SDSU Men's Basketball News Conference Quotes
Jan. 7, 2013
SAN DIEGO -
San Diego State head coach Steve Fisher
"We are very excited about phase two of the season. Conference play always brings a higher level of energy, especially early. We're going to Fresno State, a new member of the Mountain West. We have played them before in my tenure here. Last time we played them we had a really hard-fought, close game at their place. I would expect more of the same. Our job is to make sure we're doing what we want to do, and getting better as we do it. So that's the challenge for us. I like 12-2, I like our team, but we must continue to demand of ourselves that we get better. This league is very, very good. I think the recognition nationally with the RPI, with Wyoming undefeated, with (UNLV), New Mexico, Colorado State, Boise State and on and on and on. This is a league that people across the country, when you say, `Mountain West,' you say `Good basketball.' And that's what it is. So you have to play well every game to have a chance to win, home or away. And that's exciting also. Little bit nerve-racking, but exciting. So we will be ready to go, and I'm counting on us playing well."
Not long ago the Mountain West had a stigma of to get an at-large (NCAA Tournament) berth, you could lose only one or two conference games and had make the conference championship game. Has that changed now for this conference?
"We'll I don't know how long ago, but I remember a couple years ago we had three or four teams in. So if you go way back to the first three or four years of existence, I would say you're right. But I think the last seven years or so, we've had multiple bids and more than one team in. The last two or three years, the reputation, RPI and non-conference schedule and winning has elevated our league. There's no question about it. Now with the RPI in our league being higher than almost all the other leagues, you don't kill yourself when you lose a conference game. When in years past, it hurt immensely because the prestige wasn't there. And I think what the teams have done, they've gotten better teams on their schedule and we've found ways to win, ourselves included."
This will be only the second game in 15 days, how do you make sure is rested but not coming out rusty?
"I'm not worried about that. I'm a bit concerned about the health of our team. We'll be ready to play. We will be excited to play. If we don't play well, it won't be because we had a time-span between say Arizona, one game, and the start of conference play. I don't think that's an issue. We've given them time off. We practice in a fashion that I think is important. We've done some live stuff, we've done some scrimmaging to emulate a game feel. I think we'll be fine with that.
Coach, when you mention you're a little concerned health-wise, who are the players in particular who are questionable?
"Xavier Thames, Xavier Thames and Xavier Thames (laughs). He's my No. 1 concern. DeShawn (Stephens), I don't know what it is, but he's got a shoulder issue that kept him out of some of yesterday's practice. I feel that DeShawn will play, and play really well for us. So I'm not as concerned about him, although when you miss practice that does impact a little bit. But I'm concerned about (Thames). I'm concerned about (Thames') back. We'll just have to see."
So will (Thames) be a game-time decision?
"I think he'll have to be. Yes."
Coach, can you describe the difference in the feeling around this program and this conference from when you started here to now?
"Well, it was a new league in 1999 and I'm the only coach still here. And there's several programs no longer here. But in the early, stages it was BYU-Utah, and everybody else was an afterthought, and maybe rightly so. Now, this is a league filled with high-caliber teams, top-25 teams, nationally-ranked teams, undefeated teams, and its grown immeasurably in quality. And we've lost those two teams, BYU and Utah. The pillars before are no longer even here. It's a very, very good basketball league. Again, we've won against Arizona, UCLA, Connecticut, North Carolina and teams like that. So we've beaten good programs. We've beat programs that have been long-standing pillars in the national rankings. And when you do that, you gain respect. The next step for the Mountain West would be to get a team to the Final Four. But we're highly regarded right now, and I think we're all proud of how we're viewed in a lot of places."
How does a conference lift itself like the Mountain West has? How does that happen?
"There are really good players in this league and exceptional coaches. Two programs - (UNLV) and New Mexico - and I don't want to slight either one of them when the league began, (UNLV) won a national championship and New Mexico has a tremendous tradition to their program. They're back where they've been and then some, with what (New Mexico coach) Steve Alford is doing there now. Wyoming, with the job (coach) Larry Shyatt has done in two years is unbelievable. So I think you get good players. Players want to go somewhere where No. 1, `How quick can I play?' `Will we win?' And, `Will we get recognition when we win?' And we've got all of the above now in a high-caliber league. Players recognize and know that. Here, we have a program now and we're proud of that fact. We've got great involvement with everybody. Our students love this team and they have helped make this team, and they're a part of the fabric of what we do. You come into this building, and there are very, very few that are better. We're as good as anybody when you walk in here and see the atmosphere in this building. When you win, it helps you be successful. A lot of schools have done that in our league repeatedly."
Coach, when you speak so highly of the Mountain West, and with all of the shakeups going on as far as colleges and conferences are concerned, is there a little bit of hope that San Diego State can stay in the conference?
"I'm going to reserve making a deep comment on that. I voiced my feelings to administration. We've got a schedule in place - if we're not in the Mountain West - that will be as tough of a non-conference schedule as there is in the United States of America. We'll play a schedule, regardless where we are, that will allow us to be success and get kids to want to come here. So I'm not obsessing over that. We'll wind up in a league where we're there for a reason. And we will act accordingly, and I don't think our recruiting will miss a beat regardless what league we're in."
Which teams has the bulls-eye on its back? Is it the Aztecs?
"I don't know that you would specifically say us. We're picked to win it in the coaches' poll by a little bit. But if you re-did it right now, I don't know if we'd be picked to win it. It's a good league, and I would say there's one on everybody. If I'm playing Wyoming in the opening game, I want to be the first team that beats them. So you could say that about seven teams in our league."
How has Chase (Tapley) developed as a player and as a person during his career here?
"Chase probably will go down as the winningest player ever to play at San Diego State over a four-year career. And he's been a four-year starter during that time span. He's been the guy that was an afterthought for the media to talk about, but he's been invaluable to us. And he's played and acted like a winner and a champion. Now, he's moved from behind the curtain to front-and-center where he's the guy we expect to get 15 shots and 20 points. He's playing terrific. He's playing the best basketball of his career, and you hope your seniors do that. What (Tapley) has done is he's elevated his defensive capacity, where now you put him on a shooter on another team, and he says, `I'm not going to let that guy get a clean look.' You watch (Tapley) when he's guarding a guy that's known to be a scorer, and he's terrific in how he plays. Gets his hands on a lot of balls. So every part of his game has grown and he's going to go down as one of the best players to come through San Diego State.
San Diego State senior Chase Tapley
You've only had one game in 15 days, does that make you rested or rusty?
"I'll just say rested. It was very good rest and it gives us a lot of time to prepare of a new opponent."
Now that conference play has started, there's quite a few teams ranked. Can you talk a little bit about the strength of the Mountain West conference?
"It just shows the Mountain West is becoming one of the top conferences on the west coast. You've got a lot of teams doing well and Wyoming is still undefeated. On any given night each team can beat anyone. The Mountain West is getting pretty difficult."
In your opinion, is this the best the Mountain West has been in your time here at San Diego State?
"I'd have to say the last couple years it's been the best. The conference has really been on the rise and I just hope it keeps on building that way."
What's your personal mindset since you've been here for a while and this will be your last Mountain West conference season?
"It hasn't hit me yet, but I think leaving (for Fresno) tomorrow will be the eye-opener. This being the first conference game of my last season, I just want to go out with a bang."
Do you guys feel like the team has a bulls-eye on it?
"Yes of course. With all the writers and everyone saying we're one of the top teams in the conference, we always knew there was a bulls-eye on our back. When we started this season, we felt there was a bulls-eye on our back every game we played. From the high-stake games to the low-stake games, we always had a bulls-eye on our back. And going into conference (play) it's even greater."
Do you still have a bad taste in your mouth from the Arizona game?
"No, I don't have a bad taste. I'm happy for (Arizona) and what they're doing in their conference, and we still have to take care of business on our side."
You've been shooting 3-pointers well lately, is that something you've worked on this past offseason?
"I would say yes. Working with say Kawhi (Leonard), really just working on techniques and one-dribble pull-ups. I always worked on my 3-point shot because my dad always told me, `Everyone could use a 3-point shooter.' I just wanted to keep improving. I didn't want to stay the same or regress. I just wanted to make sure I just got better and better on things I do well, and improve on things I don't do well."
What do you guys need to do to become a No. 2 or No. 3-seed come March?
"We've got to stay focused, keep our intensity at a high level and not take any days off. Just have the confidence of knowing what we have and what we can do on the court. If we do that, it will take care of itself when it comes to March."
If you're going to be an actor, is it going to be comedy, drama, action-adventure or another?
"All. All of the above. I can do it all."
What's your favorite (movie) quote?
"That's hard. It depends on the situation. It just clicks."
Do you have a favorite movie?
"'He Got Game.' It has to be a basketball one. Great movie."
What have you learned from coach Fisher as not just a player, but as a person?
"As a person, there's so many things. How much of a stand-up a guy he is. He really has your best interests as a person, not just on the court but off the court too. I'd say he's the nicest little guy you could meet. He's done so much for me since my freshman year here to now. Just a guy I can go to talk to, and is always there to listen to you. Some coaches, they hear you, but (Fisher) really listens. He always wants to do something for you before it comes back to him. I'm just appreciative for coach (Fisher), and like I say all the time, he's the best coach in the country when it comes to that."
How has the Mountain West conference changed during your years here?
"When I first committed to San Diego State and the Mountain West, people were saying, `Geez, the Mountain West?' People were talking about Big 12 and Pac-12. And from my freshman year to now, each and every year just got harder and harder and harder. More good players started to come and it got more competitive. Four teams going into the NCAA Tournament (last year) just shows how the Mountain West has risen to one of the top programs on the west coast. It still amazes me that now everyone wants to be in the Mountain West. And I can say that proudly."
Do you have any idea why that's happened?
"I don't. I guess it's TV. They see us on TV and see how hard we play other teams. Every time you see a Mountain West team playing against a top program, you see our teams winning the game or in the game and losing in the three minutes. The Mountain West is just a competitive league with great players. Players really accept their roles on their team and teams have great coaches."
Could you imagine San Diego State not being in the Mountain West conference?
"I can't imagine it, but like Jamaal (Franklin) said the other night, we have no control over that. To me it would look weird, but you've just got to move on to something new."
San Diego State senior DeShawn Stephens
DeShawn, can you talk about Fresno State and what you've seen from them?
"I guess they're new to the conference so that's a little different for us. We don't really know them as much as the rest of the teams. But from what we do know, they're really a good team. They're not a team to take lightly, so we've just got to go in prepared and ready to play Aztec basketball."
Is there excitement about starting conference play?
"Definitely. It's just like a brand-new season to us. It's pretty much 0-0 for everybody, so it's really exciting."
The fact that (Fresno State) is new, is that a good thing or a bad thing? Would you rather play them later?
"It just makes it a bigger game. The fact that we don't know them, we have to play that much harder."
What does Chase bring to the team personality-wise?
"Chase is definitely a character. Regardless how everybody else is feeling, mad or sad or anything, eventually he's going to get you to laugh and put a smile on your face because he's really funny. When it's time to clamp down, he gets in peoples face. He'll let you know it's time to go. He definitely has his mind in the right place at the right times."
San Diego State sophomore J.J. O'Brien
How much do you look at Fresno State's games against your common opponents?
"We watch a lot of those tapes, because the only way to really know how we match up against them is to see how they matched up against our opponents. I've never played against them and they're new to the conference. The main things that we watch are the plays they run and how they did against the teams that we played."
What have you seen from (Fresno State)?
"They're a good team. They have great offensive rebounders, their guard-play is pretty good. They're a good overall team. In conference (play), you can't really go off records. Every game is going to be a tough game."
What does Chase bring to the team personality-wise?
"I always say Chase is an actor (laughs). If he doesn't play basketball in the future, he's going to be an actor one day. He knows every quote to every movie. He definitely brings the mood up. When people are down he gets us going. He sets the tone for practices and games. He's the guy that we feed off of."