Quotes from Herb Sendek's weekly press conference
On the season opener this Friday against Mississippi Valley State:
"Right now, we're really focused on Arizona State. We're trying to take advantage of every opportunity to get better. We have a lot of work to do. The tricky part about Friday's opener is, its Mississippi Valley State's first game, and they have a new head coach. We really go in to the game without a lot of information, in terms of scouting, to provide to our players. We're going to have to relay on habits, the ability to make adjustments as things present themselves, until we get a better idea of what their going to do against us."
On the chance this team has to go down as one of his better teams:
"It doesn't behoove us to spend a lot of mental energy there. We have a lot of work to do, I can assure you that. It's easy to talk about. It takes nothing for me to sit here and answer that question in the affirmative and be real positive. But the reality is, the only way that happens is if we work really hard every chance we get, and then were in a position to legitimately have that conversation. Right now, it's easy to have that conversation."
On the readiness of his team to play their first game:
"I think we've gotten better over the last week, we have made some improvements. It's good every time you go out and play, you get good feedback, but you need to play against other teams. We've made progress, and we will continue to do so. Every time we're out, we will find out more about ourselves. The more times you do things, arguably, the better you should get at doing them."
On the health of his team heading into the season opener:
"We're actually a little banged up, fortunately we have been able to make it through the preseason without anything really bad happening. Jeff missed about a week with a quad strain, and then he had a bruise on his back that he suffered when he fell. We just got him back on Saturday. James hurt his foot a little bit at the end of the scrimmage on Saturday, so he'll probably need a couple of days to recover. We've had a bout of food poisoning wipe through us this weekend, so guys are working on getting hydrated and ready to go for this afternoon. But outside of some bumps and bruises, some strains and soreness, we've been very blessed to not have anything take someone out."
On the enthusiasm that was generated at the end of last season:
"I fully expect it to [carry over] this season. Ticket sales are up, there seems to be a real buzz around campus. The students seem excited from the conversations I've had with them and we'll continue to move the needle in that direction. People are looking forward to the start of basketball."
On student interest now compared with two years ago:
"There is sizable interest now. People are aware; they're looking forward to it. I don't know if that was the case true two years ago."
On the rapid improvement of the basketball program in the last two years:
"We've covered a lot of ground, but its not like we can exhale like we've arrived. We're tremendously hungry and very humble in recognizing that we have an enormous amount of work to do. It's great that there's some excitement and some euphoria and everyone has high expectations for us, but trust me, we have a lot of work to do. On every level, on every front, and to think otherwise would be absolute foolishness, of the highest degree. I have been doing this long enough to know where we are, in terms of our program and our team. It's a good thing to have a lot of work to do, that's not necessarily a bad thing. What is a bad thing is to get carried away and to fail to recognize what lies at hand and be ambushed because you don't understand reality. What reality is for our basketball program is that we have made phenomenal progress, on every level, any way you want to measure it. When we first started, it was sobering. You talk about different programs starting at the beginning, having to start over. It was an enormous challenge. We have made great progress, not just player personnel, or the team, but from a program standpoint. We still are a basketball program that suffered through a difficult year two years, had a good turnaround last year and made it to the NIT; no more, no less. No matter who you are or where you are, the minute you think you've made it sports, obviously, that doesn't work to your favor. You always have to have a hunger, a great desire. You always have to be searching for ways to improve. Right now, we recognize that we have a lot of work to do.
On James' improvement this off-season:
"He is a product of a years hard work, experience, maturity. I don't know if you can go through what he does and not advance on a broadband front. I find it difficult to find one or two things. He's changed his body, improved his conditioning, he is more mature, a better leader. It's hard to find an area where you would say he hasn't improved from last year."
On James developing his mid-range game and working on going to the right more this off-season:
"Those are two things we talked about and he certainly identified for himself as being really important for him to continue to improve as a basketball player."
On Jamelle's improvement this off-season:
"He has really improved his shooting; his jump shot has made marked progress"
On Rihards' improvement this off-season:
"His body, he's really trimmed down, his body fat is much lower than it was a year ago. He's really moving with a lot more ease and grace. He's quicker, he's really streamlined himself."
On establishing a consistent third scorer behind James and Jeff:
"We have a handful of guys who can do that on a given night. I think balance is important and if guys like James and Jeff can draw a second defender, it is going to be just like it was last year; incumbent upon the other guys to knock down the open shot."
On coaching Sean Woods, the new head coach of Mississippi Valley State, at Kentucky:
"I coached him for two years. Hard nosed player, an excellent defender especially on the ball. He was extremely quick off the dribble, could get to the paint. The one thing I thought he was just extraordinary with was his on the ball defense. If he was on you, he was on you. He was going to be harassing you all night long."
On Mississippi Valley State's style of play:
"I think his team will play hard, quick, and athletic on the defensive end of the floor. I wouldn't be surprised if they press. We're going to have to be ready to handle the basketball and not turn it over and be ready for a team that really competes."
On generating money for the university through the basketball program:
"We would love to be a program that generates revenue for the athletics department and then ultimately for the university. That would be a win-win for everybody; that would be fantastic. Obviously we still have some ground to cover there, but we have made significant progress from where we were two years ago. No matter what your business is, progress isn't always linear. Especially in sports, we get tempted into thinking that you always play better the next day, the next game, that next year is automatically better than the previous one. Progress isn't like that in most endeavors in life. Sometimes you have to take a step backwards just to take two steps forward. Just like in business, every quarter you don't make more money than [you did] before. We want to continue to advance on a broad based front. We know we have a lot of work to do and we have to be poised. We can't let any challenges, any adversity, knock us off our horse. We just keep on grinding until we get where we want to go."
On being part of the 1992 Kentucky vs. Duke Regional Final, as an assistant coach with Kentucky:
"It was a tremendous honor and a great privilege to be a very small part of that. Just to be there and witness one of the great games of all time. To be in the locker room with those guys after the game, with the emotion and the brotherhood that existed at that moment, the unity was indescribable. An indescribable opportunity that you just can't put words to. Being a part of that was amazing. Were we disappointed? Certainly. But just to be connected with those guys, at that moment, in that way, is the experience of a lifetime."
On being anxious to play their first meaningful game on Friday:
"Every day is meaningful for us. We don't categorize things as meaningful and less meaningful. Every thing we do, from the way we warm up to the way we tuck our shirts in to the way we talk each other, everything we do has grand importance. There is nothing that is not meaningful. This is the next part for us, we got to get through a great week of practice, and then we have our opening regular season game, which is obviously of great importance to us. We have respect for our opponent because we respect ourselves, and we have to be ready to go Friday night. In some ways I wish we had a little more time. It used to be everyone opened Thanksgiving weekend. Tonight actually kicks off the basketball season on November 10th, and we just started practicing on October 17th, so it gets here quickly."
On his goals for the team during the upcoming season:
"Make sure they're always doing their best, and doing what's right, but always doing their best. I want them to be together and to give great effort, and all those kinds of things that are absolutely essential if your going to ever have a chance to achieve those kinds of goals that everyone talks about at the end of the season."