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McCaffery: “We’re playing better defense”

This news story was published on December 21, 2012.
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Fran McCaffery, Iowa head basketball coach

Teleconference with Iowa basketball coach Fran McCaffery, Dec. 21, 2012 –

Aaron White’s shot is a little bit off, but of course knowing Aaron he is probably shooting 3,000 times a day trying to get it back. Do you see this is a little blip for him or do you think he needs to alter something to get back on the right track?

McCaffery: He will be fine. He has been shooting it well in practice. He’s been getting extra shots up religiously. He’s real close, I think he will be fine.


The way Devyn Marble has played here, especially the last couple weeks. What is the one thing that impressed you most in how he has played?

McCaffery: He has played with an incredible level of confidence in some pretty intense games. He has mixed in pretty extensively with his drive, his pull-up game, his 3-point shot, his back cuts, he finishes around the basket, he get to the free throw line, and he is defending. His conditioning is tremendous because I’m playing him about 37, 38 minutes in those games.


How encouraged are you by the way Gabe (Olaseni) has played in the last couple games?

McCaffery: Very, and it is interesting because we have been watching him now in practice for almost a year play that way and it is just starting to come together for him in games. You see him play with an completely different level of confidence in himself and what is expected of him and what he expects from himself, knowing where to go, where to be, playing through a mistake, making a play. He ran that kid down in the last game and blocked his shot — that was one of the most incredible plays I have seen in a long time. The situation didn’t need it, we were up by enough points. He was well, well behind everybody else and he just went and made a play because he has the ability to do that. He is so explosive athletically and at that size he can be really effective for us because the other thing… he can score. He is not just a run and jump and hammer guy — he can get the ball in the basket, he can make a baseline jumper, he makes his free throws. He can tip balls in for you and he is taking care of the basketball, so I’m thrilled with him.


On Gabe, is some of that just experience and his lack of prior experience at this level in terms of why it has taken so long?

McCaffery: There is no question. He hadn’t played in a ton of games until he came over. He had only been playing about four years when he came over and it is a different game. He has to adjust to a new set of rules, a different game, a new culture, and did well at Sunrise and then came here — we’re hitting him with extensive scouting reports and game plans and he is conscientious and he’s bright. He is trying to process it all. It takes time, but the only way you accomplish that task is to put your mind to it and keep working. That is what he has done. He’ll get down on himself a little bit but he continues to persevere and that is what makes him special.


Do you had an update over the last 24 hours regarding Josh Ogelsby?

McCaffery: I think he is going to give it a shot today. He did not practice yesterday. We were just talking about that — I think he has been cleared to practice. We’ll see how he does and it will be a game time decision as to whether or not he plays.


Have you looked ahead at all to the Big Ten either through scouting reports or just trying to get a grasp on your first three opponents are pretty massive going into the Big Ten season?

McCaffery: No.  I know we play Indiana and that’s as far as I have gone with regard to looking at the next week or so. Our focus is tomorrow and then we have Christmas and kids are going home and when are they coming back, when are we going to practice because when is our next game? That’s it. That’s as far as we have gone.


With the time between Saturday’s game and the opener with Indiana, how much time off are the guys going to get for Christmas?

McCaffery: They are coming back on the 26th.


Is that good for them to get a break?

McCaffery: I think so. I have been doing this a long time and a lot of coaches get freaked out and bring them back on Christmas Day and don’t let them go. It’s a long season. We start working these kids out at the end of August and so they need a little bit of a break and it comes at a real good time because now we have 18 league games coming up. We can kind of separate and look back at the nonconference part — see what we did right, what we did wrong, how we can improve and go into what we know is going to be an incredible challenge.


What is the nature of Josh’s injury?

McCaffery: It’s a spasm in his back up near his shoulder I guess. It was pretty painful, yesterday was much better. His movement on that side has been limited, so we’ll see.


What are you most pleased with about the development of this team?

McCaffery: Two things. No. 1, we’re playing better defense and No. 2, we have more people involved. You can break it down into a million other ways but I think those are two things that have pleased me the most.  


How much attention are you placing on looking at RPI as opposed to later in the season when it’s going to be brought up more?

McCaffery: I never look at RPI; it doesn’t do you any good.  It makes no sense for me to think about RPI.  Except if I want to look at long term scheduling, but even then, you don’t know what a team is going to be in that particular year anyway.  You know if you play Kentucky it’s probably going to help your team if you win.  For the most part, I have seen teams schedule games thinking they had a great RPI and that particular year 3-4 teams have down years and it kills your RPI.  The No. 1 component in RPI is wins.  If you keep winning, your RPI is going to be in good shape and it will go up.  If you lose, and to a team that doesn’t have a high RPI, that isn’t going to help you.  All I try to do is get our team to keep winning and the RPI will take care of itself.


With the depth on your bench, do you ever worry that you’re not giving someone enough minutes?

McCaffery: I worry about that all the time.  I try to look at it and implement a sense of fairness to the best of my ability.  I take advice from my staff.  I try to be fair in regard to who is giving me effort and who has been productive both in practice and in games.  There are a number of times I’ve said, ‘man, I wish I would have played him more.’


In the Iowa State game, I didn’t put Gabe in and he deserved to go in.  We had four post guys playing really well and I didn’t see any minutes for the fifth one in that game and that’s what we went with.  Fortunately, he has the character to accept and understand that and come back and be a big part of our win in the very next game.


Pat Ingram played a lot of minutes the other night.  What did you see out of what he did?

McCaffery:  I thought he was solid.  He needs to get out there and be able to make a play and make a mistake and get a feel for what it feels like to be out there.  I thought he handled himself really well.


Your team has gotten some talk as a Big Ten sleeper.  The talking heads have talked about you as a team on the rise.  I am sure you’d rather be a contender in the eyes of everyone.  Are you pleased with the progress now in your third season?

McCaffery: I am.  The true of the matter is, when you’re in the middle of it, you don’t really look specifically at that aspect.  I don’t think about that aspect.  That’s what those folks are getting paid to do.  That’s what they look at and get paid to discuss.  We have tunnel vision on what do we need to do better today, so that we’ll be better tomorrow so we’re capable of winning our next game.


It’s a long journey and you keep plugging away.  At the same time you’re thinking about recruiting and how that impacts the roster we have and what components that we’re missing that we can address in recruiting to help our team get better.  Eventually we hope to be one of those teams that are right there all the time.  If you stop and focus on that, then we won’t get there because we’re not doing what we’re supposed to in terms of the nuts and bolts of everything.


What’s your take on Coppin State?

McCaffery: They’re quick, Fang has been around a long time.  He’s a terrific coach.  They’re going to be focused and ready.  They run good stuff, share the ball and have a lot of different guys that can make a play and shot.  They have great team speed and they compete.  That’s been a staple of his teams over the years, they’re going to battle you.


You talk about how you like the development of your team this season.  When you’re looking at it as 20 wins being the bar that could warrant discussion for the NCAA Tournament, do you feel if you get the 20 wins, should that be enough?

McCaffery: I don’t look at that at all.  There are so many factors that go into it.  I think it is a waste of time to look at that and think about that right now.  We just have to win the next game.  That will be 11, then we have to win the next game and that will be 12.  Twenty might not do it, 19 might do it.  We might need 22.  There are too many factors that are going to enter into it… who did we beat?  Who in our team is playing well?  Who is not playing well?  Do we win in the conference tournament?  If you start getting concerned with that, that’s when you go sideways.

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