LOUISVILLE, Ky. - With the 2021-22 preseason in full swing for the Louisville men's basketball program, junior forward Samuell Williamson took some time to meet with the media. He discussed the new offensive system, how his game and the team have come along, and more.
Below is the transcript from the press conference, as well as the video:
(On what the biggest difference for him this season is going to be, having been in the system for two years)
I would say I've been in the defensive system for two years, and that's become very familiar for me. I know what coach Mack expects on that end of the floor, night in and night out. I feel like I can like help some of the younger guys out with it, because I know it so well, where he wants guys on the floor, and so forth. Offensively, this is the first time I've been in this system. It's a completely new system from my first two years. We're all growing and learning with this new system, every day.
(On what he thinks about the new system)
I love it. Fast pace, got a lot of guys, a lot of depth. We'll be able to play at a much faster pace, a lot more freedom and more interchangeable parts - less predictable. I'm excited to play in the system.
(On if shooting has become a big part of the new offensive philosophy)
Absolutely. Getting to the hole and shooting threes and kind of the main emphasis on offense towards the end of the clock. Sometimes you have to take somebody off the dribble and get to a mid range or whatever, but definitely three-point shooting has been an emphasis. You can see that by the coaches bringing in shooters in the transfer portal, and then returners just being in the gym every day working on shooting, knowing that we got to take a huge step forward from last year.
(On what fans should know about assistant coach Mike Pegues, who will take over as acting head coach during Chris Mack's six-game suspension)
Coach Pegues is a bright basketball mind. He brings a lot of energy, and he's gonna demand excellence from everybody on the court - whether he's being the head coach or the assistant coach. We're excited. These first six games, obviously with coach Mack now, we have the utmost trust and respect for Coach Pegues, and other coaches, to step up when coach Mack is out.
(On what area of his game he has improved upon the most)
I think defensively. I feel so much better on that side of the ball than I did two years ago. I feel I can make a huge impact on that side of the ball, that I haven't in years past.
(On how the team has come together as a group with so many newcomers)
I think we've came together really well since June. Of the court it clicked almost immediately, and then on the court, just began clicking more and more every time we touched the floor. Every time we get out there, we just build more chemistry with each other. Knowing where we want the ball, and know what spots on the floor we want the ball, and stuff like that. We're just continuing to build chemistry as the practices go on.
(On when the turning point was for him last season)
I'd say halfway through ACC play, I realized I could make a huge impact on the glass, whether my shot was falling or not. I kind of locked into creating second possessions for the team, getting in the middle of the zone, hitting mid range jump shots, and then locking in on the defensive end.
(On the adjustment with playing with a completely new set of guards)
It's been great. I've been very fortunate to play with a lot of good guards in my time here at Louisville - In every year. My freshman year, my sophomore year, and then again this year. We have a completely new backcourt. Four guards are out and then five guards are in. It's obviously been an adjustment, but I think it's getting better and better. Sometimes it just takes some time to get comfortable playing with somebody on the court, playing with the point guard knowing where you want the ball, and stuff like that. We got a great couple of point guards in Jarrod West, Mason Faulkner, El Ellis, and Noah Locke at shooting guard. They're gonna do a lot of good things for us this year.
(On what fans can expect to see during the upcoming red-white scrimmage on Saturday)
They can expect a lot faster pace than last year, that's for sure. It's something that coach (Ross) McMains is stressing every day in practice. Sometimes we feel like we're running, I feel like I'm sprinting, and then after practice he'll pull me to the side, and be like, "you're not sprinting enough, you're not going fast enough". I think that's the main difference that you'll see, is the pace of play at the scrimmage on Saturday.
(On what else, besides the increase in tempo, that will be interesting to see)
One thing I'm interested to see, is that I think our bigs are gonna make a lot of plays in short roll coverages against teams who jump and play aggressively on ball screens. One of our emphasis is to hit our big in the short roll, and he can make a play near the high post. I think that'll be interesting to see, because I think we got some big men that are very capable making the right reads there, whether it be a drive to the basket, kick out to a four or three, or a touch finish in front of the rim. I think that's something that we're gonna be seeing a lot more of than in years past,
Playing multiple positions on the perimeter, not just going to the same spot every time, it's gonna be a lot less predictable for defenses to guard that. Everybody will come off ball screens. In past years, only the ones and twos - sometimes even just the one would come up on screens. Then on the perimeter, we didn't shoot the ball good enough last year, and guys are packing the paint a little bit too much. Now that we got shooters, a lot of different guys come off of ball screens at any point. I just think it's gonna be a lot harder to predict.
(On if he feels he has more freedom in the current offensive system)
Absolutely. I think we all do, I think we all have a lot more freedom. We want to get shots up early in the clock, we want to get feet-set threes and we want to get layups early in the clock. If I feel like I got a feet-set three, or one my teammates has a feet-set three, then we have the green light to shoot that, at all times. As far as mid range, that's something that's one of my specialties. I think we're gonna save that more for in the clock. Coach McMains expressed to me that we can get that at any time, and it's kind of allowed me to open up. Last year, I would just settle to get to my spot, and get to my mid range. But with this new offense, I've opened up more doors for myself, I would say. When I drive, now I'm looking to get all the way to the rim first, or to kick it out for a three, and then the backup plan is to shoot the mid range, instead of just getting in there and settling for the mid range. For me personally, I think it's expanding my game a little bit, and I'm just excited to get this thing going give me a plan.
(On the process of playing under control with the new fast pace)
It's been a tough process, I'm not gonna lie. It's new for a lot of people. There's gonna be some growing pains of playing really fast, but I think it's getting better as the weeks go on. Turnovers, I feel like are going down, but at times, they can get a little hectic playing at that fast pace. But I think before November 9, we're gonna have no turnovers.
(Photo of Samuell Williamson: Scott Utterback - Courier Journal via Imagn Content Services, LLC)
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