, get in the weight room, do some things that are going to help you down the road. So we'll just have to wait and see how fast he comes back, if we can get him back involved.

Q. Doc Sadler talked about adapting to this league. One of the challenges is you run into Northwestern style and then you run into Iowa style. You brought kind of an established Big Ten style to Illinois. Can you talk about the challenges of different styles in this league and how different that might be compared to other leagues?
COACH WEBER: I think possessions mean something. I think that's the biggest thing, that -- I think we have great coaches. I had the good fortune when I was an assistant to be involved in the league when Hall of Famers, Coach Knight, Coach Heathcote, Coach Henson, Coach Keady just had a pretty good run. And I think you have that again from Tom to Bo to Tubby to Thad. Even Matt as a young coach, Bill brings -- you can go down the list.
So every game you have to be prepared. And possessions means something. Turnovers means something. Fouls, they don't foul. Good, solid defenses.
And it's a different style. And with Nebraska coming in, I think Doc -- I know his background. He came through Coach Sutton at Arkansas, the same as Coach Keady was. He brings that tough hard-nosed style to the table.
And I think our league sometimes gets a bad image that we're not run and gun, but at the same time I think it's good, solid basketball. And you have to be prepared for that. And on a daily basis, every game, you have to raise your level of coaching to compete with them.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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