NC State coach Sidney Lowe deftly avoided questions Friday on whether fifth-year shooting guard Farnold Degand's play of late has helped him earn a starting spot for Saturday's game against Virginia.
Degand has been part of the unit that has ended games for the Wolfpack the last two games, and started the second half over sophomore starter C.J. Williams against Holy Cross on Wednesday.
Lowe also talked about the January slate that is coming up in ACC action, point guard Javier Gonzalez's battle in limiting turnovers, and the progress freshman center Jordan Vandenberg has made. He also added that he's held out senior power forward Dennis Horner from practice as a precaution after he injured his knee against Florida last Sunday.
Click here to listen to Lowe's press conference:
What you got for us coach?
"Oh wow, I'm just to coming here and you guys asking questions. Nothing new from last game."
Can you talk about Farnold. I expect him to start tomorrow.
"See, now you went to a coach on me. Now you going to coach my team now (laughs)."
You started him in the second half.
"That was the second half. That was the second half of the game. That's not the beginning of this game. It's not important who starts. It's who finishes the game."
Did you have meetings with Degand during his time out?
"We had meetings. We had meetings and I have to give him the credit. I initiated the meetings and discipline and things of that nature, but you always need someone that's willing to accept responsibility and he did that. I think that was the biggest thing, that he accepted the responsibility. He did what he had to do to get back on the court, and obviously he's helped us in the last few ballgames.
"It was just one of those life learning lessons for him going forward, but no question about it he's definitely helped us."
Still monitoring closely his academics?
"We're watching everyone. We're watching everyone, but I think he understands. He understands now, and you have to now once again give him a little bit of the responsibility of being in control of it, but big brother is watching, very close, very close. It's for him. It's for him. He needs to graduate, and he's going to. That's the main thing, and we're working together."
Has his shooting surprised you?
"Just I never really looked at him being a knocked down three-point shooter. I knew he could make three-pointers, but his forte is really his speed and quickness of getting to the basket. Once again he's worked on it, everyday he's shooting them and working on it. Thank God he's knocking them down."
Did he rework his shot when he was out with the knee injury?
"I think it's probably just been a matter of just time where he's been able to get in there and really concentrate on it and work on it. He's a little more I guessed focused, a little more serious about it this year then he has been in the past I would say, in terms of wanting to be a good shooter.
"I think the guys around him when they're working, when we're doing drills and certain things, he can't I guess goof off for the lack of a better word, those guys keep him focused. They keep him going. Farnold, he's a prankster. He's a jokester. Sometimes it creeps in too when they are just doing shooting drills. I think the guys, Dennis, guys like that, really keep him, bring him back in the focus in there. I think really it's part of the concentration factor as well as getting up enough shots."
What have you seen from Virginia?
"They run their system. They'll get into motion action with a lot of movement of the ball, a lot of movement of the bodies, ball screens, flare screens, really trying to create some opportunities for those perimeter guys. Their bigs do a nice job of setting those screens. Of course they have one guy you just put the ball in his hand and he can make it happen. You can see them definitely running the offense and executing and trying to get the ball to the right people."
Talk about Sylven Landesburg.
"He's just talented. He's just a very talented player. He can put it down. He can shoot it. He has great physical size. He creates opportunities for himself as well as for his teammates. Any time they run a set, when it touches his hand, it's a threat he can break it off, and that's is always dangerous. I think he can be an outstanding player in this conference, outstanding just because of his basketball ability, his toughness, his physical play. How high I don't know, but he's going to be very, very good in this conference before it's all said and done. He had a great year last year. I just expect him to continue to get better and better."
Are they tough to turn over?
"They are, they are because most of the time they are going to have at least three ball handlers, good ball handlers. Then they have a couple of bigs that don't turn it over just because they don't try to do a lot with it. You can try to pressure them a little bit and run some things at them, but they don't really challenge you as much as some guards will and they don't panic as much. They are just going to look to make the next pass, which makes it tough on the defense. They are not easy turnover, not easy, but we still have to play our defense and pressure, pressure the ball, and try to create some of those opportunities because they will come down and execute and execute and we can't just sit back and let them do that, so just keep pressuring and make them execute their offense."
Is this team where you want it to be right now heading into the conference season?
"We're not where I would want us to be right now, let me say this, we're not where we need to be in the end, but we're certainly in a place right now where we can win games. When I say where we need to be, I'm talking about need to be to win everything, but we are definitely in a place right now where we can be very successful in this conference. I like where we are right now. I like where we are right now. Our defense has been excellent. Our offense, we're executing and obviously making shots, that's great. I'm very pleased, very happy with the progress of these guys, the attitude, the focus, I'm very pleased."
Are you worried about the team not being up for Virginia like you were concerned about the Holy Cross game?
"I'm not worried. I'm not worried at all. When I talked about the Holy Cross the game it was a reaction from the Florida loss. When I talked about not coming out, that's one of those learning experience that I talked about that experienced teams, the big-time winning teams, when you lose a game like that you like to see your games come back really, really still mad, but mad to the point we're going to come out and take it out on the next opponent, and that's something that has to be learned. That has to be learned. I wasn't disappointed, but I wanted us to come out a little different. But I'm not worried about it now. The Florida game is done. We came back and got a win, and now we're in conference play. I'm not worried about our guys."
With Farnold Degand's emergence in recent games, are you still confident in Javier Gonzalez?
"Absolutely, absolutely, our point guards are Javi and Julius. Those are our points. Can Farnold move over there at times? Sure, absolutely, but that doesn't mean I have lost faith in anyone. I think each game is going to dictate different things, that's all I would say. But Farnold's play really has come at the two-guard position. He's been effective at the two-guard.
"Now he's handling the ball like at a one at times, but he's still really playing that two. So we're not looking for him to come down and set it up and run the offense and things of that nature. He's much more effective off the ball where he can get it against another two and now get down the floor and create something. I'm very confident in Javi and Julius. I think they are going to do a great job for us, but there is no question that having Farnold in there helps both those guys out because it gives us another ball handler to take some of the pressure off."
What do you think of the turnovers Javi has been making the last couple of games?
"Mental breakdowns, mental breakdowns, that's all it is. They can come from different things at time which I talked to him about constantly, about getting beyond certain things, getting beyond the challenge, the mano-a-mano against a guy bumping into him and now he's want to show him and he may try too hard, gambling, trying to split something that's not there, create something that's not there.
"I told him at times sometimes his greatest strength, which is his toughness and his aggressiveness, is his greatest weakness because he tries to do it at the wrong time. But because that's who he is, he's trying to make that adjustment of pulling back and being smarter on that. But it's just mental, it's all mental. He's just a tough, fiery guy that if somebody challenges him, he wants to go right at him and show him, show them that he can get it done, and that's something that I am constantly talking about.
"A couple of games ago, he had no turnovers, and I brought him back into the game with about four minutes, eight minutes to go because Julius was tired and he got two turnovers in like a minute and 50 seconds or something, and I took him back out and I jumped on him, and he couldn't understand why. He didn't quite understand why. I tried to explain to him, 'You had two turnovers in 1:50. You had no turnovers up to this point, and now you've added two turnovers total.' Then he came back and said, 'I'm sorry coach, you're right. You're right.'
"But he didn't think that, he didn't understand that before. He didn't understand that I had no turnovers. That's a major thing for a point guard to play in a college game with no turnovers. So I'm trying to get him to think that way. If I can ever get him to totally think that way then some of those decisions he might make or some of those challenges he might go after he might pull back and say, 'You know what, that's not the smart way to go about it.'
"But he's fine. I don't want to take away his aggressiveness, but I do want to take away some of those turnovers."
How is Jordan Vandenberg developing?
"Jordan is doing a great job. No. 1, he protects the basket for us, obviously with his size. He rebounds the basketball. He knows where to be. He knows all the sets and all the plays. He knows what to do defensively. He is as good, and I might say Dennis [Horner] is the best, and maybe Jordan, at ball screen defense. He does a great job, and really gets out there, and he's long and he's big. He causes those guys problems. I've said before, he's going to be really good for our program as we move forward. His minutes are going to increase because he's capable of doing a lot of things, especially from a defensive standpoint. Offensively, he's working at it and obviously needs to get better there. I love his defense. Defense wins games, as long as we keep people in there with him that can score for us. He's a major, major factor."
How is the transition for him coming to the U.S.? Any issues?
"Not at all. He is definitely acclimated to the U.S. He talks to anyone. He's a jokester. Jordan, you guys see this guy, he's a little different off the floor. In a good way. You might think he's a little timid, a little afraid, but no. Jordan is one where we have to say, 'Jordan, calm down.' When he is with the guys, you say 'Jordan, calm down a little bit big fella.' He has definitely made the transition and is fine."
Has Dennis Horner missed some practice time this week because of the knee injury against Florida?
"Yeah, but I told him to sit out. I told him don't go today to make sure he gets more rest. He'll be fine. He's fine. He was in there today going through things, and I just told him to sit out again. He's fine. It's more important for some of the young guys get some reps at what we are doing. He's ready to go. He didn't have a knee brace on or pad or anything today."
What do you look for in opponents to see if they are well-coached?
"I first try to get a sense for their style of play. Are they a team that will get it out quick and push it down the floor? I just watch the first tape, and I'm looking at the flow of the game. Where are their guys most effective? What are they trying to get out of it? Then I start to break it down more, offense and defense. What do they do more? Do they pick and roll more or do they isolation more? You can tell by spacing, and you can tell by screening, and you can tell by patience whether a team is well-coached or not.
"You see guys that maybe turn down situations to get the ball to certain people. That means, once again, they understand their roles and what they want to get out of it. That too, is another indication. First, I just look at the flow of how they play. Like I said, who takes it out, do they get it in quick, does the point guard try to get the outlet passes further out. Some schools do a great job where the point guard gets the outlet passes closer to the three-point line or higher near halfcourt. Just things like that."
Do you remember coaching against Tony Bennett, when he was a player?
"Yeah, he's a shooter. He ran the show, he was steady, smart, tough and can shoot. That was the scouting report. He was tough, he runs the show, don't let him shoot. That's why you are going to get, as he moves forward, his point guards are going to understand how to play that position. You take some of the talent that these guys have, and put it together with someone who played that position, though a little different than some of the kids play today. They are always going to have good guards. I just have that feeling. They are always going to have good guards."
Does the ACC January schedule get the players attention?
"I once again don't feel that you need anything like that. You are in the ACC, period. It's going to be tough. I'm under the mindset, and we want to get players here that are really self-motivated just by the game itself. Then, obviously motivated by going into conference play. Yeah, look at the schedule, but I don't really talk about, 'Guys we have a tough schedule. Look at this schedule. Look at what we have coming.' It's our next game. You should be motivated by the game. When you get to that point, that's where you really have the team where you want them. When it doesn't matter who you play, you aren't judging that team, you are judging yourself and how you play.
"I really haven't talked about how tough it is. I did talk about the ACC, definitely. Motivation is playing. As a coach, the one thing that you don't want to have to teach is motivation. You want guys that are motivated. You have some coaches that are great motivators. I want to get to the point where I don't have to motivate much. Maybe pick you up a little bit. Getting in there and talking and screaming and yelling, 'Rah, rah.' No. There is an opponent in front of you, and that is all you need to know. I played for a coach was a great motivator. He knew certain guys, you didn't have to motivate. Certain guys you said things to, but other guys, you didn't have to say a word to because we were self-motivated. I want to get to that point."
Any discussion from the older guys telling the newcomers what it will be like in ACC action?
"Dennis has talked to a couple of guys, like I know that he has talked to Richard [Howell]. He has talked in general to guys. He made a comment, where he said, 'Fellas, it's the ACC. We are in conference.' C.J. [Williams] has said some things. It's nothing like being in it. You can tell a young man all you want, but once he hits that floor, and realizes what a great conference this is, and the competition, there is nothing like the experience of being in it. They are trying to compare, and we are trying to compare. The players, and that is what I like more than anything, the players are talking about it to each other. I don't have to say it. The experience itself is going to be. Talking to Richard and Jordan, and Josh [Davis] and Scott [Wood] and [DeShawn], and those guys, I'm just making it aware, it's going to be different."
Did playing at Wake Forest help teach the younger players?
"Yes, absolutely. The Wake Forest game definitely helped that out."
What was it like watching Ryan Harrow play at the GSK Invitational, and being able to score in the ACC with that little body?
"I know there is some questions about how he needs to get stronger, which a lot of high school guys need to get stronger. I think his ability to handle the ball and go where he wants to score the ball, he can just do it. He had a great tournament over there before he got sick. I see him coming into this conference and this league, and college basketball, and being able to do the same thing. I really do. He is so clever with the basketball. He can score, pass it, and he's going to be a great player here. He's going to help this program out. He's good, you saw. He's a good basketball and a great young man. He can score, can pass it, and he understands how to play the game. He understands tempo of a game. He just plays. He is able to create plays for other people.
"He jumps pretty good. Just like mine when I was in high school."