Photo Credit: Liam Sment
Yesterday, Virginia Tech guards Wabissa Bede and Jalen Cone spoke with the media ahead of tonight's clash between the Hokies and Cavaliers. Our David Cunningham was there and transcribed the full press conference here for your reading interest.
Check out our feature on Tech feeling ready for round 2 against Virginia and their pack-line defense here.
Q: Wabissa, you've played UVa a whole lot, you know the freshman have already seen them once this year but how do you really pass on some of your experience against such a unique defense to some of the younger guys?
Bede: Just know that they're going to be playing hard 40 minutes. The game’s going to be very slowed down so it's kind of hard to speed them up and they don't really turn the ball over too much so just be able to play your game and don't get frustrated because they try to give you those, you can say luxury shots, but you think it's a good shot but really a bad shot, it’s the shot they want you to take, so if we take our shots that we want to take, we should be able to knock them down and be successful.
Q: What’s the difference in one of your shots and one of the shots they want you to take?
Bede: So usually they go under a lot of handoffs and stuff so that first under handoff, you might be wide open, and it would be like 27 seconds on the shot clock. Rather than keep going and you can wind them down like they do to everybody and they don't shoot until like less than 6 seconds on the shot clock. So, taking those type of shots, it's like I said, like if we shoot high 20s, a lot of times that’s the shot they want you to take. And then if we try to fight that urge to not take those shots and wind down the shot clock, we should be successful.
Q: Coach Young said yesterday that the team’s experience playing UVa in January will aid you guys. What's your biggest takeaway from playing UVa in January that you can bring to this game tomorrow?
Cone: They’re very experienced. They have a great coaching, great program of course, so I think the takeaway is, like Bede said, last game we took quick shots and they took great shots and we took good shots and turned down great shots so I think next game, taking the great shot and turning down the good shot is going to be a big key for us and of course guarding the ball.
Q: Obviously in January was the first time, for the freshman, that you guys have faced the pack-line defense. What was that like doing that for the first time and will that experience help you guys tomorrow you think?
Cone: It was definitely a blow in the face for the first time. Those guys were big, very big; those guys, they could cause the ball very well and it was shocking for all the freshmen. You could see that it was a new experience for us, it was a learning experience, so I think this time we'll handle ourselves better in that situation.
Q: Obviously every time this game comes around, there is a lot of hype around and its rivalry game. Now they’re coming into your building as defending National Champs. Does that add another wrinkle to it? What does that bring to the table?
Bede: Yeah, it adds a wrinkle to it but it’s also just a rivalry. It doesn't matter what their record was. They can be 0-30 but it’s still going to be a rivalry game, it’s still going to be packed out regardless of what their record is or anything they have done in the past but yeah, it's going to be a good game.
Q: How hard is it to not fall trapped to their pace of play because you go into every game trying to bring your own style of play, but at some point you kind of look up and you’re like, “Oh crap, I kind of fell trapped to what they want me to do.
Bede: Yeah, when the score’s like 20 to 12 and you’re just like, “damn it, like come on now.” They play a lot of mind games and they get you like that but like I said, we just have to play at our pace and don’t fall for their tricks.
Q: Last game, 39 points. 27 percent from the field. I’m sure there’s a lot of things you want to do better in the rematch to do better on that offensive end, what else do you need improvement on?
Bede: We’re more confident now than we were before, that's the biggest thing. Our game plan is a lot better as before and we just have to go out there and execute it and just believe in ourselves and go out there play hard. That's the biggest thing we have to do, and I feel like if we do that, we should be good.
Q: Why are you more confident? Some people might say, jeez, you’ve lost seven of your last eight, where’s the confidence coming from?
Bede: It’s just always believing in ourselves. It didn't matter, like yeah, we did lose our last seven out of eight, like you said, but we believe in our work. Everybody works out a lot, everybody always trains, everybody watches more film and everything so each game we're getting more confidence. Even though this success wasn’t there, it doesn't matter. We're moving on to the next game and we’re moving forward and keep working.
Q: Jalen, what's the biggest surprise so far for you this season? This is your freshman year, your first year going through college basketball, what are some of the biggest surprises you’ve noticed so far playing?
Cone: None of them were really surprises because coming to a higher level, they tell you how things are going to be. I'm fast but it's different when you’ve got a 6’5” guy just as fast as you running beside you and every time you drive to the lane as a 7-footer down there with his hands up so it definitely comes down to making smart decisions at this level, especially for a guy from my size. Of course, this is not as easy as high school, it’s not easy at all, so it's really about making the right read and making the right decision.
Q: There have been times where you’ve just been hot from outside. Where does that come because there have been games where you’ve been lights out from outside.
Cone: It really just comes from spending a lot of time in the gym. I'm getting up a lot of shots and my teammates and the coaches believe in me and once I have knocked down a few and they give me that confidence and they show that they trust me, it kind of just builds from there and just makes the shots more like rhythm and shots more confident.
Q: One for both of you to answer - before the season even started, a lot of the conversation about this team was about where it's going to be at the end of the year, the growth that's going to happen, it's obviously young team, all of that. Kind of looking at all of the ups and downs that happened since then for both of you, where do you feel like you individually have grown the most and where do you think the team has grown the most?
Bede: For the team, I feel like experience, of course each game is a learning experience. I feel like everyone has gotten better like that; they understand the grind and how many games it takes. Coming from high school, they don't play 40 minutes. Some of them don’t even play with the shot clock. That's two things right there. It’s just like, like I said, the experience they gained a lot. Individual for me, it's just like being more of a leader, be more vocal, bring the team together when things are going hard.
Cone: For us, I think the things we’ve built on was the defensive end. I know coming in that I wasn’t the best defender, but I think since I’ve been here, I’ve done a great job at it, a pretty good job, and my teammates have as well. With us being a young team, like you said the experience, we’re not used to day in and day out walking into a big arena whether it’s home or away playing in front of thousands of people so I think we got those jitters out early and we’ve been moving on from then.
Q: You guys are third in the country in turnovers. What’s helped you guys be so efficient in that category all season and how do you guys control the tempo tomorrow?
Bede: I think it's a big thing. It's being confident with the ball and making sure every pass is a perfect pass, like a 100 percent pass. Knowing a person is wide open, on time, on target – that’s what we preach a lot; it’s what Coach Young preaches a lot – on time, on target. And then like I said just believe in yourself as well.
Q: You guys have played so many close games recently. If there’s a minute left in this game and it's really, really close again, what do you have to do differently this time to get over the hump?
Bede: It’s just depending on the game situation; I can’t really answer that right now. It’s kind of depending on the game, how it’s flowing, who’s hot, who’s not, who’s helping us win, who’s not helping us win. All of that. It just depends on the game; I can't really answer that for you.
Q: Last time in Charlottesville – six assists for the team, 13 turnovers for the team which is not typical from you guys. From looking at film, were they doing certain things to force the turnovers that you kind of have to avoid this time around or what was creating all of those turnovers last time?
Bede: Probably they were speeding us up a little bit. I blame that on myself. We had like, I think, eight in the first half or like 8 in the first media timeout. Something like that. Something crazy that’s not really like so I was kind of disappointed in myself watching the film. I've seen kind of like lazy turnovers by me. I'm not putting the team in the right situations so that's my fault as a leader.
Q: You know, Mike Young, he has a pre-game ritual eating popcorn on the bench before the game. What are your guys pregame rituals?
Cone: I really just like to get focused for the game. I try to stay away from the social media, stay off my phone, just get away from a lot of people, like outside people, trying to be in my ear and just focus on the task we have ahead of us. Like I said, just get up shots on the court and try to catch my rhythm.
Bede: And for me, probably just listen to some music, take some electrolytes and some fruit snacks usually.
Q: Are you guys big popcorn eaters? Do you like popcorn?
Cone: When I go to the movies, yeah.
Q: What sort of challenges does Kihei Clark present? You’ve faced him a few times now, what is does present on both ends of the court?
Bede: He’s their engine, he makes him go. He plays about 39 minutes so you can tell he's a big piece of their offense and everything in their whole team so being able to neutralize him and stuff, he's a great player so it’s going to be kind of hard to do but to be able to force him to help and make him make difficult decisions, that's all.
Q: You guys are coming off a pretty tough road game in an atmosphere like Cameron. What’s it like coming in, back home, another tough game, but this time you’ve got the whole crowd on your side?
Bede: Pretty cool, being home, playing UVa. At Duke, it was a good experience for everybody. It was my second time being there. It’s pretty cool. We’re not really into the crowd as much. We don’t really feel them as much as people think 'cause you're so focused on the game, you’re not really worried with the crowd, what they’re saying, up or down.
Q: Last time UVa held you guys to four three-pointers. That and the Georgia Tech game are the only times you’ve had that few amount of three-pointers. From watching the film, were they just making it really tough looks or what was UVa doing to keep you with that few amount of three-pointers?
Cone: I think UVa, watching the film, they guarded us on the arc very well last time. Like Bede said, they sped us up that game so some of the threes we took were forced threes and threes that they wanted us to take. That comes back to taking the great shot and turning down the good shot and learning from our mistakes last game and the film that we're learning from that and we have learned from that so tomorrow night we need to take great shots instead of the good shots.