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Everything Rick Barnes Said Following Three Tennessee Wins In The Bahamas

Rick Barnes
Tennessee HC Rick Barnes. Photo By Andrew Ferguson/Tennessee Athletics.

Tennessee head basketball coach Rick Barnes met with the media Tuesday afternoon ahead of the Vols’ Wednesday night matchup against McNeese State.

Barnes discussed the Vols’ three wins at the Battle 4 Atlantis last week in The Bahamas, Josiah-Jordan James health status and more.

Here’s everything Rick Barnes said during his

On what he like about Zakai Zeigler coming off the bench 

“Just him being who he really is and the way he can impact the game in so many different ways. Just the fact that so much of what he did a year ago, the speed of the game changes. Every game he’s done it now, it’s been a difference in terms of the tempo once he comes in the game. In terms of the aggressiveness, he obviously knows more there than say Tyreke (Key) when Tyreke is at the point. But Tyreke will continue to get where he needs to go. (Zeigler) brings a little more aggressive attack to it. And defensively, with what he and Santi (Vescovi), our whole team, Jahmai Mashack, really they’ve all done a great job on that end.”

On his biggest takeaway from Atlantis

“I thought really as a staff the way our guys were really focused in on the game plan. Because you have a normal procedure to get ready for the first game against Butler, but the next two days it’s a quick turnaround. The fact that we had great concentration. We really played our scouting report well in both of those games. Our defensive effort was terrific, in terms of what we felt like we needed to get done in both of those games. Offensively, again, I don’t think we’ve hit our stride yet, in terms of getting our feet under us totally. But playing against a very physical team in Butler, then a zone really for 38 minutes (against USC), then coming back against Kansas. They were good, they had a lot to do with those turnovers. But just the fact that our guys are really bought in to each other, that they know what their roles are and what they need to do to help us be successful.”

On if he has an update on Josiah-Jordan James injury

“No, same thing. It’s really up to him. We want him to be 100 percent healthy when he’s ready to play. He did do a little bit yesterday, but only he knows where he really is. Mentally I think he’s got to feel good about it, when he’s ready to go.”

On if it was Josiah’s decision to not play in the Bahamas

“Yeah, we’re leaving it up to him. Again, it’s been made clear to him, we want him to feel comfortable. Certainly we’re not going to ask anybody to play when they don’t feel (comfortable). We just want him to feel good about himself. As much as he’s put into the program, he’ll know when he’s ready.”

On what it says about this team that they won the Battle 4 Atlantis without Josiah-Jordan James

“I think depth. We go back a year ago, we had a terrific ending to our regular season last year. Winning the SEC championship in the postseason tournament without Olivier (Nkamhoua). It gave another chance for someone else to step up. Jahmai Mashack has done a good job. Julian (Phillips) has obviously had to grow up quickly. Quicker than maybe we might have thought he would have to. But he’s done a good job. Then I still think that Jonas (Aidoo) is getting minutes that he might not have gotten as many of those minutes. When someone goes down, regardless of who it is, it’s an opportunity for other guys to have a chance to get out there and play. And the more I think anybody plays, they’re going to get better with it if they really understand those minutes are valuable and you have to make the most of them.”

On if he worries Josiah’s knee injury will linger

“No. I hurt for him. I’m not going to say I worry about it because you know what we’re in sports and these things happen in sports. You have to be ready. Like I just said it’s a compliment we all hurt for him because we know what he’s meant to this program and what he still does mean to this program. You don’t want to see anybody be in this situation but the fact is if we’re concerned that he can’t do what we know that he wants to do but that’s sports. He’s got time and he’ll keep doing what he needs to do to I’m sure get himself where he feels like he can help us. I don’t think he would play if he didn’t feel like he could help us.”

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On what Jonas Aidoo did well in The Bahamas

“His length was really impressive. He actually got a tough call when you look at it on tape. It’s one of those bang-bang plays but he actually had a great block where he ran it down from behind. I haven’t seen him do that in a long time where his speed just coming down the floor trying to clean that up. His length, he created some turnovers on out of bounds, dead ball situations. The fact is he can shoot the ball. He needs to shoot it as opposed to trying to guide it right now because he’s a guy that he’s got great touch. I think the minutes he’s playing is all new to him in some way. He’s making strides.”

On players holding each other accountable this early in the season

“You would like for it to be this early after what we went through a year ago and they know it. We talked about it and the fact is with the number of guys we have back you’d like to see it happen and expect it to happen. They understand and they want to be good and obviously we’ve shown we’ve got a real competitive spirit with these guys and I think they know too it’s never going to be easy. I don’t care who we play. They know that they’ve got to be ready but the fact they are holding each other accountable and holding each other at a very high level is what you want from a coaching staff.”

On defense setting the tone

“It’s there. We’ve got to have it. We’ve talked about it even on nights where we might not be scoring the ball the way we would like to we have to find a way to create some offense and make it tough on people to score. We feel that if we can do that and rebound the ball on both ends then we’ll find a way to generate enough points we hope but with that said, we still have areas that we can get better defensively. We talked a lot about trying to win those one-on-one individual battles that you’re in throughout the game. We’ve got guys that do really try to make some good fix it plays for us but our on ball defense for the most part in the tournament was really good. We were able to control the ball and cushion the ball and contain-and-contest. That’s where we can continue to get better because if your opponent is not shooting the ball well they’re just going to try and get downhill on you. We did a pretty good against a team that does that about as well as anyone in Kansas.”

On attacking the offensive glass when they shoot a lot of three’s and if what they did against Kansas the formula he was describing

“Inside-out is what we want to do. Whether it’s throwing it into the post or playing with dribble-penetration, us getting downhill with it. There’s a balance and I think one, we still need more production out of their post guys inside. I do think that we have to continue to improve there. Our perimeter guys are being defended extremely hard. People like Southern Cal are pushing way out there. They were willing to give us what we want inside the lane there. They were just determined to not let us get wide open three’s. Then you go back to Kansas and I thought they played the scouting report the way we will be played most of the time with guarding certain guys, cushioning certain guys. As our guys continue to learn that, we’ll watch tape and show them the adjustments that have to be made when those type situations occur, but the fact is, we like to have great balance inside and out.”

On the turnovers against Kansas

“Some of those turnovers, you have to credit your opponent because they did create some of those early, but we were — the speed, the game, the physicality — most of those turnovers occur when you turn down shots. If you take the first good shot you get, but maybe you don’t feel as confident as you need to be, maybe you try to get it closer and they’re hearing us say, ‘hey, we need to get to the foul line.’ There’s a fine line there, but most of the turnovers are happening because we’re not really ball quick whether it’s interior passing or ill-advised passing. But again, our opponent has something to do with some of it.”

On if he liked the way they attacked the zone defense of USC:

“Yeah, we knew what they were doing. We’ve played against that defense forever. It’s not — we actually run that zone a year ago when we had one, so we know where the holes are. It still gets down to you have to make shots. It’s funny when you talk to people, you’ll hear them say, ‘hey, when they’re shooting the ball, they can beat anybody.’ You can say that probably about 150 teams. When you’re shooting it, it makes it all easier, but it’s the nights when you’re not shooting it, can you still find a way to win. The fact is that we had some shots in there that were good shots, but you can’t coach that. You can’t control that. Players certainly want to make all of their shots. Coaches want them to make them, but that’s what makes the game an interesting game when nights when you’re not making shots, can you find a way to get it done enough and that’s where it comes back to your defense and trying to create something with that.”

On Jahmai Mashack doing the little things well

“He’s competitive and it’s in his DNA. He’s a competitor. Jahmai’s strong now. He’s guarded anybody on the court. We don’t care who we play, we think he can guard any position on the court. He’s extra effort. He’s a guy that I can assure you when teams go through a scouting report, they say when this guys comes in the game you better get ready because he’s coming at it. He’s going to get to the glass. He’s going to try to get them extra possessions. He’s going to guard. He made a couple great defensive plays — one-on-one defensive plays where he stayed in front of some really good players and actually blocked a shot with his left hand, but it’s fun because he’s just scratched the surface to what he can be as a player, but the fact is right now he knows what we need him to do and he knows what he’s good at and he’s playing to it.”

On McNeese State

“They’ve been playing a lot of 1-1-3 zone. They’ve got good offensive explosion. They can get going. Playing a daunting schedule as you can imagine, but the fact is, they’ll come in and compete extremely hard. They’re zone, they’re extremely aggressive in. They have different wrinkles out of it, so we’ll have to be able to take care of the ball again and try to do what we think we need to do against it.”

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