Everything Rick Barnes Said Ahead Of SEC Home Opener Against Mississippi State

Rick Barnes

Rick BarnesPhoto By Ian Cox/Tennessee Athletics

Tennessee basketball coach Rick Barnes met with the local media Monday morning ahead of the Vols SEC home opener against Mississippi State.

The Vols enter their first marquee game at Thompson-Boling Arena 11-2 (1-0 SEC) while Mississippi State (11-2, 0-1 SEC) is coming off back-to-back losses.

The eighth-year head coach discussed four-star combo guard Freddie Dilione planning on early enrolling for the spring semester, its benefits and much more.

See everything Rick Barnes said ahead of the Vols’ matchup against Mississippi State.

More From RTI: Tennessee Makes The Cut For Five-Star Wing

On Tennessee’s Orange Bowl win over Clemson

“It was just so exciting not only for Vol Nation, but so happy for Josh and his staff and just the entire university. Because the kind of year we had, we had just an unbelievable year. To see it all come together with a great bowl win like that, the way we did it, was really special.”

On Freddie Dilione’s plan to enroll early

“Freddie decided he wanted to get here as early as he could. We’ll get him here and we’ll get him, I don’t know how long it will really take him to get to practice with us, but we’ll get him going in school, get him going that way. Garrett (Mendenwald) will start his deal with him, helping him with his body, nutrition, all that coming together. But he’ll be in practice. How much he does, he’ll probably start out really helping our scout team. And as he continues to learn our system here, it’s going to be great for us and it’s going to be great for him. We’re excited about it.”

On if Dilione plans to redshirt

“He’s not going to play. He won’t play this year. He’s coming in to get himself ready for next year.”

On how big of an advantage Dilione early enrolling will be for him

“I think it’s huge, I do. You look, it’s been going on in football forever. The fact that he and his family decided they wanted to do it. I think it’s going to really help him a lot. Gives him a big head start on things.”

On how the discusses with Dilione began

“We had talked about, he had a chance he could possibly come this year if he wanted to. But he decided, the family decided, they wanted to go to school and go from there. I think he’s had a good experience, but just in his mind, where he is right now, he and his family decided it would be better that they get here and get going. We’re excited about it. We’re fortunate we have a scholarship, it worked out well that way. We’re excited about it. And we’re fortunate we have a scholarship. So that worked out well that way. We’re excited about him getting here.”

On the key for the offense to become more effective

“Consistency. Knowing night in and night out what we’re going to get from players. That’s the key to efficiency, whether it’s offense or defense. It’s consistency.”

On what they need to do to be consistent offensively

“The thing is, every game is a different kind of game. It’s not like everybody is playing the same way. So when you get ready for one team, a couple days, you’ve got to adjust, start getting ready for another team, like Mississippi State. Mississippi, they’re basically a man-to-man team. Often go to their 1-3-1, back to a 2-3, morph into a 2-3. They did that a couple times. But now you’re playing a team that is a multiple defense team. Different presses, going to switch. That’s players being able to pick that up from game to game. That’s where the lack of consistency comes from. Them, probably, being young players, leaning the game, thinking every game is going to be the same. It’s not. The guys that can pick that up quicker are normally the guys that are the most consistent guys and the guys that play the most.”

On what Mississippi State does well

“They know how they want to play. Extremely well coached. Change defenses, play really, really hard switching. Really trying to make you think. The fact of the matter is, they do a terrific job of knowing exactly what they want on the offensive end. And defensively, they do the things that good defensive teams do. They pressure, they’ll mix their defenses and they rebound the basketball.”

On what they want to see from Tyreke Key offensively

“Take open shots. When he’s open, he needs to shoot the ball. He does. He really does need to take his shots when they’re there. When he’s off the ball, we expect him to be aggressive and play. But he’s just got to do what we think he can do well. We think he can shoot it. When he’s open he’s got to shoot it and keep shooting it. If he’s taking good shots, he can’t take enough of them.”

On if Key is turning down open shots or can’t get open

“I think he has got opportunities that he can shoot the ball, but he needs to do it. He is obviously learning to play a new position, too. He is not always on the point. He is off of it some. We just need him to work to get open. We keep talking to him about screening better, getting himself open that way, really getting to the know the offense the way he needs to know it. Being able to pick it up, he is going to have to be able to pick it up quicker. If he does that, he will find his shots. The shots will find him.”

On why Key has been reluctant to take open shots

“I can’t answer that. Some of it is, he is learning the new system. The fact that I don’t know if he has ever played in a system where they are playing inside-out. Early in the year, we were shooting way too many threes. That was a combination of post guys not doing their part and we are working to get there. Now the guards are learning how to put the ball inside. With that, sometimes, they get hesitant on their shots. This is just a matter of putting it all together, getting consistent and figuring out how we do both of them.”

On Jahmai Mashack impacting the game without taking a shot

“We say that all the time to guys, you have to be able to impact the game whether you score a basket or not. We have a bunch of guys who can do it. Santi (Vescovi) does it every night. Obviously, he shoots the ball, too. We want guys that will come in and impact the game. Jahmai has done a great job. He will continue to work and get better in other facets of the game. He is a guy that, if he plays his role, he is going to have a big impact.”

On Mashack wanting to guard the opponents best player

“We watched him last year, that is the one thing he did. You go back to a year ago, he had chances to work his way into the lineup. Every time he got himself out there, he got himself in trouble offensively. He was trying to do way too much. He is still learning, I think, how to play within a system on the offensive end. He worked harder than arguably anyone in the offseason. He really worked on his shot and he can shoot the ball. Still now, bringing it out here and learning how to play with other guys and learning how to take care of the ball, but he has always had a really highly competitive spirit, always. From the time he got here, he has been a guy in practice that is willing to compete.”

On who for Tennessee makes the most “fix it” plays

“Santi does a lot of that. (Olivier Nkamhoua) last game started doing some of that. Josiah(-Jordan James) certainly when he is out there is a fix-it guy. I would say Zakai (Zeigler), those guys are making some things happens. Overall, I would say the biggest fix-it guy would be Santi.”

On Jonas Aidoo 13 rebounds at Ole Miss

“He is capable. It goes back to what we started with with consistency. We need to know. It will always go back to his practice habits. I believe this game gives you what you put into it. What I have learned over many years is when guys have a good game, they think it is just going to happen. It won’t just happen. What we want to see him do is put it back-to-back-to-back and keep building on it.”

On Josiah-Jordan James doing more while warming up at Ole Miss

“He is doing better. He is starting to work his way back in. We will see what that leads to, but he is working his way back in.”

On why Vescovi is so good at making fix it plays

“I think it is his IQ and understanding of the game. He sees the game. You have heard that old saying, he is like a Kodak camera, he sees it all. It slows down. the game has really slowed down for him, where he understands what we are trying to get done both offensively and defensively. By the time we get done with our prep for teams, he can pretty much bring anybody in here and tell him what every guy has got to do, what they are trying to do. His IQ is what makes it for him.”

Author: Ethan Moore