March 21, 2008
Q. Kyle, I’d like to ask you about Luke. We’ve seen him as a player, but go a bit more in depth as kind of a goofball, if you would. Tell us the last time you pulled a prank with the masks.
Kyle McAlarney: Uhm, yeah, he’s a little bit of a prankster, a little bit of a goofball. Just a fun guy to hang around with. Always looking to have a good time.
He’s always the instigator of just trying to pull off, you know, a joke on someone. Like I said, just trying to have a good time with a bunch of guys. You know, with the mask thing, I think the last time we used it was a while ago, probably around Halloween. We scared one of the freshmen, Tim Abromaitis. Knocked on his window, stood outside his window with the masks on (laughter).
Q. What did he do?
Luke Harangody: Got a little scared. That was about it (smiling).
Q. Are the masks on the trip? Did you bring them with you?
Luke Harangody: They did not make the trip.
Q. Have there been any further pranks outside of the masks beyond that or was that the end of it?
Kyle McAlarney: No, no. That’s definitely not the end of it.
Q. Is there something else you could tell us for publication in a family newspaper?
Q. What are your impressions of the Washington State point guard?
Kyle McAlarney: I’ve watched them a couple times this season. They’re a very good team. He makes them go. He’s very solid, under control, a very good shooter. We’re going to have our hands full.
Tory Jackson: I agree with Kyle. He’s a great floor general. He know how to lead his team. He’s very tough. He know how to score. So, you know, we got to go out there and be ready to stop him. If we can stop him, we’ve got a good chance.
Q. If you happen to collide with Aron Baynes sometime tomorrow, would you expect that impact to open a crack on the basketball court?
Luke Harangody: Yeah, no, from what I’ve seen of him, he’s a big dude. 6’11”, 270, it should be a good battle inside between him and me tomorrow. I think he’s such a strong fundamental player. It’s going to be a challenge for me to go up against him.
Q. Rob, there’s a story when Luke was a freshman, he was surprised he might be put into the starting lineup. He said he felt out of his element battling you the summer before. What did you see out of him when you first starting playing against him? What have you seen in his growth?
Rob Kurz: I think, first of all, any time a high school kid comes into a college, is playing in the summertime, it’s an adjustment period. We saw right from the beginning that he had a ton of potential, he was very skilled, had great touch in the low post. It was just a matter of time before he put it all together. A month into his freshman season, he was playing great. He was starting for us. The rest is kind of history.
Q. Kyle, can you describe what it was like for you to have to watch last year’s tournament. With the result, describe what that was like at the time, what that did for you in the off-season and going through this season.
Kyle McAlarney: It was very hard. It was very tough to watch this team, you know, get bounced out in the first round knowing that, you know, if I was there, I could have helped them out a lot. It was tough. It was a tough time for me, my family.
But, you know, that’s all in the past. You know, it’s amazing how far you can come in a year. Looking back now, you know, I’m so much more of a better person and a better teammate. And I hope my teammates realize that. You know, I think, you know, the fact that we got bounced out in the first round last year really — we really used that as motivation to stay more focused this year and to focus on the goal and not be so wide-eyed being in the NCAA tournament, but focusing on the goal, surviving and advancing.
Q. Rob, you guys average 80 points a game. Washington State has given up 80 points one time this year. How patient do you have to be? Is that a concern that you lose your patience against a team that is used to slowing the pace down?
Rob Kurz: You know, I don’t think it’s a concern at all. I think for us, we have to make sure we get great shots on every possession because they like to slow the game down. Every possession becomes that much more important. You know, we know they’re a very good defensive team. But we’ve proven all year long that we’re one of the best offensive teams in the country. We just have to make sure we do a good job of executing and getting great shots every possession.
Q. Kyle, where did you watch the game last year? Was there ever a thought that you weren’t going to come back to this team?
Kyle McAlarney: I watched it at my house, just on my couch. Yeah, I mean, when I first got suspended, I thought that, you know, I was almost 99% sure that I wasn’t going to come back here just off my emotions alone. When Coach Brey visited me at my house, it really opened things up for me. If he can come and set his emotions aside and stick his neck out for one of his players, I just felt like, you know, if I set my emotions aside, what’s the best decision I can make for my future. You know, I really missed being with the guys and enjoying the camaraderie in the locker room, everything like that. You know, I just wanted to come back to this group of guys. It’s a great group. We’re very close. We have a lot of fun together. On top of that, we’re a very good basketball team. Then I get to play for Coach Brey. All those factors put together is really why I chose to come back.
Q. Tory, can you talk about, certainly with Kyle out last season you matured a lot in your game… Can you talk about the benefits you got from that, then the transition of having him out there with you?
Tory Jackson: Even though he was gone, it was still like he was a part of us. We kept contact. We communicated a lot, you know, during the season. During the post-season, we saw him actually during the BIG EAST tournament when we was in New York. We kept in contact with him a lot. And I felt like he was always there. The advice he gave me, you know, helped me out a lot. He just told me to go out there and play. You know, he took a lot of pressure off of me, just talking to me, you know, kind of guiding me. Coach Brey did a good job of just bringing me in the office every day, just telling me the pressure wasn’t on me. He helped me out. You know, he kind of put everything on him. If I made a mistake, he kind of put it on him. It made it easier for me.
That adjustment when Kyle left, it was a smooth ride. Now that he’s back, I mean, it’s even easier for me, you know, to see him in the back court with me, that takes a lot of pressure off of me. He can help bring up the ball, stuff like that. So, you know, what happened last year, it made him better and it made me better also.
Kyle McAlarney: I played against Tory when he first came in as a freshman. More than anyone else, I knew how good he was and how ready he was to play the game. It was just a matter of — any time you’re a high school guard, point guard, coming into a college game, it’s hard to adjust. It’s only a matter of time before you adjust to the speed of the game and make good decisions with the ball and stuff like that. So I knew how good he was just playing against him all summer. I was very confident when I left that, you know, he was going to lead the team to have a lot of wins and hopefully to the tournament, which he did. He did a great job. What he did last year was pretty amazing being a freshman thrown into the fire like that. He deserves all the credit in the world for that.
But coming this year, I was so excited to get to play alongside him because, you know, our games really complement each other really well. We have a special bond off the court that really helps us on the court. He said I make things easier for him. But in reality, he makes things, you know, a lot easier for me. Sometimes I just feel like he knows where I am on the court and we have that kind of connection. I think, you know, we’re one of the strongest backcourts in the country.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, guys. Appreciate it. Good luck tomorrow. We’re now joined by Notre Dame coach Mike Brey. Who wants to begin questions?
Q. Almost all the games yesterday, yours included, one team went on a huge run to take control and kept control from there. You had the huge run. Do you have to kind of brace yourselves, with a five versus four matchup? I imagine both games you’re going to have to prepare for a slugfest, battle it out the whole way.
COACH BREY: I agree. We prepare and think about game situations, as we call them, something we practice every day, you know, low clock, getting the ball inbounds against pressure, when you’re up, defending a three-point shot at the end of the game. That’s where my mind goes to now. It also goes that way because of the way our opponent plays, too. You know, as far as really wanting to play halfcourt basketball.
Q. You average 80 a game. They’ve given up 80 one time this season. Is that a concern that your team will lose its patience? You say you don’t ever want to slow it down. Against a team like this, is it even more important that you run?
COACH BREY: Yeah, I think it’s important for us to run on makes and misses as much as we can and not necessarily, you know — doesn’t mean we’re necessarily going to force the transition, but to make them change ends. I think one of the advantages we had last night was our opponent was fatigued. I feel our conditioning, we’ve been running all year, and certainly we’re plugged into this altitude thing now. I thought we really looked fresh running last night. I think that could be an advantage for us. You know, we can play both ways. We’ve had to play slow and fast in our league. We’ve had to adjust. I think that’s what tomorrow is for us: playing slow, playing fast, recognizing when it’s becoming more halfcourt, and being smart about it.
Q. How important is tempo? Are you comfortable going halfcourt or full court? How important is the team that dictates tempo?
COACH BREY: I think we’ll be comfortable either way. That’s what we’re prepared for. We’ve talked about that. We want to be — we want to try to get some transition stuff because that’s how we play. We’ve been in games in our league, probably most recently St. John’s, where we’ve had to grind at home 40 minutes, halfcourt defense, halfcourt offense. I thought we’ve concentrated and not gotten frustrated and been focused. You know, you have to be patient defensively, too, because they’re methodical in what they do in their halfcourt stuff.
Q. What is it like coaching basketball at a school associated with the most famous football team in the world?
COACH BREY: Well, I mean, the one thing, I’m the biggest football fan on campus. Notre Dame football is great for us in the fall. There’s nothing like those weekends to entertain recruits.
I think the energy and the passion of basketball and football go hand-in-hand. There’s no question that the football season usually jump-starts our fan base. But, you know, I think we both can be good. We’ve got a great all-sports program. You look at our Olympic sports, as well. But certainly I’m our biggest football fan. There’s no question about it when the fall rolls around.
Q. You were preaching rebounding and defense going into the George Mason game. What is the message you’re trying to get across to the guys now for Saturday?
COACH BREY: I don’t want to get away from rebounding too much because it’s going to be even more of a challenge against this front line that Washington State — but rebounding I think’s going to be a key for us. Their front line is really physical. We have to be even better than we were last night. One of the things rebounding did for us last night, it reminded our guys of how we get to run if we rebound. I think we lost that a little bit in the last couple games in the BIG EAST tournament game.
Q. From a matchup standpoint, is Weaver Washington State’s Campbell?
COACH BREY: Great comparison. That’s what I talked about this morning. We went over scouting. Very similar games. And a key to their team, like Campbell was with Mason, Weaver for Washington State. Does many of the same things. He does ’em better. You know, he’s bigger, he’s longer. So he’s even a tougher matchup than Campbell, but very similar to their team and how he plays.
Q. I’m wondering the Baynes versus Harangody matchup, how physical might that be?
COACH BREY: I think, again, we’re going to have a lot of different bodies on him, like we had on Thomas last night. You have to rotate guys. I thought we did a good job between Kurz, Harangody, Zeller and Hillesland, rotating fresh, big guys on Thomas. Baynes has got that Aaron Gray physical presence. That’s the comparison I made so our guys to relate to the body type. And you’re not going to have a lot of help down there because we can’t really come down and help you ’cause they’re so good from the three-point line.
Q. Did you notice any difference from the guys today leading into the George Mason game?
COACH BREY: Not really. I think we’ve been loose but focused and businesslike about things. You know, certainly not satisfied, knowing we have a chance to move on and play next weekend is something they’re dreaming about earning.
Q. Washington State’s leading scorer, Derrick Low, 0-5 in the first half, then 11 points in the first 10 minutes of the second half. Did the same thing at UCLA. Is he a guy that you’re concerned about as far as getting on a run like that?
COACH BREY: I think it starts with Derrick Low, your concerns about Washington State, because of that right there. The explosiveness at any time. I think one of the things that sets Washington State aside from a lot of other teams is how old they are. They’ve got men that have been together for a while. He certainly is one of them. And they never really panic. If they haven’t made a shot for 10 minutes or 12 minutes or 20 minutes, they keep doing what they do every possession, every play. It’s predictable, it’s consistent. He’s probably the greatest example of being poised and waiting for his time.
Q. You talked a lot last night with the game Zach and Tory had. How critical will they be tomorrow? How much do you need them down the road in the tournament?
COACH BREY: They’re very critical tomorrow. There’s no question about it. Zach Hillesland I thought was fabulous, not only defending Campbell but getting out in transition and rebounding the basketball for us and even defending in the post.
Tory Jackson gives us a toughness, you know, every minute that he’s out there. He had a couple big rebounds. He had a key drive. Those guys are really key guys.
We’re gonna need all eight of our guys in the rotation. It may only be a couple minutes from a guy off the bench, but they’ve got to be really good minutes to beat a team like Washington State.
Q. Your impressions of the Washington State point guard and his defense?
COACH BREY: Again, their maturity is what impresses me. These guys are old. When you look down a roster and you see a senior, junior, senior, senior, junior. You don’t see any freshman. You see one sophomore in the rotation. You know, they’re excellent defensively as a team. I don’t know if you would just say they’re great individual defenders and this guy’s a lock-down guy. Everything the Washington State program does, they do it as a unit really well, offensively, defensively, help each other, count on each other. I think that’s why they’ve been so consistent.
Q. Do you know any player that’s given up a scholarship?
COACH BREY: I haven’t known anything like that. I’m going to ask two of my guys to do that when I get back (laughter).
Talk about taking one for the team. I mean, that’s pretty powerful. But, you know, it kind of tells you the makeup of this young man. I looked at his travels. I believe he’s from Tulane, correct? He came from Tulane. Now he’s found a spot. He is one of the better guards, not only in the PAC-10 but in the country. When I looked at him, watching him a lot since last night, crafty. He’s really crafty.
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