LITTLE ROCK — Transfer talk, rule changes in college basketball, program-building, summer workouts, league comparisons, and recruiting philosophies were all on the table as Arkansas head coach Eric Musselman briefly answered questions from the media during the Southeastern Conference’s “summer teleconference” on Thursday.
In assembly line fashion, the 14 head coaches of the SEC men’s basketball teams took turns — in a predetermined order and in seven-minute intervals — interacting with the media.
Musselman was eighth in line — second among the league’s four first-year coaches — as he began fielding media queries shortly before 11 a.m. CT.
Below are Musselman’s Q&A exchanges …
* Musselman’s opening statement before fielding questions: “We’ve had a good offseason so far. Obviously as a new coach there’s always an adjustment period, trying to get to know the players, re-recruit your own roster as well as try to form a staff. We’re moving in the right direction. The players are working extremely hard and have had great buy-in so far.
* Question: Your take on rule changes: 3-point line, shot clock, and if you think those are good or bad and how yout think your team will adjust to it this coming season?
* Musselman: “We’ve already laid the new three-point line down on the practice floor and have encouraged our guys to shoot a little bit beyond that even as they work on their own, or when we’re doing individual skill or a practice-type setting. Obviously when you look at NBA rookies when they’re used to the college line and they have to go back, move a couple of feet back and shoot beyond the NBA three-point line, guys’ percentages usually dip a little bit. So I would assume there’s going to be somewhat of a drop-off in overall three-point percentages across the college basketball landscape. I think the players will adjust in time and maybe towards the conference-type part of the season some guys’ percentages will go up. I do think if a guy is a good three-point shooter, just as when a college player goes to the NBA level, those guys tend to have less slippage in the percentage. So I think guys like Mason Jones or Isaiah Joe, Desi Sills, I don’t think it’s going to affect those guys at all. I actually think it will benefit really good shooters. Then I think guys that are trying to become three-point shooters (Gabe, Jalen), those guys will be the guys that will really struggle beyond the three-point line now the line has been moved back. Then the shorter clock, I like it. I think any time that we can have more universal rules, or at least closer universal rules across the board. Be it International, the NBA, the women’s game, the men’s game, the more those rules come closer together I think it’s easier for the fans and better for the game.”
* Question: You have added Jimmy Whitt and then Isaiah Moss moved on, do you plan to fill the 13th scholarship?
* Musselman: “I’ll start with the 13th scholarship. I mean right now we obviously have a spot open. The one thing, as you study the landscape of college basketball, you don’t want to fill a scholarship just to plug a hole or act like you’re filling a need if you don’t really feel good about the perspective student-athlete. So we’re going to have patience with that last roster spot. Obviously we’ll continue to work hard and see what players are available. But this late there’s probably a small school so to speak of available players. Regarding Jimmy Whitt, we feel like Jimmy is an experienced player. He’s got really good athleticism. His wingspan is incredible. He’s got the wingspan of a power forward or a center. Great anticipation defensively. A guy who can play the point, you can slide him to the off-guard a little bit. He can guard bigger players because of his athleticism. He’s an extremely good rebounder from the guard position. And the experience factor as well, and the fact he’s played in the SEC and played at Arkansas before. All those things are real positives. Then regarding the other guy I have no comment whatsoever.”
* Question: Are you using the same program-building methods at Arkansas as you did at Nevada?
* Musselman: “I think every program is different. I think some of the things we want to bring from Nevada are obviously we’d like to get to the style of play we had there and we’d like to get the same kind of culture there from the way that we practice. There are a lot of things we are trying to bring from Nevada, but there’s also new things that you’re trying as well. It’s a new conference, there’s a different style of play than there is in the Mountain West, so there’s adjustments as well. As a staff we’re spending a lot of time watching lots of game tape of last year’s SEC play and trying to learn the other programs’ personnel that is returning, and obviously there’s new coaches in the league and we’ve tried to watch some of the tape from their past programs to see their style of play and what their team’s identity has been. I think there’s a lot of things we’d like to bring and there’s some things also that are going to take some adjustments as well.”
* Question: Summer workouts?
* Musselman: “We’ve added some things that are maybe a little bit new. We’ve added guys running a mile with guards having to do 5:30, wings 5:40 and 4s and 5s at 5:50 and there’s a good portion of the team that’s already passed that test. Once they made their time they’re done for the summer in running those times. Some guys who hadn’t passed originally increased their times. The weight room work they’ve done with coach (Dave) Richardson has been phenomenal. I wouldn’t say there’s been any one or two guys on the floor. When you’re doing individual skill stuff it’s hard to evaluate. When we’ve done team stuff, we’ve done a lot of breakdown stuff where we tried to introduce philosophical stuff, so we haven’t done a lot of competition. I think with the eight weeks we’re able to work with our guys over the 10-week summer session and then you add in when you’re going to start what I would consider a little bit earlier, but with time constraints, mid-September on it becomes a long time between games so you certainly want to keep your guys fresh mentally and physically, so we’ll do a lot more competition when guys get back from summer and then we’ll be able to evaluate a bit more and I’m sure guys will leapfrog other people as we think about how to form a rotation and what roles guys will have.”
* Question: There’s a different style in the SEC than the Mountain West can you elaborate on that?
* Musselman: “I think first of all there’s a talent difference. Having played Florida last year in the NCAA Tournament we got to understand there’s difference in length and you’re dealing with more NBA prospect type guys. Guys that can play at the next level. Then certainly when you go on the road in this league you get charter flights compared to flying commercial. It’s hard to play at places like Wyoming just to get there. So the travel will be a little bit easier. On the other tag you are dealing with maybe some bigger crowds at some places. Every coach in this league in my opinion as you talk about some of the best coaches in the entire country. Each guy has his own style or identity and the way his teams play. Every night there’s gonna be a different challenge from an X’s and O’s standpoint as well.”
* Question: Talk about recruiting transfers at Nevada and now. What do you see from those type players?
* Musselman: “When you look at landscape of college athletics right now. I haven’t been in college athletics for 30 years. I’ve been in it a relatively short time. You look at some other coaches in this league or other coaches across the country in my short time frame the transfers have grown and grown and grown. A transfer comes with experience and you’re able to look at a body of work. At a Division I transfer you have some type of body of work to build off when you look at him on tape. So yes they are part of our recruiting philosophy. It was really successful for us at Nevada and we feel like the guys that we’ve added through transfers right now are gonna help. Again. I think it’s a landscape now in any field or business. There’s constant change and it evolved to right now the transfers whether it’s college football or college basketball is a big part of the landscape.”