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Everything Kim English said about Saturday’s game against Missouri

Vols assistant coach Kim English met with the media on Thursday morning to preview Saturday night’s game against No. 19 Missouri.

English discussed the health of freshman guard Jaden Springer, how the team has responded to the embarrassing loss to Florida on Tuesday night, potential lineup changes, the team improving its leadership, and much more.

Here’s everything English had to say prior to the 8:30 p.m. ET inside of Thompson-Boling Arena on Saturday:

On if Jaden has been practicing and any idea of his status for Saturday:

“Well, we were off yesterday – typical to what we do on a Saturday, Tuesday, Saturday, slate. He’s day-to-day and been spending time with Chad (Newman), our trainer, and G (Garrett Medenwald), our strength coach.”

On how the film session went after the Florida game:

“Well, we’ll watch film today. Yesterday was scheduled to plan the day off. I think it’s good to kind of let everyone, players included, kind of let the game happen and watch it on film. I always believe things are never as good as they seem, and things are never as bad as they seem. We’ve all watched the film multiple times, as we’re preparing for Missouri. We’ll scrub this film out today and move on, and see as we have to get better in and no different than we would after a win, after an ugly win, after a great win again. When you meet with triumph and disaster, you want to treat those two impostors just the same.

On if the Florida loss was more x and o’s or effort and intensity:

“I think those things are married. Effort and intensity at this level of basketball and beyond, are married with execution. It’s just so that the point of effort and intensity are the cost of admission. We can’t even talk X’s and O’s it if you don’t have that. Just like our defense is married to our offense – we can say we only scored 49 points, but I’d say it’s because we gave up 14 offensive rebounds. We couldn’t secure clean rebounds to play offense. So, it’s clear, and after film today and practice, it’ll be clear the areas that we need to improve in.”

On how he would assess how the team defended ball screens vs. Florida:

“Our ball screen defense hasn’t been as good as it has been in the past. It was less about the point of the screen, and more about the three guys off the ball. It was pinching the floor, tagging rollers, and they did a great job. They did a great job mixing up fake screen and real screen, and their ball screen offense was good for them, and there’s areas we can improve as a team in.”

On if he has any idea how the lineup will look after Rick Barnes said he was going to shake up the lineup following the Florida game:

“We’ve discussed some things, but that’s ultimately coach’s decision. Bigger than coach’s decision, it’s the guy’s decision. We’ll see today and tomorrow in practice what that looks like. I think that should be the mindset, and I’ve told the guys this all the time that once the season starts, and when practice or training camp is over, I don’t think any player on a team should be satisfied with their role as a starter, rotational player, or a non-rotational player. I think that fighting and scratching and clawing actually only makes our team better. I want the sixth man and the seventh guy to be chomping at the heels of the fifth and the fourth guy. I want the ninth and the 10th guy to be chomping at the heels of the seventh and the eighth guy. That type of iron sharpens iron mentality, just builds in a team. I told Ticket (Davonte Gaines), after our first two games he had DNP’s, and I went to him on the bench and I said, ‘Hey man, one thing is for certain, your name will be called this season for a fact, and how you handle not playing, or how you handle being out of the starting lineup, directly correlates what’s going to happen when your number is called.’ I think all our guys – the starters, the bench guys, non-rotational, need to come to practice with a mindset that they will undoubtedly have today and it’s to fight, battle, and compete.”

On how he can help the guys be better leaders:

“Leadership or lack of leadership is a buzzword that is thrown around a lot, but I’ve been thinking about it since the game, and what it really means. We’re going talk about it today, and I’m going to have a hard talk with the guys about what it actually means to be a leader on a team. I don’t want to give away too much, but it’s functional. It’s not just leading a team through a stretch. It’s not just what you want coach to hear you say in film. It’s actually when coach is getting on somebody about missing shots, and someone coming up behind them and saying, ‘Listen bro when I pass you the ball, knock it down’ – That is being a leader. It’s who is being a leader in the group messages on their phones. Are they talking about Fortnite and whatever 22 year-olds talk about, or are they talking about what we need to do to stop Florida’s pick-and-roll offense. Who is the leader in the locker room to back coach when he is saying the unpopular stuff? That is the leaders. Most importantly, when the game comes, they are playing like a leader. It’s playing with a moxie, confidence, toughness, execution, force, and physicality, and that is what we need. That is what we need in the worst way, and finding out who that is going to be is going to be a great next step for our team.”

On what has changed about Missouri since the last time the two teams played this season:

“They have, and they are running some different stuff offensively. They’re running some of the things they were running. Jeremiah Tillman I think is playing the best basketball of anyone in the SEC right now. Drew Smith is now knocking down jump shots from the perimeter. I love Missouri’s basketball team and I love the way they play. They are the eighth oldest team in the country and tied for the oldest in the SEC with nine upperclassmen. I just really like where they are as a group right now. They lost the game to Mississippi State, and they went on pause because of COVID. One of the media members asked Jeremiah Tillman what he learned from that loss, and I thought had a great quote as he said they were too old to still be learning things from losses, and they know what they need to do. They’ve come out since then, and won at A&M, beat South Carolina at home, and it is going to be a really good game here on Saturday.”

On pushing Keon Johnson and Springer to take bigger roles:

“I think talent is overrated in college. They are phenomenal prospects, but I think their college talent meshes in with our top seven guys. Every one of those guys has scored 20, or close to 20 in their college careers. Their upside and potential as prospects is obviously phenomenal, but we lean on those guys and they like it and want it. We lean on our older guys, and they like it and want it, we leaned on Josiah-Jordan James last year. Yves Pons was depended on as a young guy to guard the other team’s best guard. It’s something that is maturation by fire. They’re coming along great, and they’re learning every practice and every game. It is another opportunity for us to show it to them on film today, and hopefully we will put it on the floor during practice.”

On why he thinks John Fulkerson and Yves Pons lack intensity in rebounding and to coach intensity:

“Nature vs nurture, and nature helps. We emphasize that every day, and every single possession and practice we’re on the baseline looking not at the flight of the ball, but we’re looking at who is down there banging. Guys run for no box outs in practice, they run for not being physical enough boxing out in practice. Watching the Florida tape, it was a little bit of unfortunate bounces, I’ll say, and I’m a very conservative stickler as I grade defensive rebounding. Some of it was going for block shots we had no chance of getting which put us out of position. Some of it came like I said think things just happened to be married in basketball. Some of our rotations led to some bad close outs, which led to us being out of position for rebounds. We’ll watch it today and we have a rebound and edit, we’ll sit down and we grade it, we grade every single guy, we grade rebound margin and rebound percentage, just like coach Schwartz does with points allowed, we grade every single aspect of the game win loss draw no matter what. You’ll have to ask Fulky and Yves, because being a college basketball player, I couldn’t tell you as it’s low hanging fruit. Every single shot, we look, we hit, and we go get the ball. It’s something we will watch today, and we better do a better job on Saturday.”

On Springer’s impact on and off the court:

“I guess the simple answer is the depth in the backcourt. We go from a consistent five-man rotation to four. Then ticket jumps in there at five. I feel it’s the ability to hoop. Games like Alabama, games like Arkansas, games like Florida. When the game gets like this and this like on offense and defense. Having the ability of having a guy that can hoop, right. Keon can hoop. Fulky can hoop for real. VJ hoops but it’s in the jump shot variety. If he’s missing them, it is not great. Having a guy that can hoop and can put pressure on the rim is something that we miss in that type of game.”

On what he likes about playing a smaller lineup:

“I just think of space. I’ve said for a long time, if you’re not mirroring things that are going on in the NBA, you are probably behind the time. They don’t have to worry about class checks. They don’t have to worry about recruiting. They don’t have to worry about parents. So those coaches’ game plan or strategy is pretty sound because they just have to worry about basketball all day. I think as the game is going to a five-out variety. I think if we have that personnel. I get it. I was drafted as a shooting guard in the NBA and I played power forward in college. What I learned quickly was if I fronted the post and if I boxed out; I had the advantage all night long. College big men aren’t talented enough to face you up, play out of post all game long. If they do that, it usually isn’t what the coach wants to do. I think we’re better when our floor is spread. It opens up driving lanes, it opens up space inside for Fulky, it opens space inside for Yves. Texas A&M was the first time we had a lineup out there that was four guards. I think it was Keon, VJ, Santi, Jaden and Yves. It was some of our best offensive possessions of the season.”

On Alabama’s efficient offense:

“That has been them. I said it here before I said that Alabama was the Mike D’Antoni Houston Rockets of college basketball. It’s been the truth. That’s been him since he’s got there. He’s taken on that and it works. When you’re making shots, mathematically it makes sense. I’m a little stubborn to it. I think that in a game that is designed to take away layups and open threes, I think there’s some benefit to being able to make mid-range shots. Two seasons ago, Tennessee was the third most efficient offense, and they took far and away more long twos than everyone else in the country. There’s a lot of ways to skin the cat. Pete Carril’s Princeton, Jim Boeheim’s zone, Tony Bennett’s pack line, Mike D’Antoni’s threes. Steve Kerr and the Warriors are three-time NBA champions, and they made a living on long twos. There’s a lot of ways to skin a cat. I think it all comes back to your defense being married to your offense. That has to make sense. We’re going to be a team that forces the eight most turnovers in the country percentage wise, we need to start converting those turnovers in the scores on the other end. I just think it’s important that your offense is married to your defense.”

On the pros and cons to playing a small lineup:

“The downside of that is that John Fulkerson and Yves Pons are both potentially all-conference SEC players. You don’t want to say your best players are on the court and leave out those guys. I think our best five players can change game to game. It can change half to half. I think those top seven guys are really talented players. We just had to find our rotation trusted in spots. Give that small ball lineup a chance. Foul trouble happens and give that small ball lineup a chance and just keep building it. I think Yves Pons can be a small ball four with the best of them. We got to get his swag back and rhythm back so that he’s doing it. When he was at his best last season at Kansas, Kentucky, Alabama; at Alabama Yves Pons played the three and got eight offensive rebounds last season. He made threes, he made two threes in a game. We have weapons, we got to get those guys in the place where they are executing and competing at a high level.”

On correcting missed shots around the rim:

“Maybe I’m not a good coach because of this but there’s something I think you don’t have to coach. We will coach about working on it practice. The guys aren’t trying to miss layups. They blocked seven shots the last game and some of them were absolutely great drives by Keon trying to go dunk it. Watching film, some of them you may want to call fouls. Think Arkansas against Missouri at home was like 6 of 30 from two a few games back. I think that’s a rarity at this level. I think our guys are good finishers. I think we’ll keep working on finishing but it’s nothing I think you want to overcorrect or try to coach. There are other areas we should focus on.”

On the difference in Tennessee’s defense in the two losses and the 10 wins:

“Unfortunately, you can’t be a good defensive team if you don’t get defensive rebounds. Secondly, ironically in both those games Yves Pons went to the bench because he was in foul trouble in the first half. Jaden Springer sprained his ankle in one of those games and the other he didn’t play. You go back to the depth factor. You go back to the factor that you’re able to hoop and the competitive factor with Jaden. Losing two of our best defensive guys obviously doesn’t help us as a defensive group.”

On Tennessee’s chess power rankings:

“I thought about it and I told Keon the other day at breakfast. Where we’re in our team meal all socially distant so it’s only two people at a table. The room is kind of quiet, the adults are speaking, a couple of the kids are talking to each other but there’s giggling, laughter, communicating throughout the room. It’s funny how college basketball or I guess youth and technology are going. When I first got into college our team meals were very talkative and we were laughing. Our bus rides were very talkative, plane rides were talking, and laughing. Then when I got to the end of College in like 2012, and my rookie year in the NBA, there was very little talking. Everyone was on their phones. Everyone was in their own world, Twitter, Facebook or whatever and reading articles. It’s gotten back to now where they are communicating but it is through their phones. So, guys like talking to each other, playing chess or UNO on their phones. It’s kind of like you want to say get off your phone, but they are communicating. I guess the rankings are Brock and Santi at the top and I’m at the bottom. Everyone else is in the middle.”

On how important it is to spread the floor:

“It is something we want for sure. I don’t know how much of a concern it is. We have good shooters in VJ Bailey, Santi Vescovi, Josiah James. Again, I think Yves Pons is a good shooter. Those four guys being the best. When Jaden is open, he is as good as anyone in the country right now. When he gets his feet set and has an open shot. We got to keep taking them. We’ve got to keep taking our shots. We’ll make them. It is kind of like finishing. I don’t know what to say. Our guys shoot a ton of shots. They work on their game a lot. We are going to keep shooting. We’ll make open shots.”

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