Transcript: Kevin Keatts' media day press conference
Here is the transcript from NC State basketball coach Kevin Keatts' media day press conference.
“So funny thing, I'll give you a little story to start off with this. I was very, very excited about this press conference because I obviously get a chance to talk about my team. And so I'm upstairs and Joe [Giglio] is upstairs talking to Dawn, which is my administrative assistant.
“And I said, Joe, ‘Tell me what you want me to talk about.’ And Joe looked at me as Joe would and he said, ‘Man, I really don't care. I'm still in football mode.’
“So any you guys that’s in football mode, I want you to lock in for a little bit. I want to spend a little bit time talking about my team, the excitement about my team and where we think we can go.
“And so when you look back to last year, I know we've talked about obviously, a lot of people in the program has talked about, missing the NCAA Tournament. And for us that was tough.
“As everybody — my players, my staff — we all wanted to be in the tournament. That being said, I thought making the NIT and having the opportunity to play three games in Reynolds was a tremendous opportunity for us. When you look at the experience that we got, I'm excited about that.
“That also has led to us not playing just one game in Reynolds this year, we're playing to, which will be exciting time for us.
“My team is very good in the sense that I've got seven of my eight guys that's returning to play for me last year. That's a big change for us. Before that, previous year we had three.
“When you look at our team, I think we got a little bit of everything. I'm excited about our guard play. Braxton Beverly and Markell Johnson have both been playing at a very elite level. I'm excited about where those guys are. When you talk about our wings, C.J. Bryce and Devon Daniels are both had good practices and good workouts so far. “Jericole Hellems, who I think is going to be a really good basketball player after obviously having his freshman year. “Then we've added a couple fifth year transfers. And those guys were very unique to me. I bought them in for a couple reasons. Number one, we've had a lot of success with fifth year transfers. But number two, they were also good ping-pong players, and I needed somebody to challenge me. So those two guys will help.
“When you talk about Pat Andree, and I'm talking about him because I know you guys don't know much about him, he is as good a shooter that I've seen in a long time. What makes him special is he 6-8 and he has the ability to get a shot off against anybody.
“Danny Dixon will kind of remind you guys a lot of Wyatt Walker, except we won't have the man bun. So don't be disappointed about that part of it. But I think Danny would do a tremendous job for us, and then the young man that you guys didn't have a chance to watch play, Manny Bates. We think he has a chance to be really good.
“He’s young, he's athletic. He's got a certain skill set. He runs the floor. And he's a tremendous defender on the defensive end. We really liked that part about him.
“My excitement for this team, we don't shy away from anything. I think we have a chance to be a really good basketball team because we've got a little bit of everything. We've got some experienced guys, and we got some guys who can make shots.
“One of the biggest things I'll reference back to Joe also, again, it's been a lot of talk about our nonconference schedule. There's no secret to it. I did promise Joe, I don't know how many months ago it was, that there will be no scheduling of 300 level teams — only if the tournament that we're planning to play schedule one and they did. But we're excited.
“When you talk about having the opportunity to go to Auburn who played deep in the NCAA, and had a chance to compete for a national championship. We get a chance to go there. And then of course, we get a chance to rematch Wisconsin in the Big 10 ACC challenge. I think that's going to be a really good game for us.
“We play a tough road game against a great mid-major program. Wes [Miller] has done a great job over USCG. That game is good for us because they're very good. And we have a chance to play in the Greensboro Coliseum.
“And then one of the exciting games that I really like is on Thanksgiving Day, having a chance to play against Memphis. I think this Memphis team is going to be really good. As a matter of fact, I saw a quote from Penny Hardaway the other day, they said that they have a chance to win a national championship. And I think that's exciting. We're looking forward to that.
“I hope every team that we play in our nonconference that we have a chance and I hope we win the game. But more importantly, I hope they go on and win their conference. I think that'll be good for us.
“But excited, playing 20 games in the ACC, I think that's a huge thing for us. A lot of people say, ‘Man, how do you like it?’ I think it's great. I think we get the opportunity to play against some of the best guys and on our home floor and away. “We open it up for the first time ever, in a long time, I shouldn't say ever because I know Tim [Peeler] will come with something else about that. But we're opening up against an ACC team and on November 5, and I think that'll be exciting times.
“I want to make sure that I invite everybody out to Primetime with the Pack. That's going to be October 18 … on a Friday and so there should be some excitement about that.
“I'll open the floor for questions.”
Kevin with Markell, did you go back and sit down with him and show him the last 9-10 games where he was your best player and took over some games for you and just kind of explained to him this is who I need you to be from A to Z this season?
“I didn't I didn't really go back to the last eight to 10 games. I kind of went back to the whole entire season. He's a guy that if we're going to be good, he has to be a really good basketball player. I think he's one of the top five players in the ACC this year.
“That being said, he has to figure out, and we have to figure out, how to get him to play two halves. I thought in some games, he was tremendous in the first half and then you didn't hear much about him. And then he took over the games a lot, especially when we needed it.
“I go back to the ACC Tournament game against Clemson. He was tremendous. We were down 16 and without the play of Markell Johnson, we don't win the game. But have to get consistent play from my point guard.”
Coach, you mentioned him a little bit. I was wonder if you could just expound upon what you expect out of Manny Bates? Obviously we didn't get to see him last year, but just your expectations for him this year.
“We haven't had a rim protector since I've been here. And obviously we're pressing and running team. I think Manny provides that for us. I understand that he’s a redshirt freshman and we will have to live with some of his mistakes, but from the defensive end I need a guy to do a great job when we make mistakes when we gamble that can clean up some of those mistakes.”
Could you talk about as much as you can about DJ [Funderburk’s] situation and how long you expect that he might be out? And if he can't play how much more important Manny and the other guys inside become?
“I won't get into much of it, because that's our internal deal that this place upon him basically from the basketball program, but I will say this is: I have a certain expectation what I think a NC State player should be. And right now he hasn't met that.
“There is no timetable for his return. He's got some benchmarks that I want him to meet, to be able to join the team and when it happens, he'll be a part of it. If it doesn't, he won't.”
And how much more important does that make the other post guys?
“I think very important. Obviously, make no bones about it D.J. was our best returning post guy. That being said, I like what Danny Dixon brings to the table because he's older and got some experience, and then Manny Bates. Both of those guys will be huge for us.
Markell obviously drives the bus and that's fine and his teammates defer to him. Of that next sort of group of C.J. and Devon and Braxton and whoever else who might want to jump in there, do you feel like one of those guys needs to step forward as kind of the number two or not the second option, but establish himself as kind of the leader of that particular group?
“Yeah, absolutely. I would love to see Braxton Beverly talk a lot. I mean, he doesn't say much. And I think he's a guy that's been in the program, obviously, three years now and has a chance to obviously be a leader. And that's one of the things that we've talked about when I recruited him from from Hargrave, A.W. [Hamilton] told me, he said, ‘Coach, he's got one weakness. He doesn't talk a lot.’ And so we're still trying to get him to do that.
“And then CJ Bryce. He's been with me longer than anybody in the program and, and certainly we want some leadership from him. It's always tough when you transfer … especially when you transfer from a mid major conference to a high major conference. It's always tough to come in and try to be a leader. and I'm saying, ‘Hey, you've been here for a couple years now we need you to step up.’
“I would say those two guys.”
Just to follow up on DJ, what is he allowed to do, I guess with the program right now and what are you keeping him away from? ‘
“Right now he's not allowed to do anything basketball related. He's to maintain academics. He's also he's allowed to come in this building and work out. But as far as anything team related, we don't have him involved.”
Coach wanted to ask you as well about the new players that you have on this team. Obviously, as you mentioned, you have a lot of grad transfers but you have a true freshman coming into and then even Atticus Taylor, a guy that's coming as a as a grad transfer, but has several years of eligibility from juco. Just your thoughts on those guys coming in and adding a lot to the team as well.
“I like when you look at Dereon Seabron and Atticus Taylor, I think both of those guys bring a lot of athletic ability to our program, something that we haven't had in the last couple years, especially with the young guys. That being said, they're coming into a program a little different than we've had a couple years ago when I took the job where we now have veterans.
“So I expect both of those guys to be able to come in and play, but I wouldn't imagine them being any type of starter role.
“I think they can both help us a lot. When you look at those guys, most times, freshmen help you more on a defensive end or obviously just how hard they play. And I think both of those guys have embraced that.”
With Markell having gone through the draft process and seeing what others think of him, did he come back with maybe a little bit of a chip on his shoulder to show people what he could really do as a senior?
“He has played a level basketball … he had a day about two weeks ago that, and I usually are not impressed with my guys in practice, but he has he was really special.
“That being said, I do think he has some type of motivation, obviously after going and working out for few teams, and that's good for us because that kid could be a really good basketball player. He's a veteran on the team. As when we talked about this, I expect a lot from him.
“I expect him to be a leader both on and off the court and if we're going to be really good, successful team, which I'm praying that we are, Markell has to be a huge part of that.”