WKU basketball media day: Ken McDonald comments

27 10 2010

McDonald on whether or not WKU deserves the No. 1 ranking in the Sun Belt East, and whether or not preseason accolades mean anything at this point:

“In retrospect, we weren’t mature enough to handle all of it last year and that’s just the truth. It’s unfortunate, but that’s how it was. Two years ago when I got here people thought we were going to be bad and then we win it. Last year we had four returners back and a good recruiting class, we’re picked to win it and don’t. This year, we lose three starters and are picked to win it again – I think it might be a little conspiracy by the other coaches to put the pressure on WKU and myself. Obviously we’re at a different point in our program with seven new kids and it’s time to pretty much stay focused that stuff like that doesn’t mean much.

“Much more about improving, about where this team is going to go. What are our expectations for ourselves and how are we going to get there and how committed are we going to be about each other and the team goal? It’s about getting back to showing the fans exactly why they’re so happy about being Hilltopper fans. When you walk away from our games, the biggest thing I want is that we go out and compete every night and our fan base and student body understands and are excited about your team.

On if they deserve the No. 1 spot
“I have no idea. There’s potential with the team, but right now I would never say that we should be there. I think we’ve prepared well for 10 days and the guys are pretty focused. But we have our own challenges. We’re not the biggest team, we’ve got a new point guard in the fold, there’s a lot of ifs with this team that we have to address and we’ve got a long way to go.”

“The first year I was here I expected a lot of speed bumps early and I had to take notice of what was going to be important for that team. I kept referring to base hits, always taking pride in the small successes. That might mean you lose a game, but you felt like you played a little better defense or cut down on turnovers. I didn’t think we’d come out of the gate and do some of the things we did that year. We’re trying to go to that approach now. We could be a team that loses some of these early games, but we can’t lose sight of the goal which has to be improvement. If we’re improving each day and stay positive, we’re going to knock off our share of teams.”

On Sergio Kerusch’s Preseason Player of the Year honor:

“The whole preseason stuff, I haven’t done a good enough job in years past handling that. All the preseason stuff obviously is coaches or media that are trying to put some type of accolade on a guy or a team that hasn’t gotten there yet. All I know is this, A.J. was picked as the top guy last year and didn’t get it. He didn’t elevate our team enough to the point where the coaches thought he should get it (at the end). The year prior to that, Orlando wasn’t picked for anything and he ends up with (the MVP) at the end of the year. Sergio’s put himself in position statistically and has enough respect around the league to be in the conversation, but there’s a lot of work to be done. I’m happy and it’s flattering, but he’s got a long way to go. He’s matured and gotten better, but now it’s about taking the team to another level. Twenty-one wins last year and being tied for third place wasn’t enough to get it done for A.J. – so you’ll have to see a better effort from Sergio.”

On being more defensive oriented this season:

“I want that to be our theme pretty much for the year. Understanding that we have a lot of potential in that area and that gives you a chance to be in games night in and night out. We’re very athletic and very quick. Depth should play a part in a positive way with this team. And I’ve told the guys that if you’re willing to play defense at a high level, you’re going to get on the floor. And so far they’re hearing that. We’ve also got the potential to push tempo with our defense, get after people and turn people over. We talk about three words: teamwork, pride and toughness. And you can talk about defense in all three of those and we’ll continue to preach that.

“Take the pressure off your offense with great defense – that way you don’t have to put so much on yourself offensively on each possession. We have a lot of potential in that area, we’re quick, athletic and our ball screen defense can be aggressive. We can recover more than we could in years past in terms of making mistakes and still making up for them – that’s how athletic and quick we are.”

On senior Steffphon Pettigrew entering his final season at WKU:

“He’s such a reflection of what we want our program to portray. He’s a professional kid. I never have to worry about him doing his job and I’ll even go further, I never have to worry about him doing his job at the highest level. He’s been so rock solid and it makes him special to coach because you almost forget about him because he’s so good. His listening and doing the things you ask (is great). He’ll guard the center, the point guard, whatever needs to happen to win. Those kinds of guys are so valuable. Then he takes guys under his wing, they see him and it’s contagious with how hard he works. I’ve had the pleasure of coaching him now for three years, and for him to be in front of Hilltopper fans for four years so that people can see him progress – there’s no question why he’s a fan favorite. He’s a workhorse and people respect workers. They love to point at guys and be proud of what they represent and there’s no question Steffphon Pettigrew is one of those guys.

“He’s trying to be more vocal, it’s not in his personality but he’s been more vocal than he’s been in the past. Because he works so hard and does everything right, if he speaks up, people listen. People just listen to him because he has to be right, he’s always in the right place, he’s always right on the scouting report, he comes to work every day and he never has a bad day in practice – never. That’s why you want him to be more vocal. It’s always easier to listen to a teammate because coaches say the same things over and over again. Sometimes players tune that out, that’s why vocal leadership is so important – because when they say what you’re thinking (as a coach), it’s big.”

“A lot of guys are joining in right now and we’ve got more competition than we’ve had in the past. That makes for an interesting chemistry right now and it’s going well. We’re not going to get into who’s team it is and that stuff, but they’re all adding to the team. All the new guys are feeling themselves out and some of them are naturally vocal – some of the older guys aren’t.”

On senior transfer Juan Pattillo’s preparation for his lone year on campus

“I have a lot of respect for Juan and his approach to the game, he’s a very competitive kid. It’s taken him some time to kind of trust us that we really want the best for him. We want him to have everything he wants as a player and a student. It was tough for him as a competitor to sit out and still put that work in without seeing the court or a game. Last year at times I could see it kind of wear on him. He’s seeing the light right now and he’s excited and we’re excited for him.

“I expect big things from him because he’s extremely gifted and has a lot of potential. I don’t know if I’ve been around a guy with the combination of speed, strength and athleticism that he possesses. He could be the best defender – and I’m not exaggerating – in the country. He can guard anybody and he’s starting to buy into it. That part is important if you’re going to reach your potential and I’m proud of how he’s handled his business this fall.

“When you have a guy that’s talented, you want him to develop into someone that has a great season – he should have a great senior year.”

On junior college guards Ken Brown and Kahlil McDonald’s development early:

“I played junior college ball so I know how it is. I don’t want them being comfortable thinking it’s going to be easy just because they’re juniors. I think they’re doing well, but they have their challenges and things they have to improve on. They don’t know the level yet. And after the first week of practice and trying to understand the intensity level, this week is really important for them to take it up a notch. Enough fooling around with the preliminary stuff, it’s time to go to another level. Both of those guys can play the point, they’re going to have the ball in their hands a lot. Decisions are important, understanding the offense is important, staying in front of your man is important. They’re at a pretty crucial time right now.

“In junior college you get some open shots. We don’t get as many at the Division I level. (Kahlil) has done a good job working on his footwork and understand that he has to have a quicker trigger. He’s got to continue to improve on his cutting, you can’t cut at three-quarter speed and get open if you’re reputation is a scorer and a shooter. We’ve got to get him to understand that and he’s been receptive and good. Where you saw a guy like Caden struggle last year with getting his shot off early, I think Kahlil could start slow but eventually develop into a big time shooter.”

On sophomore Caden Dickerson’s development and role:

“He stands out in games, to be honest. And he does stand out in practice because he hustles and does the little things and he’s been that way since we got him. He was very well-coached in high school and he’s going to continue to do the things that you appreciate as a coach and that show up on film. His teammates know that he’s going to be there for them all the time. He’s a terrific kid and obviously brings a lot to our team from a fundamental standpoint.”

On the point guard position, and whether or not WKU is further ahead now with Jamal Crook and Ken Brown than they were a year ago with Anthony Sally and Crook:

“Both are doing a good job, each are having their days and overall the energy’s been good. Jamal obviously with a year in knows a little more of what I want, Ken Brown’s still trying to figure his way out but they’re both gifted and both can help us.

“They’re both quick. Jamal knows the system a little bit more and you notice that in practice. Ken Brown’s more of a talent with a lot of speed and doesn’t quite know how to run a team yet. Jamal made strides with that last year but wasn’t consistent. That’s what he’s having to work on and prove. Ken Brown right now is a typical rookie with flashes, but he’s the kind of guy when you let him go he’ll do some things – but right now we’re not letting him go. We’re trying to teach him how to run a team, play good defense and all those important things.”

“The energy and attitude is just way better. The competition is healthy and a good thing, they can both push each other and eventually they’ll both play and that’s an exciting thing. There’s a competition factor though where they both know they’ve got to bring it every day. But the energy, the enthusiasm and the attitude has been much better.”

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