Coach Groce at Big Ten Media Day
Oct. 31, 2013
Illinois coach John Groce, senior Tracy Abrams and juniors Joseph Bertrand and Nnanna Egwu were in Chicago on Thursday for the annual Big Ten Basketball Media Day at the Hyatt Regency O'Hare. Groce started things off with a press conference at 8 a.m., and then Groce and the Illini players took part in a series of rotations that included photo shoots and sit-down interviews with ESPN, Big Ten Network, Fox Sports 1, Sirius XM Radio, and roundtable interviews with 100+ print media.
Below is video and a transcript of Groce's press conference.
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by John Groce. Coach, an opening statement.
And guys are competing hard. We're pretty inconsistent right now, which is normal. But we're going to get there. I like our guys and they're up for challenges and we're anxious to start competing.
Q. I know Joe Bertrand is a guy kind of always right there. What kind of steps do you foresee him taking this year?
Great kid. Great for the program. Great for our young guys from the standpoint of setting an example of how hard we work and how we do things in the offseason and how we practice and how he treats his body, and Joe's a pro's pro with that stuff.
We'd like to see him take another step with the vocal leadership part. And obviously from a production standpoint we need him to take a step there as well. There will be more responsibility this year for him in both rebounding, scoring for us, being efficient in a lot of statistical areas, but, again, more vocal leadership than anything.
Q. What are your expectations for your two freshmen from Simeon, Kendrick [Nunn]
and Jaylon Tate, this year?
They are very competitive kids. They're used to playing with and against some of the best players in the country. So neither one of them back down from anything, which I love. That's a great starting point.
But they're still figuring things out in terms of our system and how we want to do things offensively and defensively and they are a lot further along than when they started, but they've got to continue to get better.
Q. Do you see yourself running more of an up-tempo style offensively with the
freshmen you brought in with Kendrick Nunn and Jaylon Tate, or do you want to try to copy what you did last year?
Are we at that point now where we have nine or 10 ready to do that? Players play players. They've got to earn that. In a perfect world, have we recruited and built ourselves more for speed? Yes, we have. So I think we're headed in that direction. Will we get to the top of that tempo, so to speak, this year? That remains to be seen.
Q. You have talked about high plans and building, just doing it the right way. How
important is it for you to reach your goals at Illinois to shut down Chicago to other schools coming in and pilfering recruits?
Q. Can you talk about how Rayvonte Rice has fit into your system this year? I know
he had a year to get acclimated, but how he's playing?
So we're very, very excited. Having said that, he had some jitters a little bit, I think he'd be the first to tell you, when we had our first exhibition game. It had been the first time he'd been out there in a while. He's anxious to put on that orange and blue jersey.
The other thing about Ray that I love is he's a Champaign native and watching Illinois basketball since he was little, and it means something to him to put on the jersey and play for his state school.
We're excited for Ray and have big hopes for him this season.
Q. I don't know if I've asked you this, but product of Thad Matta, you learned a lot from some of these coaches along the way. What did you really learn from him in your days at Ohio State about recruiting in the Big Ten and coaching in the Big Ten?
So I'm forever grateful for that. Learned a lot of different things from him, both on and off the court when it comes to the profession.
So for me, it's interesting. Obviously see him frequently because we're in the same league. And my son asked me the other day if we're still friends. I said, Yeah, Conner, we are. But obviously we are competitive, too.
He's a competitor. When you play one another one, two, three times a year, and when the ball gets thrown up, at that point it becomes business.
Q. Can you talk about some of the challenges that you personally and your staff
have faced getting used to all these new players coming in this year?
COACH GROCE: Sure. I think just getting to know them. Obviously that takes time. I wish there was a formula where you could speed ball it. And it takes time. I'm not real -- coaches aren't the most patient guys in the world. So I've tried to be aggressively patient with that approach and put them in situations where they have to deal with adversity.
I think one of the things that helped us for sure is we did an exercise this summer and this fall with the SEAL team, physical training. I think that all helped. Brought us all closer together. Staff participated as well. Things like that put them in situations where they have to rely on one another has allowed us to get to know them better.
But we still need to get to know them better. We did through the recruiting process with most of them and through the fall and even this past summer, and here the season's started. That's an ever-evolving curve, if you will. We're continuing to do it on a daily basis.
Q. I'm just curious, you talk about kind of grading players on how they do in practices and scrimmages. And how close are you to deciding the rotation and who you want where?
So because of that, we've had more evaluation time, if you will. So we've been able to define roles. We've already done that earlier than we usually would with such a young team as normally we'd be trying to figure it out.
I think we're getting closer to a rotation as well, not completely set but closer.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach.