Quotes From Head Basketball Coach Stew Morrill
Jan. 9, 2001
The following are quotes from Utah State head basketball coach Stew Morrill at his weekly press conference on Jan. 9, 2001.
Talk about Long Beach State and the balance they seem to have offensively. "I think Long Beach is a very talented team, maybe the best talent in the league. They've got two guys that are first-team all-league players on paper. Watching them play on film, Ramel (Rock) Lloyd and Travis Reed, those two guys are tough to deal with, and there three man (Lemi) Williams is a really good get out of junior college. They have a nice team. I know they have had a couple of injuries. It's scary to think what they would be like if they had those kids as well. We have to deal with what they do have, and what they do have is pretty darn good. The thing about Long Beach that makes it difficult is alot of there stuff is individually talent, especially Rock Lloyd, and he just makes plays whether you are on him or not on him. He is so strong and shoots it from so deep and can get on a roll. And then at the block, Reed is as good as we have in our league at the block. They're a talented, dangerous team, that is for sure. I guess that is why they were picked to be right at the top of the league."
Would you compare Travis Reed to someone like Shawn Daniels? "Yeah. He's a big, strong, inside guy that has great hands and gets most of his stuff around the basket. They will isolate him one-on-one at the block, they'll isolate him at the elbow and let him take you. He's left-handed and he uses his right hand a lot more than Shawn uses his left, so he is a little more versatile in that way. But very similar in terms of styles of play, very good passer, and seems to have a good demeanor like Shawn does as far as playing the game. So yeah, he is a lot like Shawn."
How does this Lemi Williams play? "Well, you look at him and you would say that he is a driver and an athletic slasher. And then you look at his three-point percentage and it's very good. He's a very athletic guy that can drive it and shoot it and those kind of guys are obviously more dangerous than a guy that is more off the dribble. So he is pretty versatile."
Is the talent level of Long Beach State the same as it was last year? "I would say that their talent level is similar, but they don't maybe have as much depth. (Mate) Milisa was the Player of the Year and James Williams at 6-10, shot-blocker, active, that kind of stuff. But they have added Travis Reed who gives them a prime-time scorer inside. There talent level is similar, they just maybe don't have quite as much depth."
Long Beach plays an up tempo type of game. Will this be the highest paced team you see this year? "They are the second-leading scoring team in the league and they get a ton of steals. I think they are in the top seven or eight in the country in steals. What they do is press you and get a lot of steals off of gambling in a sense. They are not afraid to shoot passing lanes, play passing lanes, so they are kind of unorthodox compared to some teams we have played. These guys are very unconventional with their trapping and their passing lanes. They are mixing a lot of zones and they trap out of their zones, they trap out of there OB's. They are giving you lots of different looks. They don't want to play man-to-man unless they have to. They would prefer to play pressing three-quarter court press, sometimes full-court back to zone. It could be 2-3, it could be 1-3-1, it could be 1-2-2. They will trap you in the corners, so you better be alert."
Is this zone a lot different than the zone defenses you have seen in the past? "No. The trapping is a little different. I have never seen so much zone in the preseason. Everybody seems to be playing more zone. You know what happened, with the three-point line people backed off playing zones. I never really did, but sometimes you have to get out of it because of the three-point line. But wat is ironic is teams sometimes make as many or more three-pointers in man-to-man. We've always played some zone and sometimes quite a bit of zone, but more and more people seem to be looking to zone as an additional defense, where three, four, five years ago it wasn't happening as much."
Why is Long Beach State giving up such high numbers from the field and three-point line. Is it their trapping style of play? "Look at there steals. I think their steals are their trade-outs. They are getting so many steals that lead to easy baskets that they are saying we are going to go ahead and gamble a little bit to get those easy baskets and get those steals, and they are causing so many turnovers. So I think their field-goal percentage defense is deceptive. We had a game where we caused a bunch of turnovers in the first-half and yet the other team shot 44 percent. And that irritates you because they shot 44 percent at the half, but yet we caused 13 turnovers. Maybe you can live with a little higher field-goal percentage defense when you get that many turnovers. I think that is kind of the way Long Beach is."
Is this the premier home game in league this year, considering that Long Beach State is picked to finish right at the top of the league with you? "Not necessarily. I think we have a number of them. The league is improved, very much improved. UC Irvine seems to definitely be for real. They go into Pacific, who is greatly improved, who was 9-3 at the time, and they go into Pacific and win. Boise is much improved from last year. I think we have a bunch of games of this magnitude. Saturday is probably another one. We just have a really good home-stand coming up. The three home games we have are all against upper-half Big West teams. So it is a real crucial, real important home-stand coming up in the next two weeks. Best thing we can do is focus in on Long Beach and go from there."
What does it do for you and the players that this game is being nationally televised? "I think our experience should help us, we have been in a few of these games and I think there is definitely added excitement on the players part. We've got a pretty veteran team that has been in this situation before. The way we have always approached it is it should be fun. We need to make sure we don't do anything out of the ordinary. We're not going to try and all of the sudden because it is on TV play differently and do crazy stuff. That is something that we will discuss and the kids will laugh about it because they know what I mean. Anytime you are on TV it is important to conduct yourself with class, it's always important though. To say it doesn't mean anything is ludicrous, it does. I have always said I'll take a TV game if nobody wants to play it. If somebody doesn't want to play at 10 pm because it is too late I will take that game. Because I think the exposure is so valuable, recruiting wise. I think it is just good for everybody. So when need to enjoy it and hopefully that is the way we will approach it."
There are certain defining moments of every season and I know it may be too early, but was the half-time or second half of the Idaho game one of those moments? "It was the defining moment of that road trip. The way it could shake down is that Cal Poly and Idaho are lower-half teams. Its too early to tell for sure, but that could be the situation. If you are going to contend at the top those may end up being road games that you have to have. Heck, we are down six at half. You know, everybody wants to say how bad we were playing. We weren't playing very good, but Idaho was the reason we weren't playing very good. It wasn't just us, they were pressuring us like pressure we haven't seen in a while. They had three-four days prep, and they were up and in us and causing turnovers. We were playing hard, we were just kind of in half a fog because we hadn't seen that kind of pressure in a while. A lot of times when you play that poorly you can't get it back in the second half and it was reassuring and a compliment to our kids that they got it back and figured it out. Going 17-for-22 is kind of amazing to have a half where you shoot the ball that well. That was huge for us. You need one huge thing after another if you are going to contend at the top. You look back at last year and how many huge deals there were along the way and hopefully that's just one of many."
How much does having such a good home record help in a game like this?
"I hope it gives us confidence and yet I hope we also know we have to back it up and that you can't, just because you are at home, think you are an automatic winner. We have a home court unlike a lot of people in this league where we have awfully good support. I would never want to trade the home-court advantage that you have at Utah State. Usually those teams are pretty dang good teams when they win at home. I am very concerned about both of these games."