West Virginia-Dayton Quotes, March 19
March 19, 2009
WEST VIRGINIA QUOTES
MODERATOR: We are joined by the West Virginia student athletes. On my far left, Devin Ebanks, Alex Ruoff and Da'Sean Butler.
Q. For Da'Sean. Based on last night, who is the best bowler on the team? Where are you in that situation?
DA'SEAN BUTLER: I am last and Alex is first. Alex is the best bowler on the team by far.
Q. Could you explain?
DA'SEAN BUTLER: Explain about the bowling? My technique is really bad. I didn't have much follow through on the ball and Alex pretty much does everything right. He is a competitor, too, so it helps. But just me, myself, I really couldn't compete with him.
Q. This is for all three of you. Was there a particular moment or particular time in which Devin's game improved exponentially this year? When did he get it? Why did he get so much better as the year wore on? All three of you guys. Devin, if you can start?
DEVIN EBANKS: I felt I was more confident. Especially in the Louisville game when we played at Louisville. I played pretty well and pretty much carried on since then. I knew my team needed me to, you know, obviously rebound and play defense. But the offense came along and it came at the right time.
ALEX RUOFF: I think gradually. There was never a defining moment. In the Big East we get bigger games down the stretch and he played well for us. He has been real consistent. When you look at the numbers when it comes to rebounding and all the effort stats, but just point production he has really shown up here in the past couple of weeks.
DA'SEAN BUTLER: Pretty much like they were saying, things we have already seen him do pretty much every time in practice. Just waiting for him to convert it to the games.
And once the Big East Conference once we started playing in the Big East, he started blossoming and doing the things he does in practice. It is a surprise to everybody else, but these are things we have seen him do and his abilities.
Q. Alex, how much did going through the Big East schedule prepare you for the NCAA tournament?
ALEX RUOFF: I think Coach said a couple of days ago we played six No. 1 seeds, so that's pretty good preparation. I think that might rank among the best in this tournament.
So people say, you know, we beat each other up and that is really not the case. It is very physical. When it comes to the conference it doesn't really match up with any other conference, so it prepares us really well.
Q. For all of you, could you talk a little bit about what it's like to play for Coach Huggins? And Coach Gregory was saying from Dayton that he feels he already has his stamp on this program. And do you think that's the case?
DA'SEAN BUTLER: You know, playing with Coach Huggins has been a great experience. My game has matured in all levels. When I first came here, I was pretty much just a shooter. I felt like I became a better defensive player. And Coach Huggins kind of does that. He makes you care more about what you're doing. And it's not just about basketball, it is about life in general. Just care more about what you're doing.
ALEX RUOFF: Two years I have been with him has been great. I wish I could have played for him for four years. Like Da'Sean says, his game is really elevated, he is really a players' coach and it has been great. We had a great time.
DEVIN EBANKS: And playing for Coach Huggins, like they said, is a great experience. You have to be a tough minded person to play for him and tough skin because he can get on you a little bit. But, you know, it is just to make you better. He wants to see that you can be a better player. I think all three of us that's came up.
Q. This question is for Devin. Devin, the Big East was by and large, you know, thought of as the best conference in the country this year. What did it do what does it do for you personally, you know, when you're on the boards scoring? How did it prepare you for this tournament?
DEVIN EBANKS: It prepared me, you know, a great deal. Because like everybody has been saying that it's the best conference and all the Big East teams in the tournament probably have a step on everybody else just because our league is so competitive. We play everybody that is pretty much in the Top 25. So I felt that it helped us for the tournament and to do well.
Q. Alex, when you look at Dayton's pressure, defensive pressure and the number of guys that they play, how much of a challenge is that?
ALEX RUOFF: It's a big challenge. They kind of play like us. They are a lot longer on defense, their rebounding. We kind of have a similar game style. But they play really hard and that's something we pride ourselves on, to be one of the tougher teams in our conference, and that's what they do. So it's going to be a good matchup.
Q. Devin, I'm wondering if teams, because you're long and athletic, if they try to muscle you. That's how teams play against you, trying to keep you away from the basket and push you out?
DEVIN EBANKS: I guess some teams would say that, but I felt that I've done a pretty good job, you know, defensively and offensively of keeping bigger people not able to push me off because of my length and quickness. I can get around a lot of things.
Q. For Alex and Da'Sean. I am kind of wondering if it's different this year opposed to last year's NCAA run with, you know, having that one guy, Joe last year. This year, you guys it's more of a team, but not that there wasn't a team effort last year. But can you kind of explain the differences between the run you are about to make this year as opposed to what it felt like last year with Joe?
ALEX RUOFF: I guess the similarities would be Joe really stepped his game up towards the end of the year, the Big East tournament and the last couple of games of the regular season. And we have a player in Devin Ebanks who has done the same thing. Maybe not to the same numbers, but he really has stepped his game up and we have been successful because of it.
So the differences, we're a lot younger. Three freshman in our top six. But I'm pretty confident. Like I said, we're playing a lot better towards the end of the year and we're on a roll right now. We're trying to keep it going.
DA'SEAN BUTLER: Pretty much what Alex just we have the same, you know, the same team pretty much. You know, we have a couple of guys that can they can play and have great games. They have 15 to 20 point games. And unlike last year, you know, we got in trouble, we could pass the ball to Joe and Joe would pretty much bail us out.
This year it will be more of an advantage because you can get a ball to pretty much all our guys on the court and they can bail us out and make plays as well. I would say we are not as dependent as we were last year, as far as we could lean on Joe a little bit to carry us out.
Q. This is for Alex and Devin. In late October and November, what did you think Devin's role would be? First for Alex. I mean, how big of a role did you think he'd have?
ALEX RUOFF: You know, only thing I knew really was in individual workouts. That's the only time I saw him play, in pick up games. The main thing you could see really is his length. I didn't know how much of an impact he would be, but I knew he would get a lot of rebounds and defensively get a lot of hands on balls.
But he has done a lot more than I expected. Stepped it up. He even played point guard for us. We've had a lack of point guard position. So he has done a lot more than I expected.
DEVIN EBANKS: My role, basically I just try to follow these two guys. These are our two main leaders on the team, with Joe Mazzulla, who's injured, but and I try to step in and play as hard as I can and try to get a win for our team. I wouldn't really say that I do something great all the time, but as long as I can do a little bit to help us get a win.
Q. For Da'Sean and Alex. Devin seems kind of quiet. We've asked you a lot about his game, he says he just follows you guys. What is his personality really like?
DA'SEAN BUTLER: He's a clown, man. But are you talking on the court or
Q. Off the court. It looked like he was smiling a little bit when he said I follow these two guys.
DA'SEAN BUTLER: He is a clown, honestly.
He is always joking around. Everybody in the locker room, they come around him, you know. And he's just a joy to be around pretty much. That's pretty much what I can say about the team. Everybody just loves being around him. He makes everybody smile and laugh. He's a competitor and that just keeps other people around him as well.
MODERATOR: Anything to add, Alex?
ALEX RUOFF: Just the same thing. A good character person off the court as well. It makes it so much better the type of guys we have at West Virginia in the locker room, we are real close with each other. And he does a good job with that.
Q. This is for Alex and Da'Sean. Having played at the Carrier Dome, I am wondering what the adjustment is like going from playing in basketball arenas to a large dome like this.
ALEX RUOFF: I mean, you get your hour before the game, you know, to shoot and get used to it. The depth is a little bit different. You get used to it, though. Like you said, we play in the Carrier Dome, which is a huge arena, and I just adjust. It is not that big of a deal.
DA'SEAN BUTLER: Pretty much the same thing, you know. We work out before the games and get ready for the games. And by this point, especially if you are a junior or senior or sophomore, regardless, or really just a freshman, a good freshman, you play on many courts, different venues and places and you really should be able to adjust at this level right now.
Q. Devin, did you seek advice from anybody, any other freshman who had really good seasons? Like a Derrick Rose or a Mike Conley, Jr.? Do you know any of those guys? Did you seek any advice on how to find a role in a team when you're playing a lot as a freshman?
DEVIN EBANKS: I met Derrick Rose through my visits, but I don't really know him personally. I didn't really seek any advice from anybody. If anybody I seek advice from, it would be my coaches and my fellow teammates.
Q. Did you have the coaches?
DEVIN EBANKS: Yeah, I have. I speak to Coach Harrison a lot. He is always trying to keep me level headed and he always worked me out and that's who I seek advice from.
MODERATOR: Okay guys, we will excuse you back to the locker room.
We are joined by the West Virginia head coach, Bob Huggins. We will go ahead and begin with questions.
Q. Bob, talk about in the past two, three weeks, even the past month or so, what Devin has done and the improvement maybe since Christmas in his game, I guess.
COACH HUGGINS: He's rebounded pretty consistently for us all year long. But he's had, I think right after Christmas I think he had some games where he had 17, 18 rebounds. I think he did two games in a row. But he hasn't he just now, I think, started to have a little more confidence in shooting the ball and scoring. I think everything before was kind of around the basket.
But I think we all thought coming in that, you know, he would help us a little bit on the perimeter. And he struggled a little bit early, but he is shooting with a lot of confidence right now.
Q. Was there a defining moment? Was there one thing in practice that happened? Or was it him gradually just getting it?
COACH HUGGINS: No, I think he just gradually he's a great kid and he really works. You know, I think you never know. When you recruit guys you think you know them you think you know what you're getting. And you really never know. And we thought he was a great kid, he has been phenomenal. I mean, he just he comes in every day and really works. He listens.
I think Devin's greatest attribute, he has a great aptitude to learn. He really understands basketball and he really understands things that you're telling him to do. And you know, I mean, as a freshman he is our leading rebounder, but we played him at point guard, and we played him at point guard the majority of the second half at Louisville. And he handled it very well. And he just knows what everybody is supposed to be doing.
Q. Bob, you have some history with Dayton going back to the Cincinnati days. Does this team that you're going to play tomorrow look anything like those teams? Do you maybe see some similarities with how you're playing now and how they play with the defensive focus?
COACH HUGGINS: Brian's done a great job with them. You know, I think the one thing that really stands out is how hard they work. They are a terrific offensive rebounding team because they work so hard at it, and they're as Billy Hahn had to scout, and he told the guys, look, they don't run in transition, they sprint. If you watch them, they just get out and they get in lanes and sprint. And they really put a lot of pressure on your defense to make sure that you get back and find people.
And that's, you know I think Brian has done a great job of getting them all to buy in, and he's playing a lot of people. And I think they've responded very well for him.
Q. How has going through this Big East season prepare a team for the NCAA tournament?
COACH HUGGINS: I don't know. You know, you never know. You know, there's the philosophy that we beat each other up, and then there's the philosophy that, you know, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. And we've played. We've played, what is it, six games against No. 1 seeds. You know, when we've played a very, very difficult schedule, and our guys have responded to it.
I think the thing that I'm proud of the most probably is having three freshman in our top six and they come out and play every day. We didn't have games where we, you know, just didn't show up to play. They played all the time. And, you know, I think that takes special kind of people, particularly when you have young guys like we have.
But you hope it does. You hope it prepares you. We're just coming off you know, you think about, I told people at the Big East tournament, if everything had gone the way it was supposed to go, we would have played Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Connecticut and then Louisville. As it turned out, we got a break, didn't play Connecticut, we played Syracuse.
Our league is so hard. I have been doing these call in shows and people from around the country are calling in and people are saying how hard their league is and I say just jump in ours for a while. This year in our league has been phenomenal.
Q. Bob, you have a long familiarity with the Dayton program and the city. Recruited by them out of high school and played with them all those years, and I know you speak at Agonis Club and that stuff.
COACH HUGGINS: You are not supposed to say that stuff. Dayton did recruit me out of high school and I have great respect for Coach Donaher, I think as everybody does. And he's become a friend. You know, he came down and watched us practice when I was at Cincinnati. And Bucky and I are close. You know, so I've got some very dear friends that are very close to the Dayton program. And we played every year except those few years. And yeah, we had great games.
And you know, I guess it started with O.B. and then Oliver and then I think in the end B.G. was coaching. But I don't know. I mean, I'm familiar, but I don't know how much that helps us tomorrow.
Q. Coach, your team's travel issues last night, does it change any of your schedule today to try to build in a little more rest?
COACH HUGGINS: No, not really.
it's unfortunate. It's in fact, it's I don't know what I want to say. I'm trying to be kind. But that shouldn't happen. But, you know, things today went today things like that happen. Our kids didn't get in until like 3:30 in the morning. And we initially talked about leaving at 2:00 in the afternoon.
So it was a long day, a long travel day. They are young kids and they are very resilient. And I am sitting in there with them and they seem pretty good to me.
Q. Bob, how is Joe handling all this? And do you pull kind of what happened with Kenyon getting hurt to kind of guide him through this? It has to be tough on that kid to sit there and watch his teammates play. And I know probably think of Mateen Cleaves as a guy there for his teammates. And talk about Joe and maybe what he might be going through now.
COACH HUGGINS: Oh, it's hard. It's been really, really hard on him. But I think in all honesty, I think since his surgery he has been better. Because I think once the finality set in that he wasn't going to play, then I think it was easier for him.
I think the hard thing before was because Joe is such a great kid and he wanted to do right. And he probably, if anything, would overdo it. Some guys you worry about, are they going to rehab hard enough? And with him you worry is he going to rehab too hard?
And our biggest concern with him now is that he doesn't do that. And we've all sat down and talked to him extensively about, you know, make sure you do exactly what they tell you to do. Don't do any more. We are not worried about him doing less, we are worried about him doing more.
But he has been great. You know, he's kind of he's helped truck a bunch and he's helped our other guys. He's been you know, we started playing 1 3 1 which I really didn't know very much about. He came in and wrote the whole thing up, like he did a term paper for me, which I still don't understand it. But it was great for him, complete with diagrams and everything else. He's a great kid.
The one thing, you know, we're not the biggest team, we certainly don't shoot the straightest, but we have wonderful kids. And they're fun to go in and practice every day. And we've got guys like the guys that were up here, Da'Sean and Alex and Joe, that they take being a leader seriously. And Joe certainly has does that.
And to answer your question, it's killing him. But I think since the surgery it has been better for him.
Q. Bob, you said a little bit before that Dayton plays so many players. How is that different preparing for a team that can go play 10, 12 guys and has kind of the balance that they have opposed to maybe playing a team with one or two go to guys?
COACH HUGGINS: Well, you'd hope now after we played what, three, four games, that our guys kind of take scouting reports to heart. When you get freshman they sit there and act like they are listening, but they're really not. And you tell them this guy is going to do this and then he comes out the first three times and he does it, and you take them out of the game and they are looking at you like what did I do wrong?
I think we are at the point in the season where they do take it seriously. I think they do take scouting reports seriously. And I think maybe if anything what would have helped us is that for a long period of time we were switching everything. So you had to pretty much know everybody. Alex ended up in the post, Wellington ended up on the point guard and then we just switched every cross. We're not doing that anymore, but I think it's great preparation for Dayton playing as many people as what they do.
Q. Coach, I don't know if you knew, Coach Calhoun went into the hospital today. He is missing the game. What are some of the grinds that the coaches go through during this time of the year? And your comments may be on Coach Calhoun?
COACH HUGGINS: Well, I feel bad for Jim obviously. They've had such a great year. You know, to go through our league and don't lose a road game until the very last game of the year says a lot. To be able to go into Louisville and win like they did.
You know, this is, I think, a special team for him and it's a shame that he's not able to go out and coach them. Because I know how much he loves coaching.
You know, I think you learn, and probably it took me having a heart attack to learn, but, you know, you don't sweat the small stuff. And I don't the way I used to. I mean, I don't get as caught up in things that aren't really all that important, like sometimes we have a tendency to do, because I think as coaches you want everything, you want everything right, you know.
Like, you know, yesterday with the travel thing. I'd been ready to choke somebody, you know, before. Literally choke somebody. It's just it shouldn't happen. But, you know, you don't have any control over it. You learn that you don't have any control over it. And so our guys, we sent them bowling and sent them to watch movies. They probably thought they probably thought they had a big day. You know, free bowling (laughter).
But you just don't get as wrapped up in, you know, things that you can't control or things that don't matter the way probably you do I guess when you're younger.
Q. Coach, when you can't simulate in practice, like Brian can't simulate depth, what are the kind of things to do? Think back, like when you were at a smaller school, what can he do in the 24 hours, maybe 48 hours leading up to playing you to simulate it when he has to use a five man probably to simulate Devin Ebanks.
COACH HUGGINS: You know, I don't think they can stimulate our length any more than we can simulate their aggressiveness. Or the way they sprint in transition. And I don't know. I've maybe had one team that maybe you could do that with. You know, I think that team probably was the best team in the country before Kenyon went down. Because we just had such good players all the way through.
But that doesn't, you know in today's world that doesn't happen very much with guys leaving early. It's just I don't think they can simulate us probably any better than we can simulate them.
Q. I am not going to ask anything else, I'll go back to Dayton. How come you went to OU instead of Dayton? What swayed you? Did you ever go visit the school and stuff like that?
COACH HUGGINS: I don't know why I did what I did. Coach Snyder saw, I think, every single game I played as a senior in high school. And that was the head coach. And at that time, and then Tom, you remember, I am sure nobody else in this room does, but they were really good. They had just beaten, I believe, Ohio State and Purdue and Notre Dame I think in two previous years and were probably as talented as any team in the State of Ohio. And I thought they had a great chance to, you know, make a run.
And certainly when the head coach comes to see you every game, unless it's his wife was there as well. You kind of feel like they probably want you more than everybody else does.
MODERATOR: Okay thank you, coach.
COACH HUGGINS: Thank you.
FastScripts by ASAP Sports
MODERATOR: Joining us are the Dayton student-athletes. From my far left, Charles Little, Marcus Johnson and Chris Wright.
Q. Charles, I want to ask you a quick question if I could. What is your guys' impression so far of West Virginia, watching them on film and what do you see?
CHARLES LITTLE: They are a really good team. They are actually similar to us in that they base themselves a lot on defense, rebounding. One of the better defensive teams in the country, rebounding teams in the country.
So we match up. We're pretty -- our focuses are in common.
Q. This is kind of for all of you. I noticed that you guys have a really good record in close games this year. And it seems like most NCAA tournament games are close. What what's enabled you to have success when it's like that, and why do you have so much success with that?
MARCUS JOHNSON: That is just concentration down the stretch. Focusing more, putting the right guys together, getting everybody on one page, you know. That's just a big key, and, you know, big games and games down the stretch.
CHRIS WRIGHT: I think it is key with big games and close games. You know, just down the stretch just making the extra play. Getting the extra rebound in the first half. If you don't go out of bounds, you can save it, get an extra possession.
And taking care of the ball down the stretch and making the extra plays, the hustle plays and getting the extra rebounds down the stretch can help you out a lot.
CHARLES LITTLE: Basically down the stretch, those are the times of the game when you've got to focus on your core principles of what your team's based on. And ours is defensive rebounding. Those are the times when I think our defensive rebounding are at the best, when we get a stop or a rebound.
Q. Marcus, how much of the fact you played 11, 12 guys, how much of an advantage is that as far as wearing teams down and also, staying fresh?
MARCUS JOHNSON: That's a big advantage. We're one of the only teams that play 12 guys. And more recently we got a couple of players down. But, you know, that is just sending, you know, new guys, players that play usually 35, 40 minutes a game. You know, it's just hard on the other team.
Especially playing the defense that we play, the full-court pressure, pressuring the ball on every catch, so it tends to wear teams down a lot faster.
Q. This is for all the players. West Virginia has had a freshman really emerge recently in Devin Ebanks. Do you guys know anything about him?
CHARLES LITTLE: He's a good player. He's really long and lanky. He's really good going through the offensive boards, and we have to put a body on him. He played really well in the Big East tournament. He is playing good ball right now. We have to go out and make sure we can neutralize him.
CHRIS WRIGHT: And he's a real great athlete. He is long and gets on the board. And if you don't cut him out, he can really be dangerous and really hurt you.
Q. Chris, were you recruited by Huggins at all?
CHRIS WRIGHT: Maybe at Cincinnati he came to a few open gyms, but never heavy recruiting. He came to a few open gyms and I remember seeing him there.
Q. When you think of Bob Huggins, what comes to your mind? And the same question for Marcus and Charles?
CHRIS WRIGHT: He is a really good coach. And he gets his players to play really hard. And, you know, I just think he is an all-around great coach. And he had some great players over the past years, even at Cincinnati and at Kansas State, a great coach.
MARCUS JOHNSON: Yeah, to piggy-back on what Chris said, he's a great coach. He has had some pretty successful teams. And that's what I remember from Cincinnati and, you know, good teams that they had there.
CHARLES LITTLE: Piggy-back on both of them. He is a great coach. Actually one of my favorite teams growing up is the one with Kenyon Martin at Cincinnati. That was one of my favorite teams growing up. A great coach. Obviously he has a lot of talent. Michael Beasley at Kansas State, a good coach.
Q. Charles, is Ebanks more effective? Are you going to try to push him away from the bucket and make him catch it squaring up? What do you do from a technical standpoint with him, with 3?
CHARLES LITTLE: He is a lot longer and taller than me. I think I'm stronger, so I will have to try to use my strength on him and not let him use his length to work around me. He is really good at passing because he's so tall. He is good at throwing over his defenders and using his length to tip and rebound. I have to use my strength and body to move him around a little bit.
Q. (Question off microphone)?
CHARLES LITTLE: He is built like Derek Brown. They don't play similar, but he is kind of built like him.
CHRIS WRIGHT: And he is similar to Derek Brown around the basket, keeping balls alive and getting a lot of tips and taps around the rim because he is so long and athletic. If you don't put a body on him, like I say, it will be real dangerous around the rim.
MARCUS JOHNSON: I don't have anything.
Q. Marcus, getting back to the close games thing again. The fact that you had the success in the games, does it give you confidence every time you get down to the wire and you are within two, three, four points that you guys can pull it off?
MARCUS JOHNSON: Yeah, it gives on our team great confidence that in close games we have, you know, a big game-winning margin. And I think it helps, you know, not only me, but everyone else.
Q. Marcus, you mentioned going deep on the bench to execute the press. What game films have you watched of West Virginia where they were pressed? What kind of effectiveness do you think your press can have against them?
MARCUS JOHNSON: You know, we watched the game with, you know, Cincinnati. They had played Cincinnati and Cincinnati did a real good job of being physical, and, you know, being there on the catch and basically, you know, pushing them out. And not letting them get to the glass.
Q. Would you say your press is similar? You are going to try to deny the ball, those type of things? Can you kind of characterize your press a little bit?
MARCUS JOHNSON: We are not really going to deny the ball. We just want to have every man on the ball, on the catch, just being shallow and trying stuff like that, basically just looking to help out the other teammate.
Q. What have you guys -- you don't get many opportunities at Big East teams or BCS teams and I am wondering if that's a motivation for you going into this game?
CHRIS WRIGHT: I would just say any game is really motivation, you know. Just being able to play the game. But it really doesn't matter the conference. I mean, it's how you play the game. The Big East schools, they was arguably the best conference this year with the teams they had and three number one seeds.
And going into the game, you prepare like you do for any other games. You stay up watching films because it is the NCAA tournament and you have to play your best game in March, but it is just motivation to be able to play in the NCAA tournament and playing against a team like, you know, West Virginia is a good test for us, our defense. And it is a good test for them because it is the NCAA tournament and you have to be on your best game in March.
Q. How does this coming into the NCAA tournament feel than going into the A-10 tournament?
CHRIS WRIGHT: I mean, it's different. In the A-10 tournament is local really. Not everybody is watching it. Now it is the NCAA tournament and one game and you're done for the rest of the season. And the A-10 you might have a chance if your record is good enough to make it to the NCAA tournament. And pretty much the whole nation is watching you, so you have to be on top of your game.
Q. Guys, you've had such a great season, but how much in wanting to build this program as a regular NCAA participant, have you guys talked about what it would mean to get a victory here and to take the next step for Dayton?
MARCUS JOHNSON: No, I mean, we really haven't talked about it much. But we know this is a big thing for our program. Just being in the NCAA tournament. And, you know, tomorrow we're just going to go out there and show the world Dayton basketball.
CHARLES LITTLE: Yeah, I mean, really, like he said, we haven't put too much thought into it. I don't think we get caught up too much into it and worry about it. We need to focus on tomorrow and handle our business and see what happens.
Q. I just wondered, if you guys -- has it felt like an NCAA tournament environment to you or just feel like a typical road trip for you or have you noticed any difference in being the NCAA?
CHRIS WRIGHT: I noticed the difference. When we got on the bus, you know, we came, we flew here. When we got off the bus to come to the hotel and they greeted us right at the door. We had red, white and blue balloons and the experience is different already. You come in and you say welcome, the big NCAA sign. It is the kind of stuff you dream of all the time. And it's different already.
MARCUS JOHNSON: And piggy-back what Chris said, I mean, it's a lot different. You know, during the regular season, you know, even the Atlantic 10 Conference you go to another city and it's kind of different going there, but like Chris said, they have people welcoming you and you have media day and stuff like that. So it's a big difference.
CHARLES LITTLE: It's a lot different just, you know, we are -- we're so used to watching it on TV and just to be a part of that and know that, you know, we're going to get our chance finally. It's a lot different and a lot of fun to be part of. It's crazy. I can't believe we're here. But we have to get over that hopefully by tomorrow.
Q. Just wanted to ask you a quick question about the seeding. You are the lower-seeded, rated 11th. But do you guys view yourselves as underdogs in this role?
CHRIS WRIGHT: I mean yeah, the lower seed, the 11 seed. And West Virginia is the 6th seed, but we don't worry about that stuff.
We don't worry about things we can't control; we just worry about the game and going out and playing the game. If we are the underdogs, so be it. We just have to go out and play.
CHARLES LITTLE: I think our RPIs are about the same. On paper they are not so much higher than us. All that matters tomorrow is us playing 40 minutes, so the seeding really doesn't matter.
MODERATOR: Okay, guys, we'll go ahead and excuse you. We will be joined by head coach Brian Gregory in just a couple of minutes.
We are joined by Dayton head coach, Brian Gregory. We will begin with an opening statement by Coach and take questions.
COACH GREGORY: Obviously, very excited about being here and, you know, we've had three days of really good preparation. And it's just I know our guys are excited about it. We've had a great year so far. Now we are just ready to get out there and compete and play.
This time of the year you have 40 minutes, and that's all you're promised and you just have to make the most of it.
So it's been a good week, and obviously this is, you know -- you talk about a first-class atmosphere. Minnesota does a great job of this. I was here in 2001 in the Final Four, and I told our guys you're going to see what playing in the tournament is all about. That's exactly what we got.
Q. Brian, I was wondering how the Lowery injury has affected your team this year and where are you on that right now?
COACH GREGORY: With his injury and all that, yeah, obviously it's impacted our team. I think this year's team is different than last year. When we had those injuries, it took a month to figure out and the guys were kind of shell-shocked by it a little bit.
This year, our guys responded much differently and just kind of, you know, went back to work and we tried to figure out a couple of different things. How to handle it and do some different things with that point guard position. You know, and I think we've been able to weather that storm.
We still played extremely well defensively. We may not be able to pressure the ball as much as we had in the past, but we have been able to do some different things.
And so to our guys' credit, they saw another challenge come up and I think they handled it extremely well. Obviously it's tough on Rob. He came to the University of Dayton with the idea of helping us get to this spot right now. And not to be part of it is difficult for a young man who's been through so much to get to this point. But he will bounce back. He has been great with our guys. He has been doing a good job of encouraging.
I actually showed him some clips of -- when I was at Michigan State of Mateen Cleaves on the bench when he was hurt during his senior year to show him how much you can still make an impact even without playing. So he should be throwing and waving that towel around on Friday afternoon as long as we play well.
Q. Brian, talk about what Ebanks has given them the past few weeks. And, also, how difficult it is for you to simulate a long athlete like that in practice.
COACH GREGORY: You know, he's a quality freshman that has gotten better. You know, we watched some tapes early in the year just to kind of get a feel for it, because there has been some common opponents. And then obviously the last seven or eight games, you talk about making great improvements as a freshman. He's done a great job.
And you give Coach Huggins credit, because he has let him grow during the year. You cannot -- what we've done is we've used Devin Searcy sometimes to kind of simulate that length and that athletic ability. Obviously Devin plays the 5 for us and Ebanks plays the 4 and the 3 and sometimes the point for them.
And defensively you think you have a layup and he comes out of nowhere and gets a block. And obviously the thing he is tremendous at is offensive rebounding. To be as effective on the offensive glass as he has been this year in that league is incredible. As a freshman, 205 pounds, averaging over three offensive rebounds a game. And it is tough to have our guys understand just how effective he is.
But we've done some different things this week to hopefully get our guys accustomed to how they're going to attack the glass and defend and so forth.
Q. Can you expound on your relationship with Tom Izzo and maybe how much of being around him has impacted the way you run your program?
COACH GREGORY: Well, there is hardly a day that goes by that we don't talk or whatever. I mean, I talked to him last night, talked to him this morning as well.
And, you know, first started out we were assistants together. So you go through some, you know -- you're in that foxhole together working 20 hours a day and stuff like that. And everything we do in our program he's had an impact on, from our defensive philosophy to our offense to our rebounding.
And then, you know, how to run a successful program where academics is important. We're bringing in quality players that are high-character kids is important.
He is never worried about wins and losses. What he's worried about is building the right type of program and the wins and losses take care of themselves. More the process than the results. And I think over the last six years that's kind of what we've tried to do. And we're in a position now where it's starting to take hold.
So, you know, he's just a great -- he is an unbelievable guy. He is an unbelievable teacher, and he's been a great mentor to me.
Q. Brian, you -- how well do you know Bob Huggins? And what are the things that stand out about his, you know -- kind of the tenets of his coaching?
COACH GREGORY: Well, obviously I have a great amount of respect for Coach Huggins. I got to know him a little better when he was at Cincinnati. He was very good friends with Kevin O'Neal who I worked for for two years. So during the summer circuits when I was at Northwestern I got to know him pretty well then as well.
And the most important thing for me in coaching is to get your guys to play hard every single day. And if you do that, you're going to be fairly successful, you know. And that's exactly what Coach Huggins has done.
You know, I look at that team, and people ask what is the difference between the West Virginia teams and the Cincinnati teams? There are some difference in the type of, you know, players obviously. But, they still -- they play hard. They play as hard as anybody around. They pound the -- you know, both sides of the glass. And they share the ball. Really, really unselfish.
You can't do those three things unless they are emphasized every single day and it has to be done by the head coach. So he has put his stamp already on that program.
And, you know, I said it before, I think he takes even more pride in West Virginia being -- of being from there. And I think he really enjoys the fact that when people watch that team play now they say that's a Bobby Huggins' team.
Q. Coach, I noticed that your record in close games is pretty good this year. What do you attribute that to? Does it give this team confidence that in an NCAA tournament, where a lot of the games come down to the wire, you have some sort of advantage there?
COACH GREGORY: Coaching (laughter). That ain't it.
We do have a great toughness with this team and a great confidence. You know, we don't get rattled very easily. So, in those games we've been able to keep our composure.
And a lot of times we won those close games because of our defensive stops, being able to get key defensive stops and rebounds. And then when we needed a basket, we figured out a way to get it. Who is our go-to guy, I don't know. It has been a different guy every game. One game Rob Lowery goes the length of the court. One time Marcus Johnson tips the ball in. One time a freshman, Chris Johnson, buries the 3. It has been different guys, but we always figure out a way to make the plays that need to be made.
Our guys have a little bit of an edge about them, that they, you know, in those situations just compete. And sometimes when you do that, good things happen.
Q. What kind of luxury does it give you to be able to play so many guys? Does it enable you to keep that kind of defensive pressure throughout the game?
COACH GREGORY: No question about it. Playing the 12 guys, as I said from day one, I don't think this is what we planned on doing. It's kind of evolved. And it's been successful. When you lose one like Rob Lowery, and, you know, we lost in a three-game stretch, we lost two out of three at Rhode Island at St. Louis without Chris Johnson, but we were still able to compete and play well during those games.
And going into the A-10 tournament, Devin Searcy wasn't available, Stephen Thomas wasn't available. Those Nicks and knacks that you get when you lose a guy for a game or two hasn't maybe had the impact that it could have if we didn't. That has been one result.
And the other one is we haven't become very good defensively with our pressure because we are fresh usually out there on the court. And it's helped in other areas, too. Our practices, the best practice team I've ever been around because we are so competitive, you know. And we've cut them down and they're shorter now and all that, but the energy level is still very high in practice because of the competitiveness because of everybody fighting.
And to play those guys, you have to have an unbelievable unselfish group. And we have had that where guys have sacrificed maybe a point or two a game for themselves on their scoring average for what's best for the team. That's why I was so pleased when our name was called on Sunday. Because in this day and age, what our guys did this year, you don't see very often, where they do put the team completely in front of themselves.
Two things happened that made it a little easier at the end of the year. We had the most post-season awards in the Atlantic 10 than any team at Dayton with All-Conference Players and All-Freshman and All-Defensive Players. And then you get to tournament bid as well. One of the only four at-large non-BCS schools, now the stuff that you have been preaching pays off. And there's some tangible evidence that what you have been saying does work.
I wouldn't like to be in a position that what we have done and the way we played that there wasn't some tangible evidence that said hey, what you are doing will work and be rewarded. You know, you can keep pushing guys, but if they never get rewarded for it as a unit or individuals, that's tough sometimes.
Q. Coach, could you talk -- I know you talked a little bit about composure. Can you talk about composure for the players since it's their first NCAA appearance for all of them?
COACH GREGORY: Well, you know, I think a couple of things will help. We have a pretty good amount of guys coming back from last year's NIT team where there was the disappointment of being the highest-ranked RPI team that didn't make the tournament, and then making a little bit of a run in the NIT and playing at a couple of different places, going to Illinois state and then Ohio state. I think that might help us a little bit.
You know, and hey, there's going to be some butterflies come Friday afternoon. But I can tell you one thing, the first time one of those guys in -- what color are they going to wear, white or yellow? Anybody know? The minute the first shot goes up and they hit us and we hit them, then they will know it's time to go.
So hopefully we've handled that stuff pretty well so far and hopefully we'll do the same thing Friday.
Q. Do you feel like your players -- you don't get many shots at BCS schools and Big East schools. Do you sense from them relishing this opportunity going into this game?
COACH GREGORY: Yeah. I mean, I think that just adds to playing in this tournament and knowing how difficult it is to get into this tournament now. When you get that opportunity to play, you know, someone from the Big East or the Big Ten or the Big 12, it adds to it. There's no question about that.
I think one of the reasons we've had some success, is just our guys, you know, I think they really respect the teams that we've been able to play. But there's been no fear factor involved at all.
So, it's amazing nowadays with AAU and the summer stuff, all of the guys know each other. Every single one of them played against each other in the past. Now you just go out there and compete and see what happens.
Q. Coach, there was a report that you've agreed to an extension with the school. Can you confirm that and what it does to help you build on, you know, the success that you've had already this season?
COACH GREGORY: We're going to, you know, figure everything out once the season is over. But yeah, we've sat down and I'm just really pleased that the administration feels that, you know, that the way the program is moving forward and the best thing for the program would be to extend that contract out another five years.
And I'm really excited about it. I've said all along this is the place I want to be. This is the perfect fit for me. And now the opportunity to make that type of commitment means a lot to me as a coach, because I do think with the process that -- the progress that we're making, that with that commitment and that continuity we're going to be able to continue to move forward. I think that's really important in a program.
I'm just really pleased that they feel confident in what we're doing, and so yeah, I mean it's great for me. It's great for our program. And I couldn't be happier.
MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach.
COACH GREGORY: All right, thanks, guys.
End of FastScripts