“It was a nice five minute overtime for us on Saturday is the best thing to say. Virginia Tech really made us look bad for a huge portion of the game, and yet I was very pleased that we were able to win without PJ and with Reggie and Leslie going 1-of-13 from the 3 point line. It was a good experience for Marcus Paige to step up, and it was a good follow up for us to a nice win at Boston College earlier in the week.
“Right now I think it's doubtful that P.J. Hairston will play tomorrow night. Yesterday when I left practice I thought that he would practice, but last night he got a little flu bug and he's been throwing up last night and this morning. They've got him over at the hospital right now with some IVs, so I think that'll postpone some of the things that he could do today in practice that could have got him ready. I'm not saying he's not going to play, but I think it's highly unlikely.”
Because Dexter Strickland hurt his knee late in the season last year, or fairly late, past the midway point, what were you expecting he would be able to do this year, because he's made what looks like a pretty remarkable recovery.
“You know, he's really come a long way. If everybody had seen him in September, you would have been questioning whether he would be able to play this whole season because he ran with a limp when we were trying to do the conditioning and he was just way out of whack. So I think that he's really done a great job of coming a long way in a short period of time. And Saturday against Virginia Tech, all those guys on the perimeter, and Dexter probably had it more than anybody else, but all those guys on the perimeter had a major challenge with Erick Green. He looked a little bit like that well, put it this way: It's the first time this year I've said, ‘Man, he may be back to 100 percent defensively.’ So we need him to do that, and I hope that he can do it on a consistent basis for us now.”
How do you sum up all the different things you count on him to do in your lineup?
“Well, you know, he does give us some leadership, there's no question about that. It's good to have him on the court when I make the change and give Marcus a breather. To have him already be in the game and to be able to slide over there to that point guard spot, I think that's helpful to us. His assist error ratio has been really good. Defensively, like I say, Saturday he was really good for us, and I think at Boston College he was really good for us. I think the perimeter guys have done a really nice job defensively the last two games.
“His shot has not gone in very often or as much as we would like in a game, but more it hasn't gone in as much as he would like in a game, but yet he's really shot the ball well in practice, and there's going to be a game where he's going to make some big jump shots for us. And I'll give you one example is after P.J. went down at Boston College, I said to the staff at halftime, ‘We need Dexter to make a couple of jump shots for us,’ and he made two early in the second half when they were trying to make a run, and it just helped us sort of keep them at arm's length.
But he does add that dimension with the speed that he can get out and run on the break. The experience, as I said, his ability defensively, his ability to slide over and play some backup at the point guard and also knowing what's going on in the game I think is good for us, too.”
You guys did do a good job against Erick Green. He had one of his two worst games of the season. What did you do defensively against him, and do you think y'all caused that, or did he just have a bad game?
“I think every time somebody as good as Erick, if he plays and doesn't have as good a game, part of it is both. I think the defense has to do a good job on him, but Erick missed some shots that he makes a lot of times, too. We tried – No. 1, the big thing for us was not fouling. We didn't want to put him on the free throw line because not only does that get you to the bonus quicker but it also he makes 80 percent of those. So we didn't want to foul him. We wanted to be there on the catch so we could at least have it there in front of his face, and we wanted the whole team to be aware of him.
“So we got a little help from the guys, whether it's perimeter players or a big guy, being aware of him, but then Marcus and Dexter and Leslie and Reggie had to do a great job of chasing him around those screens because he goes so hard, and for us we decided to try to put several guys on him because it's hard to think about one guy guarding him for 35 minutes.”
We've only had one guy in the ACC history become ACC Player of the Year with a losing conference record, and I know it's a long way to go and we're only halfway in the conference race, but he's got to be in the discussion with the numbers not just his scoring but his shooting percentage and his assists. Could you see a guy from a second division team being Player of the Year?
“Yeah, I could. When I was at Kansas we had Rex Walters that I thought was the best player in the conference, and we won the regular season, but Shaun Vandiver was Player of the Year. He led the conference in scoring and rebounding for Colorado, and they were in the second division. They were in the second half of the league. Not only do I know it can happen, I've seen it happen.
“Most of the time I think the Player of the Year in the league should come from one of those guys that's first or second in the league. But in saying that, Erick's statistics are up there so high, you have to - to use your words, he has to be in the mix. I mean, when you're a guard leading the nation in scoring and shooting right at 50 percent, I think he was one shot below 50 percent coming into our game. That's a phenomenal year that he's having. I think he definitely has to be in the mix, and I will say most of the time that I think that guy should come from the team that finishes first or second in the league because I think winning is the most important. But boy, he's having such a phenomenal year you can't leave him out.”
I also wanted to ask you if you don't mind, looking at this Wake Forest team, they've got two veterans, and other than that it's a very young team. Is the focus on controlling the two veterans? Is that the idea playing them?
“Well, you know, I think it depends on who's coaching. They're similar to us, we've got a junior and a sophomore in Reggie and James Michael, and the rest of our guys are really freshmen or sophomores, and yet I think people do emphasize trying to do a great job on Reggie and James Michael. They have C.J. and Travis who are seniors and juniors, and one of them is averaging right at 15 and the other is averaging barely below 15. You have to emphasize the guys who do most of the scoring.
“I don't think you can ignore everybody else by any means because that's going to get you beat. Devin Thomas in ACC play, his stats are really, really impressive. Codi Miller McIntyre I thought in the Maryland game made a bunch of shots down the stretch. I don't think you can focus your defense just on them.
“It's a little bit different with Erick Green because he's averaging 25 a game, and everybody is going to say, well, I can say there's a big difference between 15 and 25 and it's only 10 points. But it is because Erick was such a huge part of their offense. But I think that Jeff has done a nice job of emphasizing Travis and CJ.., but those other guys are expected to score, too. It is a team offense. I don't think we can just aim our defenses to stop those two, and I don't think you can say, well, let them have theirs and we'll guard everybody else. I think when you're playing Wake, they're playing seven, eight, nine guys, and you've got to be aware of everybody out there.”
I was just curious, you were talking earlier and I think last week, too, about just how far away Dexter was back in October coming off his injury. Was there ever any discussion about red shirting him this year or holding him out? Was that a possibility?
“No, and I don't think I said October, I know I said September. I know I came back I had my surgery on September 19th, and two days later I watched him do the conditioning stuff, and I thought, oh, my gosh, he's not ready to go, and so we took the month there, almost a month before practice started, took him out of all the pick up games and the regular conditioning program and just had Chris and Jonas and everybody really try to do most of the work just trying to get his knee back where he could do most of the things. At that point we thought we probably still had time, so no, we did not consider that.”
Is there any connection with Hairston’s flu bug to the concussion, or do you know if it's completely separate, and have you checked out some of the mental stuff?
“Yesterday he came in and did some shooting and moved around, and I was really enthused. The only thing I wasn't enthused about is that Desmond is laying over there against the goal support because he was sick and throwing up yesterday, and James Michael didn't practice because he hurt his back at the end of the game. And one of our other players was going to the bathroom - more information than you guys need to know - about every 10 minutes. I think it's just going through our team right now.
“I was very enthused when I left practice at 6:00 yesterday, and then I got in this morning and found out what kind of night PJ had and talked to him over at the hospital, so I'm not enthused at all right now.”