Jay Wright attended the Big East Media Day with his three senior captains, Corey Fisher, Corey Stokes and Antonio Pena this year. The foursome had a small crowd of reporters swarming about their table for most of the morning, which was about par for the course for most teams -- though Providence was notably lacking in reporter interest.
Of the Villanova contingent, I tried to find answers to the questions you posted in our Preview comments (a task that kept me at the Villanova table for most of the first session). You asked:
What is the status of James Bell's recovery, and will he play this season?
"James Bell had two surgeries on his tibia, for stress fractures. We'll probably get him back into practice at the end of November, so if everything is going well with him, we were thinking that maybe in the middle of December we could get him to be 100%, and then we have to make a decision."
Which player(s) have impressed the most? Improved the most?
"I think these three... the seniors [Fisher, Stokes and Pena], have been impressive as leaders and as veteran Big East players."
What sort of defense will Villanova be playing this season? Will the Triangle-and-2 return?
"We'll use it. We'll use it when we have to. It's more situational personnel, you know some teams just have the kind of personnel that you can do that. Other teams might have two great players, but the other players are the type of players who will take advantage of you're focusing on those two."
"We keep it in our back pocket, but we rarely go into a game and use it without having talked about it in our preparation."
"We might play some zone this year. I seriously might listen to [the critics]. One of the reasons we haven't put out a zone is because we were always so small. I always though if you're that small and you're in a zone, it's already easier for people to shoot over you and rebound over you. If you look at the really good zone teams, like Syracuse, what makes them good is their size and length. So, we have a bigger team this year, so we might play some zone."
Which player will surprise Villanova fans the most this season?
"Maybe JayVaughn Pinkston, just because guys don't know him. I don't know about the rest of our guys, if they would surprise people, because they know them."
What position will JayVaughn Pinkston be playing this season?
"We've been pleasantly, pleasantly, surprised with JayVaughn," who reportedly has great hands. "One of the questions, which still has to be answered, you have to see once you start playing full court five-on-five, can he play -- at 6'6", 260 -- on the perimeter. Right now it looks like he can, which will get him more playing time."
"Yesterday was our 8th practice in five days. The last practice, he was dead, but he was good up until then, so it goes to show."
Which players will be in the starting lineup for Villanova?
The senior captains will all start, Fisher, Stokes and Pena. Yarou will likely start as well, Coach Wright said, "I want to [play bigger]. A lot of it depends on Mouph. We don't have to have Antonio in the post, we did last year because Maurice was too young and Mouph was sick. I think our best team is [Pena] facing the basket, Mouph inside, that's what we want to do and now we have to see if we're good enough in the Big East to be effective that way."
As for the fifth starter he said, "we don't yet: we know Isaiah Armwood will play a lot and we know Maurice will play a lot, but the starter will be Wayns, Pinkston or Cheek," at shooting guard.
"We have a chance to play small (Maalik), and we had a chance to play big."
Is Jay Wright concerned about Lavin's presence tightening the recruiting market in the Northeast?
"I just think there are enough players in this area for everybody. I really do. Even if the local schools get some of the guys, there are still so many great players in this area. You know, as long as we're getting the one's we want, I'm fine. Recruiting the New York area is always the most difficult, because you've got great local schools, but everyone else recruits there as well."
What are Jay Wright's thoughts on Villanova Football as it regards basketball success?
"Yeah. It is. It is. I think football is important to Villanova University, you know no matter what level they play, in that it separates you from just another small school that plays basketball. You know, we have football weekends, and it's important and our football games are on TV, and on Saturday when you're checking the scores, you know, the Villanova score is up. I think it's important to our entire University."
Villanova Notes & Quotes:
- Asked why he didn't put his name in the NBA draft, Corey Fisher replied, "I knew I wasn't ready." He went on to say that "you only get four years in college, you never get that back and playing with teammates like Stokes and Pena, there's no reason to leave. The opportunity was there," but there was, "no need to rush."
- On whether he can score 105 points on a Big East team: "The 105 game is past me, I'm just getting ready to have a great senior year with Stokes and Pena . . . You're not going to score that many points in a college game. I know I'm going to hear it a lot, but I'm just getting ready to have a great senior year. I'm not worried about scoring. Whatever Coach needs from me, I'm going to be ready to do."
- On what he needs to do for the team to succeed: "I think the only think I've got to do is be vocal, that's it. I got guys on my team that are willing to learn and we've got young guys that are coming in that are looking up to us, and we have to set the example. We've been battling in practice, the season just started and it's going to be a good year."
- On who put the most in: "Tone and Stokes, I think, were working real hard. I know Tone worked real hard on getting his shot better, his post moves, and Stokes has been working on his ball handling. That's kind of what we all do, we take pride in getting better in the offseason. We're trying to get better as basketball players and graduate."
- Team's ceiling: "We don't know right now. We know we can be good, and we also know that things can change. Nothing's promised, and we can't really control it, all we control is going out there and playing hard, so that's what we're focused on right now."
- Corey Stokes on the motivation gained from their early departure from the NCAA Tournament: "It's been motivating us all summer long and all preseason. We've been working hard every day. We're getting better every day as a team and individually. We just can't wait for the season to start."
- On Robert Morris: "We never take any team for granted."
- On the informal mentoring program: "We lead this team all summer long, we each had players under our wing. I think this is the best productive summer I've had at Villanova with the team. We go at each other each day in practice, and sometimes coach has to stop us and tell us not to hurt each other. I think we're very competitive this year, more than we've been in the past. . . . I was in charge of Cheek, Fisher was in charge of Maalik and Antonio was in charge of Mouph. I think we did a great job with them, just telling them when they mess up to keep a positive attitude... and work hard no matter what you do."
- On whether he's the best shooter on the team this year: "I guess so, yeah."
- Goals for the offseason, "My goals were to get in the gym every day and work on my ball handling, work on getting to the basket more, and on leading the team with Antonio and Fisher."
- Antonio Pena: "We don't go by what other people think. We go by us developing as a team and just being there for each other."
- On Mouph Yarou's development: "He's improved a lot. Sky's the limit for him. He's got good hands, he can run, he's strong, rebounds, he can do everything. He's going to be a hell of a player."
- "We've got to spread the offense."
- On his personal goals: "Just being that rock, just doing every little thing that you don't see on ESPN, the stuff like that. Just doing that stuff to help my team win."
- On the state of the frontcourt: "We're gonna be solid, rebound, block shots, just being solid in the paint."
- On whether the frontcourt can shake off Villanova's GuardU reputation: "We're trying to, we left that up to Dante, he kind of shook it off a little bit, we're trying to finish it up. "
- Asked what he thought the team needed to do differently this year, Jay Wright answered, "I think, defend and rebound consistently. We had games where defended and rebounded consistently and we won, we had games where we didn't defend and rebound and we lost. It came from the other games where we weren't consistent . . . we weren't creating the habits where we do it every night. . . . It was just six first year players that didn't get it."
- Wright on Yarou: "As a freshman, to miss November, December, January... the important thing is that he could never be -- because they didn't want his sweat to touch anybody -- he could never be on the court with us, that really stifled him. It's really like this is his freshman year all over again."
- "He actually is a more skilled player than people know. Where he's got better is his fluidity. He was skilled but mechanical. He's a bright kid, he plays too intelligently, where we wanted him to play off of instinct, and that's where he improved."
- On his senior class: "[The Coreys] were a huge part of our final four run." They have 77 wins so far, and they have a chance to be the winningest class. Two of the winningest classes have come in the last four or five years.
- On the Big East conference: "It's going to be the most unpredictable it has been in a long time. Everybody lost great players... You've got to vote [in the coaches poll], but I don't think they are confident votes."
- On Fisher's capacity for leadership: "Coming in as a freshman, I think he was probably the least prepared to be a leader, and right now he's probably the most prepared, because of playing under Scottie and because of looking up to Nardi. He knows history, he knows the game..." (that one was Dana O'Neil's question).
- On Maalik Wayns: "That's [Fisher's] understudy, and he take's responsibility for Maalik, like Scottie took responsibility for him. [Fisher] and Maalik will play together a lot this year, but in practice we have to play them against each other, because there is nobody else who can guard them... sorry Stokesey... he does... Stokes' the next best at guarding them, but they can guard each other real well. We stopped practice the other day to discuss how them going after each other in practice was making each of them better and us better as a team."
- Coach Wright interrupted the questioning for a moment in order to ask reporters who was pitching for the Phillies tonight. ESPN's Dana O'Neil then accused him of being a Yankees fan, which he denied.
- The Twitter/Facebook ban was instituted because Fisher, Stokes and Pena were too "popular" online. The program did not like seeing player status messages reported in the media.
- Jay Wright claims that he does not have a Facebook or Twitter account.
Around the Conference:
- Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon tried to play-off the fact that his team was named the preseason favorite, saying that it was, "no big deal."
- Coach Jim Calhoun stated that he thought there was "no overwhelming team" in the Big East this year.
- He also claimed that Kemba Walker will be a top Point Guard, stating: "Kemba is going to be one of the best PGs in the country, I truly believe that." He reiterated his strong belief in Walker a number of times.
- Bob Huggins met the press in a Jay Wright-esque three-piece suit, complete with a double-breasted vest. His wardrobe choice drew a number of questions and comments, and provoked Jay Wright to stop by on his way to the Television room to point our Huggins' attire. Huggins later said, "I'm a basketball coach not a model," when asked about his famous windbreakers.
- Every player and coach in attendance was wearing a suit except for Corey Stokes, who wore a nice blazer and slacks combo and the Syracuse players, who wore their warm-up gear.
- On Scoop Jardine, Jim Boeheim said, "Scoop has gone through the process" and become a very good player since getting to Syracuse.
- John Thompson III is "not yet" planning to restrict his players from using Twitter or Facebook.
- Rick Pitino was asked about his team practicing with a 24-second shot clock, which he confirmed, stating that, "we want to play fast, we want to to play faster than we've ever played."
- Coach Pitino on conference expansion/realignment: "I didn't believe Syracuse would defect, even if they were offered."
- Pitino also said, "I'm hoping that Villanova will become a football member of the conference," noting that it would be the best-case scenario for the conference, which would not need to add all-sports members to expand.
- Talking about new Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard, Louisville coach Rick Pitino stated that he was "cut from the same cloth" as his former assistant, Billy Donovan.
- Kevin Willard mentioned that he was interested in re-opening a European recruiting pipeline at Seton Hall. Nobody followed up with an Enes Kanter question, however.
- Willard also said that he would be focusing on defense this season, he trusts in Jeremy Hazell's leadership and believes his team is talented enough to be allowed freedom offensively.
- Hazell said that he pulled his name out of the NBA draft this offseason because he has confidence in Coach Willard.
- A rumor began to circulate that Seton Hall player Herb Pope had signed a contract with a Turkish professional team, Willard denied the rumor stating that Pope had been in practice all week.
- Mike Brey noted that the challenge for this season is to extend their success from last season's run while star, Luke Harangody, was injured.
This post was made possible by the Naughty Volvo S60 campaign. You can see more about the campaign at MyBigEastVolvo.com.