March 18, 2009
The following is a transcript of today's NCAA Tournament press conferences featuring University of Washington and Mississippi State coaches and players.
Q. Being in Oregon there's going to be some Duck fans, probably some Gonzaga fans. Do you think it would be more hostile than geography would suggest?
Jon Brockman: I don't think it would be no more hostile than when they come up to our arena to play us, there's not that much distance. Who knows, maybe one of them will root for us, because we're in the same state as Gonzaga and in the same league as Oregon.
Q. How does this feel compared to your freshman year, going through all the procedures and everything?
Justin Dentmon: It feels good. My freshman year we didn't win a PAC 10 championship. It feels good knowing that's what I built. And coming back to the tournament, just a mind blowing experience for us as well as the young guys. So we are happy and grateful to be here, but we still are not satisfied where we're at.
Q. You talked about maybe some hostile fans, how glad are you you're playing so close to home, and you're going to see plenty of purple out there?
Jon Brockman: It's definitely a blessing to be this close to home. We have a lot of fans. For me personally, a lot of family and friends who are going to be able to make the trip. A short drive down here. We expect to have a good turnout. From what I hear a lot of people are coming down. I'm sure there will be a little bit of purple walking around here tomorrow.
Q. Talk about this match up with Jarvis, have you faced anyone similar to him and how do you prepare for him?
Jon Brockman: He's a very unique player. I've played against people who have a lot of skills he has. But I think he's got pieces from different players all put together. He's unbelievably athletic, great shot blocker, great timing, obviously.
He's unbelievably active. And everyone talks about his shot blocking, but watching him on the rebounding aspect of the game, he gets his hands on a lot of balls, keeps things alive. He's going to be a fun person to play against. I'm looking forward to it.
Q. Just curious, how much did you learn from Brandon Roy about how to be a leader in a program and how much personal responsibility or pressure did you feel to keep the program at that level?
Jon Brockman: As far as learning from Brandon, I think J.D. would agree that we learned a ton from him, just the way that he conducted himself every day in practice. Would pull the younger guys aside and would really be an extension of the coaches, but also be the supportive factor, be really supportive and encouraging, but also know when to get on people.
I learned a lot of that from him. And I think that's the biggest thing that I've taken away from what I learned from Brandon. Seems like a long, long time ago he was here. It definitely left a lot of responsibility for us when they left. And I feel like it's great to get back to this point. This is the way it was when we came in and through a lot of hard work we've gotten the program back to where it belongs, in the NCAA tournament.
Q. Can you address what kind of influence Coach Romar is in the locker room?
Justin Dentmon: He's very get to the point type of guy. Things aren't going well, he comes in and starts talking about what we need to do to fix our mistakes. He encourages the guys who don't play as much, tells them that they need to still be encouraging us on the bench because we get our energy from our bench.
And when we win he just tells us don't be satisfied with winning, want more. And I think a lot of players really take a lot from him. A lot of coaches you win, they keep coming to you and telling you don't be satisfied. We're not good yet. We're not as good as we can be yet. So we need to keep playing towards that.
So I just admire the way that he can transform a team from being not in the NCAA tournament two years ago or last year and making it to the tournament this year by changing the things and his coaching style, changing the way he obviously treats his players.
Q. Jon, you mentioned before, seasons before about the Lopez twins at Stanford and the shot blocking. How different is Varnado or is he the same challenge wise?
Jon Brockman: He's close. You get by the Lopez twins, you get by one of them, and the other one is standing right there, so it's like double trouble. He does a great job for shot blocking, not just jumping for everything. A lot of times when he blocks a shot he is the first jumper, but he can time it to where he's not getting caught up in the air.
He doesn't let people get his body. A lot of times with the Lopez twins because they were more bangers, you could get to their body, it was just the fact that they were so big and there were two of them that they blocked the shots. But he definitely keeps space, and doesn't let anyone get up inside of him and is able to make a play in the ball when it's in the air.
COACH ROMAR: I asked Jon and Justin if they answered all the tough questions already. They said they did. They told me not to fall behind the stage, YouTube material. So I survived that part.
We're fired up to be here in the NCAA tournament here in Portland. We're excited to get an opportunity to play tomorrow. We've not been in the tournament the last couple of years and we've got a lot of new faces from the last time that we were here. Our guys are pretty excited about it. We're looking forward to playing.
Q. What have you done differently this year to get the team back to the tournament, personally?
COACH ROMAR: I think we have different personnel, mainly our guards. I think we have probably quicker forwards than we've had in the last couple of years, which has enabled us to play better defensively.
With our guards and across the board I think we have more play makers. So I think the personnel that we have has allowed us to play a little more the style that we've played a few years ago.
Also this is the first time in three years that we're more of a veteran team as opposed to a really young team, like we've had the last couple of years. And although Jon Brockman and Justin Dentmon play a lot of minutes, Quincy Pondexter is a junior that's played a lot of minutes. I think that's enough to be able to lead the right way. As opposed to the last couple of years we did not have those upper classmen who were our premier players out there leading. So I think that's made a tremendous difference.
Q. Jon was saying how much he learned about being a leader in a program from Brandon Roy. How have you seen him grow in that role in the last couple of years?
COACH ROMAR: No. 1, he's always going to lead by example. He's one of the best I've seen by leading by example. He's an All American candidate, but he practices every day as if he's trying to earn a scholarship. He does a tremendous job of picking his spots out there on the floor where he is encouraging and exhorting guys to become better, while at the same time where he senses that the team is really slacking off he will get guys together and he's not afraid to get in their face.
And they can never say, well, look at you, you don't always play hard. He always is a great example. So I think innately he's a pretty good leader, but then when he was a freshman under those other guys, kind of tutelage, he learned a lot, as you said, and as he said.
Q. Can you talk a little bit about the match up with Jarvis and the challenges his shot blocking ability brings? COACH ROMAR: He's the type of player that many will see the shots that he does block, but you tend to forget the shots that he doesn't block that he changes. And on the third tier, the shot that he didn't change but you just were looking for him somewhere. And you weren't able to focus on making the basket. So when a guy can block shots like that, they have a tremendous impact on the game.
Q. Can you talk about the rest of the Mississippi State and what kind of match up problems they might present for you?
COACH ROMAR: They have about 500 guys that can shoot the three. They're all over the place. And they're not just spot up shooters, they can put the ball on the floor and make plays.
When you've got a big guy in the middle like they do, and he's surrounded by multiple shooters and penetrators, they make for a very, very difficult cover on the defensive end.
They're also pretty scrappy. An advantage a lot of times with smaller, quicker teams can have are more than just being able to beat their man. They can close out to you quickly. They can beat you down the floor. When there's a loose ball, they can get to the loose balls quicker, because of their speed and quickness. There are a lot of advantages they may have, where some people say they're undersized, how do they survive? There are some positives to the makeup of their team, as well.
Q. Could you talk about what are your impressions of Dee Bost, and the match up with Isaiah Thomas?
COACH ROMAR: I saw him play in high school. I saw him put a lot of points up on the board. He was very, very aggressive offensively. I've seen a guy who picks his spots now and can be aggressive offensively and can score points when needed but does a really good job on the open floor of finding his teammates and getting them off the basketball. If you don't cut him off, he's going to score a basket. And if you do cut him off he's going to find one of his teammates.
I know from following from a distance, it's been a work in progress from him, moving from a scorer to a point guard. But I think he's done a tremendous job making that adjustment for his team as a freshman?
Q. With a great shot blocker on the other team, do you change your approach for attacking the basket, trying to get to the line as much as you guys do or do you keep doing what you normally do?
COACH ROMAR: No, I don't think we can change our approach. You cannot, cannot be tentative. Not that he's a bully at all. But if you're tentative at all with a bully, he's going to bully you all night and all year, probably. I'm trying to think of if I ever got bullied in high school. You've got to be the aggressor. You can't back down. You've got to go. Knowing, just like the bully, you probably are going to get hit a couple of times, but you've got to hang in there and hopefully you will get your share.
One more comment. I did not call him a bully (laughter.) Hopefully I won't read and get interviewed and say I heard you refer to him as a bully. He's not a bully, he's a tremendous young man.
Q. Just wondering if you can talk real quick about Scott Suggs and besides being a freshman, what might have kept him from earning more minutes this year?
COACH ROMAR: Only maturation. Scott Suggs is going to be a tremendous player for us. I think he could be an all conference performer for us. Just this year, just some things, some adjustments that he was kind of making on the fly, as the season is going on.
And if we had ten, 15 more games, you might see Scott Suggs probably break his way in there and play. But he's going to be a very, very good player for us. We're very excited we have him. He's very versatile. He can play three positions out on the floor. He can guard three positions out on the floor. He can do a lot out there.
Q. Mississippi State's coach was actively recruiting Oregon fans today. Are you worried about the turnout of Oregon fans since we're in Portland? COACH ROMAR: No, I just know how loyal Northwest fans are. And I know the loyalty of the Oregon fans. I know the loyalty of the Gonzaga fans. I know the loyalty of our fans. So I'm just pretty positive that they'll all cheer for the Northwest teams. I just kind of took that as a given (laughter.)
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Comments from Mississippi State Coach & Players
COACH STANSBURY: No. 1, we're very excited to be a part of this tournament and we're very excited to be here in Portland. It's a beautiful city. We've got some good weather. That's all good. We know we're playing a very good Washington team. They won the Pac 10 and they're playing exceptionally well. We know we'll have our work cut out for us.
We know all the Oregon people are behind us here. If you're not, get behind us, we're going to need all the help we can get.
Q. What do you think about Dee Bost?
BARRY STEWART: I've seen him mature a lot, over the stretch we went through. I think he's taken the defensive end of the court seriously. I think he's improving every game.
Q. Jarvis, obviously what we're hearing is quite a shot blocking team. Could you talk about what a blocked shot obviously a blocked shot isn't going in the basket, but otherwise what does it do either in terms of turning your defense into offense, and also just psychologically to the other team?
JARVIS VARNADO: Well, when I block a shot, it gets my team going to start the fast break. And it gives us a lift emotionally. Everybody gets into it. And we're ready to work hard.
Q. There's been a lot of talk, and Rick brought it up, about whether the Oregon fans here will pull for State or pull for Washington. In the end does it really matter? The crowd at a neutral site and a game like this, does it matter to you?
BARRY STEWART: I think it matters. It's good to have people cheering for you, rather than everybody going against you. I know we'll have to hit the floor and keep the same approach. But we'll appreciate that help if we get it.
Q. What do you think has changed the last six games or so compared to the first part of the season?
JARVIS VARNADO: We had a game we lost against Auburn, we lost pretty bad. We should have won. The coaches brought us in the locker room and told us we needed to play better. We didn't play good. We didn't have no effort out there. So the last two home games we had against Florida and Ole Miss we came out ready to play and we won pretty big. And then we just took that energy, that toughness to the SEC tournament and we won there.
Q. Jarvis, have you seen much of Jon Brockman's game, and can you talk about what kind of player you think he is?
JARVIS VARNADO: I've seen him a little bit. I know he's a good player. He leads the country in double doubles, I think. He's a real good rebounder and just a low post scorer, and I'm going to have my work cut out for me.
Q. For both players, four games in four days and then home and travel, how are you holding up physically?
BARRY STEWART: I feel great. Asked me that a couple of days ago, I probably couldn't tell you that. I had a good night's sleep. I feel pretty good and ready to go.
JARVIS VARNADO: I'm feeling good.
Q. You mentioned that the Oregon, Washington thing, and maybe having some Oregon fans. Where are you about the rivalry between the two, is that something you learned since you got here?
COACH STANSBURY: It is something I learned since I got here. If they want to help us, we can take all the help we can get. Whether they cheer or not, we have to play the game. We understand there will be a lot of Washington people here. But again we've been told there have been a lot of tickets sold to Oregon people. The Bulldogs love the Ducks.
Q. Could you talk a little bit about what blocks do for your team both turning defense and offense, and also the effect it has on the opposition?
COACH STANSBURY: Well, No. 1, Jarvis takes that basket from a lot of easy shots around the hole. The three point shot, he's not going to have an effect on that. Around the hole in the paint, I'm sure in scouting reports in their minds they're aware of him. So probably for every one he gets, there's probably a couple more that's shot that's thought about that he may not make. So it's a tremendous advantage we have with him in that post. He's a guy that just doesn't block shots. Some guys block shots and knock them out, you don't get the ball back. Jarvis has a great ability to block shots and lots of times comes down with it himself, and we can recover it. Not always, but for the most part we recover a lot of his blocked shots and that's huge.
Q. What has changed the last six games or so from the rest of the season?
COACH STANSBURY: Well, I think people who haven't followed our program maybe just think that we get on a roll and are good right now. We were 6 2 in the SEC, playing for first place, halfway through the league play. We went to Arkansas and Georgia and won. We had three wins in our first eight games on the road.
We lost a hard fought double overtime game to LSU for first place in our league. And we had ample opportunities to win the game and we didn't do it. And because it was such a hard fought game for both teams, it probably took a little bit out of us.
But when you break the schedule down, you look at, well, you lost four out of your last six, you break our schedule down, we had about four out of our six games on the road, there. It's never easy to win on the road. As one of our players said, we had one loss in the scheme of things that was a difficult loss that was against Auburn at home, that I didn't think our team played with effort and passion that we need to play with.
Besides that, we played pretty good. We lose a double overtime game in Alabama. We lose a five point lead at Tennessee, it was a three point game with a minute to go. Even the games we've lost we have been right there. We just lost in that stretch.
Probably after the Auburn loss, our backs are really against the wall when you lose the home, because it's so difficult to win on the road. But we had a Florida team coming in that was kind of like us, pretty desperate. If we had won we'd have the same record as Florida. And our guys came out and played with energy and passion. And we won Florida.
We beat Ole Miss on the road, and from there we've kind of carried it on. My bench has been a factor in the stretch. We're getting better bench play now than we had midway through the season. Again, we are a young team. The more you play, the more experience you get, the better everybody becomes. And that's what we became. And now some of these freshman are not freshman no more. They've got a lot of experience under their belts.
And I think everybody on this team just doesn't know the roles, I think. For the most part we've accepted them now, and winning has become more important than anything, and I think we had that down the stretch.
Q. Can you kind of compare and contrast Isaiah Thomas and Dee, and how Dee handles these big games?
COACH STANSBURY: Isaiah is a big player for Washington, no question about that. He can really score and he's tough off the dribble. And he's got a knack to get to the hole and finish in different ways and can really score. But everybody that knows our program has seen Dee play.
We have a pretty good freshman in Dee Bost. He's gone against good guards this year in our league. He's played against very good point guards. So this won't be the first good point guard he has seen. I think the biggest thing with Dee is he came in as a prep school player, just like Isaiah. Their maturity level is not like a true freshman. I think that's in both their cases. And as the season has gone on, Dee now understands more about the importance of defending.
Earlier in the year we struggled with keeping point guards out of the lane. It wasn't about ability, it was about him understanding the importance of doing it and the urgency of doing it. And he's got great ability to do that. And I think, again, he's gotten better. He's nowhere perfect yet. Understanding the flow of the game.
Sometimes probably three fourths of the way through the season when the the game sped up, it sped him up. Well, you can't have that in a point guard. Sometimes what's a good shot, maybe the next time in the Florida game, is not a good shot. That's hard to determine, only playing time, experience and seeing it happen. I think he's played 30 some odd games. His experience in that is better.
And coming off what we just came off of, four games in four days, against that competition, and playing against those people, that can only make you better and more confident in understanding all of those things, because he had to control the flow of those games several different times, in particular in LSU and the Tennessee game.
Q. Just to follow up on that question, how valuable was that year of prep school to Dee?
COACH STANSBURY: It would be valuable for every player. If you can't redshirt them, it's just you get a kid a year older. In most prep schools, if they go to a good one, in Dee's case he went to a good one, where there's discipline. They get up at 6 a.m. every morning and march. They go to study table and go to class.
He had a good coach and he played against great competition. I think their team was 36 0. They played against college players every game. So for him it was huge. And any player that goes to prep school and goes to one of those kind of prep schools it's an advantage to all of them.
They come with five years and still play with four. And losing Jordan, our junior, we didn't recruit another JC point guard. We put the ball in Dee Bost's hands and felt like he, in time, would be good enough to help us do some things.
And I think looking back, there's no question, us putting the ball in his hands, letting him play through mistakes, he's developed as a pretty good point guard as a freshman.
Q. Can you talk a little bit about matching up with Brockman and the physical nature of his play?
COACH STANSBURY: He's a difficult match up, that's for sure. I don't know if anybody is really matched up with him, if you look at the stats, 54, or 58, double doubles, leads the nation over Hansbrough and the kid at Notre Dame. If you didn't know that stat you wouldn't know if you wasn't playing him.
He is a tremendous rebounder and a great offensive rebounder. His energy and relentlessness on the boards is different than most players you see play. He's been a load for everybody he's played against. So he's going to be a load for us.
If you look at the match ups, we have a pretty good guy guarding him. He's a pretty good defender, and gone against good players, himself. We have to find a way to limit him. We know we're not going to shut him out. I think you've got to find a way to keep him off the backboards.
I think every coach that comes to the podium has said that, no one seems to be able to do that. That's a huge key. And we're going to see what we can do as far as reaching that goal.
Q. Washington tends to get to the foul line a lot. How good is Jarvis at staying out of foul trouble?
COACH STANSBURY: He's gotten better at it. First time I'll tell you he's gotten better at it he'll be sitting by me in about three minutes, so I'll be careful how to answer that.
He's better than he was. His freshman year he had five fouls on him. Last year, much more improvement in that. And now, because he's having to play 30 and 32 minutes a game, for the most part, I don't know how many games he's been disqualified, you guys will have that stat, two or three times, this year. So he has gotten better at that stat.
But, again, you know it depends. It just depends how things are called sometimes. Who knows how it happens? It's very important for us to keep him in the lineup, for sure.
Q. One obvious opponent is Washington State. What happened in that game for you guys, you guys a better team now than you were then?
COACH STANSBURY: They were better than we were at that stage of the game. We played them in the middle of November. They were a veteran team, basically the home team. They were very good, they were just better than us.
One common opponent? I think there were two. But that's one common opponent you can compare them to, that Washington beat them both times and they beat us, Washington State beat us. That's the common opponent. I think Florida is the other common opponent.
Q. Do you remember campaigning for fans before?
COACH STANSBURY: No, but there's the first time for everything. I'm not afraid to do it, that's for sure. Where were you from?
COACH STANSBURY: I expect to see the headline, "Bulldogs love Ducks." It's all on you. I understand Oregon folks don't like you Washington folks. You don't want to hear all that. How many tickets have you bought and sold? A bunch of them? All right. You hear it, he's bringing his crowd. They're coming. So you Oregon folks get ready to help us, we're going to need all the help we can get.
Q. Just to follow that up, since you've been here, any Oregon fans recognize your guys's logo and say anything to you, "Beat the Huskies" or anything like that?
COACH STANSBURY: We haven't been out a lot. But seems like everybody that we come by that's from Oregon they seem to not be for Washington, for sure. So we're playing them, so we hope they're for us.
Q. You said after the SEC tournament, you all were just happy to be here. But is there some trepidation with the seeding you had and all the distance you had to travel?
COACH STANSBURY: Hey, you know exactly how I'm going to answer that. You've heard me many times. I learned a long time ago not to worry about things you can't control. We had zero control over where we're going and what our seeding is.
Again, we are happy to be here. We had to get in it the hard way, winning four games. Once you do that the last thing you're concerned about is where you're going and who you're playing.
Now, naturally we can find a lot of reasons not to like why we're here, low seed, playing Sunday afternoon, got to turnaround and play Thursday again, second game, got to travel across the country to get here to do that. There's a lot of reasons to complain and be dissatisfied. But we see none of that. We're happy. We're happy to be in Portland and we're glad to be playing Washington.
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