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Oct. 31, 2006

USC head basketball coach Dave Odom talked Tuesday morning about the season opener vs. South Carolina State Nov. 10, what has been happening in practice and about what his favorite Halloween costume was as a child.

USC: Your team is 10 days away from its first game (South Carolina State, Fri., Nov. 10 at 7:30 pm). How’s the team looking?

Odom: We are beginning to develop what I would consider to be a solid, starting unit for this early in the season. It’s a unit that has a good mixture of ability and experience, but we are still trying to improve our perimeter defense. Each day in practice gives us an opportunity to learn more about ourselves. For instance, we are learning how much of the court can we cover defensively; how much are we going to be able to fast break; and can we rebound the basketball effectively on both ends?

USC: If you had to write a starting line-up today, who would be in that line-up?

Odom: The starting five right now are Dominque Archie, Bryce Sheldon, Brandon Wallace, Dwayne Day and Tre’ Kelley.

USC: How are the freshmen coming along?

Odom: Our freshmen have been slower to come around than I would have liked, but they have made some progress as of late. I would expect them to continue to improve. As coaches we have to be patient and understanding with their progress even though it may not come as quickly as we would like. Their effort has been good.

Why are the freshmen coming along slow?

Odom: They are inexperienced. It’s a big step from high school to college and there is a lot more to the collegiate game than they are use to. The system is different. Their off-the-court activities are complicating as well: academics, social – adjusting to college life has been a factor. I wouldn’t say it’s been too negative, there’s just a lot going on.

USC: Your team is playing two closed-door scrimmages this week. How does this help you check on your progress?

Odom: We are playing two teams that both realistically could play in the NCAA Tournament. They are both very strong and will be very strong early on. We will work on everything – it’s game like conditions. You go into it with no guarantees and you don’t hold anything back. You can try everything you’ve got without worrying about winning or losing so much. Sometimes in your own practices you feel like you are running an offense a certain way and sometimes it’s as good, sometimes not as good in the scrimmage. You think you are guarding well in the post, and then they overwhelm your post players.

I feel that these (closed door scrimmage) are better because the competition is stronger. The only down side is that you don’t have a live audience there. Your team is not reacting to a live crowd so you don’t get the spontaneity and the atomsphere of the real game, but the competition is better. I prefer this or obviously I wouldn’t do it. You are playing a team that you are pretty sure about – you know their level of play. When you play an exhibition (non-Division I), you aren’t real sure what level of competition you will be playing against.

USC: You have two guys from last year’s NIT champion team on NBA rosters this season – Renaldo Balkman (Knicks) and Tarence Kinsey (Grizzlies). Their teams open against each other Wednesday night. You have a scrimmage that night or your probably would be in Memphis. Anything you would like to say to them? How about to Gamecock fans about how proud you are of them?

Odom: It’s a great story. One that gives me a lot of personal pride and I am sure that Gamecock fans everywhere join me in saying to each of them that we wish them the best and may the better team win. In my mind, they are both winners no matter who wins that night. They fought through all sorts of adversity throughout their lives and now they have gotten to the point where they can capitalize on their hard work and the opportunity that good fortune has given them. I hope each one will remember that the NBA schedule is a long distance run, not a sprint so take each game and practice as it comes to help to improve his team. Remember – it’s who is left standing that matter.

USC: What was your favorite Halloween costume as a kid?

Odom: I remember wearing a Roy Rogers cowboy outfit.