Oct. 10, 2006
Question: What are some of your expectations of the program this season?
Leitao: I don't look at it the same way most do in terms of expectations of where we're going to go. For me, it's simplistic. It's on a daily or weekly basis on how we can improve and if we make a certain improvement that are necessary then the other things take care of themselves. The expectations that I have for this program are for the guys to just get better everyday and try to maximize ourselves and if we do that the rest of it takes care of itself.
Question: How well are the first years and new players working into your system?
Leitao: One thing I have to do a good job at is being patient, and I'm not always the most patient person when it comes to the things we're asking from them day to day, but I like them from the talent level, I like them as people tremendously and so that's going to require me to be more patient with them. I know their heart and desire will be in the right place, so it may not be there in week one or week two, but hopefully by whatever week it will all come together, and because of the young men we have coming together in terms of that chemistry that I spoke of is a little bit easier to obtain because I don't think in that locker room there will be guys outwardly or inwardly fighting each other for what the common goals of the team will be.
Question: How has the weight gain of many of the post players, especially Tunji Soroye, improved the team?
Leitao: Well first and foremost is stamina. He'll be able to last longer if that's what we ask him to do and be more effective at doing it. Simply speaking when you talk about strength, you go up against your opponent, especially for a big guy, going body to body, if someone's going in a direction, he was always going backwards. I think just being able to hold his own in the post and get deeper post position, therefore being able to take better shots, is something we can hopefully expect. Defensively, he doesn't have to give ground and hold his position and be able to dictate some things that he's tried to do that he wasn't able to do last year. So for all those guys, especially Tunji, that part of it is important.
I don't want to understate the confidence factor that comes from [lifting weights]. All of these guys are very visual, and it just so happens they like to lift weights upper body more than lower body so they can see the results and when you have that and they look at themselves in the mirror it gives themselves a sense of accomplishment and I think Tunji's body could always handle the kind of weight he has right now, so we went about filling his body that way and we're hoping that means a better version of Tunji. It may mean that we play him for shorter periods of time. Less is more hopefully in some cases and he may play a little less minutes and be more effective and that's what we're hoping for.
Question: How have the new rules regarding preseason conditioning helped?
Leitao: Last year we could do it from the start of school until the start of practice. This year we could only do it from the 15th of September. With that, it actually worked out well that way. Before the 15th of September we were working with no more than four at a time. We got a lot of shooting, a lot of structure individually. After the 15th we did a whole lot more team stuff. The first week we took a two-hour block and did it all at once. We just wanted to reintroduce the team to some of the things we do in practice and introduce the new guys to the level of which we expect them to compete, especially at the defensive end. The weeks after that we split it up either three 40-minute blocks or two one-hour blocks to address some of the things were trying to do as a team. As I mentioned we are changing ourselves a little bit on the offensive end. We want to introduce some new things to the whole group, some concepts that they can think about, as well as getting a ton of shooting in. One of the things we set out to be better at once the season ended last year was offense, so we spend a lot of time in the office talking about it all summer and set a good portion of this fall hopefully putting in some things that will make us better in that regard, and one of them is getting a lot more shots in.
Question: Can you comment on the difficult journey some of your first years have taken in getting to the University?
Leitao: One thing that, when you go through that type of situation, and knowing what each one of them has been through, it was very important for us to establish when they got here, and continue while they're here, is an atmosphere of family and togetherness and bonding, so that they understand here is a place that they can not only just call home, but be at home. So what we try to do, in and around that, is hopefully it speaks to the Solomons (Solomon Tat) that we have and the Jamils (Jamil Tucker) that maybe didn't have it so easy and now that they're at a place where they can be at a calm existence, and not with just the basketball team and program, but with everybody here connected to the University. They're in this comfortable place they can call home and therefore be able to perform to their ability and exceed their own expectations of themselves and I think that's the good part of adversity, is that when you come through it you find a place that is of comfort that the best of you can come out.
Question: How did Solomon Tat deal with his whole situation prior to arriving at the University?
Leitao: We've been dependent sometime on the weeks between the optimism and pessimism that myself and everybody went through. If you get to know him, and it was documented in the newspaper, the story yesterday about him, he's an extremely confident young man. If he was in here right now he'd light up the room with his personality and his respect for himself and others. He's a unique individual that way, and so when he said he always knew it would work out, he means it. Those of us who had to go through it day to day with him weren't always of that because we were going through some of the inter workings of it, but fortunately for us and more fortunately for him, he's here and we're able to move forward with him and as you'll get to know him, we're very fortunate to have him