Albany vs. Virginia Pregame Quotes (Round 1)March 15, 2007

2007 NCAA Mens Basketball Championship
First and Second Rounds
Nationwide Arena, Columbus, Ohio

Albany Locker Room Quotes

Jamar Wilson, senior guard
On lessons learned in the conference tournament
I feel it definitely helped us out. Even though we didnt win, it showed any team can be defeated on any given day. You just need to play your hardest and do what you can do. You just control your own destiny.

On Virginias Sean Singletary Hes a good player. He is real explosive, a quick player and plays with a lot of heart just like his team. We just need to contain him.

On last years experience It was a great experience because last year was our first trip. We were just happy to get our feet wet. This year we are definitely trying to win, not to say we didnt try last year. I think the match-up is better this year with Virginia than UConn last year. We just need to make the best of it.

Jason Siggers, senior guard/forward
On last years experience
What it really showed is that every team is 0-0 going into the tournament. You cant look at the name on the jersey or the conference they are from. That wont help you win. Anyone can beat anyone on any night.

On the tournament It is more intense than last year. Some people think we can win, but we still are the underdog. We just have to live in the moment and enjoy the game and the tournament. I love the atmosphere and it makes me want to play even more.

Brent Wilson, junior forward
On last years experience
It gives us extra experience. To play against so many NBA prospects gave us a lot of confidence. We are a lot looser this year than last. We know the process this year.

On playing Virginia I am just going to stand my ground. We are going to stick with the game plan. They get up and down the court quickly. They are ACC athletes for a reason. If we can slow down the tempo it will definitely benefit us. To know this could be our seniors last game makes us want to play harder.

Brian Lillis, junior guard/forward
On the tournament last year
Playing in the tournament last year gave us a lot of experience. We played with five or six NBA players. To be able to stay with them shows us we can play any team.

On playing an ACC team Our coaches do a good job of putting us in the right mind set. We are just going to play our best. We dont think of this game as playing an ACC team they are just another team.

Virginia Locker Room Quotes

REPORTER: This is really for all the players. Could you guys talk a little bit about the second year of Coach Leitao's being in charge of your team, how you've adjusted to him, learn how to give what he wants and.

REYNOLDS: This is our second year with him, so we've adjusted pretty well. Coming in, he was a very tough guy, a couple guys had to get used to the way he wanted us to play, which is hard and energetic, every day. But I mean, we did a good job of responding to that this year. I mean, we've just been playing well and he's a great coach, we've got a great coaching staff. We've just been playing hard and playing together.

REPORTER: Sean, can you just talk us about the preparations leading up to tomorrow's game and how your mental state is how your team has revamped and reloaded for this tournament?

SINGLETARY: We're confident about the tournament. We know we're going to have our hands full when we play Friday. We're doing real well right now. We've just had a couple good days of practice, everybody's healthy, everybody's ready to go. We didn't end the season like we wanted to, but right now, everybody's in good spirits right now and real confident and we're ready to go out there and play ball.

REPORTER: Last couple games, the losses, you said you didn't bring enough energy to the games. What do you guys are to do to ensure that you do bring the right amount of energy to this game and are you confident that you guys are going to do that?

SINGLETARY: We're definitely confident because this is the NCAA tournament. It's a chance of a lifetime to get our name in front of the whole world, you know, and it's a great opportunity, a great situation, and like I said before, we put the past behind us, we had a good season for the most part but we didn't finish like we wanted to, but that's over with. Right now, we're ready to play Albany and go as far as we want to go.

REPORTER: This question's for Jason, J. R. might want to chime in. Impressions as a senior playing your first NCAA tournament, what are some of the things that stood out to you, any highlights yet?

CAIN: No, not that I've seen so far. Just after media day, seeing a lot more media than usual games, just walking around, just driving around the town, just seeing all the banners and stuff, NCAA tournament, really haven't gotten to too many things, we've been in the hotel the whole time.

REPORTER: This is for J. R., for us writers who haven't covered the team regularly and are from out of town, J. R., can you tell us what the nature of the injury you've been dealing with is and how that's affected you as far as practice and games go?

REYNOLDS: Right now, I prefer not to talk about my injury, but I'll be ready to play on Friday, that's the biggest thing. I've been getting better day-by-day, so I'm just ready to play on Friday.

REPORTER: Jason, when Albany was in here, one of its post players was talking about how their team doesn't usually see post players as big as the ones Virginia has in their league. Do you guys feel like you need to exploit that advantage you have in size and maybe athletic ability?

CAIN: Yeah, I think we need to come out and be aggressive. At different times different people have shown that we can play and play well, hopefully that's a collective effort, we can all just come in and play and play well.

REPORTER: What are your thoughts on the match-up with Jamar Wilson?

SINGLETARY: I'm well aware he's a good player, player of the year in his league, but it's a team effort. I feel as though our guys collectively, I mean, are more talented, but to win the game, you have to bring more energy, you have to be more disciplined, got to be consistent for 40 minutes, what we do. I realizes's a good player and is very talented, but it's going to take all of us to get the job done.

REPORTER: Can you talk a little bit about what you see from Albany, what they bring to the table, what you're going to have to do to stop them?

REYNOLDS: They've got a good point guard in Wilson, everybody feeds off of him, so it's trying to contain him and limit his options so he won't get the team going, so that's the biggest thing that we've got to do.

REPORTER: Sean, could you talk a little bit about your first impression of Coach Leitao when he came, what surprised you about him and what you like about him.

SINGLETARY: Definitely, the way he coaches, I've been around that my whole life, high school and little league, I've always had a coach that knows everything, straightforward, and don't take no stuff. He just wants you to do your best. Our relationship has grown because in terms of basketball, on and off the court, though, he's been like a father figure for our whole team, the door's always open to go talk to hip, he teaches a lot about life as well as basketball and he's a great role model and an inspiration to us individually. So the transition to Coach Leitao wasn't hard at all, we welcomed him with a warm hand and it's just great to be part of his team.

REYNOLDS: Can I say, he is the worst pool player that you probably have ever seen too.

REPORTER: Who, Sean?

REYNOLDS: No, Coach Leitao is, Coach Leitao.

REPORTER: What makes your back court so strong? Why do people talk about you on the court so much as you look at it, being kind of humble and talking about it?

CAIN: Just that over last year and this year they've come complete players offensively as well as defensively and they play well off each other and they actually make everyone else on the team a lot better.

REPORTER: Sean, when you were a younger player, maybe your first year, do you remember watching maybe Chris Paul. What do you think some of the mentality Wilson will have going up against a bigger guy with a name such as yourself, do you see that as inspiration al for him and do you have to guard against bringing less energy or whatever than he does?

SINGLETARY: I really don't know. Names really don't mean nothing to me. I'm sure they don't mean much to him, he's been two years in the league and he just goes out there and plays every day, that's what I figure. So whenever I feel as though I'm going against a player that has a bigger name than me, I just really took it as a challenge, I'm sure he will, but like I said before, this is the NCAA tournament, a chance of a lifetime and everybody's playing for their life, and if you don't win, you go home. I'm sure he's going to bring it, and I'm going to bring it and the rest of our team is as well.

REPORTER: J. R., can you talk a little bit about the emotions of this week? You've been waiting four years to get here, seeing your name on Sunday and just sort of what you've been feeling this week?

REYNOLDS: This is a great opportunity for our team and our program. To be selected, it's something very special. It's been a rough four years, but right now it's a great opportunity for our team. And I know all the guys are excited about the opportunity that we have and the biggest thing, you've just got to have fun, because this could be your last game. And for me, it's going to be a very special day, and I know I'm going to play hard for 40 minutes as well as my team.

REPORTER: Pete Gillen is here on one of the radio crews working the game tomorrow. Have any of you all talked to him in Columbus or even talked to him since he stepped down a couple years ago and what it would be like seeing him here if you haven't already?

REYNOLDS: No, I haven't talked to him, but I had a chance to talk to his wife, it might have been last year and just asked her how he was doing and stuff. If I see him, I'm pretty sure I'm going to spark up a conversation, so.

CAIN: I've seen him once or twice since and I've talked to him maybe once, but I heard he's doing pretty well. I talked to his son, his son goes to school with me, I talked to him and I heard he's doing pretty well. I mean, when I see him, I guess it will be a happy moment. There's no hard feelings between anybody on the team and him.

SINGLETARY: I haven't had a chance to speak with him, I haven't really seen him since he left, but I'm sure he's doing just fine and if I see him, I'll probably thank him for helping recruit me to the school, you know, that's about it.

REPORTER: Hey, J. R., last game against NC State, obviously they kind of shut the lights out in the second half, shot 70%, what's the emphasis been like leading up to today? Has it been a more obvious emphasis on defense?

REYNOLDS: Definitely. That's what our practice is always about. But Coach has been doing a great effort on like trying to control like I said, Wilson, and just trying to get back to our regular defense and routine, playing hard and just communicating.

REPORTER: You've done a lot this year, you've made the NCAA tournament, you've won 20 games regular season ACC champs, do you need to win this game more for it to be a successful year in your eyes or will it always be a success?

REYNOLDS: It's how you finish. You want to win, a continual win, and I know my teammates want a continual win. The biggest thing for me is just going out there and competing for the team.

REPORTER: Jason, on Coach, a little bit on his pool playing, what strikes you as makes him an interesting guy to play for?

CAIN: He doesn't back down and he doesn't really give up on his players at all. I mean, most guys, if you don't play well and you just continue not to play well, most coaches are like, you know what, I'm just going to recruit over you. But he doesn't believe in allowing players to slip through the cracks. He's able to actually try to make people better people and better players.

COACH LEITAO: Obviously we're excited to be here, to have an opportunity to participate in this great tournament. But at the same point in time, we want to make sure that it is business as usual, that we don't change a whole lot about our normal routine and what has gotten us to this point. There's a lot of different men at all times that people have when they get here, and ours is to not just be happy to be here, but it's to participate, first of all, in this two-game tournament and to get ourselves to next weekend, and to do that, obviously we've got to play a tremendous game tomorrow afternoon and make sure you're ready before that. So we've been trying to concentrate on getting ourselves prepared as much mentally as well as physically to be ready to play our best basketball.

REPORTER: Coach, several players this year have described Sean as perceptive and I'm curious what you've seen in him that's perceptive on and off the court?

COACH LEITAO: With Sean, another word for perceptive with Sean is smart, and he can see things around him very well, he can read situations, read people very well and how that relates to him as a teammate, him as a leader is very important, because he's got to not only see that for himself, but he's got to impart that upon his teammates. So it's something that I think he's had that innate ability to do for a long period of time. And obviously when you're successful and you're in the spotlight as he is, he tends to be noticed and it's something I'm glad, obviously, that he has.

REPORTER: Dave, Albany is looking at its NCAA experience as an advantage. How do you prevent your lack of experience from being a disadvantage?

COACH LEITAO: Well, I think I've been on both sides of the fence. Any advantage, if you play it up the right way or any disadvantage, if you look at it, can tend to be more or less in terms of its effectiveness, but obviously come they're coming here, not just because they participated last year or had a chance to win a game, they're an older, veteran group who is confident anyway. And they've probably got as much confidence of winning the tournament championship on the road after going home the night before as they do participating here last year, so we've got to make sure that once the game begins, all of that stuff that would advantage any team they have is only going to manifest itself on how the other team plays and we've got to be ready over the course of the game to play well because of our mindset and be able to react to anything they bring against us.

REPORTER: Dave, can you talk a little bit about after the ACC tournament, what you guys have done during this past week and how you feel about your team's mental and physical state heading into this game?

COACH LEITAO: During the course of the season you play a couple times a week and you manage your practices around that. Now as we step on the court tomorrow, it will be our third game in, I think 14 days, so managing that is a challenge as well. Once we lost last week, I think it was important to get our guys some rest physically and mentally to get away from it and recharge our batteries, so to speak. We got back on the court and tried to have a buildup because we had four practice days that we wanted to be at our best physically tomorrow. And so didn't want to tax them. Obviously you're only gearing towards this one game right now, so a lot more of the game preparation could be handled earlier, film work could be done early and that kind of thing. Just focusing in on the things that are important, without changing too, too much the way you go about your business.

REPORTER: Dave, you're in the tournament the second season of your program, why do you think the program has been able to do that, and secondarily, what adjustment did you have to make to the team that you inherited and what did they need to adjust to you in terms of your style?

COACH LEITAO: Well, I think the first thing in taking over the program is when you look at it and as I looked at this particular situation, we had good people and I think you can't expect any level of success, whatever you're doing, if you don't have a good group of people around you. And our players just happened to be of the highest level in that way, they don't give me any issues to worry about on the court, off the court at night and I think that's a great starting point. And obviously you have to have some talent, which we have -- we have a good number of guys that I would consider to be talented in a lot of different ways, and then they have to come together for a common purpose, and that part of it has been very important, because they've allowed me to have them understand what that purpose is, and we've been working on it from day one, since the day I took the job, and this happens to be a culmination and actuality a reward in some respects for the hard work and early mornings and late nights that they've put in. And when you take over a situation, you have to evaluate a lot of different things and in doing so, at the same point in time, you have to impart what you think is going to be the staples and fundamentals of any program to be successful. And again, in this situation, I've been allowed to, by whomever I've been around with administratively or players or anybody else, to do what I think is necessary and what I think is right. And in doing so, obviously it's allowed me to do my job pretty well and to have the players respond too.

REPORTER: Dave, I hesitate to bring this up, but I noticed in the media guide, your hair looks a little lighter than it did when you were in Chicago. Is that a result of playing in the ACC? Was this program rebuild a lot harder, easier, how has it been?

COACH LEITAO: Yeah, can't you tell? I don't know if I've even compared the two, to be honest with you, in terms of ease or the difficulty. Both created challenges for all of us. They were both similar in the way that, as I said earlier, good people. I have to give a lot of praise to both former coaches at the two places I've been at because they left not only good talent, but they left really good people. And I think what happens, if you take over a program, sometimes you have to struggle with flushing out things that are not good for success to happen, so I didn't have to do a whole lot of that, we could move forward. And in both of those situations, I was afforded that opportunity. And in that situation, obviously being different, it's been in a lot of ways enjoyable, because it's not just the guys on the court, it's the university, it's the administration, it's the community, everybody is on board and wants a lot of success to happen and again, it's made it easier for me to go about my business on a day-to-day basis.

REPORTER: Obviously you know about Albany's game last year against U-Conn gives them a lot of experience and probably confidence, talk about what you see with Albany this year.

COACH LEITAO: The two things that make a team good is, one, you have to have talent, and they do have a lot of talent, some skilled guys that can do things both off the dribble and shooting the basketball and those kind of things. And in order to be good, you have to have some star value and they have that in Jamar Wilson, somebody having played in the America East and coaching a couple times in the America East, I understand the value of being player of the year and he's two time, there's only three other guys beside him that's been able to do that, so you need that. The other thing is the experience factor, and I think when you add to that, what they went through last year and giving them confidence, then both of those things allow you to walk around with a sense of understanding and a sense of confidence to know that there's no task that you have to take on that's not too big for you. So I understand that our challenge is not just physical but as much as mental in understanding that we're playing against a team that not real only believes that they belong here but that they're going to win.

REPORTER: J.R. struggling from the field the last few games, just wondering what has he been dealing with and how has that hampered him.

COACH LEITAO: He's dealing with a little bit of an injury to his hip and again, what that has done when you are the focal point and you're the shooter and scorer as he is, a decision maker, sometimes the slightest thing can throw that off. And his inability to sometimes practice on a regular basis as he had been all year, it took away some of his rhythm, and when you do that, too, there's a factor of your stamina and all those other things. So it's something that has concerned us, but not greatly. He's a tremendous, tremendous young man, so whatever is necessary that he needs to do to come back on track, and we've tried to manage that a little bit better over the last week so that he can be as much ready mentally as he needs to be physically.

REPORTER: Is that hip? Because I have read abdominal injury, is that hip?

COACH LEITAO: It's hip, yeah.

REPORTER: After the last couple losses, your players have said they didn't bring enough energy. Things of that sort of have become a cliche the last couple of years, you hear that a lot. Other than the obvious literal meaning of the phrase, what does that mean we didn't bring enough energy and how do you ensure that you guys are going to bring enough energy tomorrow?

COACH LEITAO: Yeah, I mean, that word as it relates to basketball is funny because it has an infinite amount of meanings, especially as it relates to the game of basketball or sports or in this case, our team. It can mean a lot of things. It's mental. It's focus. It's preparation. It's a lot of different things. And I think it's the most difficult part of coaching is to understand that a team can come into each and every game with the kind of energy that they need to be successful, whatever that -- you can change that word around a hundred different ways, and have it make sense, and that's why teams play better at home than they do on the road, because they become more energized for a lot of different reasons, whether it's the crowd or sleeping in your own bed or familiarity or what have you, and for us, it's the operative word, it's the easy word, but it means, as you said, a lot of different things.

REPORTER: Dave, usually the coaches end up having some time with the national radio crew. I was wondering if you had seen Pete yet and if you had even spoken to him since you took the job.

COACH LEITAO: I have not seen him yet and I've only seen him a couple of times since I've been in Charlottesville. It's a difficult situation. I sometimes face it even back in DePaul where you want to let things go where they may, let that person that's in charge do their job. And I've known him for a long time. He's the finest of people. He's a terrific basketball coach and, again, he left this program with some very talented people. But I have not seen him and, again, it's not something that I would anticipate, especially because I know he still lives in Charlottesville, but as of my time here, I haven't ran into him.

REPORTER: Can you talk a little bit about the front-court match-ups, that seems like it's almost gotten lost in the shuffle about all the talk about the guards.

COACH LEITAO: Yeah, we're different in that obviously their front court is strong, mobile, obviously Brent Wilson is a guy that stretches the defense. You've got to concern yourself as much with him as any other person on the team in terms of his effectiveness. The way we look at it is we've got to be able to do what we have been doing when we're successful, is have a number of guys we can go to obviously with Tunji and Ryan and Jason and Jamil, so we have different options that we can use to try to be effective and we're looking at it as hopefully allowing us to, from 15 feet in, control ourselves, where rebounding becomes a key as it has been all year for us. Defensively clogging up the middle as we've been able to do for most of the year and things we can do well against obviously their front court. And when you don't have, and it's unique this way and this time of year, we have two front courts that don't provide an inordinate amount of scoring, then it comes down to which group will do a few things the best.

REPORTER: What is the confidence level it takes for a coach to have a strong backbone like you've got, people remember Dee Brown and Luther Head a few years ago, what that means to that team.

COACH LEITAO: Any match-up you have, in Coach Brown and myself, the comfort you have in knowing you have two guys that are play makers, and the further you go along in a season, the more you can win in large part is due to the decisions that those guys make. And, yes, they're terrific scorers, yes, they're good leaders, but they're also very good decision makers, and when it comes down to different points in the game where we need to have things happen with the decisions they make on the court, but particularly those off times and dead balls and timeouts, they take control as much as a coach can, and that's a luxury at a position this's very, very critical.

REPORTER: Which is more beneficial, to get -- you touched on getting a little rest here. Going out in first round of your league tournament, but losing, but then having three or four games in the league tournament and maybe winning it. Is it so bad to have a little break here in that point of the grind of a season?

COACH LEITAO: I don't know if it gives you an advantage, but it gives you an opportunity to get some rest when you may not normally have that. But I don't think over the years that there's been a script on how best to go about it. I've been in situations as an assistant or a head coach where we made it to that last day, won or lost, and gone out and not performed well, and then there's the opposite, where we've made it to that last day, and then won the whole thing. And the reverse is true, where we've bowed out early and played well, and bowed out early and not played well. So I don't think there's a script. But obviously in this particular case, we'd use it as an opportunity to get our guys as much physically as well as mentally rested and ready.

REPORTER: Did your guys need it this year?

COACH LEITAO: Did we need rest?

REPORTER: Yeah, especially.

COACH LEITAO: I think no more than any tore team, except for, again, J. R. and Sean because we play them a lot of minutes and we ask a lot from them, so rest is a big part of what makes them good.

-Courtesy Ohio State