Oct. 29, 2004
USC Head Coach Dave Odom and the Gamecock basketball team open their season with an exhibition game on Monday, Nov. 8 against USC-Upstate before opening the regular season on Sunday, Nov. 21 against Western Carolina. Today he sat down to talk to USCSPORTS.COM about practice, the Canada trip and Carlos Powell.
USC: Now that you are back from Canada and have been practicing for a week, how would you evaluate that trip?
The Canadian trip was excellent in almost every way. It gave us an idea of the newcomers abilities and it confirmed in most cases what we felt was true about these players.
Antoine Tisby has the size the body, the athletism to be good in the post. Rodney Trice is quick and fast and can go after the dribble and is a good rebounder even at his size. Stephen McDowell is trying very hard to be a good support player to Tre’ Kelley. We didn’t play Dwayne Day because we had thought about redshirting him, but we won’t do that this year. Our practices show that he is going to be a good player. From a newcomers standpoint, it was time well spent and money well spent.
It was also an excellent trip because we got the jump-start we needed and the offense and most of our defense in place sooner then we typically would have if we would have started practice Oct. 15. I think we found that we are better playing full court basketball then we are playing half court basketball. Our physical conditioning is in much better shape than if we had waited at a normal time to start.
The only negative that I found was that since I felt we needed to get our team ready to play a game, three games and a scrimmage with only 8 or 9 days preparation, we did not spend as nearly as much time on the fundamentals that I feel our team had always been good at. Things like starting, stopping, pivoting, changing direction, the things that make a really good basketball team a great team. We did not spend nearly as much time on those because it was more on team development then it was on individual development. It was more on team patterns then it was on concepts.
Since we have been back we have been spending more time on drills then we have on team play. Breakdown situation, setting screens using screens, being in the proper place at the right time, what is a good shot, what is not a good shot; those kinds of things. We are not moving quite as fast as we did in early October when we were practicing. The time factor that we are going through right now will ground us properly and the fundamentals that we need to play a difficult conference schedule.
USC: Growing up with just sisters, Carlos Powell talked yesterday at SEC Media Day about how close he feels to this team. That he feels like they are a team on and off the court. Is this something you notice as well?
I notice it with him; I do notice it with Carlos. I think it’s a product of two things. One, he never had a male sibling. He always had the female touch around him and probably missed it and didn’t know it. Being on a team full of males, it probably has completed his life.
The other thing that I think is true is that he has been through three years of basketball here at the University under the leadership of others (Mike Boynton, Aaron Lucas, Jamel Bradley, Chuck Edison), guys like that have been in the lead role and now it’s his turn. And so he wants that to be true to their lead and he is doing everything to make that be true, which I think is even neater. I think it’s a great thing. It is what you want in your players. You want them to earn their time and be ready, to assume the role that is available to them. In this case, the role of leadership is certainly there for his taking.
USC: They also talked at SEC Media Day about how the NCAA will stress the importance of non-conference road games when it comes time to select teams for the NCAA Tournament in March. You play a few tough road games yourself this year. Is this the direction you would like to see the NCAA go?
On the importance of non-conference road games: I think that is a criteria that should have been in there all along, because it encourages teams to go on the road and try your metal without feeling if you lose, you lose everything. Instead, they are rewarding you for going on the road and rewarding you for winning if you can do that. The way they are presenting it, you do get credit for going, but it’s no discredit if you lose and you have to go in trying. I think that is good for basketball all over the country.
We were getting to a point to where too many teams in the power conferences will play all of their non-conference games or virtually all their non-conference games at home and that’s not good for basketball. It helps you to go and play in visiting team’s arenas, that helps you grow. These are adverse situations that teach you people to be able to handle themselves, to keep their composure in the face of adversity. If the NCAA Tournament committee doesn’t have criteria like that, coaches are not encouraged to go.
The reverse of that is true, players are encouraged to stay at home in the safe confines of their own arena where their chances of winning are greater. It’s a good criteria for the NCAA Tournament committee to use in March.
USC: What should fans look forward to this season in the early games – any surprises?
I think hopefully they will be pleased to see that we have continued the brand of basketball that excited our fans last year. Trapping defenses, full court offenses. This team is quicker and faster than last year’s team for sure. The quickness that we play is naturally noticeable to the fans. We are excited to throw the ball up and begin play.