First-year Arizona State coach Herb Sendek addressed the media Wednesday afternoon, prior to his team's fourth official practice of the season. Here is an extensive look at what he had to say.
"Thank you for joining us this afternoon, it's great to get everybody together at this exciting time of year when basketball practice starts has always been a fun experience for me and I appreciate everybody coming out today. I've really enjoyed working together with our team throughout the fall and through the first four days of practice. Our guys have been very eager to listen and to learn, they've worked exceptionally hard and I've really been impressed with their character. I think we have a collection of a great group of gentlemen that are going to be a great deal of fun to work together with."
On traveling a lot of late with recruiting efforts:
"I definitely have some frequent flyer miles, there's no question about that. July and September are traditionally important recruiting months in basketball and we've been busy, like all schools, trying to get out and laying the foundation with our recruiting."
On whether he has solid understanding of his team:
"Probably not very accurately yet. After four days of practice I don't even know that we're a team yet. I think we're probably a collection of individuals who all dress alike. We have a lot of work to do before we can call ourselves a cohesive unit. But like I said guys are working really hard…they want to improve, they're eager to learn and those are the guys that are fun to work with."
On sophomore Jeff Pendergraph:
"The most striking feature that I have noticed with Jeff is that he is a great ambassador for our university and our basketball program. He's a consummate gentleman. He really represents us in an extraordinary way. On the court I know he's a young man who had an outstanding freshman season and he really cares about getting better. He cares about improving and I've been very impressed with what I've witnessed with Jeff so far."
On sophomore forward Sylvester Seay up and down first year:
"Most freshmen do have an up and down first year. That first year can be a real grind and it takes a tremendous amount of [perseverance] to wave through the peaks and valleys that first year can present sometimes."
On whether he had to sell guys on the program:
"I really haven't gone out of my way to sell them. I've just really tried to present myself as I am and share the ideas that I have for our program. But I really haven't found myself in the position to have to convince or to sell them anything. They have been very eager to listen and learn and anxious to find out what were going to do and I think they've readily accepted it."
On whether he has a sense of what he has to work with:
I really don't have a real accurate assessment of some of those kinds of questions. I think we're very much a work in progress. We're going to be extremely challenged to be ready early in the season. With less than four weeks to install and implement an entirely new system it's going to take all of us operating with great efficiency to be ready early in the season. It used to be we started the first college basketball game the Friday or Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend. Now we're starting Nov. 13th tipoff. That takes a good two weeks off what we used to do back in the day. And with the new team -- not just three or four freshmen -- the day just doesn't seem to have enough hours in it for us.
On setting goals and judging success:
"We want to improve every day out. We want to learn from every circumstance. I don't know if it serves us any great value to set arbitrary goals in terms of wins … We want to win every game just like any competitor does obviously, but I think right now our focus has to be on getting better, on doing the best we can, on becoming a team as we try to learn a new system."
On achieving success in the recruiting arena:
"There's any number of things and certainly like anybody we're always putting our best foot forward and selling the unique advantages that we have here right now. But I think the one theme that we've tried to express with recruiting is that it's a real team effort. It's not just a function of a new coach or the assistant coaches. Certainly we have our role and our part to play but it's a collective effort and there are so many different people that have an important stake to play in recruiting right now that any of the success they we're able to enjoy has to be shared by so many people. Dr. Crow has stepped forward to give us a hand. Lisa Love has been terrific. Our academic coach Sabrina Thomas has been superb. The people who take care of our facilities and our grounds have been outstanding. We've had tremendous presentations by our facility when young men and their families have visited campus and the beat goes on and on and on. There's a lot of people pitching in to help us recruit effectively within in the rules."
On the complexity of the offense:
"Our system requires probably a more steep learning curve out of the gates and so I think at the beginning it tends to be challenging for guys. Very analogous to riding a bike. It's hard for any of us to learn how to ride a bike without falling down a few times. But once you learn how to ride a bike you don't think about it. You get on and you ride your bike. It's not something you have to process, you just do it. I think that's very similar to our offense. You probably have to fall a few times, a steeper learning curve initially but once you do it it's like breathing. You're not thinking about breathing right now you're just doing it. And that's kind of how our offense becomes if it gets good at any point."
On the strength and conditioning of his players relative to expectations:
"We're still in the early stages of conditioning. I don't want our team peaking on November 18th. It's a long season and we want to be as fresh as we can be in February and March as well. And so we want to build gradually. Obviously we have a lot of early games in November that we have to account for, I realize. But thee college basketball season is incredibly long and it takes everything that everybody has. It's really a consuming endeavor. Our guys are in good shape, they need to be in better shape but to be honest with you though I don't know that I'd want them peaking tonight."
On his background and coaching comparisons:
I don't know who you'll compare me to. Hopefully you'll make some favorable ones along the way. But I was really blessed growing up to be surrounded by teachers and coaches and family members that were the world's greatest role models. Starting with my father who was a teacher and a coach and extending to the people I played for and also just coaches in the area who I watched from a distance. It's no surprise that I became a coach because these people were so extraordinary. They made such a difference in peoples' lives. It was almost impossible for me to want to do anything else. It was easy to say 'hey I'd love to be like Coach Shay who was the coach of Alleghany Community College'. It wasn't so much the people on SportsCenter or on the ABC Game of the Week that I identified with but it was the people that knew my name and were helping me with my jump shot who meant the most to me. So those people have been my mentors and I think just as importantly continue to be my mentors. I continue to learn from them. When I talk to them it helps to re-center me on why I got into coaching and it's important for me to do that regularly. And then obviously Coach Rick Pitino gave me my first shot at coaching at the college level and I tried to learn as much as I could from him at both Providence and Kentucky."
On senior forward Serge Angounou:
"I love Serge. Serge is really a good guy … He has a lot of gifts and I know he has battled injuries throughout his career that have probably hampered him to some degree but we need Serge to have a stellar senior year. I think he is a very important player for us. He's just a good team guy. He always seems to have the interest of his teammates at heart."
On junior guard Antwi Atuahene:
"A great communicator. He's always talking, he's always trying to pick sombody up. He plays with terrific intensity. I've really liked what I've seen of Antwi here early and like Serge I think he'll be a very important player for us."
On getting players conditioned and physically prepared:
"We have guys right now that are trying to get into better shape and part of that is not just how many wind sprints you can run but it's how do you take care of your body so it can perform well for you. In some cases that means we have to lower our body fat percent. We have to eat [healthier] and we're trying to do our part to help them with that."
On freshmen seeing the floor extensively:
"We're going to rely on some freshmen to give us some important playing time. I think everbody who wears our jersey has to be ready every night. You can't wear your jersey but forget to put your shorts on under your warm up because everybody on our bench could be put into the game this year. You can't do anything like that. I think our freshmen are going to have to be ready to hit the floor running and in some cases are going to be baptized by fire."