On Monday afternoon, Florida State head coach Leonard Hamilton and North Carolina head coach Roy Williams participated in their weekly teleconference. Hamilton talked about the development of Solomon Alabi, his team's rotation, and more. Both coaches talked about their upcoming match-up on Wednesday evening in Tallahassee.
Florida State head coach Leonard Hamilton
"Our team kind of bounced back after a very disheartening loss at Miami last week. We bounced back with a lot of energy at Virginia and got off to a good start and sustained the effort for the entire game. We probably played the best game this year as far as sustaining energy and focus for the whole 40 minutes."
Q: You have one of the quietest 16-4 teams around, do you hear much talk about your team locally as you have been quiet on the national level?
Hamilton: Well around Tallahassee the people are very excited but on the national basis it appears we started the season out with the expectation people had for us being somewhat low and we had basically a young team, I have seven first-year players and nobody seemed to know what to think about Florida State. Early on we tried to play as many players as possible to get them as much experience as possible so that once we got into conference play they would be a little further along. So we were not blowing people out early in the year, we were winning games but not by large margins. I think sometimes in the early season, if you are beating people by 25 or 20 points they respect that but when you are not they are not real sure who you are and what you are. We were very fortunate to be able to go on the road and beat Cincinnati and California and we were very successful against a very good University of Florida team. We stubbed our toe against Northwestern and people didn't have a whole lot of respect for them, but now I think that is probably changing a little bit because Northwestern is starting to play a lot better. We way we approach it is we will have to earn respect. Honestly now, even though we are where we are in order to get the recognition that some teams get with the record that we have, we just have to continue to keep winning and using it as a motivator to work hard and earn their respect.
Q: With as many players as you played early on, are they beginning to sort themselves out into more of a definitive rotation now?
Hamilton: Yes we are. We haven't had anywhere close to the unfortunate things that have happened to us in the past. But Deividas (Dulkys) had a groin and a hamstring at the same time and that is tough for a freshman. Uche Echefu had some issues trying to recover from offseason surgery. Then we didn't have the availability of Derwin Kitchen. So those things were just challenges for us to overcome. We are still probably a little ways away from really getting into sync there. Derwin is getting conditioned, Deividas is still coming back from his injury, and Uche is just now somewhat starting to feel comfortable even though he is still not 100%.
Q: Against Virginia, Solomon Alabi hit a couple of face-up jump shots. Were those shots in his repertoire when he came to Florida State or is that part of his game he has developed?
Hamilton: Well I think he has always had the potential to develop into a pretty good mid-range shooter. What we have decided because he still does not have as much lower leg strength as he will. He didn't play for a year and a half and he couldn't lift weights with the stress fracture, so he still does not have that running and jumping ability that he displayed in high school. What we have decided is that what we need to do for him is loosen things up for him a little bit and we need to take him out of the physicality part as much and try to get him some mid-range, free-throw line jump shots and maybe that will loosen the defense up a little more because what people have been doing is getting behind him and pushing him out and knocking him off the block because he is so tall and slender. So we are just trying to mix it up a little so that we can get the ball into his hands a little more in the post instead of just getting it to him with his back to the basket.
Q: You guys have played Pitt and Duke close, both teams that have been No. 1, now you get North Carolina who was No. 1. Can you talk about them and the problems they present?
Hamilton: Well I still have a tremendous respect for what North Carolina has been able to accomplish. They are getting everybody's best shot and early in the year they had been picked by every poll and every person in the sporting business and I still think they are at that level. It is just that Boston College played the game of the year for them. Wake Forest is probably a very, very talented team. They are coming back. They present a lot of problems for us. When you look out there, they have five guys on the floor who are capable of hitting you for big numbers and they come off the bench with guys who are just as capable. This is a typical talented, well coached, disciplined North Carolina team that is somewhat now fighting and clawing to get back to where they were in the preseason. That is a very dangerous scenario to be dealing with.
Q: What have you learned if anything about trying to defend or stop Tyler Hansbrough in the past three seasons that will help you in this game?
Hamilton: Well, the one thing you can say about Tyler is he has gotten better every year. Now he is taking more jump shots and is driving to the basket, he started off being more of a post-up player. The thing about Tyler is that as good as he is, if you give him too much attention you open up everything for all of the other players. You have (Tywon) Lawson shooting 47% from three-point range. You have a team of guys that play off of each other. I am not real sure if you stop Tyler, with his ability to pass, I think you have to defend North Carolina's entire system and make sure you make them work for what they get and hope you are scoring on the other end.
Q: Does having Alabi in the frontcourt help in defending Hansbrough?
Hamilton: Well, I am not real sure that the people that are guarding him with bigger people have necessarily stopped Tyler. Here again, he seems to take on all comers. He doesn't seem to be affected by the height of the people who are defending him because he goes around, he gets to the foul line so many times, he draws fouls, he is aggressive, and he goes back and givis that second and third effort that even if he misses a shot he is back up tipping it in or getting it and pump faking, leaning into people and drawing fouls. I have a tremendous amount of respect for him but in my opinion, you just have to have a defensive scheme to stop North Carolina's offensive scheme because if you give too much attention to one particular player, I think the other ones are just as capable of hitting you for big numbers. In Tyler's case, I think you just have got to make him work for what he gets and hope you can limit him from getting big numbers and at least try to contain the other four players.
North Carolina head coach Roy Williams
"Well we had a nice win to say the least over Clemson last week and played very well and in a half did some really nice things. Then we had a weekend off which was unusual to say the least. So we had seven days between games so we gave the kids a couple of days off and then came back and practiced yesterday and then today and tomorrow so we will have three full days of practice before we go to Tallahassee and play there. We know we have to play well. They had a really nice road win for them this weekend so they are in good spirits. In this league you better be ready to play every night. It shows each and every weekend."
Q: Everybody is talking about Wayne Ellington and how well he has played lately. Does it come down to confidence or something mechanical?
Williams: I think it has been more confidence than anything else. I think as early as right after Christmas we brought him in for an extra session and taped his shot, looked at it, and there is nothing wrong with it, in fact during that session he hit every shot he took just about. Some guys go through time periods where the ball doesn't go in … Now we are dealing with 18, 19, 20 year olds and we wonder why they cant make every shot but it is human nature, that is what it is.
Q: Can you provide an update on Marcus Ginyard and is there any chance Tyler Zeller may come back this season.
Williams: I will go to the second one first because I answered it on my radio show. Of course there is a chance but I think it is awfully stupid. He hasn't been released to play yet. If he comes back and plays one game he loses a whole year and so there is always a chance but it is not the smartest thing in the world to have happen. He hasn't been released yet and will not be released for at least, don't hold me to this, three to four more weeks because he doesn't go back to the doctors until then.
I talked to (Marcus) yesterday and he still did not practice yesterday. We are going to look at him and talk to the doctors a little more this week so there hasn't been any decision made on him.
Q: Was this a pretty good timeframe to take a weeklong break?
Williams: I don't think you ever know until you see how you play the next time. This is not an exact science, what may be good for one team may be bad for another team. We really haven't taken any time off. We gave them Thursday off and then Friday and Saturday we brought them in and did run and shoot. Sunday we did planning for Special Olympics and then had a short practice right after that. So we have taken a time period off from the game. I think it is good because we didn't beat on each other for a couple of days. Hopefully that will help Danny's (Green) aches and pains and Tyler's (Hansbrough) aches and pains, all of them hopefully it will help them there. Whether or not it gets us prepared to play Wednesday night we will have to wait and see.
Q: In regards to preparing for Wednesday night, was there any one particular thing you tried to work on during this break?
Williams: As I said Thursday was off, Friday and Saturday was just run and shoot, and that is all just individual work. It isn't really complicated, it is like it sounds. We run and we shoot a lot. But then we came back yesterday for a very short practice and just worked on our half-court offense just because I wanted to get them back into practice mode. Today, I just finished the practice plan this morning with the staff, and we are going work on just about every phase of the game today and tomorrow too.
Q: Going back to your two losses to start the conference schedule, what kind of issues were present in both of those games and what are you doing better now?
Williams: Well the other team played very well, that is part of it. Wake Forest has shown how godo they are. Boston College, right after our game didn't play very well, but they have come back and gotten two more conference wins in a row now. I think there play was a huge part of it. Our inability to shoot the ball effectively in the second half was the thing that stood out. We shoot 26% in one half and 28% in the other game, in the second half of both of those games. We didn't defend well, we didn't rebound well, but the one thing that sticks out is how poorly we shot the ball. I think you have to give credit to the other teams defense then.
Q: Can you address the challenges that Florida State's front line poses at both ends?
Williams: First of all, I think it still starts with Toney (Douglas) because I just think Toney does such a good job providing the leadership mentally plus what he does physically for that team. Their frontline is difficult to score against. It is hard to get easy baskets inside against them. It is a frontline that is similar to Wake Forest in that they are so big and they can run more than one or two guys out there too. I think they make it difficult for you to get easy buckets and if you can take away another team's easy baskets, it is a huge advantage for you. I think that is something Florida State can do.
Q: How do you prepare for that?
Williams: You can't because you can't simulate that in practice. You can't make your walk-ons, Patrick Moody is 6-4 and I can't make him 7-1 today. So you just talk about it and try to get better ball movement and quicker moves inside and see what can happen.