Tech Talk Live featured two men’s basketball coaches on Monday night, as head coach Buzz Williams and director of basketball operations Jeff Reynolds made appearances. The two addressed the Hokies’ development through the early portion of the season, and how the team will prepare for their showdown vs. No. 8 Kentucky.
Here are the highlights.
Progression of Chris Clarke’s jumpshot, specifically from behind the three-point line
“Chris is a young man that has really worked on developing his footwork, and when you’re trying to increase your percentage from the three-point line, the one thing you’re trying to do is work on your base. During his injuries, from his foot to his knee, he’s been able to get in the gym, along with his rehab, and work on the fundamentals of his base. I think if most of you folks attend most of the games, if you see Chris catch the ball and his left foot is down, and he’s stepping with his right foot, he’s probably going to make that shot. But if you see him catch the ball and both feet hit the ground at the same time, then he rises up into his shot, he’s likely going to miss that shot. Those little fundamentals, he’s been able to sort of put to rest.
I would say the big thing with Chris is that the game has slowed down for him. It doesn’t look like it at times, trust me, but it has. It’s one of those things where when you get a chance to sit over there as much as he has had to sit due to injuries, and watch his teammates play, he sort of sees things develop better and easier, and I think that’s the big thing that’s happened with the development of his jump shot.
And the last thing, and probably the most important thing now, is when he releases it, he thinks it’s going in. It’s a confidence thing. We’ve initially told him, ‘Hey, you’ve got to make one three a game.’ And after last night, Coach (Jamie) McNeilly is touching me going, ‘No, tell him four.’ But he has added that dimension so far, and we’re happy to see it.”
Next step needed for Nickeil Alexander-Walker
“I think the big thing with him is his maturation on the defensive end. Getting more mature. Being able to see what’s developing away from the ball. He’s a pretty good on the ball defender. When he gets lost the most is when the action is away from him, and I think he’s getting better with that. He’s probably our most improved player at this stage, in my eyes as I watch him on tape after games, and I think it’s where he was defensively and now where he’s going to be. I think that’s the area he’s improved the most. He’s such a talent on the offensive end. He brings a complete package, and he has shown more and more maturity. When he first got here, everything was to the basket to score, and I noticed the other night, even though the game was a little bit ragged at the end, he was driving to pass. And that’s a good thing to see.”
Thoughts on PJ Horne and battling vs. bigger defenders
“And he’s going to be until he grows three inches. That could take a while. I think his development has been the most surprising, and I think it’s because even when he visited campus, you could ask him a question and his answer was either yes or no. ‘Nice day outside, PJ?’ ‘Yes sir.’ That’s about the max you’re going to get. He’s a quiet learner, and he possesses an innate ability to score around the basket and finish in traffic. I sort of look at him, and I see PJ Tucker, who played at Texas, who’s now in the NBA. Was undersized from Durham, N.C., he wasn’t recruited by the ACC schools, he went to Texas and then boom, the guy is in the NBA. He’s slightly larger than PJ Horne, for us, but PJ’s got a chance to get there, and I see his development continuing.
It’s interesting, he had a toothache (Sunday) night after the game, and they had a root canal today, and I haven’t quite talked to him. When I get off of here, I’ve got to call him and see how he’s doing.”
Effort to press more defensively in recent games
“It’s interesting. We face a lot of zone and I think we’re going to see more and more of extended zones. Guys that are going to play zone, but try to take away the three-point shot. Washington did it the other night in their win at Kansas, and did a really good job of that. Coach McNeilly was an advocate of us extending our man into almost a pressure-type man, without trapping, and we sort of let Justin Bibbs and Devin Wilson and Chris Clarke sort of play with that. If they can see what we call a ‘hot situation’ when we can double the ball, we’ll do that. I think it’s helped us. It’s helped take other teams out of their rhythm, and if we can continue to do that and not get burned in the half court by extending that, then we’ll do more and more of that as the season goes on.”
Team schedule leading into showdown vs. Kentucky
“Everybody is saying this is finals week, because they see that this is the gap in our schedule. This is not finals’ week. We screwed up. And I’m probably not supposed to say that publicly, finals start on Friday, and we mis-scheduled the game, and had to go after-the-fact and try to make it as workable as possible. If you remember, in college, the week leading up to finals is probably even busier than the week of finals, so maybe in hindsight, maybe this will end up being what we should do going forward. I struggle with this week because it’s not a typical week. It has nothing to do with our opponent. We’re going to play a lot of teams as good as Kentucky over the next 60 days, but the reason that I struggle is I think we’ve been in a really good groove. And I think when you press pause on that, no matter how much you want to stay in a good groove, when you press pause, it’s kind of like not working out for a couple of days. It takes a little bit to get back going. So, we’re off (Monday), we’re off (Tuesday), we practice Wednesday morning at 6 a.m., we practice Thursday morning at 7 a.m., we practice Friday morning at 7 a.m., and then we’ll leave Friday afternoon, late, when our kids get done with that first day of finals. And then some of them have finals on Sunday, I didn’t know that Ut Prosim meant you would take a test on the Sabbath, but I guess if you have Reading Day, you can take tests on Sunday too. So the rhythm of the week will be different, maybe that’ll be good too. Maybe the change of pace will keep us all fresh mentally, emotionally, physically, so that’s how we’re going to handle it. I think, to answer your question, just trying to find an hour to an hour and a half to have a practice, prior to a study group, prior to a final, and thinking our guys are going to be locked in, and you’re hollering and screaming at them, saying ‘That’s not good enough,’ and you expect them to make A’s on either side, you’re just — it doesn’t work. So we’ll see if this is right.”
Being unfamiliar with Kentucky because they rely on so many new and young players
“Yeah, I think you want to play teams like Kentucky. Duke may be the only other one, Duke’s got a lot of the same stuff going on, as far as early entry guys. You want to play them as early as you can, right? Because with each passing week, they’re going to continue to get better and better, and you hope as a coach, regardless of the age of your kids, you hope the same is true of your own team. But when you play a team with as many NBA players and as much talent as they have, with each passing week, they’re going to improve and they’re going to feel more and more comfortable, because those kids are freshmen, and they’re on the same learning curve as every other freshman, regardless of their talent. But as they begin to have comfort, like PJ is beginning to have comfort, (Wabissa) Bede is beginning to have comfort, even (Tyrie Jackson). Nickeil I think has maybe been expedited in that regard. But with each passing week, those guys are a little more fluid in what they’re doing, I think that — I haven’t watched all of Kentucky’s early games, but you can kind of see it in the games that I’ve watched, yeah, they’re better. They’re better, and they’ve got a week off. They don’t play until Saturday either. So they played on Saturday in New York against Monmouth, and then they don’t play again until Saturday with us. So they’ll be ready.”
Thoughts on team’s play through first portion of the season
“I think we’re going in the right direction. The one thing that I will say is they’re trying. They’re not only trying physically, they’re trying mentally. They’re trying to do what we’re asking them to do, relative to emotionally being ready, specific to their energy, in their attention span, their concentration level, all of those things that are hard to quantify, and it’s hard to get everybody on the same wavelength when there are seven guys on our team that didn’t play last year. Along the same line of some of the things I’ve said to you guys over the last couple of weeks, I think our older guys are being more accountable, specific to that. I think our younger guys are doing a better job of wanting to do what we’re asking them to do, but also being great teammates with the older guys because the older guys are trying in their own way to give them some wisdom. I think I said this once, I’m trying to find ways to remove myself so that Justin Robinson has to do more. I’m trying to find ways to not speak, to see if someone else that’s not a coach will speak. And I’m hoping that will expedite that maturity level that we’re going to need. We’re going to play Duke twice, we’re going to play Louisville twice, we’re going to play Miami twice, we’re going to play Virginia twice. It will be the toughest schedule in the ACC when it’s all said and done, and that’s something that none of us have ever done collectively together, and I’m really thankful we’re where we’re at right now. But it would be foolish of me to think that this is all we need, because I think that the roller coaster that’s coming our way is going to stretch us in ways that we’ve never been stretched. So the maturity that’s going to take is above where we’re at now, and that’s why we can’t give a day away. And it’s not give the day away in regards to we need to run a new play, we’ll run a new play, but it’s the purpose and the intent of that play that we have to understand, and it’s the purpose and the intent that we collectively have to understand on what’s coming. So the value of the day is probably enhanced more because we’re trying to take the next step. We’re playing more TV games than we’ve ever played, and that’s because the people that make those decisions think that we’re worthy of those things. And that’s all good stuff right, it sounds really good right now, when there’s no emotion and no officials and all that stuff. But then when it turns real, ok, you have to be able to handle that moment too.”
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