Oct. 5, 2016 at CFE Arena

Availability: HC Johnny Dawkins, G B.J. Taylor, G/F A.J. Davis, G Matt Williams

HC Johnny Dawkins

University of Central Florida Athletics underwent a major overhaul when it hired new athletic director Danny White in November 2015. New Knights head coach Johnny Dawkins was a part of that overhaul.

I’m excited to get started. I know our players are, as well. It’s nothing like this time of the year. Some teams have already started their official practice. They’re looking forward to getting going, and I’m looking forward to coaching.

The Knights finished 75th in total blocks in 2015 with 139.

I think our strength is versatility. We have a number of guys that can play multiple positions. I think, of course, another strength of ours is our low-post presence with a player like Tacko [Fall], but also Chad [Brown]. I think they both present problems in the low post, both offensively and defensively. So I think our strength is our inside presence as well as our versatility.

UCF finished 167th out of 351 teams in points allowed per game with 71.6

We have to continue to improve defensively. Before the season starts, I’d like for our defense to definitely be ahead of our offense, and if we can understand the value of every possession and defending well, I think that’ll go a long way to our season.

Guards B.J. Taylor, A.J. Davis and Matt Williams are all captains for the upcoming 2016-17 season.

Well the three guys you just mentioned, B.J., Matt and A.J., those are our three games. And it’s ironic: One’s a sophomore, one’s a junior, one’s a senior. But we’re expecting leadership from those guys. We’re going to go as they go. These guys have gotta set the tone every practice, set the tone off the court, and it has to become a lifestyle for them. And they’ve done a great job. That’s why they’ve earned the responsibilities we’ve just given them. So I’m excited to see them lead this year.

In 2015, Fall finished the season averaging 7.4 points per game and 5.9 rebounds per game.

Well, Tacko just has to be keep working every day. You know, working to improve every day at the little things. He’s at the stage of his career where he can make some major jumps because he hasn’t been playing basketball that long; only like five years. So he has a huge learning curve. But he has to be patient and understand take it day after day, get better every time you step on the floor, and I think the finished product is something we can all be proud of.

At 7-foot-6, 300 pounds, Fall is by far the biggest player on the team.

I’ve kinda deferred to the trainers and people that know a little bit more about [resting] than I do. So, [athletic trainer] Jarrett [Schweim] is a great trainer that we have, and he’s known Tacko for a while. He’s also explored, working with players of Tacko’s size, so I kind of defer to him when it comes to his conditioning and things that we’re going to do. But as far as on-the-court things, I expect Tacko to do everything that we do. I mean, to be a part of a team, you have to go out there, and you have to do the same things your teammates are doing. That’s how you earn their respect and they earn yours. He understands that, and he’s come in, and he’s worked hard every day.

Before taking the head-coaching job at UCF, Dawkins was the head coach at Stanford University from 2008 to 2016.

For me, I’ve tried to tell our players—and I believe this—it’s a fresh start for everybody. It’s a fresh start for our guys. I’m not trying to think about what happened last year for them. It was different circumstances and situations. What I want to have these guys do is to look forward. This is a new beginning for everyone, and let’s take advantage of it. And the things I want to try to preach is—I want to preach that it’s all about our culture, it’s all about what are our standards, and we’re going to try to live up to them. And we’re not going to let expectations from the outside influence what we’re trying to do. It’s what we know we’re capable of working on and getting better at every day. That’s going to be our emphasis, and I think our players really respected that.

B.J. Taylor

UCF guard Taylor suffered a season-ending knee leg injury early last season.

It’s good. I mean, it’s been a long time coming. But it was a long offseason. We’ve put in a lot of work, so it’s just exciting to be back out here in the main arena.

[My ankle] feels good. It was a long rehab process, but I’m back 100 percent now, ready to roll. I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been in, and I feel stronger than ever.

In his freshman season, Taylor averaged 12.8 points per game, scoring a UCF freshman-high of 33 points in  game against the Tulane Green Wave.

I think [the most difficult part of being out] was just not being able to compete, get out there and help the guys. I love to work out, and I love to get in the gym, so I think it was just tough to not be able to get out there and help the guys to compete because I love this game. So it was just tough not being out there to be able to help.

Under new UCF athletic director Danny White, the Knights hired Dawkins as their new head basketball coach in March 2016.

He’s an intense coach. I’m an intense player, and we have a lot of intense guys. I think we go hand in hand. He’s going to work hard, and that’s what we need. And I’ve loved it so far. He’s a great coach, smart coach. Got a lot of experience, so I’m just excited to get going. I mean, him being a point guard coming from Duke, that’s right up my alley. So, I mean, I couldn’t learn from a better person than Coach Dawkins.

Taylor’s 334 points in the 2014-15 season was the highest by a freshman since the 1995-96 season.

I think you learn that you just gotta prepare every day. The great teams prepare every day, and they come in and treat every day like it’s their last. So you never know when it might be your last day on the court. You might get hurt tomorrow. So, I think you got to come in and bring the energy every day and come to work.

G/F A.J. Davis

On Wednesday, the Knights had their first practice.

[I’m] more excited than you can imagine. I think we’ve all been working hard all summer, so it’s just exciting to get on the court and get started.

[I expect] just a lot of energy, for us to really be focused in and focus on what we have to do. Like I said, we’ve been working really hard, so this is what we’ve been working for.

Dawkins played nine seasons in the National Basketball Association. He played for the San Antonio Spurs, the Philadelphia 76ers and the Detroit Pistons.

He focuses in on all those things. You know, working hard and discipline and things that you need to win ball games. That’s how we’re focusing.

The Knights finished 12-18 (6-12 in the American Athletic Conference) in the 2015-16 season.

We’re all hard workers naturally. I think we don’t really need anybody to push us. We all do a good job of pushing each other as a team and as a unit, so I think we got better just like any other offseason. We’ll see how it comes together when the season starts.

G Matt Williams

Before being drafted by the San Antonio Spurs in 1986, Dawkins played four seasons at Duke University. As a Blue Devil, Dawkins averaged 19.2 points per game for his collegiate career.

[Dawkins] is very to the point with everything. He lets you know how he feel about you.

Matt Williams, a redshirt senior, enters his final season as a Knight. For his collegiate career, he’s averaged 6.4 points.

I just plan to teach them that it’s a new culture here. So you gotta work for everything you want. Nothing’s given to you, and just cherish every day. Coach Dawkins talks about tomorrow’s not promised. Just cherish every day.

Last season, the Knights finished with the third-worst season in the AAC, beating out only the University of South Florida and the University of Houston.

I feel like this year is gonna be more up-and-down, more run-and-gun type of offense.

 

 

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