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Everything Rick Barnes said during his Monday press conference

Vols head basketball coach Rick Barnes met with the media on Monday afternoon to discuss his team’s win over Cincinnati and Tuesday night’s game against Appalachian State.

Barnes discussed establishing a rotation, what he looks for in a sixth-man, the development of Jaden Springer and Keon Johnson, Yves Pons’ slow start, where he would like to see EJ Anosike improve and Tuesday night’s game against Appalachian State.

Here’s everything Barnes had to say:

On how important the next four games are to establish a rotation:

“I think it’s important, and obviously we’re just hoping we can get them in. I do think the more we can play right now — before the last game we talked about how long it seemed like we had practiced, how long it had been since we played, so it’s going to be important. These minutes are going to be very important, and the guys have to understand that it’s about us getting better and having great respect for our opponent. But those minutes aren’t going to be given to anybody. They’re going to be minutes that are earned starting in practice. That’s how we’re going to move forward.”

On if there is a common trait that he has looked for in a sixth man over the year:

“Once you go to that player, they elevate everything. They bring an energy to the court. You know they’re going to make something happen, whether it’s offensively or defensively. Versatility, and again often times that’s the guy that’s the quote un quote sixth man. He’s a guy that at the end of the game is going to finish the game for you as a starter because of the fact that he can do so many things and make so many things happen for you.”

On what makes freshmen guards Jaden Springer and Keon Johnson good sixth and seventh men off the bench:

“Again, we’ve talked about it, and we don’t care who starts. I think our lineup will change, because we’re going to keep basing it on performance. We really are still trying to figure out how to get the rotation the right way where everybody can be the most effective. When you look at what’s going on with the minutes, we’re more concerned about that. Guys keeping it between 26 to 28 minutes. To answer your question about those two guys, once they figure out everything—do they know everything about our scheme offensively and defensively? They don’t, and that’s something that they’re going to have to do. I mentioned that they have been hurt more so by the stops and starts than anybody. It’s not that we’re doing a whole lot of different things than we’ve done in the past. It’s something that most of the older guys have seen so they have great recall with it. The younger guys are still learning the base package. I do think their minutes will go up. I don’t think there is any question about that. I can see them starting at one point. It can be both of them or one of them. What we’ve harped on with these guys is just do your job when you go in the game. Players, I’ve always believed they will determine who’s going to be there. Who’s going to play the minutes? They’re going to determine who’s going to finish the game, and I think these next couple of games before we get into the conference are critical to these guys to understand, regardless of who we’re playing, it’s about us and each and everybody doing their job so we can get to the point where we know what we’re going to get night in and night out.”

On what he has liked the most about his team through the first two games:

“I think our defensive effort has been good. We’ve played two really good basketball teams who do some really good schemes, and they’ve got players. We know, because it’s no different than what we’ve done in the past. We play defense initially the way we should, and we lock in with our scouting report. We’re going to force teams into driving the ball. Then, we’ve got to be able to guard whoever’s in front of us. You stay in front of them. We can’t let them get on our hips and get to the rim. Through the first two games, I think we’ve done a good job for the most part doing what we’ve asked them to do. We talked a lot after the Colorado game, because Colorado started driving the ball. We said Cincinnati is going to drive it and they did. Offensively, we want to get fouled. We are a strong team. We are an athletic team. We’ve got a nice shooting percentage, but in-game I still think that some of those guys need to see it go through the basket a couple of times, and they’ll settle down that way. On nights when we don’t shoot the ball well, we proved the other night that we can still win a basketball game against a high-level team by doing it different ways. When it all comes together is what we’re working for, but if not, we still want to be a better rebounding team and a consistent rebounding team. We rebounded the ball great the other night. That has got to be a major emphasis. Every single night we’ve got to rebound the ball, we’ve got to take care of the ball. I mentioned the other night; the Colorado turnovers didn’t hurt us. The other night, our turnovers hurt us. Those are the plays that we have to eliminate. So, we need to take care of the ball better. It’s going to help us with our defense. Just take good shots. Take the shots that we practice, and I’m confident and I want them to shoot them whether they’re going in or not.”

On how important these next two weeks are for the post players behind Yves Pons and John Fulkerson to gain confidence before conference play begins:

“These guys want playing time. They want to play, and every day in practice the get a chance to do that. The games are important, but the bottom line is they aren’t going to get in the game if they don’t get it done in practice. I’ve told them that over and over. If they want a chance to have more rope, they have to go in a game and do what we see them do in practice. The word is consistency. We want consistency. One of the last things I tell them every day, every game, is we do what we practice. Simply do what we practice, and we’re going to be okay. If guys don’t practice well, they’re probably not going to get a chance to play as much as they would like to play. Over these next couple of games, I’d like to get guys minutes, but again those minutes aren’t going to be given out. They’re going to be earned. If a guy goes into a game and right off the bat, he makes a mistake that we see him make over and over again in practice, he won’t get much of a chance, because he hasn’t earned it. We don’t want anybody to think they have a sense of entitlement. Our team works hard. They play hard. I think they like direct, honest answers. They want to know where they stand, and the way I’m talking to you is the way I’m going to talk to them. If they want those minutes, they’re going to have to earn them.”

On what sophomore Davonte Gaines must do in practice to earn minutes:

“Going back to the word consistency. You know? What are we going to get? Does he understand the scheme with everything we do? Shooting the ball. We just know what they’re going to do, and it goes back to the consistency. For the guys that you haven’t seen play, that’s the word that I would put with all of them, consistency. The guys that are playing have shown more of a consistent type performance day-in and day-out where we have an idea and that’s not to say they’re perfect. Guys that probably get their names called too much in practice for not doing the right thing. There’s not a guy this team that we don’t believe in that we don’t think can get better. Some guys want to be stubborn. Some guys want to keep fighting it and if they keep fighting the system, then they won’t play. I mean it’s plain and simple. We have a proven formula here that we believe in and the quicker guys buy into it, the quicker they will play.”

On where Santiago Vescovi has made the most strides on defense:

“I think the big thing with him is that he’s deceptive. I think when you look at certain guys on the team, they get down and guard that’s impressive but he’s a very deceptive and very intelligent defender. Same thing offensively. Terrific with pass fakes, ball fakes. Quicker than you think. He understands angles better than most guys, but defensively again, he understands the mental preparation, he understands what he needs to do. He does his work early. Very clever in the gaps. He’s in that gap and you think he’s kind of just there but he’s playing, he’s active in the gaps most of the time. Offensively he has a solid idea of what we are trying to get done. What is good about him, I think as time goes on, it’s going to give him a chance to play off the ball too, which I think will help him because he’s so good with moving without the ball. It’s more that we can get guys settled in, handling the ball where you can get him away from it is going to help him add to his game.”

On senior forward Yves Pons’ slow start to the season:

“Probably pressing a little bit because you know again Yves is one of those guys. He’s a perfectionist. he puts so much time into the game and he works at it. I don’t think he can work any harder to be quite frank. He’ll make it, he’ll get it going. You guys have watched him over time. He rebounded well the first game. I didn’t think he had the same mindset rebounding in the second game as he needs to. Maybe that’s pressing a little bit, because he went one-for-nine in the first game, but he’ll be fine. We don’t worry about Yves because he’s going to give you everything he’s got and there’s not a better fix it guy in the country. I mean it’s things that he cleans up and the things that he does defensively a lot of people don’t notice that are really valuable to our team.”

On Tennessee’s fast break offense and how important it is to continue to develop:

“Well our fast break offense has been good. It can be a whole lot better. It’s important because we want to be an attack team. We want play really good defense and get out and run. Like any team in the country we want to get as many opportunities in the open court as we can. Try to have a place of advantage basketball where we got numbers based on the other team and we’ve been ok with it. We’ve shown some good signs, but there’s so much more that comes with our transition game than we’ve shown. Again, it’s a matter of getting everybody to understand it, but we wanted to advance it as quick as we can. We love to get it down the floor as quick as we can but we want to play out of it. If not, we want to be able to flow where it looks like they were. We just don’t want to do a lot of standing around. The last two games we’ve had to go up against zone more than we probably thought. Certainly, in the first game. We’ve spent some time with it today because Appalachian State will do a little three-quarter court 1-2-2 press back to a 2-3 zone. We expect to see that and we just got to continue to work our zone offense but the fast break is so important to us. Teams are going to work to take it away from us. There’s no doubt about it but we still think we can get it and we certainly have to fight to get it and will continue to do that.”

On if he thought Tennessee took good shots against the zone defense and his impressions of senior forward EJ Anosike:

“Well, our first game we had open shots against Colorado in the zone. Not exactly in the spot of the floor you know like. Instead of 15-foot jumpers, we want that 8-to-10-foot jumper against the middle of the zone, but they weren’t bad shots. They were shots that guys practice. My biggest problem is guys turning down good shots and then having to settle for one that’s not as good. That’s what we’ve talked about. When we’re open, we want to shoot the ball. Again, I think that’s maybe settling here as the season gets started. E.J. is going to bring the energy. He’s a guy that’s terrific coming off the bench. You know he’s going to rebound; you know he’s going to work hard; he’s going to work as hard as he can on both ends to do things the right way. He’s going to try to make the right plays on the defensive end and he had a couple mistakes on rotations the other night defensively, but it was all the cause of his great effort. Trying to help his teammate, try to make the next play. Offensively, I think he’ll continue to figure how to play at a different level now with the taller players, bigger players and he probably is used to playing against all along. He’s going to keep getting better and better just because he works so hard at it and a guy that when he comes in the game, we have a pretty good idea what we know he’s going to bring to us.”

On Tennessee becoming a top 10 team in the country:

“Well I don’t know that rankings matter right now, I don’t. We’ve played two games and other teams have played five, six games. It’s not something we talk about. We talk about getting better. All I will say about rankings is when you have a number in front of your name, it becomes an even bigger game for your opponent because they have a chance to build a resume with it. With that said, our whole philosophy is we’re going to talk about getting better and what do we need to do to improve in every area, every player gets better. Notoriety for our program. Is great notoriety for our players. I think they understand if you’re going to be that kind of opponent you better be ready to bring it every single night and that’s what helps you when you do have that ranking, because if you aren’t tough enough mentally and physically to be ready to play every single night, you’re going to get beat. It’s plain and simple, whether you’ve got a number there or not, but I think the great thing about being a ranked team is to see how guys handle it when you know people are going to give you their best shots night-in and night-out.”

On what E.J. Anosike needs to adjust on offense moving forward:

“One, he needs to slow down a little bit and second, he needs to go back to fighting for his space on the floor to get it where he wants it. He’s going to have to play above the rim. I’m sure he’s used to throwing his body into people, knocking them off and then finishing. He can finish, he’s just got to adjust. It’s a more physical game—and he’s not afraid to be physical, don’t get me wrong, but he’s being guarded in ways he’s never been guarded before night in and night out. I would say for all of those post guys with the exception of Fulky probably, is all about doing your work early. Knowing where you want the ball on the floor. Getting your feet organized and ready to play when you catch the ball as opposed to just standing there wondering what’s next. I think for E.J., Olivier, Uros and all of those guys need to understand that if they get themselves ready to play, especially with the guard penetration we’re getting right now, they’re going to get to do a lot of different things with the ball, because the ball will be passed to them. But, they’ve got to get their feet organized and those three guys are still learning how to do that at a consistent level.”

On if veterans can struggle to find their role on a team:

“Can it be tough? Yeah, but I think all of us early in the year are trying to figure it out. But, when you have a group of unselfish guys like we have—I think our guys really have great respect for the work we put into our program. I think they understand that there’s no one that doesn’t work hard. Are their guys that work harder? Absolutely. Are there guys that put more time in than others? Absolutely. For the older guys, the more versatile they become, the more effective they become for you. I’ve watched Josiah now where he’s gotten to the point where he can play pretty much every position on the floor now, which is going to help him in so many different ways. Is he going to play a bit of a different role? He’s going to do a little bit of everything. Last year he didn’t have the advantage of having someone coming in when things weren’t going well. For the most part, he had to get those lessons taught the hard way. I don’t think we have a team that we have to do that with this year, but I do know that he’s going to buy into whatever we need him to do. We know E.J. will as well. We need to get Olivier going to the point—we know how good he can be and he hasn’t figured it out yet. The last two days he’s been better, but a big part of it is that when you’re coaching guys and you ask about roles and things like that, it all goes back to buying into the program and what you have to do. When Grant Williams started out, we went through all of the same things with him until he realized that he had to do certain things a certain way and once you get a few things down, then you can build on it. It still goes back to that word consistency. No matter what role guys are playing in, they have to show consistency to where they understand what we’re trying to accomplish as a team every possession. We have a saying that ‘Every possession matters.’ The guys that play the most minutes understand that simple fact that every possession matters both offensively and defensively.”

On how he would evaluate Keon Johnson and Jaden Springer through two games:

“I think sometimes as coaches we can overthink it. Going into it, Colorado is a tough opener. We knew it was going to be a high level, high stakes game. You don’t want to put those guys in a position where they don’t have success early, because you don’t want to lose them for a week with them keeping it in the back of their minds. I think what we learned about those guys is that they have short memories which is a good thing and the second thing is just the second game. You have to look at me for this, but I think we should have subbed earlier. I knew going into the game the other night against Cincinnati that we were going to get two or three guys in before the 16-minute mark. I think you’ll see that pattern continuing. Unless I change my mind from now until tomorrow we’ll start the same way, but that doesn’t mean that the game after that we won’t start another way and the game after that another way. We’re still searching through some of these things. Again, that was my decision during the first game not necessarily to baby them, but just to try to make sure — we didn’t want to get them on the floor together. We wanted to get some young guys with older guys. Then, the other night we just said, ‘Hey, we’ll put two guys out there at one time and go.’ And try to get three guys in before the 16-minute mark. Normally that means Fulkerson will come out. We’re going to try to use the timeouts. We’ll get him out at the 16:30 or 16:45 mark and let him use that and the timeout and get him back in and work him down like that. The whole thing is so we can be the freshest and most competitive team we can be in the last six minutes of the game. We don’t want to be tired. We want to be running full speed then. We want to be guarding at a high level then and if we want to do that, we need to manage the minutes in the first half and the first part of the second half.”

On what he’s seen from Appalachian State while scouting them ahead of Tuesday night’s game:

“They had a really nice win the other night at Charlotte. They’re a really well coached team. I think predominately want to play man-to-man. Even though I mentioned that they have a little three-quarter court press that goes back to a 2-3 zone, which I could see that coming at some point in time. We worked on it today. I think we’ll be better against the zone. It’s also not like we’ve been bad against them. We’ve won two games against two teams that do a pretty good job with their zone defense. I love their offense. They open it up. Sometimes they’ll have a five-out type of spread with a motion offense where they like to play off the elbows. They do some nice scissor actions where they can do some good things. They have two guards that can shoot the ball really well and they’ve got a guy they think they can go through like we do with Fulkerson. Again, they’re a really well coached team and like I said they’re coming off a really nice road win at Charlotte.”

On if Tennessee is all clear from a COVID-19 standpoint:

“We’re good. We’re good to go.”

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