"I'm as excited as I can possibly be to get ready for practice. I wish we would have been able to start a couple of months ago when the kids first came to school. It's been a long summer of bad golf. I'm really more anxious to get started with basketball than I've ever been. I think every coach really loves this time period. If I was not excited right now, the announcement would be that I was going to the first tee permanently. It's a fun, fun time, and having a bunch of new kids is always fun, too. Last year's group was about as much fun as I've ever had in coaching. The new kids mixing in with the veterans that we have is something we'll all enjoy."
On working with Tyler Hansbrough -
"The biggest thing is watching him go through the weight training and the conditioning, because I've seen a lot more of that, than I have been able to see him play. As I said last year, he's as focused an individual on taking care of his body as I've ever been around. He's driven as a player to do as much as he possibly can. I think he's more explosive, stronger, faster, has more stamina, looks better – all those things that are going to translate into being a better basketball player. The experience that he had last year will give him confidence to be a big-time player and a force this year and probably expand some of the things that he's able to do."
On Reyshawn Terry filling the void left by David Noel as team leader -
"It's hard to compare him to David Noel, who has been a better leader than I've ever been around. David Noel has been as good a leader as I've ever been around. As a senior leader, he may have been as responsible for a team's success as anyone who's ever played here. We got guys named Jordan, Perkins, Worthy and Rosenbluth, but David took care of everything on the court as well as off the court, so it's hard to say ‘Can Reyshawn do what David did,' because nobody's ever done that on one of my teams. I think Reyshawn is not naturally a leader. He doesn't naturally look at things as being a leader. He doesn't naturally look at things as a team first. That's not saying anything bad about him. He's normal. Reyshawn and Wes [Miller] will be leaders for us. We'll need Reyshawn to be a big time player and leader as well. Some of the best leaders lead by example.
"Last year it's been very well-documented that I said some of the things that Reyshawn did on the basketball court…when he played very well, we were very good. Tyler was very consistent, and David – except for one four-game stretch – was extremely consistent. So when we had that third guy, we were really good."
How much of the leadership can come from you and how much has to come from someone on the floor?
"A lot of it comes from the coach, not just me, but any coach provides a lot of the leadership. I do believe there's that natural quality. Raef LaFrentz was a natural leader for us, but hardly ever said anything except when he wanted to get out of running in practice. But he walks on the court in an overtime game, and says ‘Wait a minute. Just give me the damn ball.' So I said, 'That sounds pretty good,' and he scored 10 of the first points in overtime. I think Nick Collison saying, ‘Hey, I don't know about you guys, but I want to go to the Final Four again. So you better do the things you're supposed to and come along.'
"Coach can't say those kind of things, but I do believe you can coach some forms of leadership. The players get their strength amongst themselves. In 2005, the players got their strength, from getting the ball to the big guy and Illinois didn't have anybody that could handle Sean [May]. They got their strength from Raymond [Felton] stepping up and hitting a big-time three for us. So that's where they get their strength, and that's where they should get it from."
On Wes Miller's value as a leader -
"Wes is the kind that can say some things, but it's not nearly as effective as what people see that he's done. He's probably gotten as much out of his ability, skills, qualifications, characteristics as anybody I've ever seen. He's like 5-10. I mean, I can post his rear end up. His work ethic is just at such a high level. He's willing to sacrifice at such a high level, that people respect that. He can also stand back there and knock down some big shots, and people respect that. He's been in so many different scenarios – being at James Madison, being here and sitting out, being here and being a big-time substitute, and then all of a sudden, being here and taken from the bench and put into a starting role and being a big-time player for us. So he'll have the respect to be able to say some things vocally, too."
On Hansbrough playing some power forward -
"Somebody asked me that question out there. When he was in the game with Byron [Sanders] last year, he played the four. It's wasn't any different, because it's not any different. It's exactly the same thing. I do believe you'll probably see Tyler come down on the break and shoot some more jump shots like Jawad [Williams] and Marvin [Williams] did, because he's more comfortable with that. Let's be honest, if we need a basket, I don't believe I'm going to tell Tyler to bring the ball up the floor. I'm going to tell him to get under the basket and we're going to throw the ball to you. The other answer to it is I don't know, because I don't know if he'll be in the game with Brandan [Wright], Deon [Thompson] or Alex [Stepheson]."
On team chemistry so far -
"Last year's group was led by David so much, last year's freshmen were so silly that they were unique, because you couldn't talk about them without laughing at them. And yet, they were so competitive, that it was a really nice blend. I said young veterans, and that's an oxymoron, but 11 of our players are freshmen and sophomores. I do believe we'll have wonderful chemistry, because the character of our kids are at such a high level. You could take any of our players home and feel comfortable with them and enjoy them. It's the kind of kids I've always tried to recruit, the people I'm going to enjoy working with whether we're winning or losing. Winning always makes it much more fun, but if this team loses, it's going to be because somebody beat us. It's not going to be because we didn't work."