Oct. 27, 2011
SMITH: Good morning. First I wanted to welcome everybody here also. It's good to be back here at Media Day. It's always an important time of the year to share with our fans and with everyone around the country what our team looks like and what the Big Ten looks like for the upcoming season. So, with that, we're excited about the upcoming year and look forward to another very competitive Big Ten Conference.
Q: Can you talk about Trevor's (Mbakwe) experience overseas in the offseason, what he gained from that?
SMITH: He played for Matt Painter. I think he did a fantastic job, was leading rebounder on that World University team. He came back, and we talked about his consistency and trying to be a more complete player, the things he needs to work on, especially his free-throw shooting. I think that's something that he is still improving on and trying to -- I just know it was a good experience for him being out there, being around someone like Matt, coach Painter, who understands and could share things in a perspective that sometimes hearing from someone else helps. But he gained a valuable -- he's shown it in practice so far. He's really trying to be more consistent in his efforts, playing both ends of the court. One of the things I think we had concerns about was just him staying out of foul trouble, making sure he's playing defense before his man gets the basketball, things like that, that they're going to make him a more complete player. So he's given that effort. And now that he has everything behind him, I think he's very focused on having a good year.
Q: You alluded to the idea of how competitive things might be this year. What's your overall viewpoint of how strong the league is going to be top to bottom?
SMITH: You can just look at the number of players that are being nominated for Wooden Awards or All-Americans that are returning. We have two All-Americans returning. And we didn't lose a lot of veteran players. We have a lot of First-, Second-, Third-Team returning players in the Big Ten. Jared Sullinger, top player in the nation probably, is back. So, again, there's that -- I think we have the lack of changes, the addition of Nebraska, and there hasn't been much turnover from the coaching standpoint as well. I think you'll see a lot more consistency and a lot more continuity to teams. And that usually breeds better play and more consistent play. So I think staff staying together at programs makes a lot of difference, not to mention the outstanding coaching and the talented players that we have in the league year in, year out, whether returning players and freshmen or newcomers. There's a lot of freshmen and newcomers that I think will make a major impact in the league as well.
Q: You seem to have some instability with your guards towards the end of last season. What's the outlook so far from the back-court standpoint?
SMITH: Well, we did. We lost two of our best players: One left the team in Devoe Joseph, and then Al Nolen, who was having a fantastic season, best season ever. And both of those guys are probably our two most aggressive players. So, again, we had three freshmen that played a lot, Austin Hollins, Chip Armelin, and Maverick Ahanmisi, it was just tough for them to carry, and then Blake Hoffarber had to carry a much bigger load because we didn't have that October 27, 2011 visit our archives at asapsports.com Smith_MINN 2 depth in the back court. Now, those kids, they were freshmen last year and now they're sophomores, so they've learned a lot about Big Ten play, and we kind of threw them in the fire during Big Ten play and they just didn't handle it very well. Probably put them in some situations where they weren't ready for it. So we went out and recruited some players I think will help us in Andre Hollins, who is a freshman, high school Player of the Year in the state of Tennessee. So he's a kid that I think that played a lot at the point. As well as Julian Welch, a junior college transfer that I think will give us a lot of depth in the back court. Along with Rodney Williams. Rodney had to make the adjustment -- he's had the biggest adjustment of any player we've recruited over the last few years. He went from being a center and forward to being a guard and a wing player. So he's still making that adjustment. So we've added a lot of depth. And a kid like Oto Osenieks, who was a redshirt last year, 6-7, 6-8, is a perimeter player as well that will give us some outside and some perimeter scoring, something that we really lacked last year.
Q: What are your personal expectations of your team this year?
SMITH: My personal expectations? We think we have a chance to be a much improved team after going -- losing 10 of our 11 games last year. We lost in many different ways. So I think my expectations are this would be much more competitive in the Big Ten. That's something we've struggled with since we've been here. Haven't kept that momentum from our non-league play or early season into conference play. So we've got to figure out a way to be more consistent. So my personal goal is just to get guys to be more consistent. We expect to be in postseason play this year.