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Quotes from Coach Herb Sendek on media day

October 10, 2007

Tempe, Ariz. - Opening Statement: "I appreciate you guys coming out to Media Day. I'm really looking forward to coaching our team this season. We have a collection of terrific young men. I really like the character quotient of our team. That doesn't mean we don't have to go to church. That doesn't mean we don't have our moments. Like any family, we're people who spend a lot of time together, but we have guys who are really good people. They care tremendously about their careers as well as continuing to promote and advance our basketball program. We have a group of returners who must embrace and lead a relatively large set of newcomers. The new guys have to be prepared to hit the floor running and be baptized with fire, yet at the same time, listen to the advice and wisdom of those their senior. At no time can we become two teams wearing the same uniform, returners and newcomers. We're all Sun Devils."

On whether he believes there is more buzz about the team this season: "Yes I do, but I don't believe that that talk started after last year ended. I think that started to happen as the season progressed last year, and it's only continued, and if anything picked up momentum, now as we begin a new season. But I think that process really started last year."

On dealing with such a large group of newcomers and getting them integrated: "I don't think it's necessarily uncommon. There are other circumstances where the same thing has presented itself, but I think the first step is just awareness. They'll be ample opportunities to become one as we move forward, if we're really aware that that has to take place. Every season presents its own unique challenges in terms of the dynamics of the group. Even through the course of a season, some of those challenges can change, and the dynamics can be altered. So I think it's just really important to just have an awareness of what your needs are, in terms of relationships, in terms of chemistry, in terms of togetherness, almost on a daily basis."

On having some players who know his style now: "Most certainly, I think the guys who were here have a better idea of the way we do things, but as the same time our new guys are learning on the job, first time around. That's every team every year. You're always trying to integrate some new guys, and when you really have things rolling, the older guys, the leaders of your team, they do a lot of the work for you as a coach and can help the guys get where they need to be the right way."

On Eric Boateng: "I think Eric has done a terrific job transforming his body. If any of you recall what he looked like, perhaps the first time you saw him in practice here last year, and then had a glimpse of him today, I don't think you could help but notice how he's almost a different person physically. Eric immediately helped us when he committed, because I think he gave us instant credibility on a national level in terms of recruiting. Then even last year, when he wasn't in games, he added great value to our program because of his character quotient, because of his leadership skills, and because of the kind of person he was, not to mention he made our practices better with his presence and competitiveness."

On how playing with Boateng will help Jeff Pendergraph: "I just think if you're a good player, you want to play with other good players. When you put guys who are talented together and know how to play, you have a chance for the whole to be greater than the sum of the parts. Good players want to win, and they know they need good teammates to help them do that. They also know that their game advances when they have guys who know what they're doing and can play, so I don't think it's specific to Eric per se, but a guy like Jeff wants there to be good players around him."

On Pendergraph as the team's leader: "There's no question Jeff has presented himself as a great ambassador, not just for our program, but the university. I can recall having a conversation with him, probably within the first week that I was on the job, and I asked him to really take ownership of our program beyond just what happened on the court. The one guy that I have great respect for, that I ask him to perhaps model some of his abilities after, would be Tim Duncan. Whether it's in recruiting, whether it's in a marketing video, all the different things that comprise the presentation of our program, I asked Jeff to have a real ownership piece in that, and he's responded wonderfully."

On James Harden: "To me, although it's a very difficult balance to achieve, I love a combination of humility and confidence. I think James has a nice combination of those two attributes. It's really important to be humble, to recognize that others are important and that they'll be instrumental in how well you do. It's important to be humble so that you continue to stay hungry and are in a position to improve. At the same time, when you step onto the floor in the arenas we play, it's also necessary to have some confidence, to believe in yourself and to believe in those around you. I think James, like many of our guys, really has a nice balance between humility and confidence, because as you can easily extrapolate, if you get too burdened down one direction or another with those qualities in sports, it could be difficult."

On how Harden will help the team's shooting: "He's a very good shooter. I think we have some other guys who have improved their shooting, and we've recruited some other guys, in addition to James, who can shoot the ball well. Let's face it, that's an important part of the game. It's still, despite any effort to make it more complicated, the one thing we get points for. You've got to shoot, and all that other stuff is great, but you've got to put the ball in the basket,"

On whether the offense will be more fast-paced this season: "I think our offense will be played at a quicker pace. There were many games last year, if not almost all of them, that we just tried to keep it tight to put ourselves in a position down the stretch to have a better chance of banking one in from half-court."

On Jamelle McMillan: "I have great confidence in Jamelle. He knows the game exceptionally well, notwithstanding what it says on his birth certificate. He knows it, and what he doesn't know or what he hasn't experienced yet, he'll pick up quickly because he's really smart and he really pays attention to detail, and he really cares. So I think he starts ahead of the curve based on his background, and I think whatever he's still to experience, he'll learn quickly, once again, just because of the kind of person he is and the gifts that he possesses."

On how his feelings entering this season differ from last year: "I'm certainly a lot more familiar with our personnel and the terrain in general. Last year, I went into this basically blindfolded right now. I didn't know what to expect. I didn't know what I didn't even know. So certainly I have a greater degree of familiarity, but having said that, before you start practice, before things start to unfold, even the closest person to a team still has questions. There are still things that have to be worked out and determined. We have to become a team. We have to refine our roles. They'll be a lot of things that take place as we start practice."

On what he's gained from the individual workouts with his players: "I love the workouts. Not simply because we're able to help our guys get better as players, but it allows us to be with them. It allows us to work together. Even if it's that two hours per week, it's still invaluable time to be together, and then almost what we accomplish basketball-wise during that time is icing on the cake, because let's face it, it's only two hours per week. But the chance to be together in that kind of environment is priceless for us. It's clearly one of the best rules that the NCAA has made in recent times, and we, as coaches, continue to advocate more access to our players as being a really good thing."

On how he would like to have more access to the players: "Access to our players throughout the calendar year in a variety of different ways. Perhaps being able to work with them during one semester of summer school, so there's not a need for them to feel like they've got to go somewhere else to work on their games because no one here on campus can work with them, and others then displace the coaches, because they want to get better. They want to work. It's not like they're going not come to the gym simply because the coaches can't be with them. I do have a concern sometimes that our season is too long, that every time you look up, we've started one day earlier in terms of games. We've extended the traditional season. Everybody can remember the day when college basketball tipped off Thanksgiving weekend, Friday or Saturday after Turkey Day. Then there might have been a time when there were a few events that started before then, the first of the exempt events. But now, we're starting sooner than that. It's hard sometimes to even schedule basketball games on weekends, because while we've started earlier, the football season has gone later. We have a home football game Dec. 1, well when do you play a basketball game? The same your football team is playing? Or then, do go Friday nights, when high school football is in action? It's made scheduling on campuses even more difficult, not to mention the volleyball season, the women's basketball season. We've stretched."

On whether they will use the zone defense this season: "It was really interesting how that evolved, because we had played some zone, but not a lot. Anytime we played it, it was a lot of times because my assistant coaches were elbowing me to do it. Last year, we had no intention of following the trail that we eventually found ourselves on, and so as we go into this year, I think we've go to evaluate all that and, once again, just kind of determine where this team needs to be. That kind of was the offspring of necessity for us last year."

On the strength of the Pac-10 this year: "I'm a wily, two-year veteran of the Pac-10. It was awfully good last year. I don't think you could talk to one guru who doesn't say that it's even better this year. I don't think if you went to Media Day on one campus in the Pac-10, they wouldn't feel like `hey, we're going to be better than last year,' or `we have a chance to be better than we were last year,' `on paper, we're better than we were last year,' one through 10, I think that would be unanimous. The best teams in college basketball are going to be visiting Wells Fargo Arena this year."