VIDEO: Men's Basketball Media Availability - 12/12/19
Head Coach Frank Martin and sophomore AJ Lawson met with the media Thursday morning
Speaker: Frank, you’ve obviously known Brad (Brownell) for a real long time. You know how his teams play. In scouting this team, have you seen anything different from what they usually have done the past seven years?
Frank Martin: I don’t want to speak for him, but I think he’s kind of in the same boat I am, trying to figure his team out a little bit. They’re competitive, they’re talented, they’ve had real good moments and I’m sure there’s some moments he’d like to have back, no different than me. He’s got some new parts. He’s got a freshman point guard. It’s hard to win with freshmen at any place, especially a point guard. I get the feel from watching on tape that he’s enjoying this team, and I think it’s a team that’s built for February, as they continue to do understand the new responsibilities and new people.
Frank Martin: I’m still not as deep into them as I’d like. I kind of used Monday and Tuesday to really, really spend a lot of time breaking us down. So I started kind of put my arms around them yesterday. I’ll continue to do that the rest of the day today, and have a lot better feel about what I think about their team tomorrow, but I think his team’s built for February. And what do I mean by that, is that they’re be playing their best ball in February and because they’ve got some, I think they got three grad transfers at home if I’m not mistaken, they got older guys that’ll stay the course. They’re not going to overreact to good and bad days, and a freshman point guard who’s good, who will continue to get better. So I think in February, they’ll be playing their best ball, and then that’s what Brad does too. He does a heck of a job.
Speaker: You mentioned breaking your team down on Monday and Tuesday. What have you learned about your team, the good and the bad over those two days?
Frank Martin: The good is that we’re not that far away. Northern Iowa is a really good basketball team and you were there, you saw that game. I thought we showed some of our capabilities against a high level opponent in that game, offensively. We’ve got to become… I don’t like using the word tough. I said this to you guys the other day, tough it’s just kind of too bland of a word, too simple of a word. Personality is a better word.
Frank Martin: When I first got here, our locker room had no personality. Michael Carerra took that personality on, and he gave everyone around him confidence, even though he had no idea what he was doing, but he made everyone feel like I got it. Sindarius took that on where no one in the locker room ever doubted that we had a chance, because he had that personality. We’re searching for that right now. You know, Mike is trying, but I don’t know if Mike’s personality is as strong as the other two guys I just mentioned.
Frank Martin: We’ve got to get better on the ball defensively, and the only thing that gives me saving grace is Sindarius and Duane, were not very good on-ball defenders when they got here. We’re asking some guys that are doing it for the first time, to really get better at it. That’s the bad, our on-ball defense. Anytime we’ve played a team that has the personnel that presents dribble-drive challenges, we have not fared well defensively. When we played teams that don’t have dribble-drive guys, we actually defend okay. So, we’ve got to get a lot better there.
Frank Martin: The plus is like, let’s stay on the defensive side, go play Houston. We turned them over 17 times, that’s twice as many as they average. They average 15 offensive rebounds a game. I think they had 11 or 12, three of which came in the last couple of minutes of the game, where it was over. We had a couple guys, I don’t say they threw the towel in, but we didn’t play with the same… That we had earlier in the game. So we are doing some things the right way and we’re not that far away. We have to, we got a score, right?
Frank Martin: You know, John, when I reflect and I look back, every time I’ve had a team with young guards, we don’t shoot it well early in the year. Think of AJ Lawson last year, the beginning of the year, he couldn’t make a shot to save his life. And as a year goes on, they kind of settle in and they start making shots, no different when Sindarius and Duane keep going. So I’m at peace that those guys work at it and that they’re high character kids that eventually will feel that ball going in the basket, and it’ll start happening on a more regular basis.
Speaker: When you search for that personality, that guy that stands out, is this a good platform for it on the road against a rivalry team? I mean, is that one of your main hopes, obviously out of this game on Sunday to see someone emerge kind of in that environment on that stage?
Frank Martin: I would hope so. I kind of look for it against Houston because like for example, we’ve played two teams that are really, really big and physical at mean from that step on from the point guard to the center to their depth. And that’s Wichita and Houston. And in both games there was a really, really physical game. And in both games we got really, really, really quiet. And I, I don’t think that’s something you force anyone into. I never had to tell, Sindarius to stand up and give the team of personality or Carerra or Denis Clemente or keep going on down the line. Jacob Pullen, whoever. Even from my high school days, Haslam or whoever. Those guys just did it. You know, those guys just did it. It’s, they’re willing to take on that responsibility. You can’t force that responsibility on people that are not comfortable in it.
Frank Martin: Let’s get something straight here now. It’s not like we’re sitting here at three and seven trying to survive. We’re in a good place. We’re not in a great place, but we’re in a good place and we’ve got great opportunities in front of us before conference play. So we have to hope that as we keep trying to do our jobs as coaches, to educate, to make them understand what’s needed. Everyone knows what you need to win, everyone knows to win, you got to do. But then you get into a real fight and there’s things that prevent you from winning. It’s accepting those and changing those that differentiates teams that learn how to win from the teams that learn how to lose. And, and we’re, we’re the middle of that right now. And, and I don’t think they’re running away from the things we have to get away from because they prevent us from winning.
Frank Martin: But, I never get concerned during the season. I get concerned about people off the court. I don’t get concerned about people in basketball, but for our ability to grow a little faster, maybe. Here’s the only thing I thought we’d grow a little faster than we have and I’m not talking about winning. And losing. I’m talking about that personality of our team and it hasn’t happened, but I heard a great line is that every flower blooms differently and all you can do is keep putting water on it and hope that blooms one, day and that’s what we’re going to keep doing with our guys. It’s, you can’t make that flower bloom faster than it’s supposed to, but we need that personality to start getting a little louder and a little stronger.
Speaker: Frank, when you have freshmen and transfers who maybe didn’t grow up in this state with this rivalry, can they grasp the importance of the rivalry and the scope of the rivalry before they play in it the first time?
Frank Martin: Yeah. You know Rick I’m glad you asked that. Cause Chuck Martin did a wonderful thing yesterday. We finally got some graphics put up in our locker room area over at the Colosseum and, and one of the great things that we had never done around here that we’re finally starting to do for our sport is to give our players a representation of all that have come before them. And you know, Chuck took our guys through that. We have a great display now and it’s a timeline as we walk from the locker room to the court and it’s all along the wall. It’s a timeline of black and white action shots of guys that played here in the 40s, the 50s, the 60s, the 70s and you start getting into color all the way up to Chris Silva and it’s a beautiful display. And Chuck took our players to your point and explained to them just how important this game is to all those guys that have come through before them.
Frank Martin: So they understand what that game means to so many people. You know, Chuck called me last night, he goes, “I had to do that. Frank.” I said, “I’m glad you did.” I don’t tell coaches what to do. I share with coaches what I want done and then I let them do it in their flavor. And, and he knows that.
Frank Martin: I’ve probably to your point, Rick, me not being from here, I probably didn’t put my arms around this game as tightly as other people do. It’s just the way I’m cut. It’s not, I was a K State. The Kansas game to me was just the next game on the schedule. I just, every game to me is a game. There’s not one game that means more than the other. They all are worth the same amount. And I don’t mean to be so lifeless to that approach. It’s just the way I am. But we’ve done a better job of educating our players of what this game means to so many people. And, Chuck did that yesterday, but we also have some things now to make all those young guys that you’re speaking about, to show them the history of this place and the of them owning up to the responsibilities that they accepted when they put the name on the paper and said they want to play basketball here.
Frank Martin: And, that’s something that needs to continue to happen around here. I’m going to say, I said a deal, Dan, we’ll say it again. I’m, we’ll knock on wood. I think this will be the first time we play Clemson with a healthy roster since Michael Carerra’s senior year. So what’s that mean? I’m not trying to create excuses for not winning, we haven’t won, but I’d like to go into this game with a team that’s excited because of who the opponent is, what it means to the state, what it means to this university and because it’s the next game on the schedule.
Speaker: Frank you’ve spoken about this before and obviously this year it’s, it’s not your deal, but how difficult is it to try to schedule this game where you can get the students in the stands because of exam break? What are the challenges you face in trying to get the biggest possible crowd for this game considering how the schedule falls?
Frank Martin: I don’t think people publicize this game the way it’s publicized, and Brad and I laugh about it the way it’s publicized for football and baseball. There’s probably articles written already about next year’s Clemson football game. There’s probably publications already showing the weekend dates of the Clemson baseball series. No one really speaks about our game with Clemson until the day before the game. And so that’s why it’s just to me who was new here. It’s always been just another game on the schedule for me because I don’t feel that… Now when you don’t, when you feel it the next day, people that want to show up and say, “Man, I can’t believe you lost a Clemson. Don’t you know we’re supposed to beat Clemson around here.” Yeah, I figured that one out by now. I’ve been here eight years.
Frank Martin: But there’s not that buildup to the game. I’ve shared this with you before, David. Brad and I have spoken about trying to find a date that works. We’ve played it before December and we’ve had less students attend games than when we’ve played it now and we didn’t want our game overshadowed by the football game, which is what used to happen. And I know maybe some people don’t like that. Brad and I coach basketball. We’d like for people to speak about our basketball game. Not that there’s a basketball game being played on the weekend or the football game. So we’ve agreed to do it here. The attendance numbers have been good. I know we went up there two years ago, I couldn’t find an open seat and that building two years ago. The largest student attendance that we’ve had for the Clemson game was the Final Four year when PJ was here. I’m not talking about the most students at a game. I’m talking about most students at a Clemson game was that game. So Brad and I are trying to create the interest for our game, not for our game as part of something else.
Speaker: How would you evaluate AJ Lawson’s first 10 games this year.
Frank Martin: He’s grown. He’s, he’s been a little inconsistent a little offensively. His defense has been lacking. And what makes it great about coaching him is that he understands it and he doesn’t pout. He doesn’t run away from it. I think we’ve been able to help them. We’ve played a bunch of games right off the bat and when you play a lot of games, one on top of the other, I kind of felt like a football coach. Now you’ve got time on Sunday and Monday to kind of watch your own film so you can be prepared for that Tuesday practice.
Frank Martin: I think we’ve been able to help him and guys on our team with some of the stuff we’ve got to get better because we haven’t been… I know this sounds simple, excuse me, it sounds complicated, but it really is simple. If you play Tuesday and you play Saturday, you got to take Wednesday off the way the week falls. So you can’t meet with players to show them what they’re doing wrong on Wednesday. If you do you get fired. The School gets put on probation. We’re not doing that. So when you come in Thursday, if you spend time trying to show mistakes you’re creating, this is the way I teach. You create a negative mindset. going into a moment where you’re trying to be productive on a day where you start preparing for your Saturday opponent. So when we don’t have those windows, I am about the next game. Whatever the assistant, including myself, whoever the assistant that had like let’s say what, what was the game? We went pretty quick there.
Frank Martin: Who do we play before? We went to Cancun?
Speaker: Gardner Webb.
Frank Martin: Gardner Webb, and we were in Gardner Webb to Wichita State. Whoever had the Gardner Webb game has to break that film down. So when I’m ready to talk about it, they can tell me what they saw after the game I’m talking about. Gardner Webb game ends. I separate from the game. I’m immediately preparing for the next opponent. So I want our players to do the same thing. Now that we’ve had time, I think AJ because he’s such a character kid, he’s such wants to please people kind of person. He’s been very receptive to what he needs to do better. But with all that said, without him out there instead of six and four, we’re probably three and seven so he’s carrying a burden. I tried to explain that to you guys the other day.
Frank Martin: He was protected defensively behind him because he had Maik Kotsar who’s as good a team defender from the big spot as I’ve probably been around. And the other guy that was back there, I don’t know if you guys have paid attention, but he’s a rotation player and one of the best teams in the NBA because of his defense and rebounding. So AJ was protected because of those two guys behind them. And then Hassani would always take on the top office of guard on the other team. Now AJ’s having to take on that responsibility and take on the responsibility of scoring and not having the same kind of protection behind him. He’s taking it on. When guys run away from it I worry. He’s trying to grow from it.
Speaker: Sticking with AJ. Is it more mental or physical with him from, from a defensive side? You explained what he’s going through but in terms of getting him to the point where you want him to be defensively, is it more technical or is it more mental?
Frank Martin: You know John, it’s a combination of both and it’s a matter of guys learning to. trust each other. I can give you an example. Whoever I play at the five doesn’t understand our defensive concepts as well. So teams are throwing the ball to that guy in an area which then exposes our guards if they’re denying. That didn’t happen the last two years. Maik and Chris would not allow the entry pasture, their bigs, elbows, or top of the key or that kind of stuff. So then our guards can be a lot more aggressive and denying and extending offices further out on the floor. So when you extend people, you have more time to recover when they attack you off the dribble individually, and your help can be available earlier rather than at the rim.
Frank Martin: People are attacking us that way. Jair, he’s been inconsistent at guarding the ball. So when you play Houston, they’re coming at you, they’re entering it to their five and now you’re on your heels the whole time. So it’s hard to be aggressive. What happens is your guards in our schemes, they don’t get out and deny as aggressively because they don’t want to get beat back door because the ball’s being allowed to be caught in certain areas. If you don’t defend before your man catches the ball? It’s really hard to defend good players. Good basketball players, not talented basketball players, big difference, good basketball players. They’re trying to catch the ball at their spot. When they catch it at their spot, they’re hard to defend. And that’s what’s happening to AJ a little bit, he’s allowing people to catch the ball on their spot and then it’s really hard to defend.
Frank Martin: But our biggest issue, it’s not just him individually, it’s collectively being better gardener ball and the half court line and whoever I play other than Maik Kotsar are not allowing their man to catch the ball in a place where then exposes our guards denying. Because when that happens and the guys aren’t going to deny and if guys are not denying great, then that puts an unbelievable burden on being able to guard to dribble because they’re one bounce away from getting a shot and right now that’s where we’re at and we’ve got to keep working to get better at that.
Speaker: Academic responsibilities kind of drop off and for the next couple of weeks with the exam week, break the semester, just how big will that be for this team, especially in that front court with all that inexperienced besides Maik?
Frank Martin: I think it’s huge, but it’s also huge when you got guys that embrace it. Today we got guys taking finals as we speak in about, I don’t know, probably an hour from now. I think there’s one guy with a final tomorrow morning. We’re done. First of all, they see that they achieve in their finals because I don’t stress them this week as much as I don’t worry about what other people do, but some guys like to have two a day practices and all that stuff. That’s great. We might have one or two next week, but this week I’m very, I hated finals week. I’m telling you, I finals week I drank other than diet Cokes, I drank some other stuff back then and be a bad week for me. No sleep, a lot of caffeine, a lot of other stuff. Just edge. I was miserable.
Frank Martin: Probably why it took me 10 years to graduate. But so I try not to stress them. So we try to use a lot of this time this week to teach, done a lot of film this week. Something we haven’t… Of us, something we haven’t had a chance to do. But yes, I’m a big believer that the easiest way to help people grow is by teaching. Not getting them to memorize a chapter. You can run a hundred plays and they can memorize all the plays, if they don’t understand how to play the plays don’t work. You got to teach. You got to help them broaden their thoughts, expand their minds. And, that’s what we’ve been trying to do this week. Next week we’ll spend a lot more time in the gym. But the best part about this is that from tomorrow at 10:00 AM or so up until January 7th?
Speaker: Yes, no it’s the next week.
Frank Martin: Whatever, right in there. Yeah, somewhere in there it’s a free mind man. It’s basketball. There’s going to be a four day window there where they get to go home, take a deep breath, enjoy their family, sit on a couch, and then everything’s basketball. And you can watch film. You’re not limited to the 20 hours.
Frank Martin: I tried to explain that to you guys the other day. If you got two games in a week, that’s eight or your 20 hours are committed to the game. Whether the game takes two hours or it takes five hours. It’s a four hour commitment per game. So that means you’re left with 12 hours for the week while you practice four days, two and a half hours a day. That’s just practice. I think you know where the math puts you at then, so then you’re left with a smaller window for player meetings, for meeting with them as a whole, for showing film. It’s hard to get the amount of information across that you’re trying to get across.
Speaker: You mentioned obviously before the season started, kind of figuring your team out of there for these first couple of games, do you feel like you’ve gotten a better handle on your rotation, the guys you like playing and how close is this team to kind of figuring out its identity in that personality you talked about?
Frank Martin: I’ve learned a lot about our team. I’ve learned that I like our team. I’ve learned that I liked the guys in our team. I’ve learned that some guys on our team…
Frank Martin: Trying to figure out what word to use because I don’t want it to sound negative. Are not as competitive as I thought they were. I don’t know how else to say it. Will that ever change? I don’t know. But you don’t learn these things in recruiting. You don’t learn these things in preseason workouts. I’ve learned from our team. I think I spoke about it after our Houston game. I thought we’re going to be a pretty good perimeter defend the dribble team. Well, we’re not a great dribble-drive team. So in our practices I always thought we’re doing a good job of defending the dribble, but in reality we’re very average at defending the dribble. I can’t learn that unless I got guys that are great dribble-drivers. Well, we’ve been playing teams that come at us off the bounce with real good players, and when they do, we’ve had some issues with it. So it’s allowed me to identify things that back in October and even early part of November, I thought we had a chance to be good at earlier in the year.
Frank Martin: I like the personality of our team. I want us to be louder. I want us to be more confident. I want us to be more aggressive. I think we’re a little passive. I tell them all the time, when our players are aggressive, then I can be passive. When our players are passive, that I get too aggressive and when I get overly aggressive, I think I do a really bad job of coaching. I’ve we have to connect and make that a little better.
Speaker: AJ, has there been one uniform thing you guys have worked on during this break? There’s been a few problems that have been problems every game, but is there one problem that’s kind of leading to the other ones?
AJ Lawson: I guess just working as a team, bonding with each other and just working on our defense so we can stop the other team from scoring. That would help us out a lot.
Speaker: With that defense, can you tell me a little more if there’s one aspect that as a defense you guys have to really fine tune?
AJ Lawson: Just helping the helper I would say and guarding our man one-on-one. That’s probably our biggest problem right now.
Speaker: With the shooting, when you go back and you look at film and stuff like that, do you feel like all the shots that you guys are taking are good shots and the shot selection is fine. It’s just a matter of, it’s just kind of a crazy thing where no one is hitting them consistently at this point?
AJ Lawson: Oh, I’d say a little bit of both. Sometimes we’d be getting good shots and just not knocking them down and then sometimes I feel like we might just shoot probably too early shots, too early in the shot clock and that might be a bad shot or just not in the rhythm of the flow so a little bit of both, but I feel like we can knock down more shots once we just focus in and play within the team concepts.
Speaker: AJ, how would you evaluate your first 10 games of the season so far?
AJ Lawson: My first 10 games I would say have been pretty good. Always can be better, but I feel for myself, offensively, I can get my teammates involved better in defense. We just got to guard my man better and play within the team defense and help my teammates out more.
Speaker: Frank talked a little after the Houston game about the guard plane and specifically point guard play. What do you feel like as a whole, the point guards, guards as a whole can can do better going into this stretch here?
AJ Lawson: We can help each other out by running our lanes. For me, the two and the three in our positions, we should run our lanes faster so we can get more transition points and for the point guards against the eldest spot and push the ball. All of our guards play. We just got to just be more vocal, I guess. We’re not being vocal enough for the big man to hear us and just got to just lead by example because we had the [inaudible 00:02:14] when we have the ball.
Speaker: As your second time playing Clemson, but can you sense that even though maybe these first 10 games haven’t gone to expectations that a win on Sunday can change a lot of things? Just from the sense of around here people be more… What do you think is… What can a win do against your arch-rival on Sunday do for not only this team but kind of everything around this team?
AJ Lawson: A win can do a lot of things can just bring confidence with our teammates. Just knowing that we can get a run on the road against a rival and then just for the fans they can believe in us and be happy that we got a pretty big win because that’s a big win in South Carolina if we win that game.
Speaker: Especially compared to a year ago, what does this rivalry mean to you now that you’ve kind of been around it a little bit longer?
AJ Lawson: It’s been going on for a long time so it should mean a lot and I love this town, I love the city and I just got to play hard and play for my team, play for everyone that’s supporting us and just try my best. That’s all I can, all the people can ask for.
Speaker: Yeah. Frank said that you aren’t playing up to your capabilities defensively right now. What technically do you need to do a little bit better? Is it something from a technical standpoint or is it something from a mental standpoint, where do you feel like you, you need to improve from a defensive standpoint?
AJ Lawson: Both. I need to work technically like on my footwork because I, like what Frank says, I open my hips too much, I’m guarding the ball. I just got to stay in front of my guy and just, I got to get more effort because the guys are getting by me too easily now. And I just need to focus in, step down and just guard my man, which I’m doing now. Focusing a lot.
Speaker: What’s it been like to have Keyshawn (Bryant) back on the floor in practice and in games? And what kind of spark do you think he’s provided you guys?
AJ Lawson: He’s bringing, he brought a lot of spark. He has a lot of energy when he’s under court. He’s always talking and being confident. That’s just what he does. And he’s always talking to the freshmen and just being like a leader. He’s been talking a lot and he just brings the energy and we all just pick up what he does or if he’s having a bad game or, or low energy, you just pick him up cause he’s just coming back and this is what he does.