May 6, 2003
Bernadette Cafarelli: We have Chris Thomas and Mike Brey with us. Chris will make an opening statement and then Coach Brey will make a statement. We will then take questions from those in attendance, then open it up for questions for those on the line.
So, Chris, if you’d like to get started.
Chris Thomas: First of all, I’d like to thank everybody for coming. As you all know, this has been a long, drawn out process for my family and I. I’m pleased to say that this summer, I’m entering my name into the NBA 2003 draft. I’ve decided not to sign with an agent.
It’s been a long-awaited goal for me. I’m just excited at the prospects that the opportunity has come so fast.
Bernadette Cafarelli: Coach Brey.
Mike Brey: We fully support Chris. I don’t think it’s been a secret that it’s something that he’s been talking about with his family, and certainly I’ve been in that loop since the end of the season.
Today kind of makes it official, where by May 11th that letter has to go in and you officially enter your name into that pool so you really can be evaluated over the next couple weeks.
Again, you know, this is the second time I’ve sat up here and done this in three years. I like the fact that we have good enough players to do that, that our program is in a position where we have young men that can take advantage of this rule.
This rule was put in to help very special young men, like Chris Thomas, get a gauge on things while still keeping their eligibility and a chance to come back and continue competing.
Bernadette Cafarelli: We’ll open it up for questions here first.
Q. In the next month, five weeks or so, what are the answers you need to hear to remain in the draft instead of coming back for your junior year?
Chris Thomas: They’ll slowly come in, and coach and I will talk every day. You know, once I hear first round, Top 20, that’s my goal. If not, then that’s fine, I’ll be back next year. Right now my mind is being a Top 20 player, and I feel in my heart that I am. If I’m not, then coach will be honest with me, I’ll be honest to myself, true to myself, you know, come back next year and then take it one step at a time.
Q. Some of the feedback you’ve received, have they told you anything as far as projection?
Chris Thomas: Coach has expressed to me they’ve been talking about first round. It’s funny how everybody in my dorm and across the campus, friends of mine always ask me about the mock drafts and all that stuff. But that doesn’t, you know, get my attention.
Coach and I, we have a really close relationship. We’re talking about it as friends and as business partners. We’re just going to make the best, you know, out of this opportunity.
Q. Earlier in the year you talked about you definitely were going to stay for four years. What changed this year to the point where you’re ready to explore your options in the NBA draft?
Chris Thomas: After this year, we had a pretty good year, I had a pretty good year, I think I owe it to myself to explore my options. You know, I’ve done my share of work. In order for me to continue to grow and mature as a player and as a person, I feel like this is going to help me in that process.
I feel like there is never going to be a guarantee. There will never be a guarantee that if I come back that I’ll be able to go to the NBA after my junior or senior year.
Right now I’m just going to take it one step at a time and explore my options the best I can.
Q. Since this is a relatively new option for the student athlete, give us the timetable, what’s the timetable?
Mike Brey: The next date you’re dealing with is June 19th, which is the date of pulling your name out. If you stay in past June 19th, you are in the draft and you’re at the point of no return.
To pick up on your question of where he sits, it’s still really early in the process. I think a lot of kids have done what Chris has done, underclassmen. There probably will be some more before May 11th. The foreign contingent, which we’ve seen grow each year, no one really has the full scouting report on all of them yet. All of that will be lumped in by the Chicago predraft camp. Chris will be invited to play at that.
One of the new rules, this is relatively new, which is a great rule, but they also have changed that underclassmen can go into Chicago, play, and return to school without being penalized.
Whether he plays there or not has yet to be determined. He may not play there. He will work out individually for some NBA teams probably between the end of the predraft camp and June 19th. That will be probably the moment of truth for where Chris stands and kind of a read on where things are.
Again, as I said, June 19th is the day.
Q. You mentioned Top 20. Does the fact that Ryan didn’t have a good first year in the NBA affect your position at all?
Chris Thomas: I think everybody’s situation is different. Like I said before, coach, he will keep me in the loop as best as possible. You know, he’s been one of my number one supporters throughout the whole season, especially throughout this process of making a decision.
You know, he’ll, you know, inform me as best as he can. I’ll try to make the best decision I can. I’ve talked to Jared Jeffries just on a personal basis about how to deal with his life, deal with the NBA life. I feel like the information that he’s given me, the experiences he’s went through this year has helped me in my decision making. Both of those will continue to help me.
Q. Was there anything in the past few days, anything that happened, a talk with somebody? You said you were going back and forth. Any one thing that made you decide?
Chris Thomas: I don’t think so. I think since the season was over with, you know, I started thinking more about it. After having great conversations with coach and my family, you know, we came to a consensus that, you know, this was going to be a good opportunity for me to explore my options, you know, see exactly what my draft prospects is right now.
Q. You initially said you intended to stay the whole four years. What is the hardest part of leaving, if you do leave?
Chris Thomas: I think definitely leaving this program, I think, you know, it’s been so ?? you know, it’s treated me like nobody has ever treated me before. I mean, the guys on the team , you know, it will be hard for me to leave them, but at the same time I know I’ll keep in contact with them and I’ll always keep a strong bond with Notre Dame.
Q. Some players have gone out in the past not sure where they’re going to go. Have you come to a way to get the best information in terms of where you may go (inaudible)?
Mike Brey: To add a step, I think the lottery is decided May 18th. All the ping-pong balls are decided then. That’s why I’m saying it’s still early in the game. You can’t get the specific information.
I think now that he has made it official and it’s public, I’ll get some calls from some NBA people now. They’re not going to call until it’s official. We’ll start to get some information. We’ll process that.
The draft lottery is decided May 18th. You see where people are, kind of get a feel for things. Then it’s a matter of selecting a few teams to go work out for. Maybe four or five teams will want to bring him in for a workout. Sometimes that’s a workout on your own, sometimes it’s against somebody, you play a little one on one.
Out of that, for example, Ryan Humphrey worked out for 17 teams last year. Chris is not going to work out for that many teams. Hump went everywhere. Troy probably worked out for half that. Then you kind of get a feel for that.
It really starts to pick up end of the predraft camp until June 19th. The teams are bringing people in, trying to make decisions. I think at that time you’ll get a pretty good feel for where you stand.
Now, there’s no guarantees. Somebody could say June 18th, you know, “We’re going to take you 18th.” That doesn’t mean they’re going to do it on June 26th. I think that’s something we have to be very, very sure of in this process, that if someone is going to do that, you know, we really feel good and trust, light some candles before the draft.
Q. What kind of information did you get on Ryan last year? Where was he told he was going to go?
Mike Brey: At this point, you know, at the end of the school year, he was a second round guy. Played well in the NCAA tournament. His performance against Carlos Boozer moved him up the ladder. Then he went and backed it up in Chicago. He was very good in his individual workouts to the point where I think it’s fair to say he made the biggest jump of anybody. Maybe a Matt Carroll can make a jump like that. Certainly Chris can be in position. Is he late first round? Yeah, but who knows now because we’re still waiting to see who else puts their name in. Then you have to go out and work out.
Q. You’ve embraced this process both times rather than be reluctant. In terms of continuing to build this program, how much more attractive does it make the program, not just that you have the prospects, but the effort the program puts in helping players take the next step?
Mike Brey: Well, I think we’ve seen examples of some very different examples of how coaches handle this. Some kind of go into hiding and are maybe not as supportive.
My feeling is, if you’re going to run a program in this era and get kids like Chris Thomas in your program, you must be in the loop and help and be supportive. If the right thing is to go in a month, I will be the first one to look him in the eye and shake his hand and thank him, like I did Troy Murphy.
This young man, the two years he’s given us, have been simply fabulous. He has put us in position as a basketball program. If he comes back, he’s part of it, great. If not, we will move forward.
But I do think young people, that next wave of prospects, they examine, you know, how it’s being handled, if they’re going to be a young man that maybe is not a four-year guy. I think as I told our coaching staff, “Let’s just keep recruiting.” We have very good players. You try and plan as best you can.
I think you saw Jim Boeheim say this. You really are year-to-year in college basketball at this level. You’re year-to-year. You’re trying to plug it in accordingly. That’s what we’re in the process of doing right now, my staff and I.
Q. If he gets drafted, what happens to the point guard spot?
Mike Brey: First of all, if he’s drafted in a spot that’s right for him, again, I’ll be thrilled. It would be another first round draft pick, three in a row. We may be the only one to do that. We’re one of only four schools that have had two in a row.
If he leaves us, I think he would back me up on this, every guy in that locker room, Chris Quinn is a heck of a basketball player. If I have to hand the basketball to Chris Quinn, I’m not losing any sleep this summer. I want to be very clear about that. I would love to have the opportunity to play those two guys together, as you saw us do this season, but to do it in extremely heavy doses. I think we’d be an exciting team.
Our contingency plan is a very good one with Chris Quinn. I think everyone in the locker room, as well as Chris Thomas, have the utmost confidence. It hits our depth a little bit. A guy named Martin Ingelsby played 38 minutes. I’d have to get the same tennis shoes out for Chris Quinn. He did a pretty good job for us. There’s a banner in there, he quarterbacked a team that won a championship.
Q. Does a guy like Russell Carter handle the ball as well?
Mike Brey: I would think Colin Falls would help us in that department more than Russell Carter. Colin is more of a guy that can run a team. He’s actually done that with his AAU team.
Q. When you evaluate your own game, there’s a lot of times you created offensively where the other team had help to stop you. NBA is a lot of one-on-one. Is that something that entices you, to think your creativity may be rewarded at the pro level?
Chris Thomas: I don’t think I’ve thought through the process as much as you have (laughter). At the same time, I mean, just watching the playoffs, it’s a totally different . You know, they take a totally different approach to it. I think I’ll have to get used to that.
As you all know, I’m a guy that plays with a lot of emotion. I think the NBA is a little more low-key in that area.
You know, right now I haven’t even gotten to that point. I think it will be something where, as I start to work out more, get more serious about this throughout the process, I’ll work on more stuff like that.
Q. Your parents, you said you talked with them. They’re going to support whatever you want to do. When you chose Notre Dame, I know they were excited about that. What was their feeling about this decision?
Chris Thomas: They supported me 110%. They’re going to support me whether I come back to school next year or if I go to the NBA. There’s a lot of people like that around Notre Dame. That’s what has made me comfortable to go ahead and pursue this opportunity.
Q. This is not a front for transferring to St. Bonaventure?
Chris Thomas: No, it’s not. I wish coach all the best of luck.
Q. This is a tough school academically. You’ve worked hard at that. How do you feel about the two years you put in academically? Do you have a long range plan?
Chris Thomas: I have no choice. I mean, that’s my plan. There have been people within my close group of, you know, advisors, it’s been my dream, my dream to come here and play basketball and get a degree. That’s definitely a goal of mine when talking about this process, entering my name, to continue with the academics.
Q. Whether or not to go to Chicago, what will that be based (inaudible)?
Mike Brey: I think who else is going to be there, and I think we have to look at the total. I think right now you lean toward not playing in Chicago. That would be my guess. Again, it’s May 6th. I think the individual workouts are going to be more for a handful of teams, are going to be more where there will be someone who feels he’s the guy or not.
But we have time to make that decision. Now that he’s put in his name in, he’ll get an official invite to Chicago. We’ll just have to kind of play that by ear. You have time to do that over the next couple weeks.
I would like to mention that Frank and Tammy are here today, Chris’ parents came up. They have certainly have been very supportive of our program the last two years, and Chris.
Mike Brey: My relationship with Chris has been very good from day one. Of course, you know, it got started in an interesting way. Here is a young man who committed, then there was a coaching change. We’ve been through a lot together. He’s been a thrill to coach.
I think there’s the ultimate trust from his family and him with how I’ve handled him, and certainly going to handle him now. I think they also witnessed that with how we handled Troy Murphy. I think that’s one thing I want to make sure I get out there that, you know, we’ll get the right information to him.
Now, having said that, do I want to coach the guy next year? Heck, yeah, I want to coach the guy next year. Have I pulled him aside at times and said, “Here is how we’re going to play if you come back, here is what we need to work on, here is how I need to make you more ready”? I’ve made no bones about that.
I’m not going to put any guilt trips on this young man as he evaluates this process. We owe it to him to look at this, all he’s done for this University. All I know when I walk around, there’s a lot of No. 1 jerseys on. Everything he’s done for this program, we owe him, get him the right info. We have time to evaluate this.
Bernadette Cafarelli: We’re ready to turn questions over to those on the line.
Q. You mentioned before that you talked to Jared Jeffries quite frequently. I know he was injured part of this year, didn’t play a lot. What was his mood like? What did he say the NBA life was for him?
Chris Thomas: Jared is always positive. He never really knew that he was hurt. Once he got hurt, he turned around and worked out the next day. The turns out he tore his ACL.
You know, he has just been real positive about me doing what I wanted to do, exploring all my options, made sure I stayed eligible. I think that’s been the biggest thing for me, is to hear from somebody who has had success at the college level and at the same time went to the NBA, you know, was a high lottery pick, did well while he was playing.
Q. I want to make sure I understand the process correctly. Your name is in now, but you can withdraw till June 18th if you’re not sure you’re going to be in the Top 20 or don’t like where your probable draft status is going to be.
Mike Brey: You can withdraw at any time. June 19th is the last day to pull your name out.
Q. Is there anything other than you would not project yourself to be as high as you would want to be that would cause you to drop out of the draft?
Chris Thomas: No, I don’t think so.
Q. Strictly come down to where you think would you fall in line?
Chris Thomas: You know, obviously there’s some other factors. But I think the big thing is where I would go this year. If it’s not where I wanted to go, I have no problem with coming back next year.
Q. Was there any point during the season in terms of matchups, games, where you kind of started thinking, “I could move on”? You guys had a lot of big games, you played against a lot of good players, TJ Ford, Steve Blake. Was there any point on the court where you thought you were ready to make the next step?
Chris Thomas: Well, I wouldn’t? I would never put my team in a situation where I felt like I wasn’t giving them a hundred percent. If I started to think about that while I was on the court during the season, you know, I feel like that would be an injustice to them and to myself.
Q. After you were done, were there games you could look back on and thought that you kind of proved yourself, that you did well in games where you tested yourself?
Chris Thomas: I think if you look at the season overall, we as a team could say that we played well. There were games where I played really well and there were times where I didn’t. I don’t think there was really any game that really stood out to me and decided that, “Hey, I want to enter my name this year. I deserve to be an NBA player because I had so-and-so numbers.” I don’t think there was a time like that that came to mind.
Bernadette Cafarelli: Thank you.
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