UW coach Mike Hopkins feels comfortable with an 8-9 man rotation, but the starting lineup is fluid at this point.

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Washington men’s basketball coach Mike Hopkins met with local media Tuesday to preview Thursday’s 7 p.m. exhibition against Saint Martin’s at Alaska Airlines Arena.

(Not excited at all to coach a basketball game.) “Oh my gosh. I’m excited. Can’t wait to get this thing going.”

(What are we going to see on Thursday?) “These guys have worked extremely hard together. We’ve used ’tougher together’. That’s what it’s all about. We’ve got a long way to go. Basketball-wise right now with what we’ve seen from the zone I think they believe it. It’s worked really well in our scrimmages and the guys are getting better at it. Like anything, if you believe you’ve got an advantage right there – and these guys believe in it. We’re working, we’re going to be trying some things out in the exhibition. We had a scrimmage the other day where we learned a lot about this team. From different lineups to how we’re going to use our man-to-man, different things like that. But I’ve been really happy so far.”

(How hard has it been for these guys to adapt to what you want?) “When you do something unique like we are with our zone…the reason why it’s good is that there are some principles to it and fundamentals to it that are different than what you’ve been taught before, so they are learning something. They’ve been doing something for 22 years or however old they are and we’re trying to take that habit and turn it into this habit. And that’s a lot of repetitions, a lot of experience. You can do it in a drill and all of a sudden you have to do it in real life. That’s one of the things where we’ll have our ups and downs, but for the most part they’ve been really really good, really consistent and very disruptive.”

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(How long does it take to instill the culture and get the guys you need to do what you want?) “Again, we’re trying to build a culture. I tell the staff the whole time, offensively, defensively we’ll have our system and how we’re going to play, but it’s really about how we’re going to act, how we’re going to look, how hard we’re going to work, how together we’re going to be. That’s a process. We like to say, how you do anything is how you do everything, so that’s academically, that’s study table, that’s how you treat people – and these guys have done a really good job. That’s part of this process is ‘who are we’? How do we handle things? How do we live with each other? Those are really important things and things we’re fighting for every day.”

(What is it like to see the guys buy in on the defensive end and understand its importance?) “Like everything, when you have an identity or you feel like you have an ice ball in a snowball fight, you know you’ve got something to go to that’s an advantage. And it’s a psyche too. Remember in the NCAA Tournament 15 years ago and they said the 15th seed is Princeton…and it’s like oh we’ve got to play Princeton and it’s the Princeton offense. It’s just something different and unique that becomes something of its own. We’ve been able to show videos of what we’ve done in the past that I’ve been a part of and seeing where it can be effective in different situations. I think you get excited about it. And then you see ‘em do it and you see ‘em get stops for eight minutes and you see that it’s hard. You play against it because you’re going against the other guys and it’s like this is difficult. I don’t see any openings. When you learn that it’s a pretty exciting thing for them.”

(What’s your bench coaching style?) “A big thing, if I don’t feel like we’re giving 110% you’ll see a timeout to fire them up. I think a big thing right now is the organization and being organized. The one thing you have to say, we always say unrelenting attack. You got to be playing hard the whole time. You can have the greatest scheme, but if you don’t play hard the scheme doesn’t work. But if you’re playing hard all the time even if they don’t execute the scheme you have a chance because you’re out there competing at a high level. We’re working on the timing, the organization, the schematics and the schemes – those types of things. But more so that effort. Obviously, when you make runs or maybe when you want to change a strategy or get a player on the court. Those types of things. I can be a little fiery, but right now it’s more so give these guys confidence, getting them to believe, instilling our culture and what we expect on the court. That’s just the bottom line.”

(During timeouts do you rely on decision by committee?) “Well, a big thing is I’m going to be the overall coach. Coach (Cameron) Dollar is in charge of our defense. You got Coach (Dave) Rice, who is in charge of our offense and Coach (Will) Conroy is in charge of all of our player development. He does a lot of baseline and out of bounds and things like that. They play a significant role, but at the end of the day when we go through it we all have suggestions. We got a lot of great knowledge in the locker room and what we’re doing is we’re going to figure out is what’s best for us. I make the final decision and the final call and this is what we’re going to go out and do. So when you got a staff, you got to utilize them. They got a lot of experience and a lot of knowledge and it’s been a great benefit not only to me, but to the rest of the program.”

(Are you a move the chairs on the court guy?) “We have one chair. It’s right there and I sit nice and comfortably on it. But it’s a … we’re going to learn a lot as we go forward. I’m sure there will be some ups and downs, but the biggest thing is the kids have been working hard. And they’re growing.”

(Do they need a game right now?) “Well, we played the scrimmage and I can’t talk about. I’m not going to talk about it.”

(You can talk about it.) “I can talk about it? Are you sure? It’s legal? We had a scrimmage and it was, Boise State is a really good basketball team. They move the ball well. They have experience. They have a player of the year candidate. They have a lot of fifth-year guys. And it was really good. Versus the zone, four-out teams that move the ball and can really shoot it are always difficult. I thought we did a really good job of really being active. These guys anticipated and adapted well and caused a lot of problems. Moving forward, when you play against someone else and you have that opportunity and they see it in action – not just against yourself – it’s that, I can’t wait to play against somebody else. But right now really, we’re just focused on us. We’re focused on how do we get better. And fighting for culture.”

(Will the final score of the exhibition game tell the whole story?) “I don’t think so. It goes back to you win by one, you lose by won, you win by 40, you lose by 40, it’s all about how you play. It’s valuing possessions, it’s executing well, it’s not the one on one, it’s seeing the extra pass, seeing a guy dive for a lose ball, seeing a charge, seeing them huddling. The basic things that when you see strong teams, that’s intimidating, that’s together. Those are the things that we’re looking for right now. The unselfish plays, the extra pass. We always say one more, that’s one of our terms. That’s one more stop, that’s one more pass, that’s one extra effort, one more rep in the weight room. Those are the things that we’re really looking for. One thing I’ve learned through my experience is you can win by 20 and not play well and not feel like you got better. But the thing that I’m focused on right now is how do we get better everyday. Nothing against you guys, because you guys are all profession and doing an incredible job, but I try to stay focused just on the team and try to stay focused on when I go to bed at night and I should be thinking about my wife and kids and I’m thinking about ‘how do I make him better? How do I make him better? How do I make him better? How do I make him better? How do I make him better? And then what can we do as a team to just go a little bit forward, get a little bit better. That’s how I’m going to take this year. You said coach Petersen said that, I couldn’t agree more. It’s a process and it takes time, but I’m really happy with where we’re at right now and the mindset and the attitude of the kids.”

(Do you have a set starting five right now?) “It’s fluid right now. There are multiple right now. We’re trying different things. We’re trying to figure out what’s best for us. Sometimes, like right now, you probably have six or seven guys that could start. You’re just trying to find the right combination. Sometimes it’s not the best players, it’s the best combination of players. Sometimes you’re looking to get ‘if this is in here, who’s going to come off the bench and score for us and give us an offensive spark plug?’ All those little things to how we can have the best team possible.”

(Do you plan to use a big rotation?) “You know, I play to win. At the end of the day, regardless, I know it’s a simple thing, but I want to play guys that have earned the opportunity that have given the effort, that have bought in. He doesn’t do it, the next guy is going in. There’s a set rotation. I feel comfortable playing eight or nine guys in a rotation. Obviously we have 12, but hopefully we can put ourselves in a position in games that other guys can get opportunities to get experience on the court because I think everybody provides value.”

(Is everybody available or are there injuries?) “Everybody is available right now.”

(Do you plan on playing the freshmen?) “Yeah, listen, it’s earn it, go out there and play and prove it. The kids so far, the freshmen have been great. They’ve worked really hard. They’re going to make freshmen errors, but they’re pretty advanced. I’m really excited for them.”