Andrew Tie, Brian Geisinger and Jim Young were at the ACC's Operation Basketball media day last week, talking to tons of players and coaches. During the course of the preseason, we'll be posting the Q&As they gathered.
What’s it like to have a healthy team in the preseason?
It’s nice. It’s good to see everybody have no problems. We’ve been so injury-ridden for most of my career, so to have everybody healthy – knock on wood – hopefully we can keep it like that.
What’s it going to be like playing the new teams, and how does that change things for you?
It’s exciting. It’s pretty cool to add them to the league. It’s great from the conference standpoint. It makes us the best basketball conference in the country undoubtedly. I’m excited to get a chance to play against Syracuse, and we get to go to Notre Dame, which will be cool. And then also playing at Pitt, so I’m looking forward to it.
Growing up as a basketball fan, would you watch the Big East?
Oh yeah, definitely. Growing up, they always had those Monday night games. I watched them quite a bit growing up. I’m pretty familiar as a basketball fan to see Notre Dame play quite a bit, all the teams in the Big East.
You mentioned the Big East's Monday night games. You’re going to be in three of them.
Yeah, we were fortunate enough to score three of them. I’m pretty excited playing them for sure.
Do you think the fact that you’re in three of those spots says something about the way people view your team this season?
Yeah, it might. I guess maybe the expectations there might be a little bit different, but I mean overall, you can’t really go wrong picking anyteam in the ACC for any of those games. You’re bound to have a great game. All these teams in this conference are great teams.
What’d you work on this summer?
I didn’t do anything this summer. I hurt my foot, and I was out for 10 weeks I think.
When did you get back healthy?
I was able to do some stuff at the beginning of August, the middle of August. I’ve kind of slowly worked my back to doing stuff and our training staff and coach decided it was best with the injury not to rush back into anything and use that time to rest and recuperate mentally and physically. I had a stress fracture in my foot.
How frustrating was that to lose a whole summer?
It was really frustrating. I had a lot of stuff lined up that I was planning on doing, and unfortunately I was unable to do any of it. I had to hang out in Charlottesville, take classes and rehab pretty much all summer. I was able to do all the stuff in the weight room and ball-handling stuff in place, shot a lot of free throws.
It seemed like you wore down last year in the last few games. Was it maybe a blessing that you were forced to not do anything?
As unfortunate as it might seem at the time, you have to always try and look at the positives. That definitely could’ve been one – just to get some rest, and let your body recuperate and regenerate over the summer.
It seems like you’re going to have more help scoring the ball this year. I imagine you won’t care if your scoring average goes down if the team is winning.
I don’t really care about the statistical stuff, as long as we’re winning and the team is playing well. However we can do that, and whatever I can do to help our team win, that’s what is going to happen.
People will really be targeting you, being in the top four of the ACC. How do you think that’ll change things?
The expectations and all that are there because everybody realizes we have that depth. We’re a much more talented team than we’ve had in years past. Coach Bennett is great about really ingraining into us understanding the process, controlling what we can control and not worrying about those expectations, and trying to be the best that we can be.
When you reflected back on last year, what happened after that Duke game?
I don’t really reflect back on it a whole lot. Looking back, I’m disappointed we didn’t make it to the NCAA tournament. That’s really my only disappointment looking back on the end of the year. I don’t really think about any of the other stuff. If you factor in "Joe didn’t play well at the end of the year, and why didn’t we make the NCAA tournament", you can’t worry about the stuff in the past. All that stuff’s over with. As soon as our season ended, I was focused on trying to get better for this season and doing what I could to get our team better for this season.
People did say you seemed to wear down at the end of the season. What did you do to build up your ability to last a whole season?
I was in unfortunate circumstances in the summer where I got hurt and had to take some time off, but I guess it could’ve been a blessing in disguise where I was able to get some rest and let my body regenerate. As soon as I was ready to go, I worked on some of the stuff I thought I needed to work on, improving from a conditioning standpoint.
A year ago, we were talking about you needing to fill some point guard minutes. How refreshing is it to have everyone’s role set on this team?
It’s awesome, the fact that we have an overload of point guards - which is not a bad problem to have - we've got four guys that are all capable of playing the point guard spot. It’s great for practice to build a really competitive environment. Everybody’s trying to compete for minutes. It does nothing but good things for our team.
This team can score more than previous incarnations. Do you think coach Bennett will look to score more?
He hasn’t really talked about that. We certainly have the ability put more points on the board, but I don’t think we’re going to change the way we play a whole lot. Defense has always been our main constant in our program as long as coach Bennett is there. That’s our focal point. That’s what we feel gives us the best opportunity to win, do the little things – get back in transition, always going against a set defense, and being rugged and tough defensively, and making teams work against us.