#AztecMBB NCAA Pre-Tournament News Conference Quotes
March 21, 2013
THE MODERATOR: We will it open up to questions for the student athletes.
Q. This is the fourth straight year for you guys. Have you gotten used to kind of all the festivities, and is that something that you guys are just more accustomed to now?
Chase Tapley: Yeah, for me, I mean, coming as a freshman, I've been in this tournament every single year, so very accustomed to the tournament with the festivities and everything, just the whole experience is just something I look forward to every year. I'm just happy to be here and I'm grateful to be here.
Jamaal Franklin: I'm going to relate to what Chase said, being here every time since I've been playing college basketball, so I'm thankful to be here, and as far as being a 7 seed, I feel like that's a blessing and we're starting to get respect.
Xavier Thames: Yeah, what they said. It's a blessing to be here. It's my second year coming here. I knew San Diego State was an NCAA Tournament team and that's one of the reasons I came here, so I'm just blessed.
Q. Jamaal, can you talk a little bit about Coach Fisher and what makes him so effective as a coach, what drew you to him, and now having played for him for three years what you've come away with thinking or the reasons why he's so successful?
Jamaal Franklin: Coach Fisher is a unique coach. He allows his players to play their game and play with freedom. A lot of coaches won't allow players to do what he does and he also connects to you as more than just a coach. He's more of a father figure to us coming into the games, and he's always there for us and has our back through thick and thin.
Q. When you look at sort of the tournament now you've got McDermott obviously over there and McCollum and yourself, can you sort of explain the idea of a star at a small school and sort of how it happens and can you recount your own recruiting process and how that sort of worked out?
Jamaal Franklin: I never looked at the star figure of it. I just look at playing hard and winning, and if you play good with these guys that sit next to me and you worry about winning, everything works out for everybody.
Q. The Sooners have kind of blown some leads this season late in the season. Do you feel like you're going to be in this game no matter how much they may be up or you may be up?
Xavier Thames: I think it's going to be a hard-fought game no matter what. It's the NCAA Tournament, so we've got to come out and be prepared. Oklahoma is a great team. We've just got to come out and be prepared. I'm sure the coach will have us prepared. It's going to be a hard-fought game.
Jamaal Franklin: I think the game is going to be good. It's an NCAA Tournament so nobody wants to lose. I think every game in the NCAA Tournament is hard fought, but at the same time we've been through being up 18 and we've been down 18 and came back, so we're ready for every situation.
Chase Tapley: We just have to go back on our experiences like Jamal said. We've been down and blew leads like that. It's going to come down to who's going to make the right plays physically and mentally, so we've just got to keep focus and maintain a steady performance for a whole 40 minutes and just not 20.
Q. Jamaal, you stuff the stat sheet in a lot of positive ways, but turnovers has been an issue for you. How do you try to negate some of the turnovers?
Jamaal Franklin: Just play my game. You've been watching the games lately. My turnovers have been down. It's been some games where I had six or seven, but my turnovers have been down to two at the most in the last 15 games. I've just got to make sure I play my game and play consistent and get my teammates open.
Q. You've talked about experience in the NCAA Tournament. I mean, Chase, you've been here four times. What are some of the particulars? Where does experience help? Is it the press conference? Is it knowing how to go through the practice? Where do you think it is really the most valuable?
Chase Tapley: For me, you've just got to be ready to play. This is the biggest stage of them all, so when the lights are on, I guess you want to feel like you're playing your best basketball. Experience, yeah, it's going to come in a factor, but like I said, it's going to be the team who makes the right plays at the right time that's going to be successful. We've just got to have that.
Jamaal Franklin: There's no jitters. You're not nervous. You're happy to be here, but you're not excited and overanxious and ready to play. We've already been here before, so we're expecting to just play our game and just act like we're at Aztec arena playing against a good team in Oklahoma.
Xavier Thames: Yeah, like they said, just got to be coming here, excited to play. Chase has been here for four years so he knows what's going on, Jamal, three. This is my second year, and most of the guys on the team have been here before, but like Chase and Jamal said, we've just got to come out ready to play and be mentally focused.
Q. Chase and Xavier, Jamal mentioned that Coach has that father figure aspect to him. Can both of you kind of address maybe times that he's helped you individually, sort of filled that role for you guys and helped you along?
Xavier Thames: Well, with me, off the court he's always there for me with school, anything else with my family situation. My dad had cancer this past summer. He just always called up and checked on my dad and my and my mom and my family. He's just always there no matter what the situation is.
Chase Tapley: For me, there's so many examples I can go with, but my freshman year with a class, I didn't do too well in it, and he just responded how my father responded, so from then on, I was just like, yeah, I made the right decision. He's just there, cares about everything else besides basketball. That's why he's who he is in Coach Fisher.
Q. Jamaal, you mentioned before how you're starting to get some respect with the seed that you got. I guess the next thing is you're consistently in the tournament now but now it's to consistently win in the tournament. Is there a sense of that within the team, just like it's time to start winning games? You guys had a run a couple years ago, but two out of the three years you lost in the first round.
Jamaal Franklin: Yeah, of course it's always a thing to win. I think nobody comes to the tournament expecting just to be happy to be here one game and lose. So we are coming here trying to win games just like the best teams in this tournament, and we feel we're one of the best tournament and we can win a lot of games. We are ready to play and I know Oklahoma is ready to play, so it's going to be a good game coming in tomorrow.
Q. You guys obviously had very high expectations for the season and so did the fans, and you've talked about that. Do you feel like having been in the NCAA Tournament, knowing how big a deal this is and how it can define a season that if you win alone on Friday it'll I don't want to say save the season, but it will change perception of the season in most people's minds?
Chase Tapley: Haven't really looked at it like that, but fans are fans. They support us throughout this whole season. They're expecting a lot. I'm so proud of my teammates for how we fought, and we're in this tournament. We made the tournament, so we've just got to put it all out there on the floor, and let everything else just take care of itself.
Jamaal Franklin: Fans are going to be fans. They're going to love you when you're doing good, hate you when you're doing bad. All the chat lines, talk stuff about us, they chat when we do good. But at the same time you've got to play for your brothers in that locker room and the coaching staff because at the end of the day we're the ones doing the blood, sweat and tears, not the fans. They're just sitting there cheering.
Xavier Thames: Fans are going to be fans. We want to come out and play hard and whatever happens, happens. We're all blessed to be here.
Q. What do you guys remember about M'Baye when he played at Wyoming?
Chase Tapley: I remember my first two years he was at Wyoming, he was a really good athletic wing. He was athletic, can jump, shoot the ball a little bit and really attack the basket. He plays like with a high energy. Just got to match his intensity, and I think we'll be fine.
THE MODERATOR: We have coach Steve Fisher.
Steve Fisher: I've been around long enough to know that to have an opportunity to be here is a privilege. We're very excited to be in the field, and hopefully our experience of having played here now for the fourth straight year will be an asset to us.
I do know that the competition in Lon Kruger and his Oklahoma team will be formidable.
We're anxious to see how we'll play, and I know we'll play hard and hopefully we'll be able to make some shots. That with a lot of us is critical to advancing.
But we're excited to be here and anxious to get going.
Q. Can you talk a little bit about your relationship with Lon? He says you guys have been friendly basically back to the Big Ten days.
Steve Fisher: Lon Kruger is an exceptional basketball coach, and I think people that know him would say a better person. We've had a relationship, casual way back when he was at Florida to the short time that we were in the Big Ten together to the long time we were together in the Mountain West, and we've become good friends. Truly have become good friends. His wife Barb and my wife Angie are good friends. When we go on event we find ways to have dinner or go for lunch and talk about non-basketball stuff; how are your kids doing, and that sort of thing.
I think Lon is a terrific guy, and we're good friends. I'm happy he's in the tournament. I wish we weren't playing one another in the first round.
Q. You said you're not happy you're playing each other in the first round. From a strategic standpoint, does it help to know the other guy so well?
Steve Fisher: I don't think so, I really don't. You see enough, and you play a guy once or twice you know what their MO is, and Lon is-- he's the basics, defense and rebounding, and they're very good at both. They guard you hard. When we played against one another, you knew what the other team was going to do.
But I don't think that will have an advantage either way to be honest.
Q. Can you talk about this match-up just with Oklahoma? They've sort of had a rough ending to their season and you guys have been a little up and down. What do you see as keys to winning tomorrow?
Steve Fisher: I saw somewhat-- I got a little bit angry when I saw one of the newspapers, the national papers had two teams that are destined to have a short stay, and we were the third team listed. And then I looked down and I saw Kruger's team was the fourth team mentioned, so one of us is going to advance. People that wrote about us said that we didn't play as well down the stretch as we did early.
I have been around long enough to see teams that have limped in and gotten to a Final Four, played good and done vice versa, get bumped on the first round.
I know everybody that's playing will come out with high energy and great excitement and have an edge about how they play, and you'll see that from all the teams that compete here tomorrow.
Q. I know it's been a few years, but I was wondering what you remember about M'Baye when he played at Wyoming.
Steve Fisher: I remember a terrific, terrific athlete that when he chose to transfer, had there not been a rule within the league about taking transfers, we would have been on the front doorstep knocking to try to get him to come to our place. He's very, very athletic and talented, and his skill level is catching up with his athleticism, so he's a good player, and Lon knew that when he went to Oklahoma, and he's proven to be just that.
Q. You say Coach Kruger is just the basics, and you know what you're going to get out of his teams. But your teams have traditionally had a lot of success against his teams. What's been key to that?
Steve Fisher: We have played one another I don't know how many times, and if you looked at the games, some have been somewhat bizarre, most of them have been really close. And to be honest, I can only remember a couple of them, one the most bizarre, when we had a 10-point lead with 30 seconds to go and lost, and he genuinely felt bad after the game. Not as bad as I did, but he felt bad. (Laughter).
So we've had close game, close game, close game, every time we've played, and I would anticipate another close game tomorrow.
Q. I was just wondering what your impressions are of Romero Osby. It seems like everything they do goes through him.
Steve Fisher: If Osby is not the best player in the Big 12, I don't want to play the team that has the best player in the Big 12. He's really, really good. He knows how to play. I read a lot about him, and he seems like the kind of player that every coach would love to have. His demeanor, what he says, what's important. He's a hard guard. He's a very difficult guy to guard. He can put it to the floor, he can shoot it on you facing you to 18, 20 feet. He gets to the free-throw line. And as you said, as the season has gone on, the ball-- when he doesn't touch the ball, it's a rarity in their half-court setup.
Q. This is your fourth straight appearance. At what point do the expectations rise, or is there some sort of sense that you want to go from that consistent team that makes the tournament to the team that starts to win every single year, win a game or two or more?
Steve Fisher: We at San Diego State have not had a long history of being here, so the first time we came, people were overjoyed because we made the NCAA Tournament. And then expectations raise for everybody. We won our first-ever NCAA game two years ago, and we got to the Sweet 16, and I was very, very proud of every team we've had. That team was good enough to win a national championship.
From 10 years ago to say that about San Diego State, people would laugh at you. But we were. We were good enough, didn't quite do it.
So now when you win a game, everybody thinks it's a divine right to be there and you're supposed to win a game. So expectations are high, and now they're high with our fan base, and I think that's the way it should be. But you can't allow that to eat you up with pressure if you're a player or a coach, you've got to-- you have your own expectations. Our fans expect us to win, and probably some fans would say what happened, why weren't you better than you were during the regular season.
I think we're a better team this year than last year, and a year ago we got a pass. That doesn't happen at what we do. Our fans said, well, you lose all these guys from the 34-3 team, so you may not be that good last year, but boy, wait until what is now this year. We've got a good team. We want to play and play well, and hopefully we will be here talking again on Saturday getting ready for a Sunday game.
Q. If I can take you back about M'Baye, what was it you saw about that energy or what you saw about him, what else was it that you wanted or liked in him?
Steve Fisher: You talking about M'Baye?
Steve Fisher: He's got good genes. He's got height. He can run. He can jump. He's 6'9" or 6'10". That draws everybody's attention. In his early stages at Wyoming, that's what he did.
Now if you don't guard him, he's going to make a three-pointer. If you guard him, he drives by you. He's turned into, with the help of Lon Kruger and his staff, a really, really good basketball player.
Q. I want to ask you about the experience. You've had teams that have come here and had virtually no experience. Now you've got a team that's got quite a bit of NCAA Tournament experience. Does that matter, and in what ways does it matter?
Steve Fisher: Experience always matters, but most coaches, if you say you've got talent and experience, they would opt for talent first. If you've got a combination of talent and experience, all the better. I think if you're not careful, if it's the first time for you, some teams can be caught up and overwhelmed a little bit in this, the press, all the things that are demanded of you, the 40-minute shootaround where everybody watches, to all of that, and it can affect you.
Other teams that are young, that are freshmen or first timers, it doesn't affect them at all. They play better.
I do like the fact that we've got guys, starting with Chase Tapley, this is his fourth year in the NCAA Tournament. He's been a four-year starter for us, and now you've got Jamaal Franklin you throw in the mix as a three-year player, James Rahon, I think that helps. I think that helps you, but again, if you opt for one or the other, we would all say give me a really, really talented player that's never been there over an okay player that's been there before.