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March 18, 2015

Mike Davis

Madarious Gibbs

Malcolm Riley

Nick Shepherd


THE MODERATOR: We have our three student-athletes from Texas Southern. We'll open it up for questions at this time.

Q. Nick and Malcolm, when you look at your non-conference schedule, how much does that prepare you for what you're going to face in the opening round because you've already gone to the Michigan State, Gonzaga? Does that help you in any way to be prepared?
MALCOLM RILEY: Yes, it prepared us because we had a very tough non-conference schedule, like you said. It kind of got us prepared for this as far as playing bigger guys and playing at that pace, too. So we kind of get used to it. I know we haven't played a non-conference game in a while, but we've been trying to get back to that pace at practice. Now it's time to rock and roll.

NICK SHEPHERD: Yeah, to piggyback on what he said, that non-conference schedule really, like, builds you up so you get used to playing these types of teams. It's not going to be a surprise to us when we go out and play these teams. We've played these teams prior to. We know what it's like. We know the atmosphere. We're ready to play.

Q. Has your coach said anything specific about the tournament? He obviously has a great history. Just preparing you guys for it, any special advice or messages?
MALCOLM RILEY: We take it like any other game. It's just a regular game. We going to plan like we been planning. We've been preparing like we've been preparing. It's now the intensity level has risen a little bit. Everything's got to be on point.

Q. Madarious, have you talked to your teammates at all and given them a sneak peek of what they can expect during this whole process for guys that have never been in this situation before?
MADARIOUS GIBBS: Yeah. We talked as a team. Me being the captain and the senior leader, I have to get my teammates ready. So we have talks before the games, before practice, after practice. I have to let them know the intensity level. Me playing in the tournament last year, that it's a big jump from the conference games to the NCAA game.

Q. When you look at the film, the games Arizona has played, what stands out to you most?
MADARIOUS GIBBS: They are a very great transition team. They get out and run. They're super athletic, so we have to get back in transition. We have to play great defense if we want to win this game.

Q. Malcolm, what necessitated the Band-Aid? Could you each recount what your first impression was of Mike Davis when you met him?
MALCOLM RILEY: Playing for Mike Davis, he played in the championship game. He knows what it takes to get here. That kind of what driven me to come to Texas Southern, as well. He has a reputation for giving guys like myself and other guys like second chances, underdogs. That's what kind of helped me make my decision.

NICK SHEPHERD: For me, I'm a Houston boy. I'm from Houston, Texas. I wanted to come home. Then when I got that phone call from Coach Davis, it was an eye-opener. Did a little research on him. Just talking to him, he just really, like, talks to you man-to-man. He doesn't sugarcoat anything. It was really nice to have somebody tell me things that I wanted to hear and what I didn't want to hear. It really just helped me out as a player and everything else. It really drew me to Texas Southern. I was happy to have the opportunity to come home and play.

MADARIOUS GIBBS: When I found out he took the job at Texas Southern, I did a lot of research on him. I found out he's a great coach. He's been winning everywhere that he was. Him as a person, he cares about us. He cares about us a lot on and off the court. He wants us to win. He does whatever it takes for us to get a win, so...

Q. The SWAC has struggled against other competition for the most part. You've seen competition from the other big conferences. Tell me why you think the SWAC struggles.
MADARIOUS GIBBS: Maybe I would say probably the attitude of the players. Maybe they have different attitudes at the higher schools than here at the lower levels, like the SWAC. I can't really answer that question.

NICK SHEPHERD: What I have to say, like what Madarious was saying, probably the attitude is different. When you come from a smaller conference, they don't have as high of an outlook. That's what Coach Davis really instilled in us the beginning of the year. It really changed our outlook which really helped us with games against Michigan State, Kansas State, playing those games close that we had a chance to win. Like him, a strong-minded person, giving us a different outlook of the game, telling us, Hey, you have a chance, it really sparked us and propelled us forward for our season, especially at the end.

Q. Nick, what is it as a kid in Houston, did you follow this program at all? Does Texas Southern get lost attention-wise with all the other schools?
NICK SHEPHERD: It's funny you asked that. Growing up in Houston, Texas Southern, I actually played basketball at Texas Southern. Used to have open gyms. So, no, it doesn't get lost U of H is right across the street all those other schools are right across the street. Texas Southern has it's own special niche. Me as a child, we grew up knowing about Texas Southern, U of H. Equal footing. We would go play at Texas Southern, U of H. So, no, it doesn't get lost.

Q. Madarious, after the Gonzaga loss and before the Michigan State loss, Coach Davis brought in a motivational speaker. Can you tell us what was said, what was learned that kind of helped that run that you got on the following week?
MADARIOUS GIBBS: We had a motivational speaker named Eric Thomas come in and talk to us. His words were 'Average skill, phenomenal will,' that meaning for you to be a winner, you can have average skill, and you just have to try to be above everyone else by working harder than them, waking up early, doing stuff that other people don't want to do. Why they asleep, you're up working trying to get better. That's what his words were.

Q. From my understanding, Southern wasn't going to the tournament, so that tournament championship game you played in, you didn't have to win it. Was that different? What motivated you to get through it anyway?
NICK SHEPHERD: That game meant more than a lot of people realize. Yeah, it didn't really matter if we won or lost. We already said we were going to the tournament. It was more of a momentum game. You don't want to come into the tournament, especially on this big stage, with a loss. You never know what that loss could do to your ranking or seeding. Could have put us at the 16 seed or been that win that put us at the 15 seed. No need to take a risk or chance by losing that game and not giving our all to win it.

THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, thank you very much. Appreciate your time. We're joined by Texas Southern coach, Mike Davis. A few opening thoughts, then we'll open it up to questions.

COACH DAVIS: Well, we're excited to be here. We're the 15th seed. Our game plan this year, as some of you may know, we wanted to play a very, very difficult non-conference schedule. We did that. We wanted to make sure that if we won our conference tournament that we would have a chance to get a better seed. If we won our league, then hopefully we would get a 15 seed. So we won our league and our conference tournament.

THE MODERATOR: Floor is open to questions at this time.

Q. Mike, you've been to a lot of great stops in your college career. At Texas Southern, what is the most rewarding part of this job?
COACH DAVIS: To have a challenge every single night and every single day in practice. To be able to push student-athletes beyond their abilities so they can see that they can compete at this level. At the bigger schools, the recruits come in with high profile. These kids I'm coaching here at Texas Southern maybe only had one scholarship offer. Some transferred from somewhere else that they couldn't really adjust to. But to see them grow and mature... This is a great reward for them, to be able to go 1-8 in non-conference, then win 21 out of the next 25 games. To see them understand that if you show a great will, if you have a great mindset, that you can accomplish anything. That's the reward that I get out of it.

Q. Coach, a lot of your coaching peers have complimented the job you've done this season. What do you think of that? What has made this season maybe different or stand out from others that you've had?
COACH DAVIS: Well, my vision for this program is to one day get it to the level of an at-large bid. But you have to win non-conference games. You have to play very, very good teams in non-conference. When I took this job, my AD told me he wanted me to either win the league or the conference tournament. Those were the two measurement sticks of a successful season for us, which I love because there's no guessing what you need to do and what you have to do. In order for us to get to where I want this program to be, we're in Houston, Texas, which is a beautiful city, we have 10,000 students on our campus. Our facilities are better than any facilities, the best in our conference. It could compare to anyone else in the country. But you have to win. I think people thought I was out of my mind by playing a tough schedule. We only had one home game in non-conference. I wanted to play all the games on the road. I wanted to try to get the best teams we could play. You played Indiana at Indiana. If you win, the whole country's talking about it. If you lose, it's just a money game. You play Gonzaga, if you lose, just a money game. I kept telling my team anything that could be done in college basketball can be done at Texas Southern, but you have to win, you have to win the game. We beat Michigan State. We beat Kansas State. Auburn beat us by I think one point. We had a one-point lead with 11 seconds to go in the game. We got beat on a putback at New Mexico State. I wanted our guys to start to believe, believe, believe. When we won at Michigan State, I had 500 texts. When we lost at Auburn the very next game by 1, five texts. It goes from 500 to five. You have to win, that's the point that I was trying to get them to understand, we have to win. Just so excited to see them understand that Texas Southern can be a good basketball team. They never had people to recognize them in the airport, restaurants. We beat Michigan State, everybody in the airport was saying, That's Texas Southern. Then you have ESPN, SportsCenter, whatever, showing our game, showing the upset. Our guys at one point were disappointed when the commentators kept saying that was a bad loss for Michigan State and Kansas State, and our RPI was at 87. So I don't think they were used to SWAC teams having an RPI at 87. We ended up having a 125 at the end of the season. We may have six teams in our league at 300 or better. So we dropped, our RPI dropped in our conference play, and normally your RPI drops in non-conference play. We have to continue to win some non-conference games. Next year, like I say, I don't want to play any home games. I want to play any team that's in the top 25 next year. That way it helps us in recruiting. We set a record this year for SWAC teams playing on national television. I think we had like 11 or 12 nationally televised games in non-conference. That's a free way of getting your program exposure. If you win one, everybody is excited. No one thinks we can beat Arizona. There is a little thing in the back of their minds saying, Well, they have played some really good teams and beat some good teams this season.

Q. About your league, every year it seems the SWAC is the lowest-rated RPI conference. I've never understood why it is. Is it talent? Attitude? Money? How much are you trying to change that? Can that league ever rise up?
COACH DAVIS: It's a combination of things. We have to bus to the majority of the games. We'll play a game on a Saturday night, we'll bus from that place to the next destination. We'll play on a Monday night, then we have to bus back home. Sometimes we get home 9:00, 10:00 the next day. But for me, I enjoy the buses. Doesn't really bother me. But it's the facilities at some places, the budget. We don't have to play these games at Texas Southern. We don't have to play bye games. We have great facilities, we're in a great city. But I wanted to play the really, really good teams so we could set ourselves apart from everybody else in the SWAC. There's some very good coaches in the SWAC, very good coaches in the SWAC. But, unfortunately, you know, financially the resources, it's just not there. The talent level, our guards in our league can play with anybody, anybody. I mean, we have very good guards in our basketball team. You'll see tomorrow morning. The bigs are not really bigs. I think only a couple teams have a good big guy in our league. We had Aaric Murray last year who averaged 22 points a game in non-conference. His averaged dropped once he got to conference. So defensively we do a lot of different things. Press, trap, do a lot of up-tempo things. We don't really play that way, but we have to adjust once we get back to our conference. It really helps when you play non-conference games. There's a rhythm to the game. When you play in our league, you got to be prepared for anything at any time.

Q. Mike, after the Gonzaga game and before Michigan State, I believe you had a motivational speaker come in. What went behind that decision, obviously the way your team responded? Is that something that at the time you thought it was the right moment to do?
COACH DAVIS: Well, Eric Thomas, he spoke to my team when I was at UAB a couple times. He's a very, very good motivational speaker. He lives in East Lansing. He was there at the time. He came to practice and I wanted him to speak to our team. The one message that he gave them was, If you have average skills -- no one on our basketball team would be an NBA draft pick. He said that if you have average skills, you have to have a phenomenal will. Your will has to be greater than anyone you're going against. Then he told his story about how he was a high school dropout, how he went to college, D, D, 1.9, 0.8, pulled out of school, begged the provost to let him back. Now he got his doctorate degree from Michigan State, his Masters from Michigan State. He's had dinner with Warren Buffett. He showed that you can be somewhere, no one thinks much of you, but if your will is greater than anybody else's, you can compete and be successful. That's all he needed to say. The next day we played Michigan State, it was unbelievable. From that point on, we were 21-4 from that point on.

Q. How do you go about making these schedules? Do you have any concerns about having won in Manhattan and East Lansing, it might be tougher?
COACH DAVIS: We put together a schedule, we want to play as many games as possible after December 11th. That's when the first semester is over. We don't mind playing on the 12th, 14th, 16th, 18th. It doesn't bother us. When you've been on that bus for 14 hours, that flight is pretty good. We don't really mind playing those types of games. We always feel like - I'll give my secret away - we always feel like when we play you during the time your students are gone, it's better for us because your students are gone. Some of them are missing their girlfriends. They want to go home for Christmas so they can't wait to go. We come in there, Texas Southern, they're not really respecting. They're shooting around, talking, laughing, not really serious. So that's a good time to play them. In November, we're in trouble because the students are there and everybody is excited, getting fired up. But when you play when everybody's gone, they're giving tickets away to I shouldn't say older people, but people from the city. They come in, they real relaxed, they're happy to see the boys playing. That's my strategy now is to play as many games as possible. I wish we could play during spring break. Unfortunately it's spring break now. That's the secret to what we try to do. I want to play really good teams that's going to play someone else good because every game Michigan State and Kansas State won, it helped us. So, unfortunately, our leading returning scorer from last year hurt his knee. We didn't have him for the whole season. Madarious Gibbs, I don't think he didn't play in the first five games. We had a chance, but we were shorthanded going into those games. He ended up playing the Norfolk game and Florida State. Gibbs hadn't practiced. That really hurt us. That's my process. Whoever calls is going to want to play us in November. But we want to play you December 11 on through Christmas break. If we could play on Christmas Day, that would be great.

Q. You talked a lot about scheduling, character. Give us the matchup. Talk about Arizona versus Texas Southern between the lines tomorrow.
COACH DAVIS: Great team. Great team. One that we look forward to play against. Not to win or lose, but to give our program another opportunity to be on national television. Like I say, we flew out here on a charter flight. Our band is with us, cheerleaders, alumni, administration is here with us. That's a victory to me within itself. Never get a chance to go out and play future NBA players. We get a chance to play maybe a Final Four team. We look forward to challenging ourselves to go out and represent Texas Southern, the city of Houston, everybody who followed our program throughout the year. We have that opportunity again.

THE MODERATOR: Coach, thank you very much. Appreciate your time.

COACH DAVIS: Appreciate it.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports
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