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October 24, 2013
VUSports was on-hand to catch plenty of the thoughts that Villanova Coach Jay Wright shared with the media at Villanova's basketball media day this week. Here is part one of some highlights from the conversation:
Media: What are the prospects for your team this season?
Coach Wright: Last year we were just a game or two, and not just our own games but someone else's games, away from being in the NIT. We realize that by the end of the season we got to be a good team ? not a very good team or a great team but a good team. We have to build on that to become a very good team and hopefully we can become a great team but we have a lot of work there. I think this group has a unique combination of experience and youthful experience in that our Sophomores have played a lot, our Freshmen appear to be the kind of guys who pick things up quickly and we have Seniors in Tony Chennault and James Bell and Juniors in JayVaughn Pinkston and Darrun Hilliard that have to play like upperclassmen and I think they will.
Media: Looking at the landscape changes in the leagues, you are now in a league that is not necessarily guaranteed to get seven or more NCAA bids - has that changed your approach to the season?
Coach Wright: Not yet. We have done everything exactly the same and we approached our scheduling exactly the same. I do think at the end of the year we will sit down and see what was the difference. One of the things is the double round-robin. I just wish I was better mathematically and i could figure out how that affects your RPI and your Tournament chances. Someone should probably do that. Last year we benefitted probably more than anybody in the country in terms of getting Louisville to come to our place but we didn't have to play at Louisville ? we got Syracuse at our place after playing them at Syracuse and we got Georgetown at our place. We got Marquette at our place too and we happened to win but maybe even losing one of those games we still would have been in great shape. So you don't know how that is going to play out in the new conference yet.
Media: What is James Bell's role. Some may say his career hasn't been what was expected of him. Now, as a Senior, how is he approaching the season?
Coach Wright: I love the way he is approaching the season. He has a great maturity about him - a great sense of purpose and a great desire to prove himself. I really like where his head is. His approach is awesome. I love it and I hope he has a great Senior year. I really think he can.
Media: Do you think he has something to prove?
Coach Wright: Not to me but I think he believes he does.
Media: To outside people?
Coach Wright: Yes and to himself. He has been injured. Last year was his first injury-free season and I thought he had a great year for us. His Junior year in High School he was hurt. His Senior year in High School he was hurt. Freshman and Sophomore year here he was hurt. He was healthy last year and I thought he had a good year and I really think he is capable of having a big-time Senior year ? in a lot of ways - leadership, I think he can score, he is our best defensive player ? we are really counting on him.
Media: Do you see a change in how your team will have to play this year?
Coach Wright: A change from the last couple years but not a change from the things we have always done. We are a lot more comfortable in how we are playing. We are able to play four guards or three guards. We can take care of the ball much better and its' not just having guards its' having experienced guards. Last year, I thought we were a little young at the guard spots so I think that is going to help us a bit.
Media: Tell us about Dylan Ennis?
Coach Wright: He has great defensive energy, He can score, he makes shots, he can get his own shot. Having a guard that can get his own shot is important, especially at the end of the shot clock - and he can do that.
Media: Do you now have too many guards?
Coach Wright: No you can never have too many guards in college basketball. Now you can have too many guards if they aren't good enough! We think all the guards we have are ready to play and can play our way. That is what I am more confident about. Josh Hart coming in just naturally fits the way we like to play. He doesn't have to be taught a lot about our style and then the other guys have played here so I think having experienced guards is important for us.
Media: How important for Ryan Arcidiacono was it for him to get into the weight room and build up some strength given his style of play?
Coach Wright: It is always going to be important for him because he plays such a reckless style. What he really did this offseason was change his diet. He was around 11.5% body fat last year and he wasn't fat ? he was chunky and he is down now to about 7.5% body fat. He has completely changed his diet, he is more cut, lean, and stronger. It has made him bouncier, quicker and I know it made him faster and I know he feels a lot better. We have to get him more of a rest during games. I have to do a better job in that area. It isn't that I don't have confidence in the other guys it is just that I am looking out there and I know he will get done whatever we need to get done when he is in there. Not necessarily for him but I know that if we are running something for JayVaughn he is going to get it to JayVaughn exactly where he is supposed to get it.
Media: Is it a case of how Ryan Arcidiacono goes so goes Villanova?
Coach Wright: I think so. I really do. It's not points. It's not making shots. It's when he is playing with that reckless abandon and playing with that intelligence. He is taking care of the ball better this year, he is smarter. I think it comes with having more experienced guards around him and it comes with the experience of knowing what we are doing and good decision-making. So in that sense if he is playing with reckless abandon, playing aggressive, playing smart, and taking care of the basketball, we have a pretty good shot to play well.
Media: You struggled in certain games last season against Full Court Pressure, how will that be different this year?
Coach Wright: I think our overall team skill level has improved. Mouphtaou Yarou brought so many positives but, when you have a big guy like that, your perimeter passing is not strong. Daniel Ochefu might be one of our best passers. Our guards have become more experienced. Kris Jenkins and Josh Hart are very good passers. I think our overall team ball-handling has improved. When you look at turnovers, a lot of times that is consistent with a young team - especially young perimeter players.
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