FRAN McCAFFERY: I think you have to have it. I think you always worry in this league, going back to one of the previous questions, do you have enough rebounding? Everybody wants to play small these days. It’s OK to play small because why, because you’re going to shoot a lot of 3s, you’re going to drive the ball. But can you rebound effectively night-in and night-out. That’s the challenge.
Payton Sandfort is a really good rebounder. Tony Perkins is a really good rebounder. Connor McCaffery is a really good rebounder. Filip Rebraca is a really good rebounder, Kris. Patrick was solid; he’s got to get a little bit better, and he has been. He’s really focused on that.
If you’re going to play smaller and go with that versatility that you’re referring to, we can’t just all be dribble draw and kick-and-shoot 3s. Somebody has to rebound the ball, sometimes you have to go back and get it and you’ve got to limit the other team to one shot if you want to run the fast break.
I say this all the time: We can run on makes, but we’d prefer to run on misses.
Q. Have you seen or do you think you’ll see tangible positives from Keegan Murray and the impact that he potentially could make in the NBA?
FRAN McCAFFERY: Yeah. I would definitely say. It’s a little different now because there’s more factors involved in the recruiting process. I think a lot of people look at Keegan and say, wait a minute, his high school ranking was 347 and he was the fourth pick in the draft, he came into a system where he was allowed to showcase his entire skill set and develop confidence in a system that was successful.
That’s always going to pay dividends on the recruiting trail. Young prospects, especially anyone in the 6’7″ to 6’9″ range is going to be excited about that.
Q. Talk about the challenge for Kris this year, overcoming comparisons to his brother and maybe some of the other challenges.
FRAN McCAFFERY: I think that’s a very fair question. I would hope that people would just judge him — we’re watching Kris. Kris is playing for us. We’re all Kings fans. We love Keegan and hope he’s the Rookie of the Year. We’re so proud of him. He was MVP of the Summer League. The leading scorer in the game the other night, his first game. We just couldn’t be happier for him, but he’s not here — Kris is here, and it’s Kris’ turn.
I think it’ll be great for him. He’ll miss his brother. Those guys were incredibly close, but we need him to do a lot of different things for this basketball team to be successful, and he’s going to have that opportunity. He’s on a big stage. He can get it off the glass and push it himself. He can shoot 3s when he wants. He can post-up when he wants. He’s going to be out there most of the time unless he’s in foul trouble. Like I said, he’s been really good with that defensively. I’ve been really impressed with him being in the right place. I’m excited for him. I think he’s excited for it, as well.
Q. Defensively your team made strides last year; do you think they can take it up another step this year?
FRAN McCAFFERY: I think we can. We have the ability to do that. We can put pressure on the ball. We can be in the passing lane. When you start looking at defensive numbers, it comes down to rebounding because if you’re giving up second shots, typically that’s a high-percentage shot. It’s an offensive rebound kick-out, open 3, it’s an offensive rebound put-back that’s a high-percentage shot.
The shooting percentages against your team and effectiveness in terms of point production are going to go down. But if you limit them to one, and we put pressure on the ball and we get our defense back, we can get everybody underneath the ball and communicate, switching, not switching, how we’re playing, ball screens, all that stuff is great, but you have to get the rebound.
Q. What have you seen out of Josh Dix so far?
FRAN McCAFFERY: Well, I’m impressed with him. The kid, we all saw how horrific an injury he had. Not many people come back that quickly. He was really smart and diligent with his rehab. He didn’t rush it. It was hard for him in the nine weeks we had him here in June and July that he didn’t get the chance to — he was on the court but he was just doing 1-on-0 really. On Sept. 1 he started going 5-on-5, and he hasn’t missed one minute of practice since. He has had some great days of practice where he has been absolutely spectacular, and there have been some days when he’s clearly learning, but physically he looks really good.
Q. When you look at recruiting, name, image and likeness has the potential to probably reshape men’s basketball more than any other sport. Have you noticed challenges in that arena, and if so, what are the —
FRAN McCAFFERY: Well, I think the challenges — I mean, I think everybody in this room knows what the challenges are, because it’s pay for play. That’s not what it was supposed to be. I’ve been adamant about the transfer portal rule is a bad rule, especially in conjunction with name, image and likeness, because that’s where the pay for play comes in.
There was nothing wrong with the rule before. It was not a penalty. I’ve said that before. I’m an example of it. I transferred. You transfer, you don’t lose any eligibility. You get a year of lifting, you get another year of an opportunity to be a student, a double major, start a masters. You’re in school for an extra year. There’s no negative there.
But to declare every college basketball player a free agent is foolish, and that’s what they’ve done.
Q. We’re hearing about new guardrails for the transfer portal and NIL. Do you know anything that’s going to come down?
FRAN McCAFFERY: I don’t. I don’t see any. I hope you’re right. I don’t see it.
Q. A lot of college basketball at the top, top players are five-star freshmen or transfers. Plenty of good programs like yours use developmental or have developmental plans. Not that one is right or one is wrong, but what do you feel is the difference with a program like yours that has the developmental program?
FRAN McCAFFERY: Well, my hope is that when you recruit somebody — and not everybody is great the first minute they get here. There was never that expectation. When I first got into this, you’re supposed to be pretty good and then get better. You look at Luka (Garza), he was pretty good his freshman year. Obviously he was just under 12 points a game. It’s not like anybody thought, boy, this guy is definitely going to be the National Player of the Year a couple years from now, but he was because he kept working.
You put him in a system and you watch film with him and you help him in the weight room and you do skill development with him, and that’s what culture is, and that’s what building a program is. That’s what we’ve continued to try to do.
I think if you do it that way and you treat your guys the right way, they’ll be less likely to leave. We’ve had some guys leave, but it hasn’t been mass exodus like it has been at some places.
I think our department, our coaching staff, we really are cognizant of making this a tremendous experience for our players across the board, whether it be academic support, how we feed them, how we travel, giving them every opportunity to be successful.
But if you coach them up right and you’re honest and transparent, I think most of the kids that we bring in — I always said the first thing that I look at in recruiting is character, so if you recruit character guys, then they’ll behave the right way.
But there is an expectation that there’s a lot of money out there, and hey, it’s nothing personal, but I can get X number of dollars somewhere else. Those days have come for certain players and certain programs. It’s not even like their prospects are demanding it, but they somewhat are expecting it, then all of a sudden it’s offered, OK, I’ll jump on it.
I think we have to continue to work hard and be competitive in the NIL market, which we have been. I’ve been very active myself in that arena. It’s all new for every one of us. But I want my guys to know that I’m out there fighting for them to help them be in a position to profit from what is, I think, a really good rule, the NIL, so that our guys do profit from their name, image and likeness.
I’ve said this before publicly and I’ll say it again today. I’m not going to give a bunch of money to a high school kid that I’m not giving to one of the guys that’s already played for me. I’m not going to do that. That could be foolish over the long haul. Maybe we’ll lose a guy or two. But if we get to the point where we’re paying our guys a substantial amount of money and then we can offer the same money to that other guy, OK, we’ll do it then.
That’s happened this spring and summer to guys that we were recruiting. That’s the world we live in. Things change. A lot of you guys have been doing what you’re doing just like me for a long time. But a lot of changes over the course of the time that I’ve been coaching.
A lot of them are really good, some of them maybe not as good, but let’s be honest; we just signed a $7 billion TV deal and the NCAA Tournament was a multibillion dollar TV deal before that. So it was inevitable that the players should share in some of that revenue.