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Everything Rick Barnes Said Before Tennessee Faces NC State

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

Tennessee basketball coach Rick Barnes met with the local media on Friday before the Vols leave for San Antonio to face North Carolina State.

The Vols are looking for their fourth straight win in their final big six non conference game of the regular season. Barnes discussed the Vols’ bad second half against Georgia Southern, former Tennessee forward D.J. Burns’ growth at North Carolina State and much more. Here’s everything Barnes said.

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On how Tennessee’s veterans responded to the poor second half against Georgia Southern on Tuesday

“They were good. What I just tell them all the time is that how hard these guys work, and our guys work hard, every game’s an opportunity to go out and put that hard work to use and do what you do. And I mean, that’s why you play the game. And I do realize you have games like you can have mentally, where you might not have what you want to have every day. But it happens. But like you said, the main thing is how do you respond afterwards? And I thought they did a good job yesterday.”

On Tennessee’s younger players not playing against Illinois on Saturday, then getting back on the floor against Georgia Southern

“I thought they were good in terms of, and I told the old guys that. I said you owe it to those young guys and give them a chance to get a sustained run out there and let them know what it’s like to really have to play hard for two and a half, three, four minutes, trying to take care of every detail that we talk about. But I do think that the freshmen are starting to really give a much harder effort in practice, which again, that’s the growth you would expect. And they’ve gotta continue to do that because I believe it with my whole heart that at some point in time we’re gonna need them all at some time. And I think all of them can help us win some games going down the road.”

On the scouting report for N.C. State DJ Burns, who started his career at Tennessee

“D.J. can score. We knew that when we recruited him. And a guy that, he’s got a really a soft touch around the basket. He can shoot the ball really out to 15 feet and obviously he’ll work hard to get his space where he wants it. And he’ll get it outside, around the 3-point line if he needs to, he’ll kind of crab dribble back down there to get to his position. I think he really understands where he’s effective on the court and he tries hard to get there.”

On how DJ Burns is similar and different now compared to his time at Tennessee

“I think the biggest thing when we recruited D(.J.), and he has a wonderful family, and D.J. came in at a time when our big deal with him was to get him in great shape. But in terms of his game, I think what he’s doing is what we thought he would be able to do. And he’s, you think about, uh, once he left here, he did a good job at Winthrop and he’s now at NC State playing, I think the most minutes he’s ever played. I think he’s playing around 28 minutes a game, which is great. I think obviously that’s how much Coach Keats wants him on the court. But he’s worked hard to get himself to that position.”

On how hard it is to find consistency across college basketball

“You look around some of the scores over the last couple weeks and, obviously, the portal has changed a lot, but still this time of year is a difficult time for these guys. Not just here, but everywhere. They’re finishing up exams and they’ve got a lot on their plate. Then you travel. You go back to not only what they have to do to finish the semester, but it’s what they’ve missed up to this point — the time they’re away through the tournaments in late November. They’re probably playing catchup and trying to not only make up for some past work — and I think it happens all around college basketball. I really do. With that said, we’re still trying to get them to do what we would like to see done on the court, sometimes, with less time. This is a really a tough time of year for them.”

On how Freddie Dilione can play steady minutes

“I thought he really went in and played hard the other night and Freddie’s no different than the other young guys. It’s a matter of understanding just how hard you got to play and how valuable every possession is and understanding what we’re trying to get done as a team. I think he is making strides. I thought he had a good day again (Thursday). But his effort — along with the other freshmen — (is) getting better and better. It’s just the fact that they don’t know what they don’t know when they get here. They can’t understand it. During the summer pick-up games, there’s not a lot of intensity. Then once you start going on a foreign trip, it’s not a great deal of intensity. Then you come back and once official practice starts, the older guys know what it’s about. They’ve been through it. These guys haven’t. They haven’t been through what they’ve gone through the last two months. As they continue to adapt to it and adjust to, it’s part of the learning process. As long as they’ll stay with a positive attitude, it’ll turn out good for them.”

On how many freshmen understand how hard you have to play in college

“It’s hard for all of them. It really is. I mean, so much of it too is where they’re coming from, where they’ve been, level of competition. It is maybe their inner DNA, maybe it’s not, but I think that’s something that everybody can get too. I’ll use Cade for example, we had no idea that he would be able to do some things that he’s done. As much as you try to evaluate it and see it, it’s just some guys see it differently. Some guys are able to see it earlier and pick up on it. Some guys are willing to watch what’s going on around them. I think sometimes when players start looking outside the program— they say, well, I played against this guy. He’s playing more here or there, all that. I think that is when it probably becomes a problem because every situation’s different, every team’s different. Every team plays a different style. But I think it’s overall it’s a big jump. It’s a really, really big jump from high school to this level and even much bigger jump where they want to go after this level. It’s a much bigger jump. So it’s a process. It’s a step by step that they have to learn how to take really one step at a time and keep growing and keep building.”

On what he liked about Freddie Dilione moving without the ball against Georgia Southern

“That’s what, again, that’s something that I thought was really good. And what we tried to do the other night, we tried to keep those young guys out there early with the older guys so they didn’t— so they had guys with them that again, they knew what it’s about. He went in and I I thought Freddie ran hard. I thought he really tried to defend, and I think all of them will tell you, the hardest thing is catching that second wind. I mean, when they come out the game they’re winded. And that’s something that’s part of it. Knowing that they can fight through it. It’s like you hit the wall, you’ve got to either stop or you’re going to slack off, whatever it is. That’s where you’ve got to be mentally tough enough to fight through it and you know that you can do it. And because certainly they can do far more than they think they can.”

On the importance of this time of year when school is out

“I think what’s hard is the campus has changed too. It’s not just what we’ve done with what’s going on here with every student academically, but now everyone that goes home, the vibration you have on campus is different. Everything’s different these next couple weeks. And this is the longest— coming up— the longest Christmas break I think I’ve ever had in my life time. I don’t think I’ve ever had five days at Christmas. And so it’s different. But with that said, I don’t, whether it’s this time of year or whether we get into the first, second week of conference season, you’ve got to get better. Because there’s going to be some teams out there that maybe are right in the middle that’s going to take off some that you think are pretty good, that might fall backwards. It’s all about the approach every single day and knowing that you’ve got a job to do. It’s taking care of the details, it’s coming to practice with the right mindset. And I will say this, it goes back to leadership with those guys from within what they have to do. That’s what I told the team the other night after the game. I just wasn’t real happy with that. And they weren’t either. They weren’t either with the way they played. Even in the first half we were scoring, but you look at the first half, we weren’t as locked in as you probably thought we were because we were scoring points, but we were making mistakes defensively that we shouldn’t be making. But that’s part of it. And you learn from it and move forward.”

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