March 15, 2007
AN INTERVIEW WITH:
THE MODERATOR: We’ll take questions for the student athletes.
Q. Russell, this question is for you. Can you talk about just the environment, the setting here. Does it feel like just another standard four team tournament to you guys? Or is this kind of a different animal?
Russell Carter: We really don’t know. This is our first time being here. We’re definitely excited to play. Winthrop is a talented team. We’re ready to get this thing going tomorrow morning.
Q. I realize you guys have been asked this question ad nauseum, so I beg forgiveness before asking. Can you talk about Kyle’s suspension and whether that was a turning point and a rallying cry, how you guys managed to respond to it as well as you did.
Colin Falls: I just think it was one of those things that the whole team rallied around each other and really made Tory feel comfortable and made him know that he was needed. He’s been great down the stretch. And I think you’ve got to credit Coach Brey for bringing him along.
Q. Rob, would you tackle that one as well, please.
Rob Kurz: If anything, I think his suspension brought the team closer together. I think obviously losing Kyle is a big loss for us, but Kyle’s done a great job Tory has done a great job filling in for Kyle.
I think we’ve gotten a lot better since that time. Tory has done a great job.
Q. Colin and Russ, you guys have talked all year about how this is the goal to be here for the first time as seniors. Are you start to go get excited? Does this feel like what you had hoped for?
Colin Falls: Yeah, I think so. We’re getting a little anxious, too. We got here Tuesday night. We just want to play tomorrow. I can’t wait to go to sleep tonight and wake up and play tomorrow morning.
Russell Carter: Just what he said. We’re definitely excited to play. It’s the first tournament game. It’s definitely going to be memorable. We’re ready to get out there and put on the uniforms.
Q. Playing right off the bat, saying that you guys are getting a little anxious, does it help that you have that first game instead of sifting around?
Colin Falls: Yeah. There’s a bunch of advantages. We get an hour to warm up instead of 25 minutes. We don’t have to sit around and watch other teams play all day and wait there. We wake up, eat breakfast, and get over to the gym.
Q. You guys talked a little bit about Tory. Could you be a little bit more specific about how he’s overcome just having to pick up the team sort of in the middle of the season and some of the specific things he does out there on the court that maybe make him not seem like a freshman out there.
Colin Falls: I think he was put in as difficult a position as you could be in. Not only was he a freshman, but this kind of wake up call, his kind of wake up call was in the Big East. He didn’t get 12, 13 games in the Big East to get in the flow. It showed early on. He got more and more confident. He doesn’t have to really look over to the seniors and captains for advice. He’s kind of just doing his own thing. He’s playing his best basketball of the season right now.
Q. Colin, Winthrop’s gotten a lot of media attention the last couple of weeks. How are you guys approaching that? Are you looking at your selves as the underdog in this game in a way?
Colin Falls: I think so. They’ve got Big East caliber talent. They’ve been in this tournament a bunch of times. And all you really read and see is that we’re the underdog in this game, so we’re just playing like that.
Q. Russell, will you take this one as well, please.
Russell Carter: Like Colin said, they are a Big East caliber team. They’re real talented. It’s going to be a very challenging game. Everyone has picked them to win. So we just use that as motivation.
Throughout the course of our season in the beginning we weren’t given that much credit. We always use motivation to push us harder in the game and in practice. It’s going to be a scrappy game tomorrow. We’re up for it.
Q. A lot has been made of it’s Winthrop and maybe you guys are underdogs and there have been a lot of stories written about them. But in reality it’s been a few years since you’ve been to the NCAA tournament. It is the big dance. If you lose, the season is over. Does it matter who you’re playing?
Colin Falls: No. Everyone has talked about our seeding, should we get a 5 or 6. You’re going to have to play good basketball teams no matter the round, no matter the seeds. You’re going to have to beat good teams to advance.
Rob Kurz: I think Colin is right. It doesn’t matter what rank you’re in, you’re going to play a really good team. I think Winthrop is a great team. And we’re excited for the challenge. Seeding doesn’t matter at this point. You just have to play and see what happens.
Q. When you guys say they have Big East talent, what exactly are you referring to there?
Colin Falls: You just look at them, they’re a mid major and they have 6 8, 6 9 front line, athletic strong wings that can shoot the basketball. The reason they’re a mid major is because they have 66 post players, things like that. They’ve got big athletic bodies.
Q. Before the Georgetown game you guys had won six in a row. Would you kind of talk about peaking heading into this tournament and how important that is. And do you feel you’re doing that?
Colin Falls: Yeah. I feel like we’re in a great rhythm. Even losing to Georgetown, we kind of just wish we had another five minutes in overtime or something like that because we feel like we’re playing great right now. We’re playing the best basketball we have all season, and our young guys have really come along.
Russell Carter: Definitely peaking at the right time. Everyone is finding their role. We’re playing with a lot of passion out there and having fun. Is as long as we keep them we’re going to keep it going as long as possible.
THE MODERATOR: We’ll go ahead and ask coach Mike Brey, University of Notre Dame to make a brief opening statement. And then we’ll turn it open to questions. Coach? ?
COACH Mike Brey: Obviously thrilled to be playing in this thing. Really excited for my two seniors that they’ll get a chance to experience the NCAA tournament before they graduate. We’re playing a heck of a basketball team in Winthrop. We feel they’re very much like a Big East team with their talent, but we’re playing well.
We’re loose and we’re having fun, and we love Spokane because I feel it’s a pretty good Irish, ND, town. I’m getting good vibes for The Spoke. It’s my new nickname for the town.
Q. You talked about and your players mentioned it, too, about Winthrop being a Big East caliber team. What makes them that kind of a team?
COACH Mike Brey: I think the length of their big guys. They have length like Big East teams that we’ve played against. Speed, skill, and quickness on the perimeter. Greg has done a great job of Big East, ACC talent at Winthrop. He’s done a fabulous job. Here’s a great example. They have two guys invited to Portsmith. I have one. That kind of tells you their talent level.
Certainly they’re old. They’ve played together. I can relate to that. I had teams at Delaware that, as they got old together, they really know each other; and are very ready to play. Since Gary, as you know, since really mid January, maybe starting with the Carolina game, they’ve been kind of talked about as possibly being this year’s George Mason. We’ve got our hands full. They’re really, really talented.
Q. Are your players tired of hearing about the Cinderella team on the other side and the possible comparison to Winthrop?
COACH Mike Brey: I don’t think so. We started the season with Big East Media Day 11th in the preseason poll and maybe we were an NIT team. So this is very familiar territory to us. Our guys have been very even keeled emotionally.
As a matter of fact, I think they should celebrate wins more, but they don’t. I think they’ve taken it in stride.
They’ve gone through a grueling Big East season and have gotten better and matured. I think all the periphery stuff, this group has done a good job of never really getting into all that and just concentrating on playing.
Q. Tory was obviously thrust into the starting line up in not such ideal circumstances. Can you sort of talk about Russell and Colin and how their maturity kind of helped assimilate him into the starting line up?
COACH Mike Brey: You’re right. When Tory Jackson takes over January 1, you’re almost kind of saying to him, Tory, we have an NCAA tournament resume going here, don’t screw it up.
I don’t know if a young guy has ever been thrown into a tougher situation in the history of our program. We’d have to ask some of our long time ND followers. And talk about delivering and getting better and getting more confident. You’re right in your comment that, as I talked to our two senior captains, Falls and Carter, I told them in early January, I said, what you will say to him will be as much and many times more powerful than what I’ll say to him now down the stretch of the Big East season. They have done a great job of bringing him along and keeping him confident.
Q. I don’t know if this has been asked already. Do you feel like your team and Winthrop are somewhat similar when you look at them?
COACH Mike Brey: Well, yeah. One of their things this week as we prepared, you’re talking about big guys with Winthrop that can step out and shoot. Well, the great way to work against that is just practice against ourselves, because we certainly have that, perimeter big guys who can step out and be threats out on the perimeter. Certainly in Kurz and Zeller.
But there are some similarities. They actually use the 3 point shot more than we do. We do a little stat weekly in league play, percentage of field goal attempts that are 3 point attempts in our league.
Well, West Virginia obviously has been up there the last couple of years. Half of their shots are 3’s. This team, 40 percent of their shots are 3 point shots. That would be second in the Big East. We’re about fourth or fifth in the Big East percentage of 3 point field goals.
So as far as shooting the ball, guarding shooters, we do that every day in practice. We have to guard guys that can shoot it, guarding big guys who can step out, make a pass, make a play, we have to do that in practice.
They do it very well. They run their sets. They get into their motion. It’s a group that’s played together for a while. They know each other really well.
Q. Can you talk about Tory Jackson and the job he’s done in taking over that spot?
COACH Mike Brey: Yeah. I’ve been thrilled with him. Just to hand him the ball January 1, as I said earlier, you have an NCAA tournament resume kind of going before the Big East starts. You’re ranked. And you’re kind of saying to the kid, hey, can you not screw this up, Tory, because we’re pretty good. He’s just gotten better and better. In the first league game against Louisville, he was fabulous. It was his second start. Our two seniors have really helped keep him confident and really nurture him.
Q. It’s an odd situation tomorrow with Colin to where you don’t know that the next game is guaranteed. Do you sit and talk to him about that as far as not trying to do too much and thinking about, oh, my God, this could be my last game of my career.
COACH Mike Brey: I don’t think so, Tom, because I don’t want to get into the overly coaching and over psychologically dealing with our guys. We have been in a I know it was used so much in New York they were making fun of me saying I was leading the Hippie Conference. We got good karma, man. There’s good karma around this group. I don’t want to shake it up too much. It’s moving pretty good. We’re playing well. We’re having fun. We’re playing loose. I just want to kind of keep channeling that. I am getting deep, aren’t I? Just listen to me.
Q. Torrell Martin has always been a very strong energy guy for Winthrop. This could be his last game tomorrow as well. What do you see in Torrell, and is he a key piece to stopping them?
COACH Mike Brey: I think he’s a key piece. He’s the swagger in the big games. Wisconsin and Carolina especially when I watched those games, he was the guy who made the rest of them believe. The Carolina game was obviously very evident. Where was that game, Greensboro? Charlotte. That was Charlotte. His body language, guys fed off of him at Wisconsin, seven 3’s. They were dead in the water. He’s coming back. He’s talking in the huddles. He’s a very skilled player. He’s an NBA prospect. But his demeanor gives the rest of them confidence and makes them believe.
Q. When you hear things like Winthrop is this year’s George Mason, what does that do inside your head?
COACH Mike Brey: I think you respect that. There’s no question. I watched the Carolina game. I’m watching basketball early in the season. I was very impressed with them. I know their track record. I know the job Greg has done down there. It’s been fabulous.
And watching a little bit of tape against Wisconsin, watching their final. And again they’ve kind of been touted nationally by a lot of people as that. They certainly have the parts. We respect that.
Again we’re preparing like it’s a Big East game. It’s a Big East game. They’ve got Big East players. We went through our scouting report like we were preparing for Louisville or Villanova, we respect them. They’re a heck of a basketball team. But we feel we’re playing pretty darn well. We’re dreaming big dreams, too, now. We’re out here dreaming big dreams. Believe me.
Q. Do you feel it helps that you have the early game so that way these guys who haven’t been there before aren’t sitting around?
COACH Mike Brey: Well, we’ve played some noon games. I don’t know if Winthrop has ever played early in the day. I was trying to look through their schedule in the Big South. I think they probably played evening games for the most part. But we played some noon games, 1:00 games.
I think it is a good thing in the NCAA tournament. I’ve been fortunate to be part of this thing a lot. The last time we were a 6 seed my first year we played at 10:10 p.m. in Kansas City on Friday. We watched everybody play. We were bouncing off the walls.
I think to wake up tomorrow, quick pre game meal, get over here, start sweating and play is a good thing.
Q. You mentioned Portsmith a little bit. Is Russell the guy who can you kind of breakdown his game for me? What’s his skill set that led to that?
COACH Mike Brey: Russell Carter is a great story because it was us and William and Mary for this young man. He’s a great student, could really score the ball in high school. For two years he had a hard time finding minutes on our perimeter. I really respect him because most kids in this day and time would have transferred. He hung in. He kept fighting. He kept swinging. He believed. He became easier to play with, which was a key both offensively and defensively. And it’s really a great story. At the end of last year he was probably one of the most improved players the last month of the Big East season. This year behind Herbert Hill he probably was second in the voting. I don’t know the votes, but I would guess he would have been the most improved. And at one time this year in January somebody said, has the most improved ever been a Player of the Year, too. And of course the kid from Providence could have been talked in that light, too, and so was Carter.
He drives us. He’s a high energy guy. He can put numbers on the board quick. There’s a toughness about him that, like Martin for them, he gives us a motor that really helps. And he and I have had great arguments. It has just been awesome. When he comes back for reunions, there are going to be so many great stories. It’s great. He’s good because he’s hard headed. That’s why he’s good.
FastScripts by ASAPSports.com…