Basketball Head Coach John Thompson III and senior center Roy Hibbert stopped in the lobby of McDonough Gymnasium after practice today to answer a few questions about the team and the upcoming match-up with Jim Calhoun and the UConn Huskies. Tip-off is slated for 2 pm at the Verizon Center.
Roy talked about facing Hasheem Thabeet, what the team has been doing well and how he’s going to improve.
On facing the Big East rebounding leaders: “We’re just going to make sure we play very conscious of that, make sure we box out and rebound, Coach has been stressing that. We have to do our part to limit them to one shot and make sure we get the rebounds.”
On how the team has prepared in practice: “Attention to detail obviously, and also we’ve been doing a lot more drills in rebounding and Coach has been getting on us when we play live [scrimmage].”
On his play in the DePaul game: “I just wanted to be more aggressive from the start. I did my part and tried to make sure I got rebounds, and the rebounds led to more buckets for myself on the offensive end.”
On facing Hasheem Thabeet: “I’ve played against him before, I played against him in the summer, so it’s just going to be another game. He does a really good job blocking shots, and I think he’s gotten better offensively. He’s gotten a lot better this year so I’m just going to have to adjust.”
On Thabeet’s athleticism: “I’ve seen him do some dunks that I didn’t think he could do as a 7’3” – 7’4” guy, so he’s pretty good and I’m going to do my part to keep him off the boards and limit his points.”
On the team’s play against Rutgers: “We were focused, but we needed to focus on other things. Our defense played a good part—we started off the game 11-0, I think, in the first couple of minutes. I thought that it was very important to us in limiting them to one shot and just trying to be good defensively.”
On what he can do to improve: “I’m most likely the biggest guy out there, except for this coming game [with Thabeet]. I need to get more rebounds, that’s my department, I need to step up and get more.”
JT III talked about freshman Austin Freeman’s success, the challenges of the Big East and Hibbert’s draft pick.
On the team’s overall performance: “I’m fine with where we are right now. I’m comfortable with many different groups and many different combinations [of players]. That being said, we must continue to get better. We must continue to improve, we must still make progress as the year goes on.”
On the high profile opponents in the next two games (UConn and Pitt): “League play has started. So everyone we play is going to be really good, from now until the end of the year. I haven’t looked at the next couple games, to be quite honest, but I just know that we are in league play now. So now you start to figure out, sift through and sort out to see how you are and where you stand.”
On the importance of league play: “I think that that is what should be important to every team in every conference. It is what determines whether you get to the post-season or not.”
On whether or not Austin Freeman’s success is surprising: “No, not at all. I’m not surprised. The game comes very easily to him.”
On Hibbert’s play: “Obviously every move he makes, every game he plays and every time he touches the ball is going to be critiqued and analyzed—as it should—you know with his stature as one of the best players in the country. He has progressed, and much like our team, he has gotten better. Roy Hibbert is a basketball player who happened to be 7’2” and a center. He is involved at a high level in every aspect of the game. A lot of people just look at the stat sheet, but the nature of how we do things and the personnel we have on our team is that it is going to be spread out. He does a good job of knowing when it’s his turn and when to help his teammates.”
On the fall of Hibbert’s projected draft position:“I haven’t looked at that. We have at least 14 games left, and when the smoke clears at the end of the day we can pick our head up and see where we stand, and he can pick his head up and see where he stands—he’s going to be okay.”
On the team’s early Big East success: “Winning on the road is key for any team in any conference. Our league is so competitive and it is so difficult to win games at home or away, so the ability to go out and get two road wins to start league play is huge for us.”
Photo by Nicole Bush, Staff Photographer