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March 19, 2015

Steve Fisher

J.J. O'Brien

Dwayne Polee II

Aqeel Quinn

Winston Shepard


MODERATOR: San Diego State will be bringing four student-athletes: Dwayne Polee, Aqeel Quinn, Winston Shepard and JJ O'Brien. Questions?

Q. For Dwayne, I actually covered the team that you played for there the first year under Steve Lavin. I was wondering if you could just reflect back on that first year of experience with St. John's, what that was like playing for them and being part of the last team to make the NCAA?
DWAYNE POLEE: It was a great experience. Coach Lavin, he was a great coach, his staff was great to me, I was surrounded by 10 seniors, so they just helped me with the transition and I think that's helped me a lot.

Q. I just wanted to ask also, obviously your mother became ill and you had to transfer. How would you describe that experience and what you went through taking care of her at that time as well?
DWAYNE POLEE: It was a hard decision to make but I had to do what I had to do, so it's no bad blood between me and St. John's and anything, I left on good terms.

Q. Winston, what's it going to be like to face D'Angelo?
WINSTON SHEPARD: It would be like facing anybody else. He's one of my best friends, he's my brother, but I'm not going to make it into a one-on-one match, so we'll see.

Q. Tell me about, you guys grew up together. I mean, how close were you? Can you give me some background on your relationship with D'Angelo?
WINSTON SHEPARD: He's one of the people that I'm closest to in the whole world. Like I say, he's my brother. My mother had to work long nights, so his grandmother would come pick me up and take me to the gym with him, and we worked out and practiced. He would take us on AAU tournament trips. Him and his older brother, they showed me a lot, and I love him, that's my brother.

Q. JJ, Aqeel is the shortest guy up there. Could be argued maybe he doesn't wake up in the morning with as much talent as, say, like Winston. I was wondering if you could speak to his role on the team. When he's scoring, you guys are winning generally, he's always happy and kind of an emotional guy.
JJ O'BRIEN: He's the energy of the team, he's the guy that comes in every day in a great mood. He lifts us all up with his energy, and like you said, when he's scoring, we're pretty hard to beat. If he's scoring and his energy is high, then it usually trickles down to all of us in games, so he's a huge part of the team, a senior leader, a guy who's been through it, has experience, and he's a good role model for everybody. So we feed off of him, we look to him for energy and effort. And when we're going through tough times, he usually is able to get us through it, so he's a big part of the team.

AQEEL QUINN: Thank you, JJ.

Q. Dwayne, why did you want to keep playing and what fear do you battle in coming back?
DWAYNE POLEE: I just love the game so I wasn't going to let my situation stop me from playing. I just have positive people around me that would just tell me, you know, just stay positive and keep your head up. The love of my teammates, the coaches, the whole San Diego, my family, it just uplifted me.

Q. Winston, if you could help us sort of fill in some of the details a little bit about your growing up and being friendly with Harrison. When did you become so close with his family that you were involved and his mother would pick you up?
WINSTON SHEPARD: His grandmother.

Q. Were you guys classmates at some point or teammates at some point?
WINSTON SHEPARD: Rival middle schools. D'Angelo was always one of the best players in the city. It took me a little while to start coming into my own. He went to Dulles, I went to Lake Olympia, so we began playing against each other. Then we end up, I get to 8th grade, he's a freshman, he's a year older than me. We ended up playing on the same AAU team. My mom had to work late nights so his grandmother offered to pick me up and commute me back and forth to practice and the tournaments. So we began to spend a lot of time together, so just through that.

Q. How much do you think -- how often do you guys, say, text message or call one another?
WINSTON SHEPARD: All the time. We've got a group of friends from back home, we're all in the group chat. I would say that group chat buzzes at least every day.

Q. For Dwayne, you talked a little bit about the other day about your first NCAA tournament game with St. John's. Can you just elaborate a little bit more on that and why was it so hard in your first time and you've had success since then playing in the tournament, what is it about experience playing in the tournament and why was it such a hard first game?
DWAYNE POLEE: I think it's just the experience factor. I was a freshman and I didn't really know what to expect. Moving forward, just playing in such a big tournament with a million eyes watching you and having great teammates that also have experience, it means a lot.

Q. Aqeel, your Northridge teams, they didn't do very well. Can you talk about why you came to San Diego State? And I'm assuming it was for moments like this.
AQEEL QUINN: Definitely for moments like this. It was tough watching the tournament two years in a row and not being in it. I watched Dwayne in the tournament actually. We used to talk almost every day when he was at St. John's and I remember when he first got there I called him and he was like, bro, the altitude up here is killer. I just remember that and multiple other friends being in the tournament just asked some questions how it was, and that was my experience. So when Dwayne went through it, I felt like I went through it, too. I'm just glad to be here for this moment now, like you said.

Q. Aqeel, especially in San Diego, a lot of people have high expectations of you guys being this, your sixth trip to the tournament, but how high of expectations gotten for you guys personally?
AQEEL QUINN: Well, it's a team goal ever since we started in the summer, we say it when we bring it in in every huddle, I think we like to keep that between all of us and everybody in the locker room but we definitely have high hopes past this weekend.

Q. For Dwayne again, I know you had had the experience before of collapsing in practice, but when that happened in a game and you're on the court, can you just describe the emotion that you're dealing with, and then over the two months, what you went through to get back to this point with the operation and everything?
DWAYNE POLEE: Well, when it happened, it was just a lot of confusion because you kind of feel -- I felt, like, kind of dizzy and the next thing you know I wake up with my family, my mom, my dad, my girlfriend, my teammates, my coaches, the ambulance people, the trainers, everybody just over me and, like, it's just a lot of confusion at the time. And then moving forward, prior to the operation, it was just a matter of my closest people to me just keeping me real positive because it would have been easy to get down on myself and be ready to quit the game, but they just kept me really positive and my doctors did a great job.

Q. Winston, I want to ask, obviously so many good players have come before you at San Diego State but you've been the lone junior up there, how anxious are you personally to send these seniors off in a good way?
WINSTON SHEPARD: I don't think about it like that. I talk to the team before we go out to the games and I always say each game that we have now is another opportunity for us to play together. Obviously the opportunities are winding down, but clearly the time is coming to a close here soon, but each game we have together is a good opportunity, it's a blessing, so we're just going to go out there and make the most of it.

Q. Winston, I know Coach Lavin recruited you a little bit, I guess you were already looking at San Diego State by then. What was his pitch when he recruited you and did he talk about possibly playing with D'Angelo in college?
WINSTON SHEPARD: Yeah, he talked about it. I don't really remember it, but I could tell you I could never go to New York. I hate the cold, so it wasn't even something that got that serious.

MODERATOR: Thank you.

COACH FISHER: I would like to say that we, like all the other teams that are involved in the field, are immensely excited, very proud to be here. We know that it's not a divine right for anyone. This is our sixth straight year and I think we're in the top seven or eight in terms of how many times we've gone consecutively. So you have to earn your way in and you have to be excited when you get here, and if you play well, you'll have an opportunity to do it again the next day. So we're looking forward to a great game with St. John's, a terrific team, and our hope is to be playing on Sunday.

MODERATOR: Questions?

Q. Naturally we're very interested in Dwayne Polee, and I was just wondering how you handled his medical situation as a coach and whether or not he's under any restrictions since he's playing with that monitor.
COACH FISHER: Dwayne, who everyone knows began his career at St. John's, so he's very excited not only to be in the tournament, but having an opportunity to see his former coach, no player on that team he played with. Dwayne, everyone knows his story. He's had tremendous care from multiple doctors, and he's being monitored daily. We have a doctor with us, doctors have traveled with us on road trips since, and we feel as if Dwayne is good to go. There are no restrictions on him. We've got a medical team and a trainer in Tom Abdenour that has done a magnificent job. He's going to play and our hope is he'll play and play well.

Q. On Dwayne, when he was going through this process, did you think he would not be back, and aside from what you were being told by doctors, was there just a fear of him coming back and playing again?
COACH FISHER: Last first, yeah, I was nervous. And I vividly remember his first official team practice. Even though he had done things, very strenuous things away from me and away from the team, when I saw him practice, I went with our trainer, I said, stand here next to me and watch every move he makes. So yes, you go through that just as you do with -- it's a lot different, but if someone's coming back from a major injury, as he has practiced, I've -- now he's back to Dwayne Polee. I don't even think about it now when he practices or when we're playing.

Q. Steve, I know you mentioned earlier about being one of the seven or eight teams in the country that's gone to the tournament as many consecutive times as you have now. I just wondered, what do you think the nation makes of your program at this point? What do you think their perspective is?
COACH FISHER: I don't have a lot of time to think about that, but I do know that, and it hasn't just been one year but repeatedly over the last few years, when I have gone to the ultimate, I've gone unfortunately as a spectator to the Final Four, everybody wants to talk to me about San Diego State, and that's a good thing. We've been six straight years, so that helps to enhance your image and blueprint of who you are. The more you do in the next three weeks, the more that will create who you are. So our goal is to do something we've never done before. We've never gone beyond the Sweet 16. I said that last year after we lost, one of these days, I may not be here to enjoy it, but San Diego State will get further than where we are right now, and that's our hope. Our hopes and dreams are like everyone, but I think there's a bit of reality that we've attached to it. And our players have experienced winning in this event and also the bitterness of having to go home before you want to.

Q. Is there something about this team for all its maddening sometimes inability to make baskets that we should believe that it can go further than it has?
COACH FISHER: Probably depends on who you're talking to, to be honest with you. It maybe depends on what half of a game or what game you watched. I could cite them. We've had games where you would say they can play and beat anybody. We have had others where you would say they would not qualify for a good CYO team offensively. We guard and we guard hard most of the time. We scored 43 points in our final game in the Mountain West conference tournament. That won't win for you. So when we make shots, and to be honest, we've got to have our perimeter guys and our seniors, and two of the three guys that were sitting up here before, they have to be able to make some shots. They're capable and hopefully they'll do it.

Q. You've talked about Aqeel before and how he grows on you, he's a fun kid to be around. Also, in addition to his emotion and how that helps, when he's making baskets, you guys are generally winning. Can you speak about the two facets of his game, the emotion and that he takes shots and makes them?
COACH FISHER: Aqeel Quinn is what every student-athlete should be, appreciative that he's here. I don't know if he came up here, but he's got his cell phone and everywhere he goes he takes memories and makes memories with his play. He's our emotional bunny. He's a guy that excites genuinely and it's not phony. He's exciting by nature to be with and positive by nature, finds something to smile about and it rubs off on all of us, coaches and players alike.

Q. Coach, you put Dwayne Polee back in the starting lineup for the last game of the Mountain West tournament. What was the thinking behind that, what do you think he brings and what specifically can he bring to this game against St. John's with so many athletes and perimeter players?
COACH FISHER: Our starting lineup in years past has always been the same, it never varied. If somebody got hurt or sick, as soon as they were back they were in the lineup. A year ago Dwayne Polee was our second-best player in February and March to Xavier Thames, so we know he can play. So I have to make a decision are we better with Dwayne in the starting lineup or being that emotional lift hopefully that would come off the bench in that first wave of substitutions, and I have not fully decided yet what we'll do for St. John's tomorrow. Everybody wants to start but Dwayne is such a neat, wonderful young guy, I truly think that he'll, with a smile on his face, accept either of those roles.

Q. Coach, any concerns that the team would look past St. John's for a possible match-up with Duke on Sunday?
COACH FISHER: Please. No, you know that won't happen. They are tingling with excitement. They had this TV on in the locker room and back in the hotel and saw some of the 3-14 games or whatever they were. You had better live in the moment if you want to survive in advance. Our players have great respect for themselves. We may not win, but it won't be because we were looking ahead for anybody.

Q. Coach, what concerned you most about St. John's and their athleticism? Can you talk a little bit about their team and what concerns you, what you're looking to combat against?
COACH FISHER: They're a bit like us, they're veterans, they're senior driven. I believe at least three seniors play prominent roles that were in Steve's initial recruiting class. They're a hard team to guard. They're athletic and they put pressure on you. They make shots, and when they get going making shots, good defense can't stop them. So we have to hope that they have stretches where they don't make shots, but this is a quality team that we're playing. I've got great regard for Coach Steve Lavin and what he's done, and he'll have them prepared. He's had a week or four, five days, I'm sure he's done what we've done. He's called all his markers in on all his buddies on the West Coast and had everybody send him game tapes and scouting reports, so he'll be prepared for us just as we'll be prepared for him. They've got good players, they've got good players that can score the ball in a lot of different ways and positions.

Q. Obviously St. John's is not going to have one of the best shot blockers in the country because of his suspension. How does that help you at the offensive end as far as what you can do in the paint?
COACH FISHER: I don't know how that will help us. We've got to find ways to make baskets and score points. Last I looked, they still have a pretty good shot blocker in the middle when you come to the basket and we'll have to do what we do and try to make it work. Obviously they're not as good without him, but they're still good enough.
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