Gold Rush Feature: A Conversation With Jeff Bzdelik
April 18, 2011
This article was originally published in the April 9 edition of Gold Rush.
By Jay Reddick
Sometimes, to move forward, you have to take a few steps back. This basketball season at Wake Forest provided chances for the team to rebuild, grow and learn the system of first-year coach Jeff Bzdelik. Departures and injuries meant the Deacons never had their expected roster together at any one time, which forced youngsters to play extended minutes or play out of position -- challenges that will hopefully help the team in the coming years. Gold Rush's Jay Reddick talked to Bzdelik a couple of weeks after the 8-24 campaign ended.
Gold Rush: What do you take away from the season?
Gold Rush: Obviously it's the first step in a long journey.
Gold Rush: Why do you think the improvements didn't translate from practice to the court on gameday?
Gold Rush: Coming into the season, you could look at the roster and know the team is inexperienced. You knew it could be an uphill battle in front of you. In terms of on-court developments, what did you expect to see?
And so when you look at it, when you have three or four freshmen on the court at one time, two things happened: They didn't understand -- now they do -- but they didn't understand as the season went on what it takes to win. Drawing charges, taking charges, all five guys defending at one time, hitting open men, learning to play without the basketball in their hands -- that was all new to them. We did get better as the year went on, but unfortunately, so did the talent of our opposition.
And you combine that with the physical-ness of the game, not being strong enough and experienced enough to finish around the rim. We shot, I think, 42 percent on layups. Most teams shoot around 75 percent; they're able to finish. Next year at that time, Carson (Desrosiers) will finish those shots. Travis (McKie) will finish those shots. Tony Chennault will make better decisions at the rim. J.T. Terrell will make better decisions. That, coupled with getting stronger, will help us.
Gold Rush: For any team, bringing in freshmen, there's always that learning curve. But even for upperclassmen, they're having to learn your new system. That had to play a lot into it.
Gold Rush: There was a point a few games into the season where you could tell there were some adjustments to the offense, with less traditional half-court basketball and more motion and cutting, with more guys handling the ball than just the point guard.
Gold Rush: Is that scoring balance something you strive for in your offense?
Gold Rush: Opening the regular season in November, you lost 3 of your first 5 games. How hard was it to stay positive, to stay focused on the ultimate goal, for you and for the guys?
Gold Rush: You said earlier that you had some moments through the year. Iowa had to be one of those nights that everything came together on the court the way you hoped.
There were so many other examples: NC State on the road, second half, we're down 4; down 8 at Carolina with the ball after we stole it with 9 minutes to go. Things like that -- we're actually there, a couple of possessions away. Even Duke was a four-point game in the second half. But the physical and emotional maturity of our team just -- it would go.
Gold Rush: Did you see that in practice, too?
It was a year that made everyone humble and hungry. That's the theme right now, humble and hungry, and the guys are working really hard.
Gold Rush: With the losses and the criticism, how have you dealt with it personally?
Gold Rush: As far as individual development, from point A to point B, who made big strides?
Gold Rush: Offseason programs will obviously be crucial for these guys. What do you have them working on? What will you be working on with them during individual workouts?
Gold Rush: Gary Clark was your one senior in the rotation. Talk about what he's meant this year.
Gold Rush: What about the fall signees? What will they bring to the table?
Daniel Green is 6-9, with a 7-2 wingspan. Extremely young, great upside, finished his high school career with four games averaging about 18 points, 15 rebounds and six or seven blocks. He has a black belt and he's the son of a former Marine. Obviously he will bring some toughness, which is a good thing.
Gold Rush: It's still early, but what does that mean for the makeup of next year?
Gold Rush: What is the status of Melvin Tabb?
Gold Rush: It's a long way to the first day of practice.
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