Q. Where is Jordan Bohannon health wise, and how do you manage his minutes?
COACH MCCAFFERY: He practiced a little bit yesterday. He’ll try again today. If everything goes well I think he’ll play. I think we just see how he does, see how he’s feeling. If he’s ready to go, he’ll go. If he gets sore, we’ll take him out. There’s really no other way to plan for that.
Q. You said it was a bad bruise?
COACH MCCAFFERY: Yeah. So those things just take time. There’s no way around it.
Q. How did he look in practice?
COACH MCCAFFERY: He looked good. He looked good. I would say close to being himself.
Q. How do you feel that Luka has come back? Does it seem like he was a little bit ahead of schedule?
COACH MCCAFFERY: Yeah, he’s way ahead of schedule. He’s not 100 percent yet. But I think he — I was quite frankly pretty shocked. But the surgery went well. He did exactly what he was supposed to do. He went just hard enough, when they let him go. So he started with the treadmill and then he starts riding the bike, then he starts jogging, then he starts running, then he starts shooting, then he starts working out.
So he was in great shape before the surgery, got himself back into decent shape before we started playing. It’s one thing to work out. It’s another thing to start banging around when you’ve had that kind of surgery. And he hadn’t had any setbacks. So he’s getting closer to 100 percent. Not there yet, but he’s getting closer.
Q. Did you get to watch UMKC last night when they were playing at Loyola?
COACH MCCAFFERY: Tough environment for I think anybody. Loyola is going to be fired up, sold-out crowd. And they dropped the Final Four banner, that kind of stuff. They played really well. I thought UMKC fought them hard. He’s got some new bodies that he’s working in. He’s got some guys back that he likes that are really good. His guards are good.
He’s got a little more size. So they have more flexibility now. They can go big. They can go small. They defend. They change defenses. Nothing’s changed there. So it’s a tough opener, I think.
Q. Anything that you’d like to establish right out of the gate with this team?
COACH MCCAFFERY: I wouldn’t say that. I would say you always want to establish out of the gate how you want to play. We’ll have a game plan for this team. And you want to play a certain way at both ends of the floor. We’re going to push it. We’re going to share it. We’re going to work together. Nothing’s changed there.
And obviously we want to defend — it’s not an easy team to defend because they’ve got speed and quickness and they share the ball, and they have, I think, multiple weapons. So you’ve got to have the right mindset.
Q. When you broke down Sunday, how do you think you guys did defensively, as you look back?
COACH MCCAFFERY: We did fine. But it was a situation where we were the better team. So there were some good things and there were some things maybe that weren’t so good. But you have to temper the enthusiasm a little bit. We’re playing a team that’s not as big as us. And they’re a Division III team.
So I think a lot of good things — all in all, very positive. But you temper your enthusiasm and recognize that the team coming in tomorrow is a lot better.
Q. You played pretty much everybody the other night. It’s an annual question for you; how deep do you go with this team?
COACH MCCAFFERY: Well, we can go — it depends on who is injured and who is not injured, that will determine how much playing time people get. But we’ve got a lot of different pieces that we can play.
I think you settled in — I’ve settled in on kind of who the starters are. Jordan comes back. He starts. And the other guys that start. And you go from there. Cordell was really good the other night. Kriener has been playing really well, and so has Jack.
In the back court, Maishe has looked good. I thought he looked good. And I thought Connor was solid, gives us some flexibility there. It was good to see Maishe be able to play the point when we needed him to. But he gives you a defensive presence on the wing. He can guard anybody from 6-feet to 6’8″. So nothing new there. We’ll just kind of keep doing what we’ve been doing there and see who can perform well.
Q. Maishe wants to be your defensive stopper. Have you seen that, you just talked about it —
COACH MCCAFFERY: Yeah. When he’s really flying around it’s a big impact, because his activity level, his lateral quickness, his length, his leaping ability is impressive. Toughest thing is to sustain that over long periods of time. And that comes with experience and strength, maturity. And he’s a junior now and physically probably in the best place he’s ever been. So he can certainly be that guy.
Q. Seems like Joe Wieskamp keeps a pretty level head. He carries himself as a veteran in terms of interviews. What does it say about him and how he has transitioned and kind of handled maybe the expectations or anything else like that?
COACH MCCAFFERY: I really think you said it. Joe is incredibly mature, incredibly focused, organized. And so that really helps a seamless transition from high school to college, when you’re taking that approach. We put something new in, he’s got it figured out. We’re playing Missouri, okay, I know what I have to do. We’re playing — he’ll study the scouting report.
He’s locked in. He’s very mature, very concentrated in everything that he does. Has just high expectation for himself. And I think a lot of guys do, but sometimes they tend to, if they struggle at any point in time, then their confidence wavers and things can go sideways. He doesn’t get too worked up. If he’s playing great, that’s fine. If he struggles, he just grinds and works it out and comes back. Not a big mistake guy.
He never goes crazy out there. He just kind of moves and moves without it. Moves the ball, attacks the rim and affects the game in a variety of different ways. And that’s what makes him special.
Q. Is that rare for a freshman to come in with that sort of —
COACH MCCAFFERY: It is. Others have done it. But it’s harder to do than you think. It’s quite difficult, actually. So let’s let him continue to develop, and I think you’ll see that those qualities that we talked about are evident. Doesn’t mean he’s going to have a perfect game every time out. But at the end of the day he’s not going to have a lot more mistakes than good things. It’s typically the other way around.
Q. Has he been able to assimilate with his teammates and vice versa because he’s really the only new player in this rotation?
COACH MCCAFFERY: Keep in mind, you know, it’s a little different for him. He’s been coming around for years, coming to all of our games and coming to workouts. He’s visited numerous occasions.
And then we started in June. So he had time to learn. It’s not like the old days where you were trying to figure it out between October 15th and November 7th. It was a lot harder in those days. It’s easier now.
But I mean if you can’t get along with Joe Wieskamp then you’re the problem. It’s that simple. He’s that easy to get along with. Everybody likes him. He’s one of those guys that he’s going to fit in the locker room. He’s going to fit in on the road. He’s going to fit in the weight room. He’s going to fit in on the offense.
Whatever you need me to do, Coach, I’m ready and he’s going to help his teammates. There’s no selfishness in him at all. He’s a gamer. That’s what you want. When you recruit, that’s what you want on your team.
Q. What more do you want out of Connor?
COACH MCCAFFERY: I think Connor is going to be a guy that moves the ball and loads up our shooters, gets it inside. He’s going to have to score at times. He did that a little bit. Missed his 3’s, but he’s got to attack the rim and shoot his open 3’s and keep everybody honest. Defensively he’s getting better.
But you can tell that he’s aware of — I’m surrounded by some pretty good offensive players, my job is to get them the ball; my job is not to score 30. That’s never how he played anyway. You watched him in high school, that’s not who he was. He might get 18, 20 points over a course of a game and that’s kind of how he scored. But we’ll need him to keep everybody honest.
Q. It seemed like there was more talking on defense. Is that a point of emphasis for you —
COACH MCCAFFERY: It has been and it’s critical. The thing that I always try to stress is, I prefer to refer to it as communication as opposed to talking. There’s a lot of screaming and yelling sometimes, and, okay, what are you really communicating to your teammate? If there’s a situation or a rotation on a pick-and-roll, -so you don’t have two guys running the 1 — mine, yours, switch, up.
Those kinds of things and that’s what I want to hear. And that’s valuable information. Let’s say you’re at the front and somebody behind you is talking to you, you want information that’s valuable. So you know what — if there’s a screen on the left, a screen on the right, is it a flat ball screen? Where the shooters are, rather than, “ball, ball, ball, man, man,” screaming and yelling, it sounds like you’re working hard — there’s an expectation that you’re going to work hard, but then when we talk, let’s communicate. And that’s typically been cause for more success.
Q. When you reward playing time, is it based more on offense, defense, or a do you try to make it a combination, 50/50?
COACH MCCAFFERY: It has to be a combination. At different times in the game you might go more defensive, for example, you might go offensive. But I sort of expect you to play both ends of the floor. No matter how good you are offensively, if you’re giving up more than you’re getting, that’s not positive. So you’ve got to be able to lock up. And I think the guys know and understand that’s how I’m going to view them.
Q. Tyler said after the game Sunday that he would like to see more of the younger guys — kind of get the younger guys talking more on defense. Is there anything you can do from a coaching perspective or is that just increased comfort?
COACH MCCAFFERY: The thing about talking is if you’re going to talk, you’ve got to know what you’re talking about. And so sometimes younger guys don’t say as much because they’re not quite as sure maybe as a junior or a senior.
So it’s more important that the upperclassmen talk. But he’s right, everybody’s gotta talk. Best I’ve ever coached was Adam Woodbury. He was always right. So if he said something, you did what he said. And he was typically in the back, whether he was in the back of the press or back of the zone or he’s playing the post in a man-to-man defense, he was just constantly telling you where the picks were, what was going on behind you, if there’s a double away, you know, where the ball — that’s the biggest thing, where is the ball. We can guard any action. But if you turn your head, you don’t know where the ball is, then you’re vulnerable.
So I want those guys to talk, but the thing I always tell them is if you’re going to start talking, then let’s be right. And in time they will be.
That said, sometimes you have some players are just innately more quiet than others. That’s something you have to deal with.
Q. You made a lot of 3-point field goals last year. Do you expect maybe to be a better team from —
COACH MCCAFFERY: I hope so. I would hope so. I think we have multiple 3-point shooters. And we move the ball really well as a team. You’ve got to take and make 3s. That’s what the game has become. I’ve said this before, but used to be if you made 10 3s that was probably enough. I’m not sure that is anymore.
Teams are shooting 28, 30, 35, 40 3s in a game. That’s different. By the same token, if you’re guarding a team that’s taking that many 3s you better be up. All of a sudden they make 14, 15 3s, it’s hard to win.
Q. I’m sure you’ve taken plenty of questions over the last couple of months about what you would consider changing in light of last season. But are there things you wanted to make sure you didn’t change, that you didn’t stray too far from what you are?
COACH MCCAFFERY: Well, I think primarily, like, we’re still going to run. One of the things you can do is if you are not playing good defense is limit the number of times you’re on defense. Maybe longer possessions on offense, squeeze the ball a little bit more and try to dig in on a fewer number of possessions.
That’s one philosophy that comes out of a team that struggles defensively as you go back and look at it. But I don’t want to do that. I want to continue to run. I don’t care if there’s a high number of possessions in the game. I don’t care if we shoot the ball early in the clock. I’d rather not shoot early in the clock if we’re not completely open.
So maybe at times we shoot it a little bit later in the clock, keep them on defense a little bit more, put more pressure on them. But in terms of the other things, we’re trying to keep you off the free-throw line. We’re trying to limit you to one shot.
And if we play fast, we might have some guys that get fatigued. Well, you’ve got to get fresh bodies in there. Because if you’re going to be a team that has the necessary level of intensity defensively, then you have to have fresh bodies out there.
We’ve all seen Nicholas Baer come in and impact the game and then just kind of hit that wall, run out of gas and he has to come out. I love him, he’s playing great and I don’t really want to take him out, but he’s got to come out because he’s exhausted.
He’s not the only one that falls in that category. He’s the one that everybody remembers because he has the ability to literally go until exhaustion. Other guys pace themselves a little bit more.
So obviously we want to be better than we were last year defensively. And there’s a lot of ways to look at that. But I don’t think you want to completely change everything else that we’ve ever done in order to accomplish maybe that one thing.
You say, well, you look at one team. They lead the nation in team defense. Well, they might. But they might average 58 points a game. That’s something that really excites me very much.
Q. Your desire to run, has that been with you back when you were a player? Has it always been what you believe in?
COACH MCCAFFERY: I think we’re always a product of our mentors and our background. When I got to college, I spent one year at Wake Forest, we ran — we pushed it. When I transferred to Penn, we went to the Final Four with one of the best fast break systems to that point in maybe basketball history to that point. And then when I got into coaching that’s how I grew up.
We run. We change defenses. We did that on my coaching stops. My first year at Notre Dame, Digger Phelps wanted to run. When I was with John MacLeod, he wanted to run. And I had great success with it at Greensboro and Siena, and I’ve had success with it here.
I think anybody that you recruit, nobody wants you to say, hey, by the way, we’re going to walk it up, we’re going to call a set and we’re going to try to beat you 54-53. Nobody’s going to be listening to you, that’s for sure.
So I encourage my guys to go make plays. And they want to play in that type of system. You can’t play nuts. And you can’t — we’re going to play fast, but you keep looking at the stats in every game, you’ve got 22 turnovers and 15 assists. You’re going to get beat.
So going back to Mike’s question, maybe you slow it down a little bit to improve your defense, it makes sense. But you never want to take away that edge, well, we’re going and we’re playing with confidence and we’re moving the ball.
I never felt like, on any teams I’ve had, where we play fast that we ever had any kind of selfishness at all. Everybody likes to play that way because everybody gets touches and everybody gets to kind of do their thing.