Men's Basketball Holds Annual Media Day
Oct. 27, 2010
Coral Gables, Fla… Head coach Frank Haith and the University of Miami men’s basketball team gathered at the UM Field House on Wednesday afternoon to discuss the upcoming season.
Here’s what they had to say:
Head Coach Frank Haith
First I want to thank you guys for being here today. It’s a really exciting time for us with basketball season getting started and the NBA kicking off last night, so it’s a fun time of year if you’re in my business. We’re excited about our team – practice is going great, thus far. If I had to pick out one player that’s playing lights out right now it’s Malcolm Grant. It’s a great learning experience for all of our guys to see him play this way, because he is the one guy that was here this summer every day, working with our strength coach. He hasn’t gone anywhere, he has lived in Miami, working religiously on his game. He’s had a great fall, a great start of practice. I’m really excited about him as well as a lot of guys, but I want to talk about Malcolm a little bit because it’s been a joy watching his development from last year to this year.
We had our [ACC] media day last week, and someone asked me whether there was such a thing as momentum carrying over from how you finished the year. My answer to that is yes, if you have the bulk of that team coming back, which we do. We have those guys that were a big part of our success late in the year. We had two of those guys making all-tournament teams in Reggie Johnson and Durand Scott. DeQuan Jones, the way he was playing late in the year, Julian Gamble as well. We had the bulk of those guys, tasting what it was like to win and play a certain way to have success. I feel good about us being able to utilize what we did last year at the end of the year. Go back last year and look at that team, we got off to a great start. Some of it was maybe scheduling. We did beat a Minnesota team that went to the [NCAA] tournament. We did beat a South Carolina team – in South Carolina – that was thought to be one of the better teams in the SEC. Then we got to league play, and not making excuses, but we played six out of our first nine games on the road, which does not bode well for any success when you have young guards. So much of being good players is chemistry, and we were not ready for that, and you can see as Durand got better, and Malcolm got better, our team became better in terms of execution. Last season we shot the best we’ve ever shot here. Both of those guys had over 100 assists. That’s exciting for me in terms of what we’re building offensively. We went through a lot through that time, but as we progressed through the season, I thought our guys really adapted and started to play better during the year.
We’re excited about this year, we’ve got a great schedule. That second game of the year against Memphis, on national television right after Monday Night Football, is going to be exciting for us. Having West Virginia in here, with nine returning players; an Ole Miss team who was in the Final Four of the NIT, a Rutgers team who was a former Big East opponent of ours and playing in a very good tournament in Vegas against a few 20-plus win teams. It’s a very heavy schedule, but an exciting schedule. You look at our ACC schedule, we have Duke and Carolina both coming to the BankUnited Center. It’s a very good schedule, and if we do what we’re capable of, which is to stay in the middle of the pack during league play, we have a very good chance of making the postseason. I think this team is capable of doing that.
He’s just quick. He’s fast, he’s changed his body a little bit – he’s playing with such confidence. Obviously, Malcolm’s always been a great shooter, but he’s just playing quicker. I told him I wanted him to study a former player of mine at Texas, DJ Augustin, because he reminds me a lot of DJ. Now DJ’s a great playmaker, but just with his pace, and how he can accelerate, plus his ability to shoot the ball, he’s playing at a high level right now.
On DeQuan Jones
DJ’s whole thing is buying into everything that he’s doing, and just slowing himself down. DeQuan wants things to happen so quickly, I think he figured out last year to let the game come to him. He’s not forcing things to happen, and relying on his athleticism. DJ’s worked hard on his jump shot, and he’s shooting it the best he’s ever shot it. I don’t want him to forget who he is as a player. If he does those things, he’ll help us win some games.
On the improvement of Reggie Johnson
Reggie obviously had a nice finish, but I expect more. If you go back and look at last year, Reggie played pretty well all year, but his minutes were sporadic playing behind Dwayne Collins. Reggie’s progression is to be more consistent. I think he’s got to continue to work on his off the court stuff. Reggie’s lost 56 pounds, and I applaud it – it’s unbelieveable. But now it takes an extra commitment to get a little bit more off so that he can have a little more stamina, and can play a little longer. Trust me, he’s working hard, but he’s still around 300. He looks great, so there’s a difference, but I still want him to get to the 285-290 range.
Reggie Johnson has a lot of talent. Reggie’s ability is off the chart – to be that big and have hands and feet that move that well, plus he’s a great free throw shooter. With his size, and his ability, if he does his work early and catches the ball with two feet in the paint, you’re either going to foul him or he’s going to get the ball in the rim.
I expect him to be in the rotation and play quite a bit. Donnavan is a young man who has worked really hard in the offseason. He gives us athleticism in the post. He can shoot the ball, he can play 17 feet in, and before his career is over, I think he’ll be shooting the three. He’s a guy that’s not allergic to working. Guys that have a good attitude and have a workman attitude are the guys that can really get better.
Junior Malcolm Grant
On the hard work that he put in this summer in Miami
Coming into last year, I was kind of overweight around 190. After the season, Coach [Haith] told me he wanted me to slim down some. I really focused on my diet, changing the way I eat, and then I’ve always been a guy that wanted to be in the gym, wanted to work hard. I had a guy like Jack [McClinton] to show me the way. I just want to be a great player, I want this team to be great, so I have to fix myself first to really help the team be successful.
On changes to his diet that led to losing 10 pounds
You know, with our schedule being so tough, I would be rushing and have to go to McDonalds and grab something in a rush, but now I’ve learned to cook a little bit. I go to Publix and grab some pasta, some fish, healthy stuff. Now I’m just working hard, working out three times a day, going game speed.
On his improvement
I think I’ve done a really good job at letting things go. Coach [Haith] always told me I would stay on things in the past, but now if I miss a shot or I turn it over, I’m onto the next play so I think that’s really helped me grow a lot. Also just being a better leader. You know, understanding how you have to talk to certain guys, you might have to get on certain guys or sometimes whisper to them. Just make guys get better so I think that’s really helped me evolve as a player.
On South Florida’s increased attention to basketball
Everybody loves LeBron. He is one of the best players, if not the best player in the NBA so I think that is really going to help us as far as recruiting and just having a lot of attention, a lot of excitement about basketball in this town. It was great having him on campus. LeBron is a funny guy. He’s really down to earth, and just a great guy to be around and a great guy to learn from.
On summer workouts
I did a lot of work. I got with my trainer Wes Brown. I did some pool work and worked on getting stronger in my legs to be more explosive. And then I would just come in early in the morning and shoot, and then my second workout we would do a lot of drills. I would just do that every day.
Expectations for this team
I think we are going to be really good. I just feel the vibe is different this year, everybody’s on the same page. I think the guys that have returned have done a good job showing these younger guys what it’s going to take to win this league. And I think they’re doing a good job of buying in. I just think we have a chance of finishing at the top of the league this year.
I just feel we are all on the same page, we all want to win. We aren’t worrying about what people are saying about us or who is getting the attention. None of that stuff matters, we’re just worrying about winning because we all know we finished last in the ACC and there’s no way that we are going to go through that this year, so I think everybody’s really focusing on that part.
Reggie is doing good and his body is getting much better. You know he’s my roommate now, so I tell him no more hot pockets, no more cheeseburgers and all that stuff. He tries to sneak the McDonalds and I don’t let him. I think he’s done a really good job of just taking care of his body. He went to China and had a great experience over there and he’s really grown as a person and as a player, so I’m expecting great things from him this year.
The sky’s the limit. Reggie Johnson has great hands, great moves around the basket, great free throw shooter, can shoot the jumper. I hate when I’m playing against him and I have to come off screens with him. You know, he’s just big – he’s going to knock you down, knock you out, laugh at you. But Reggie is just a great guy to have on the team, a loving guy like a big brother to me, even though he is younger. I love him and I’d do anything for him.
On cooking for Reggie Johnson
Actually Reggie begs me to cook all the time if he doesn’t have anything in there. ‘Malcolm cook for me, cook for me!’ I’ll be real tired from practice, but I’ll just do it because we have that bond.
On being an experienced player
Iit always helps to have experienced players. You know what it takes to be successful, so when the young guys are making the same mistakes you did, you can pull them to the side, talk to them and just let them know that everything’s going to be alright.
Sophomore Durand Scott
On his experience at the Chris Paul Basketball Camp
I’ve been to a lot of camps with a lot of NBA guys, and I’d probably say he’s the most interactive with the players. He was actually playing with us, showing us what to do and he would stop the action to show us what to do.
Expectations for the team this year
I’ve got great expectations for this team. I just feel that we’re going to do really well this year, adding those freshmen that are coming in, we have a chance to really do something special and transform this team.
On taking his game to the next level
I just go out there and have fun. I just want to be comfortable. I don’t want to rush anything, I just want to go out there and play, have fun and win some games. If I do that, I feel really good about myself and really good about this team.
Freshman Rion Brown
On adjustments to college
Really it’s been how hard the practices are. In high school, you can just get through it. Here you have to go hard every minute of every day. It’s basically just getting my mental aspect down and getting ready to play every day.
On making an immediate impact
That’s one of the reasons why I came here. I feel like I can make a big impact on a big team in a big conference. That’s one of the biggest reasons why I came.
On getting help from teammates
Malcolm Grant has helped me out a lot as far as playing and what to do and what not to do. Durand Scott has been real good with the plays since there’s been a lot thrown at me in practice. They have both been great.
On getting better as a player
I don’t think that I’ve reached my prime yet. I’m just stepping in to what I am supposed to be right now. I feel that Coach Haith can help me develop and that’s why I am here.
Freshman Donnavan Kirk
On sitting out last year
It was definitely tough, but a great time for me to develop and get stronger. The year off helped me because I was able to learn a lot about the game.
On carrying over momentum from last year
Definitely players are more confident about themselves. That can definitely carry over into the year. We’ve been working out hard.
On personal improvements
I worked on ball handling and shooting a lot as well as strength because I’m a 6-8 face-up four and need to be able to step out and be a three-point threat.
On lessons learned from sitting out
It gives you perspective because what you are doing now can help you in the future.
Sophomore Reggie Johnson
On weight loss
I’m coming in on Saturdays, off days, running around the loop on campus, treadmill, eating better among a lot of things. Our old strength coach [Mac Calloway] took me to Publix and showed me what to get and things like that. I try to cook now. I can’t cook that well. Malcolm cooks for me too. I go to healthy places now. I have given up eating fried chicken which I love to death. It makes a big difference in my basketball game getting down the court quicker, having better stamina and jumping higher.
On lessons learned in China
As a person, it helped me to be humble a lot more. It was a fun experience. In middle school, I read about the Great Wall of China and to stand on it was a blessing. It was real steep and I fell, but not all the way down. People were laughing at me and saying things in a language that I couldn’t understand. The whole time there people were say “Yao’s friends” and I asked what does that mean? They said they thought we were Yao Ming’s friends. I don’t even know Yao Ming, but I wish I did.
On play last year
I definitely didn’t surprise myself. The guys know what I can do from seeing me in practice every day and I know what I can do personally. I was just given an opportunity to go out there and show that.
Sophomore Garrius Adams
On team maturity
I think that maturity is really big for us this year. Everybody has a lot of experience except the freshmen and we have a lot of guys that came back. Last year the final push was big for us because we have so much potential and expectations. I think that expectations are a good thing.
On playing with Heat players
That was a great experience, once-in-a-lifetime. Most people can’t say that they played against LeBron James. We took it as it was; it was really fun and very competitive. They played just as hard as we did and did not take it light. They are good.
On the season
We are very excited about this season. We have so many expectations and so many things to look forward to. We are going to be one of the really good teams in the ACC because of how hard we have worked so far and how hard we are going to work. We have the talent and the drive to keep pushing to get better.
Freshman Erik Swoope
On adjusting to college basketball
It’s been a challenge, but I’ve been adjusting pretty quickly. My shot needs some work, but I’ve been doing some extra work after practice with the coaches. I’m also just getting the vibe and speed of college basketball.
On the season
I think that we are more than capable of doing really well in preseason, conference play and personally I just want to do anything I can to contribute.
On playing defense at this level
The main thing for me is to just get the vibe defending. In high school I was the defensive stopper, it didn’t matter which position. Now with guys at a higher skill level, I am still trying to be that person, but guys have more skills and make better reads.
On playing against LeBron James
It was pretty amazing to play with an athlete at that caliber. In California, I got some exposure playing against some professionals including Mitch Richmond, Ron Artest and Cuttino Mobley.
Freshman Raphael Akpejiori
On playing at Miami
Things are going pretty good. This is not like high school where things come easy. There are guys that are as big as you and as athletic as you. You have to be focused in everything you do.
Junior Julian Gamble
On an improvement he’s hoping to make this year
Defense. My defense was never bad but it can always be better, every part of your game can always be better. But I want to be more of a presence when it comes to shock blocking, stepping up to take charges and being tough on the defensive end.
On Reggie Johnson’s diet
It’s been hard, if we go out to eat, I can’t tell him not to eat something. But, Reggie has been working really hard. He might eat something bad the night before but he’ll come in and work it off plus some the next day.
On having LeBron come
They came about three consecutive days this summer, and played ball with us, talked with us and joked around.
Graduate Adrian Thomas
On how he feels getting another year
I feel like a true vet – it’s been a little more than half a decade. I feel blessed to get another opportunity. Not many college athletes get the opportunity to play for a sixth year. It meant a lot to get it so I could finish my master’s degree. My parents are educators; my mother is a kindergarten teach and my dad is an assistant principle and he just got his doctorate so for me to get my Master’s in Sports Administration this early, I know they’re happy. I just feel lucky and blessed and I’m ready to go.
On what he’s challenging himself to do
Rebounding more and making more plays for other people like Reggie. Or driving it, and kicking it out to someone else who can shoot a three like Malcolm.
Impressions of the freshmen
All of them play hard. There hasn’t been a freshmen class that has played harder than them three as far as defense and rebounding and tenacity.
On Donnavan Kirk’s enthusiasm coming off his redshirt season
He’s always screaming something when we’re stretching to hype us up or make us laugh. He’s always saying something crazy. He’s a good rebounder. He jumps high and he has long arms and he runs the floor so hard which can really hurt the defense.
On playing Memphis at midnight
It’s going to be crazy, I can’t wait. I was at a Publix in Aventura last week and a guy came up to me and said he couldn’t wait for the Memphis game. There’s a lot of people looking forward to that game because we start it up and spark it and that’s going to be a big test for us. I know they have a good recruitingt class.
On what he brings to the team
I bring more leadership and one-on-one talking to them. Especially the freshmen – I can tell them ‘I’ve been there.’ Or if somebody gets hurt, I’ve been there too. Everything they are going to go through: traveling, tests, tests on the road, or missing class and not understand what’s going on, I can guide them through it.
On the day he found out he was coming back for a sixth season
Jack McClinton was down here and he was working out in the gym and I was too, and he said ‘I heard you got that sixth year’ and I kind of played it off. He said that he was talking to Coach Haith in his office and Coach told him, so he actually knew before I did.
Junior DeQuan Jones
Expectations for himself this season
Executing, finishing, playing tenacious defense – whatever it takes to have my team win.
Reasons for success in ACC Tournament
Towards the end of the season we came together as a team. We figured this was a new season and it was a new start for us and we could come out and prove a point or we could give up. And we weren’t willing to give up. For me during that time, I just confided in my teammates and confided in Coach Haith. We all sat down and found common ground.
On what he has struggled with
It all gets better with experience. Once you have that ACC Tournament under your belt, or playing Carolina, or at Duke you build a confidence because you know you have already been there. My biggest drive in the off season has been jump shooting. Just getting up and shooting 400 to 500 shots and then shooting after practice to get your body used to it. Most people come in and shoot after they’ve rejuvenated from practice, but when you shoot after practice, you train your body into shooting when you’re tired.
On having Durand Scott as a vocal leader
I have seen a drastic change in Durand. I mean he’s one of those kids who was naturally born to lead. He has an ambiance about him that makes you want to follow him. Now he’s really tapping into who he is and how he is going to lead the team vocally and by example. In practice every day he gets guys going, he’s always saying “screen left, screen right.” He gives you confidence on the court, you know he’s there. The guys are ready to rally behind him and win some games.