Oct. 17, 2012
BIRMINGHAM, Ala.--The UAB men's and women's basketball teams held their annual media day on Wednesday afternoon at Bartow Arena. Men's head coach Jerod Hasse and women's head coach Audra Smith met with members of the local media to discuss the upcoming season.
On the men's side, junior forward Jordan Swing, junior guard Robert Williams, and senior guard Terence Jones were in attendance for the annual event. Junior forward Karisma Chapman, who was named a preseason all-conference performer, and senior guard Amber Jones represented the women's team.
Haase, who is entering his first season with the Blazers, welcomes back seven letterwinners, including three starters, from last year's team that finished fifth in the C-USA standings. UAB brings back its top three shooters from beyond the arc and six of the top eight scorers from last season's squad.
The men's squad will kick the season off in grand fashion with "Hoops On The Haase-Phalt", which is a preseason outdoor extravaganza set for Oct. 19. The season will tip off on Nov. 3 at 2 p.m. with an exhibition contest against North Alabama. For more information on Hoops On The Haase-Phalt, CLICK HERE.
After compiling a 19-11 (9-7 C-USA) record and third-place finish the league last year, the UAB women will have a new look this season, as the squad returns just three starters and welcomes eight newcomers to the squad.
In the recently released Preseason Conference USA Coaches' Poll, the Blazers were predicted to finish third in the C-USA, as voted on by the league head coaches. UAB has set school and Conference USA records for scoring defense in each of the past two seasons, allowing 55.3 points per game in 2010-11 and a remarkable 49.1 points per contest in 2011-12. Last year's scoring defense mark ranked third in the nation, behind only Connecticut and Hampton.
Below are a few quotes from Wednesday's press conference.
Men's Head Coach Jerod Hasse
Opening statements: "Alright, well I guess it is that time of year. Coach Audra Smith will be up here next and we are very excited for the start of a new season. She has been through this a couple more times than I have as a head coach, but the expectations that we both have internally are very high. You guys will meet a couple of our players: Jordan Swing, Terence Jones, and Rob Williams. When they asked me which players I wanted to speak today that are well spoken, have been around a couple of years, and present themselves and the program in a positive way, I told them, `Look at the roster and pick three guys'. We have a great group of guys right now that are all well spoken, represent the university in the right way, and they are doing the right things in the classroom as well as on the court during practice."
"I want to talk about Hoops on the Haase-Phalt. I laugh every time I hear that name, but Friday is going to be an awesome day. I was up on the podium after Garrick McGee's press conference two weeks ago and I told everybody that I was in charge of the weather and nothing else. The weather is supposed to be nice, so everything else I left up to the administration, marketing department, and the assistant coaches. If anything goes wrong I know whom to blame and it is not going to be me. We are anxious; it is going to be an event with a lot going on. To say it's going to be a basketball scrimmage would be mis-marketing. It is going to be so much more than that, with dunk contests to shooting contests, and the women's team is involved as well. We want people to leave there wanting more of UAB basketball. Word has been spread and we are hoping for a great crowd. All the things we are doing from our end, like the courts, the lights, the bleachers and everything are going to hone in on how excited we are for the upcoming season. We are hopeful that this event Friday night will be something that we'll talk about for many years and will be a great kickoff to the season."
"In terms of the season coming up, it has been fun. One of my players before practice two days ago was taping one of his ankles and said, `Wow coach, you kind of cranked it up on us'. I looked at him and I said, `you bet your rear-end I did'. It is that time of year and we have done a lot of good things in the pre-season and during the summer. The things we are working on now are not brand new to them. The intensity and the length of practice have increased and the guys have been phenomenal with picking things up. I told them it was not going to be easy and that I am going to be very demanding on them. We will push them both physically and mentally to make sure they pick things up because it is a brand new system and it is their job to raise their game, raise their effort, and raise their intensity to my level. It is not my job to lower my expectations or demands and they have really stepped up to that. We have practice this afternoon then come back and have practice at 7 a.m. tomorrow. The team is excited for the style we are going to play. We are going to pressure people defensively, pressure the basketball, deny passes, hopefully rebound the basketball well, and turn the ball over and turn the team over so we can get our secondary break and primary break. We're going to run the basketball and hopefully score it quickly. I think the guys understand that how the team does is more important than how each individual does. It is amazing what can be accomplished when no one cares who gets the credit. Our team believes that very strongly, but if the team does well, then everyone individually will do well also.
On the toughness of the team: "We are learning every day what we can do as individuals and as a team. It is a much different setting now than it has been in the fall and spring. We have talked a lot about the toughness element and not turning the basketball over. Players must do their part; I am learning what each individual's strengths and weaknesses are and what type of character they are going to have to fight through the tough times in each game. So far I have been very pleased with the overall toughness of the team."
On rebounding in the upcoming season: "You can ask any of the three players that are coming up if I am concerned about rebounding and the answer is definitely yes. It is not an attitude that we just have one guy rebound the basketball and average 12 rebounds a game. It is a game mentality, team mentality, and someway, somehow we have to fight for that rebound. Rebounding has been an emphasis for this team and it is crucial for our success."
On difference in being assistant coach to now head coach: "The decisions are being made by me, not just me giving recommendations on the court. I think I have been very comfortable in this new setting. The reasons for that are the great learning environment I had been in before with Coach Roy Williams. I give him a lot of credit for my comfort level because for nearly 20 years, I have seen how to run a program. I would always take mental and physical notes on things I would want to do if I was ever a head coach. This allows me to do my job comfortably rather than question if I am doing it right the whole time."
On current emotions about this new season: "I would say excitement is the biggest one right now. There will always be some nerves before games, but these guys have given reason to be excited and we look forward to what it will bring. We have some newcomers, but the entire team is also new. Everything we do is different and that is very exciting."
On playing North Carolina over the next three seasons: "It is a big deal to have them on our schedule. To have them in Bartow Arena next year is huge, but for us to travel up to Chapel Hill is a great deal as well. We are going to play home and away games against the best competition we can find. We hope to continue the trend of playing great teams in the future. UAB welcomes challenges and we hope that, with the recruiting we are doing ,we will be able to compete at a very high level."
Women's Head Coach Audra Smith
Opening statements "I would like to recognize Coach Jerod Haase and say that since he has been here he has been awesome. He has been tremendous in terms of being a team player and supporting the women's team as well. He personally called me and invited my team to be a part of Hoops on the Haase-phalt and we will be taking part in that event Friday night."
"It is hard to believe it is year nine for me. I am very excited about what the season has to bring. We have some great returners coming back along with some unbelievable freshman. I am proud of how hard they are working and looking forward to what they will bring to the table."
"Our motto this year is the `Pursuit of Excellence'. We want to pursue excellence in everything that we do. We are putting all of our energy and efforts towards getting on the right track and doing what it takes to be successful."
"We are looking to go very far this season. Our goal is to win a conference championship. Anything else would be unsatisfactory."
On what it would take to make it to NCAA tournament: "We know that we have to win the conference championship to get in. Playing big teams like Vanderbilt and continuing to do so in future schedules will get us the recognition and experience we need to make us better and play at a higher level to first, win the conference championship, and then move forward."
On where the team stands currently in comparison to this time last year: "We are definitely ahead of the game. The new players have picked up on the new things we are doing, as well as our returners. We are very good offensively early in the year and that has not been the case for several years. This makes it easier for us as coaches because we can move a lot faster. Our returners are doing a phenomenal job of being leaders and encouragers, and our new players are catching on very quickly."
On what area needs the most improvement: "We are working hard in every area to improve. There is no way every single aspect can be perfect, but rebounding is something we struggle with and we are looking to improve that through drills and other exercises. We want to be the best team we can possibly be."
Junior F Jordan Swing
On the transition to a new coach: "I feel like the transition has been an easy one. For me, it's my third coach in college. I'm almost used to changing coaches. Hopefully I can stick with (Coach Haase) for the next two years. The transition has been smoother than I thought it would go. All the players have responded well to the changes. The potential of this team is really good and we can do some special things this year."
On differences in practices under Coach Haase: "During these first five days of practice, we have had some moments where coach wasn't pleased with some of the shots we were taking. It's a learning process. It's something that's new to all of us. Last year, we were so used to running sets and knowing exactly where you were supposed to be. Now it's changed to having the freedom to go where you want. It's a fun way to play and it will be fun to watch."
Junior G Robert Williams
On Coach Haase's demeanor: "He has really picked up the intensity in practice. In the spring and summer, he really wanted us to get a feel for him, but at the same time he was telling us that he was going to hold us accountable and hold us responsible for mistakes and knowing the plays."
On mindset playing perennial teams like North Carolina: "It's going to be exciting. We're going to go down there and not be expected to win. It doesn't matter who we play, we're going to accept the challenge. It's exciting to play in that environment because not many of us have ever played in that type of environment. We're going to take the challenge and try to compete."
Senior G Terence Jones
On transferring to UAB: "The expectations here are very high. At this school and in this city, the expectations for the basketball team are very high. Coming here on my visit, I saw how these guys love their team. I came here to bring leadership and to bring my skills however the team needs them. Coming here is a major accomplishment for me and I'm excited."
On this being his last year: "It's hard. There's no coming back for me. A lot of people look at us as going through a transition year. But this is the `it' year for me. None of the team, or coaches, is looking at this like a transition year. Coach (Haase) is getting us ready to win now, and for years to come. I take every day patiently and work hard and hopefully I'll have a great senior year."
Junior F Karisma Chapman
On the new team chemistry: "Like coach said about us being leaders, we have to push the freshmen every day in practice, and they actually push us a lot in practice too. They want us to get better, become more talented. We're all going to have to contribute this year. Like Coach Smith said, we can't rely on just Amber (Jones) and me this year for offense."
On how last year's end will help this year's team: "We've come close the last two years, but we're tired of being close. We want to actually get it done this year, and I think we can, we will. Our motto this year is `Pursuit of Excellence', so we're really striving to get that conference championship."
On the newcomers, and if any remind her of herself: "Schenia Battle is from my high school, and she reminds me of me when I was a freshman. Coach Smith used to get on me about trying to get the drills right, so she reminds me of that. Ashley Grimes is another `tweener'. We can both play the three or the four, so I see some of myself in her."
On transition and ball handling: "We've got great ball handlers on our team, and we also have people who can rebound and push the ball up and down in transition. Like Coach Smith said, everybody can play different positions, so we just blend."
On making the Conference USA defensive team: "I was definitely surprised, but Coach Smith always tells us to be hard on defense, and I like to think that I have a good IQ when it comes to defense. I read people well, can get in the passing lanes."
On buying into the team mentality: "Coach Smith recruited people who have a winning mentality. Obviously, no one wants to lose, and our new players have come in and want to be successful."
Senior G Amber Jones
On having returning players: "It's very nice to have people who you've played with for a couple years, because once you've gotten into the program, it's like everything is so familiar, like when we're in practice. We've been doing a good job teaching the underclassmen. I'm very comfortable with Karisma Chapman and Khalilah (Watson) because we've been playing together for so long. We know how to read each other and figure out their next moves."
On being able to depend on the newcomers: "When you have the chance to have a break when you're fatigued, like last year when I had a wrist injury, it's really nice to know that there isn't as much pressure on me when I come off the court. We have enough trust in the newcomers that they will go on the court and do a good job. They come from winning programs and have been very competitive in practice."
On last season's end fueling this year's team: "Last year, we had a lot of expectations, a lot of good players. We thought we had a great team to make the NCAA Tournament, but we lost five of our last six games. We had a breakdown in our mentality. I think we got too comfortable. This year, I think we learned our lesson, and we know we have to play hard in every single game. It's my last year, and I would like to have the chance to win the conference tournament and make it to the NCAA Tournament."