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ATLANTIC COAST CONFERENCE OPERATION BASKETBALL


October 16, 2013


Jeff Bzdelik


CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA

JEFF FISCHEL:  We're joined by Wake Forest head coach Jeff Bzdelik.
You have a lot of continuity.  You lose C.J. Harris, but everyone in the starting lineup is back.
COACH BZDELIK:  It's a great place to start.  62% of our minutes last year were played by freshmen.  They gained valuable experience.  Of course, we have Travis McKie, we can't forget him, who has played and started every game, averaged about 30 minutes per game since his freshman year.  He has great, great experience.
There's no substitute for experience.  We had some great wins last year, some real close, tough losses.  Our team has really grown through that experience.  They're stronger physically, tougher mentally.  They've grown together as a basketball team.
I'm very excited.
JEFF FISCHEL:  We'll start with questions.

Q.  In talking to your players earlier, they said you're so much more relaxed this year.  They said the seven freshmen last year made you a little bit grumpy.  Are you feeling more relaxed this year?
COACH BZDELIK:¬† No question.¬† I'm very relaxed.¬† Very excited.¬† Very confident.¬† Last year, my approach with those freshmen, I had to shell‑shock them because they needed to play.¬† I told them, I'm going to be really tough on you because you have no idea what's in store for you.¬† They didn't.¬† If you ask them that, they'll tell you.
Once they've been around the block now, they understand what I was trying to explain to them, how tough you need to be, how tough‑minded you need to be, not just physically but tough‑minded, in an individual way and collective way as a team to survive and win, like we all want to win in this league.
They understand that.  They're working extremely hard.  So, yeah, I'm very relaxed, feel very confident.  I feel great about this group.

Q.  We know you're excited about your depth.  What specifically makes you excited about that?
COACH BZDELIK:  Well, depth is our asset, to be quite frank.  We have 10 strong players right now.  When Greg McClinton, very close to coming back, a talented freshman who is very athletic, that's going to give us even another player.  We have length, depth.
It doesn't matter what combination of groups of guys I put out there, they've all been very efficient in practice.  So we're going to utilize that depth and try and wear on people in terms of great, great energy at all times from all spots.

Q.  Tyler Cavanaugh, we saw a little bit of him last year.  What do you expect out of him?
COACH BZDELIK:  Tyler has worked extremely hard.  Coach Boeheim told me, Jeff, he was always in our gym.  He thought he was one of his own players.  Tyler is just a workaholic.
Here is an example of that.¬† Tyler came in as a freshman, 231 pounds, almost 13% body fat.¬† Today he's 231 pounds, 6% body fat.¬† He's changed his body in terms of losing about 15 pounds.¬† If you work that into an equation, eight to ten pounds of muscle.¬† He's moving better as an athlete.¬† He can shoot the ball.¬† He's very skilled.¬† He's one of our best post‑up player.¬† Shooting the three, he's really, really good.
He's a hard‑working young man who is skilled, intelligent.¬† He's changed his body.¬† He's going to be a tough matchup for fours in that he's a stretch four kind of guy but also can go in the post.¬† We're really excited about him.

Q.¬† Talked to Travis earlier.¬† With all the experience that the freshmen picked up last year, and he's a senior, is this the year for a guy like him that this team needs to kick the door in and get to 20, 22, 23 wins, make a post‑season appearance?
COACH BZDELIK:¬† No question.¬† We need to continue to show improvement and to win.¬† I have a dual responsibility as a coach.¬† One responsibility is to win.¬† I get that.¬† That's the bottom line in this business.¬† But the second responsibility is to protect the integrity of the university and have the true student‑athletes.¬† We've done that.¬† There can't be a trade‑off between one or the other.
Getting back to Tyler Cavanaugh, all‑ACC, all‑academic player, too.¬† In fact, we had about five of them.¬† The only problem there was, their GPAs were higher than their scoring averages.¬† I'm making a joke about that.
You know, we need to have a winning year.¬† Playing the type of schedule that we have, that will put us in consideration for post‑season play somewhere, no doubt.

Q.¬† Do you feel like this is a make‑or‑break year for you personally?
COACH BZDELIK:  You know what, nobody puts any more pressure on me than I put on myself.  We had the fourth best attendance in the ACC last year.  We have great fan support.  Fans were awesome.  We had some great home wins because of our fans, really and truly.
I want to win desperately.  I want to win as badly as anybody.  That's the plan.  That's what we need to do.

Q.¬† Coach, you went small quite a bit last year.¬† Do you anticipate that with the three‑guard thing?¬† Bigger?¬† Combination of things?
COACH BZDELIK:  Great question about playing small, playing big.  We have the versatility to do both.  Andre Washington has made great strides.  He came in at 215 pounds.  He's every bit of 235 right now, playing very well.  Going against Devin Thomas every day.  Devin has brought out the best in him.
We can go big, we can go small.  We can play Tyler at the five, who is a handful because of his ability to shoot the basketball.  That was successful for us last year at times.
We have that versatility.  We'll use it accordingly throughout the course of games and see which one is more effective.

Q.  Harris meant so much to you guys, now he's gone.  Is he replaced by one or committee?  Is there somebody on the rise to be the next C.J.?
COACH BZDELIK:  It's a great question and something that as a coach, in our big wins, C.J. was awesome, he really was.  There's no doubt about that.
Codi Miller‑McIntyre just said recently many times last year he deferred.¬† Now it's time for all these young guys to rise up in a collective way and through committee, as you said so well, we should overcome the loss of a great player like C.J. Harris, who was very consistent for us.
JEFF FISCHEL:  First practice this season, what is the first thing you do?  What tone do you set right off the bat for this team?
COACH BZDELIK:  Toughness.  We need to get tougher from the neck up.  What is toughness?  Toughness is imposing your will, a firm determination to succeed.
Our players learned from last year how important every possession is.  We lost one game by two, a game by three, a game by four, a game by five, a game by six.  Would have, could have, should haves don't count.  My point is understanding how valuable each possession is.
In practice, everything we do has a consequence because one loose ball, one missed block off assignment, one defensive mistake from anybody, it takes all five players to make a play, has a consequence, and that could be a tough loss.
In practice what we've done is emphasize every little thing to perfection so we practice perfectly.
JEFF FISCHEL:  Do you get the feeling with this team everybody is onboard?
COACH BZDELIK:  No question.

Q.  The margin for error, is that a tough spot for a coach to be in, knowing that guys, it's vital that each possession is valued so highly?  The margin for winning and losing is a minute.
COACH BZDELIK:  Not just our program, but any program.  I'm not sure what the exact stat is.  I think the differential in college basketball is really just like a possession and a half throughout an average for the country.  It's what makes it such a great game, it really does.
We just want to control what we can control, and that's just a total effort.  What is defensive transition?  Effort.  What is running the court?  Effort.  On offense, cutting hard, jumping into position defensively, being aware, being focused, just selling out for your teammates, to get out of yourself and into other people in terms of a team concept, that's what we're getting at.
If you do that, come up short, you know what, so be it.  Life doesn't always go the way you want it to go.  Strap it on, next play, whatever.
But you can't have some letdowns.  Young players, when they come to this level, they're so good, they can take possessions off in high school.  That's what they don't understand.  They can let somebody catch the ball.  I'll block it anyway.  You can't let a guy like Plumlee catch the ball, for example.  A guy like Devin Thomas learned that.  That's where experience comes in.
JEFF FISCHEL:  Thank you very much.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports




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