Bearcats Preview First Exhibition Game

Oct. 25, 2012

CINCINNATI - University of Cincinnati men's basketball head coach Mick Cronin and senior guards Cashmere Wright and JaQuon Parker spoke with area media at Fifth Third Arena on Thursday - only five days from the Bearcats' first exhibition game of the season.

UC takes the court to play Grand Valley State on Oct. 29 at 7 p.m. at Fifth Third Arena. The game will be streamed live on Tom Gelehrter and Chuck Machock will call the action.

A sampling of comments from Cronin, Wright and Parker are listed below.

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University of Cincinnati Men's Basketball
Oct. 25, 2012
Fifth Third Arena
Media Opportunity Quotes
(press conference prior to first exhibition game vs. Grand Valley State [Oct. 29, 7 p.m.])

Cincinnati Player Quotes

No. 1 - Cashmere Wright, G

On being ready to face someone else:
"I think we are so anxious.  We have been playing against each other since the summer time. It's kind of getting old playing against the same people, seeing the same stuff every day. It's kind of an anxious moment even though it's my last one."



On if he is eager to show fans the more up-tempo style of play:
"No, we have to make sure we are ready first before we show the people.  You can't go out there and then everybody is like `no, we don't like that.'  We have to make sure that we fine tune everything, that everybody is in the right places, and that everybody knows the positions.  We have to make sure that we are right for when people actually do see us.  We have a short amount of time."

On differences in the offense from last year:
"For example, basically last year at the beginning of the year it was more so throw the ball to Yancy (Gates) and we would move off that.  But now it's just equal opportunity between everybody on who gets the ball.  So, if you have the ball, and you feel like you can beat your man, beat your man and the whole team will just follow behind."

On being surprised that UC was not in the coaches' rankings that came out last week:
"No, nothing surprises us.  We never really get any credit about anything, like players' (honors) or anything.  So, it's like coach (Cronin) tells us, `it doesn't matter, everybody is 0-0. Once the game starts and we start playing people, people will start realizing.'"

On if he was surprised about being left off a list of the nation's 50 best point guards:
"Nope.  People were tweeting me about it and I was looking at it like, wow. Why is it a big deal? It's like coach (Cronin) told me, `the only award that matters is at the end of the season.'  So, all of the people that are getting preseason awards basically are getting a big bull's-eye on their back. And I'm one of those people that is targeting them.  So, basically it's fair game."

On if playing good defense will be sacrificed this season for the up-tempo style of play:
 "Oh no, defense won't change.  (Coach Cronin's) whole thing is defense wins games and offense is just for us.  If you don't play defense, you won't get the chance to score. You won't get the opportunity to run the fast-pace offense, so you better play defense."

On talking about goals for the end of the season:
"I want to go to Atlanta.  That's my aim.  I have a chance to end my career in my home state, so it's kind of a big thing. Sean (Kilpatrick) wants to go to the BIG EAST Tournament and actually win it this year in New York.  So, we have two goals."

No.  44 - JaQuon Parker, G

On if he's ready to start the season:
"We are just ready to play somebody else. We're getting tired of beating up on each other the whole time (in practice), so we are just ready to play somebody else right now."

On learning from high expectations heading into last season:
"This year we just have kind of taken a new approach. Everybody is just hungry.  Everybody wants to just go out there and just play their hardest and try to get a win."

On whether this new up-tempo style of play is more fun:
"Yes. It's definitely a lot more fun.  You get to go out and it's basically open court. That means you can just go and get a layup or beat your man one on one."

Cincinnati Head Coach Mick Cronin Quotes

On Cashmere Wright saying he's not ready to debut their new look on offense and if he's ready:
"What happens with every team right now is you get to a point where you want to play against another team... You get to a point where you have to be careful as a coach because in training camp, you're trying to get everything in. You're trying to make sure guys are practicing hard, going hard. You need to get to a point where you find a happy median with that. But you have to play (against) somebody else. I'm sure the guys will be looking forward to Monday night, but at the same time I like that Cash said that. With this team, I want to make sure we don't get ahead of ourselves. We don't think that we're good. We don't think that we should be ranked higher than we're ranked. That stuff doesn't matter. The mature approach is to just focus on getting better every day. If that's where his mind is at then it's working a little bit."

On playing a lot of guys in Monday night's exhibition game against Grand Valley State:
"That's how we're going to play. That and they call it an exhibition for a reason. Try to practice who you want to play. We have guys that are more ready to play off our bench than they were last year, so I would expect those guys to play a lot more than they did at the end of last season when our bench got too short and was really what I thought was our demise in the BIG EAST championship game and in the Ohio State game, the Sweet 16."

On if he goes into exhibition games looking to see how players perform in certain areas:
"Well for us, there are certain areas that are important to us. The main thing is defense. Don't turn the ball over. Know what you're supposed to do on every play. Make sure you're in the right spot. Those are our three things. That's our criteria for playing time.

"That being said, there are details for the way we play defense. For instance, a big part of what we do is trying to get 40 deflections every game and wear our opponent out. But, you're not going to wear the opponent out, unless you're putting pressure on. Not necessarily trapping on every possession, but the cumulative effect of having someone that is athletic in your face, wearing you down. That's new for this team. We had a deep team two years ago but Ibrahima Thomas and Yancy Gates weren't guys that could play pressure defense. This team is built to be able to play pressure defense no matter what lineup is on the floor. Two years ago, we could only press with Darnell Wilks in the game, but maybe our best lineup was with Ibrahima Thomas. Whatever our four guards and our bigger guards, whether it's Justin [Jackson], Titus [Rubles], [Shaquille] Thomas, Jermaine Sanders those guys can all do it. So we won't have to alter our pressure. It's going to be 40 minutes of trying to wear you out with the type of defense we're bringing to the table. That's my biggest thing in the first night because that's a new thing for us, trying to constantly wear our opponent down and to force them to make fatigue mistakes."

On if the team is at least 10 deep:
"Well, we have 12 guys on scholarship. Hopefully, they can all play. For us to be who we want to be, we need to be 10 deep. For us to be the best team in the BIG EAST, we are going to have to do it with 10 guys. We're not going to do with five guys. I think we could have the best backcourt in the BIG EAST. But to have the best team in the BIG EAST, our guys understand that we have a plan of how we're going to do that. It's with defense, tremendous defensive pressure of wearing (the opponent) down. And it's on the offensive end, having multiple guys that can score and break their man down off the dribble and play very smart. No dumb fouls and all the things that we've learned about that we emphasize. But, yes, depth is a big key for us. That's why I tell you at these press conferences that I like Ge'Lawn Guyn and how important he is to us this year. When Cashmere Wright rests, that Ge'Lawn Guyn is able to play well and there's no drop off for us."

On if Guyn has demonstrated that ability:
"We'll see. He's done great in practice.  We'll see. That's why I say (on) Monday, he needs minutes to be able to prove that. And as a player, you need to be able to get consistent minutes to get a comfort level. It's very hard as a player to play effectively unless you get consistent minutes to develop some comfort level on the floor."

On what he's looking for filling Yancy Gates' position:
"The thing that Yancy didn't get credit for was his effectiveness on the defensive end for his positioning. He really got good in his senior year in how to defend without maybe being fancy, maybe not blocking a shot. What we would call position defense, reading the scouting report. He understood how to take away what (other players) wanted to do and make guys take tough shots, and do it without fouling -- without even leaving his feet, just outsmarting the guy. Some young guy that's playing fast, spinning and he's beating the guy to the spot and making the guy take an off balance shot. He became really effective at that. Cheikh Mbodj is a much better shot blocker, but he doesn't have Yancy's experience and keen sense of how to play post defense. That's where I've been coaching him really hard and calling fouls on him (in practice). Making sure he understands how to do what he does without fouling. Yancy got really good at that."

On the likelihood that any player will average over 30 minutes a game:
"I would be shocked if someone played that many minutes. You've got to understand, I don't think about things like that, I'm concerned with things that affect us winning. If you look at the top four seeds in the BIG EAST last year -- in the BIG EAST tournament -- turnover margin: one, two, three, four. Those are the things I concern myself with. Minutes played will take care of itself. Our guys know (they) are probably going to get what you deserve. I beg them to make it hard on me. Everybody get as good as you can, make it hard on me, so then I can sub on strategy. Instead of subbing on mistakes, I want to sub on strategy."

On the possibility of playing fast having a detriment on defense and rebounding:
"Far from it. You force the pace of the game with your defense. When you start talking about scoring more points on offense, passing is the key. Passing the ball ahead is something we spent all summer working on. Jason Kidd is Jason Kidd because he throws the ball ahead, he doesn't dribble it ahead. That is why he has been the greatest point guard on the break since Magic Johnson who was another great guy at throwing the ball ahead. We've spent a lot of time on that but you are going to force the pace of the game with your defense because teams can control the pace of the game with deliberate offense. Getting the ball in the basket, passing is the key. If you have good passing, you are going to get good shots and that is an area where we've got to continue to improve. We got better with our turnovers, and that has been a big key for us, keeping our turnovers down. This year, with our motion offense with our four-out setting is a lot of responsibility. It has been a struggle early. If you'd watch it early 10 days ago, you'd think, `oh my goodness,' these guys are throwing the ball everywhere. Guys are running over people. Coach looks like he's having a brain aneurism. Now, it is easier to put in set plays. It is a lot harder to teach guys how to play and read off of each other. It is just something we've got to stick with. Ultimately, it is going to be best for us, make us harder to defend. At the same time, we've got to make sure we understand who our best shooters are, make sure we are getting them shots."

On other teams that played this style that people could associate with or that you drew off of:
"No, we did what we had to do here for four years to survive. We've had more time to practice it from last year to this year and we are a lot faster. Cheikh Mbodj is 235 (pounds). His conditioning is off the charts. He was 260 (pounds) when the season ended last year with a horrible ankle. David (Nyarsuk) is 7-1. He's not quick, but he can run. When Kelvin (Gaines) is in there, he can really run. Justin (Jackson) is as fast as anybody at his position in the country, same as Titus (Rubles). (Sean Kilpatrick) has lost weight. Jermaine (Sanders) has lost weight. We have collectively lost 40 percent of our body fat as a team, not the coaching staff, just the team."

On what Titus Rubles and Shaq Thomas add to the team:
"Whenever you can get guys that play two, three positions at 6-7 or 6-7 and a half that can play offense and have tremendous length and athleticism, you can turn them into defenders that the normal college guard doesn't see. The other thing is when you pressure and you are scrambling around, it is important to have guys that can recover to the ball quickly. It would be like watching Alabama's (football) defense. They get beat too but the guys recover so quick because they have such superior athleticism. When you can get 6-7, 6-8 guys that can recover quickly, block shots -- they erase a lot of mistakes. Where the normal guy it would take them two, three steps to get there, they can get there in one and a half.

"Then on offense those guys can play. Shaq Thomas has got to do it with less dribbles and Titus Rubles has got to do it off two feet and not charge. Both those guys, I don't have to draw the ball in the basket, they're the type of guys they are hanging in the air, reaching around a guy, laying it in while they are in the air. They have that type of ability on offense so they bring a lot to the table for us. Getting them fundamentally sound is a big key for us because they are the type of players that don't grow on trees; they are not on everybody's roster. They can make your team bigger as perimeter players in hurry when you start talking about them guys playing the two and the three at times."

On if there is any preseason ranking or poll that you do care about or look at:
"That stuff only matters for fans and for ticket sales, so that is why it can be irritating at times. I think our fans are excited if I got a gauge for how things are and they should be about our season. If you are not busy next Monday, you are going to have fun watching us play. And (rankings and polls) are also for recruiting.

"As far as winning and building your team, it is pointless and it can be a detriment because kids start thinking that they are a really good team because somebody said they were and it doesn't matter. All it really does is put a bull's eye on your back. It is a set-up for your team. From a coaching standpoint, you are better off being underrated then you are overrated because it gives your team the mental edge. From a recruiting standpoint, the more you are on TV and people talk about you (helps the program), so it is a double edged sword."

On if Titus Rubles' passing ability sets him apart in being able to play multiple spots:
"I would compare Titus (Rubles) athletically to Ruben Patterson except he's not the rebounder that Ruben was. Offensively, (Rubles) is a better player, but he's got that kind of explosiveness because he can really pass the ball. He has just got to learn how to do it off two feet. When you've got a guy who can explode by his man at the pace that Titus can do it - and he can kind of do it whenever he wants - he's got to learn to not run over the guy that is going to draw the charge on him. That is going to be a big thing for him - how to use his quickness, how to use his speed and do it under control - and hopefully the game slows down for him. He's a guy that is going to be a much better player Jan. 1 than he is Nov. 1, same hopefully with Shaq Thomas and David Nyarsuk. Those guys have great ability and the good thing is they have veterans around them. As much as I like our team, because of those guys -- the newer guys -- I think we'll be a much better team in January if we just continue to stay focused."