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March 19, 2015

Jamal Branch

Phil Greene, IV

D'Angelo Harrison

Rysheed Jordan

Steve Lavin

Khadim Ndiaye

Sir'Dominic Pointer


MODERATOR: Questions?

Q. Rysheed, it's nice to finally talk with you, I didn't know if this moment would ever happen. Tell me, what are your hopes for tomorrow? What's it going to be like for you to play in the NCAA Tournament game and how long have you been waiting to do something like this?
RYSHEED JORDAN: It's going to be great. I've been waiting since last year. I just want to go out there and play my game, my teammates go out there and play their game, just stick to the game plan, just win a game.

Q. Rysheed, we kind of don't really have all the background, but has this been a rocky season for you, being away from the team and then being back with the team? I mean, have things not gone very smoothly? Fill us in on that.
RYSHEED JORDAN: Well, I wouldn't say rocky. Everything is, I mean, I'm here now, so that's all that matters, with my team right now.

Q. For D'Angelo and Jamal both, on Sunday Coach Lavin talked about how he was happy that you guys weren't going to play until Friday night, it would give you an opportunity to kind of see the tournament, feel the tournament. Obviously this has been a pretty incredible first day, how much have you been able to watch and how much have you been able to learn watching other teams play, and some teams play above their heads and some play below?
JAMAL BRANCH: I thought it was a good day. We definitely stayed at the hotel and watched it together and we saw the teams that weren't ready and the teams that were ready, and it's good to see that feeling before tomorrow so we know we need to come out ready or anything is possible.

D'ANGELO HARRISON: You know, it was an incredible day so far. Teams that won made either runs late or early, so and then teams that haven't been winning have been making a lot of shots as well. You just want to come out and be as comfortable as you can, and establish the way you want to play and establish the game so far.

Q. Rysheed, there's been a lot of talk about you in the NBA, whether you're coming back next year. What are your plans for next year? How much are you considering the NBA? Do you want to come back to St. John's, what are your thoughts?
RYSHEED JORDAN: Right now I'm not focused on that right now, I'm focused on today's practice and tomorrow's game.

Q. For Rysheed, who up here has been -- has helped you the most in adjusting to the college game and been any kind of mentor to you, and how important do you think your shooting will be tomorrow in a game with no Obekpa?
RYSHEED JORDAN: Actually the whole team been -- I'm just going to go out there and just shoot the ball how I've been shooting the ball every other game so I think it will be good.

Q. Dom, you're going to be playing tomorrow without Obekpa, how does your job change, how do your responsibilities change?
SIR'DOMINIC POINTER: My responsibilities don't change at all. I'm going to go out there and do what I do. Blocked shots, rebounds, what I do, it doesn't change.

Q. For D'Angelo, can you give us a little bit of a rundown on how choice you are with Shepard? How far back it dates, how you became friendly?
D'ANGELO HARRISON: I've known Winston for a long time now. We played on the same AAU team in high school, so I already know what his mindset is coming into this game. You know, it's just going to be fun and it's good to see him.

Q. Maybe for Phil and D'Angelo, anyone else, San Diego State's full of a roster of guys who have played in this tournament multiple times, two, three, four years. Nine guys have played in it. None of you all have played, is that a factor at all?
PHIL GREENE IV: Not really. We going to live in the moment and we going to come out with a lot of energy. When the ball goes up, it's anyone's game and we going to come ready and prepared.

KHADIM NDIAYE: I just think we're more hungry because we haven't been here so I think that gives us an edge over them.

JAMAL BRANCH: Just like what those guys said, we're going to go play our hardest and give it all we got.

Q. For D'Angelo, what's it going to be like facing Winston, close friends? He said you're like his brother. Never played obviously since -- for a long time, he went to school out in Vegas. What's it going to be like going up against someone you consider so close to you in a game of this magnitude?
D'ANGELO HARRISON: Honestly I just want to beat him. Especially when we go to back home, we go back to Houston workouts. When I see him in Houston, you're going to want to have that edge, yeah, I beat him. That's my mindset going in, I don't want to lose to him.

Q. Will it be fun facing him?
D'ANGELO HARRISON: For sure. Me and Winston go back we've always been going at it ever since we met. He grew since the last time I saw him, so it's going to be fun, it's going to be a fun game.

Q. How important will it be for you guys to get in transition, force turnovers and what are the advantages to playing with the small lineup against a big team like this?
PHIL GREENE IV: I think that we had to focus in on rebounding, it's a big team and, like you said, we're going to be a smaller group so we all have to key in and focus on rebounding and getting stops, to get out in transition, that's basically it.

SIR'DOMINIC POINTER: Yeah, we've got to go out and play St. John's basketball, we got to rebound, run. We are a better half-court team than people think we are, so we'll be fine. We just got to rebound, that's the main thing.

Q. In your best games, would you say that in addition to the transition it's been the 3-point shooting that helped you in the big games?
PHIL GREENE IV: Yeah, of course, because it opens up everything, our teams can't sag off so when you making a lot of 3s, making tough shots, it opens up the lane, getting easy baskets and getting to the free throw line.

Q. Guys, if we could just run it all the way down, in one word or two words, how different has being at the NCAA Tournament where you've always wanted to be, how different has it felt?
MODERATOR: You want them all to answer it?

D'ANGELO HARRISON: It's a great feeling but I want to win games in this tournament.






SIR'DOMINIC POINTER: You took my word.

Q. Rysheed, these last two years you've obviously dealt with a lot, personal loss, up and down play, had some great moments, obviously had some moments I'm sure you weren't proud of. What have you learned from everything you've been through these last two years?
RYSHEED JORDAN: I learned that no matter what goes on in my life, just stay on the basketball court, take everything out on the court.

Q. How big of a motivational thing is it for you for people you've lost close to you, how much has that driven you to make a career out of basketball?
RYSHEED JORDAN: It's real big because those are people that I love and they love me playing this game. So each and every time I step on the court I think of them, and just make me go harder.

Q. For Rysheed again, now that we finally hear your voice, these last two years not being able to talk, what has been your thoughts on that being kind of shielded from the media, the New York media. Would you have preferred to talk? Do you think it's been a good idea for you not to talk?
RYSHEED JORDAN: Well, I think it's been a good idea because I've been going through a lot, so let my team just do the talking.

Q. Are you happy to be able to talk?

Q. Why? Why are you glad to talk today?
RYSHEED JORDAN: Because right now we on a big stage right now and I just want to, like you said, just let y'all hear -- I don't know.

Q. One more for D'Angelo. You guys have been through untold kinds of turmoil over the past four years or so, so in some respects are you prepared for where you're going through right now with no Obekpa, playing with a different kind of lineup, having to make all these adjustments in the last second, even Rysheed talking?
D'ANGELO HARRISON: We're old enough to adjust to anything, and Phil said it best to just live in the moment and that's what we're prepared to do and that's what we want to do as well.

COACH LAVIN: Do you want to go ahead and start with some questions?

Q. Steve, I asked Dom this question, how do you counter the loss of Obekpa tomorrow?
COACH LAVIN: Well, naturally it's -- I should say it's less than ideal to not have Chris Obekpa's services for the NCAA Tournament. Yet this group over the past three years has had a number of stretches where we've had to play without Chris and have been successful. So whether it was through foul trouble or being disqualified from a game or fouling out or a number of injuries that he's endured, this team has found a way to offset the loss of Chris in games, in stretches of the season and still been successful. With that said, we understand not having Chris at the rim as our goalie, kind of the protecter, the player that provided resistance at the goal, will make it difficult for us. But this group has played a number of styles of play, whether it's through our full court press or through our trapping, and creating match-up problems for teams that are bigger than us because our speed, our quickness, our skill, you know, presents challenges for opponents.

Q. Steve, on Sunday after the brackets were revealed, you talked about how you thought it was a good thing you guys will play late tomorrow, play tomorrow, give you a chance to get acclimated, look at the tournament on TV, get an idea of what they'll be in for. This is about as good a first four, five hours you could ask for. I'm curious how much you were able to follow it, how much you were able to encourage them to stay in their rooms and absorb it, still reinforce that point?
COACH LAVIN: There's no doubt when the kids came in the locker room, I came over a couple hours earlier for meetings so I was able to watch in our locker room the UCLA-SMU game that came down to the wire, and the highlights of the Georgia State victory and we know Iowa State got bumped out as well. Some days, sometimes the first day of the tournament's chalk, and then the upsets start that second day. This appears to be one of those NCAA tournaments where the upsets begin right out of the gate, and I think the advantage for the teams that play on Friday is you gain very quickly a sense of March Madness and how difficult it is to advance through the brackets independent of those numbers that are next to these teams' names. A 3 and a 14 doesn't mean much over that two-hour window if you don't bring the appropriate effort and level of execution that gives you an opportunity to be successful. It doesn't -- you know, when you get to the tournament, it's so clear, there are no guarantees but you just want the probabilities or the percentages to be in your favor because of the way you prepare and play, and the hope is with our team that they'll have a better sense since we're playing on Friday night.

Q. Steve, have you given any thought at all, even a fleeting thought, to how important tomorrow might be to whatever your future's going to be at St. John's or is that something you'll worry about when you have to worry about it?
COACH LAVIN: You know, as we've spoken of before, the administration has been so supportive from the first day that I was on the job here through today. Three presidents, so there's been transition, but each of them from Father Harrington to Father Levesque to our current president have been great bosses. So there's never been any acrimony or any sense that it's an issue. This is the best contract I've had in my coaching career, if we're going to talk about contracts. So just been grateful, and as you can see with the group that's up here, I mean, this is probably the most gratifying year of my career just because the company I get to keep on a daily basis and watching the growth and development of these seniors. They're all going to get their degree here in a couple weeks from St. John's and I'm actually old fashioned enough or maybe I'm naive to actually believe that that's important, to earn your college degree. I know it's kind of a novel concept sometimes, but five seniors are all going to walk with their college degrees this spring. And then naturally I just couldn't be prouder of their growth and development each year, their kind of undeniable progress. Independent, if we were to win six games this March, which would be wonderful. If we were able to win four games, that's wonderful. If we're not able to win a game, independent of the outcome of the basketball game, this has just been a magic carpet ride, to come to St. John's, a program with this tradition and heritage, to coach this particular group. And then very unique, because we inherited a group of seniors that have not had success and to be able to experience and participate with them in their first dance, and now that's kind of a stepfather role which is difficult. That group, I'll have a place in my heart for them because I'm eternally grateful for the ride they took us on in that first year. I still think if D.J. Kennedy doesn't get hurt, that's a Sweet 16, Elite 8 team. And now this group, they're all players we brought in to experience and participate, another magical ride to the NCAA Tournament, and it's rare you get to do that, where you inherit someone else's players and they take you on a wonderful ride, and you get to your own players to do it again.

Q. Steve, obviously you spent your share of time out west, and you knew then what San Diego State's program may have been all about. But now they're one of a half a dozen teams, there's seven or eight that have been six straight times. What do you make of what's happened there and what Steve's done?
COACH LAVIN: Well, Coach Fisher brought a national name to San Diego State, the credibility he brought to that program allowed them to recruit at a higher level. Once you are able to recruit at a higher level, then you begin to increase your win totals, and once you win enough games you make the NCAA Tournament and when you do that on a regular basis, it provides the opportunity to make a run in one of those tournaments. When all those factors line up, you engage your base and you energize your fan base. So both Coach Fisher and Coach Dutcher are a great team, they're a great tandem. Hope and a Crosby, and Carson and McMahon. Because of the blueprint they had for Michigan they were able to bring out west and the relationships they have in this business, going back four decades is important and it's been a catalyst, it's what's fueled the growth and development of their program, the growth and development and the rise of San Diego State basketball.

Q. I apologize if this has been asked, much has been made of the experience of San Diego State with so many players on their roster and so few on yours. Does that make a difference in the NCAA Tournament? You've been here a lot but does experience matter?
COACH LAVIN: I think experience does matter, and yet we've seen time and time again, you know, an upstart program that goes on a run and knocks off a traditional basketball powerhouse, whether it's a mid major program like George Mason or Northern Iowa or these programs that are dancing for the first time and yet they make runs into the second weekend of play. So in my experience, the teams that advance to the second weekend of play to Elite Eights or Sweet 16s were senior-laden, every one of them, and the only times we didn't, we didn't have senior-laden teams, with the exception being with D.J. Kennedy going down the Big East tournament, it hurt our seeding because he was injured, and then we got sent out west and played a good Gonzaga team and came up short. With the exception of that year, '97 and '98 was senior-laden, 2001-2002 was senior-laden, and we're senior-laden again. The difference is before I came to St. John's, every year you're in the NCAA Tournament, that's just a given. You're always bringing back an entire roster where every player other than your freshmen has been to the NCAA tournament. This was new territory, coming to St. John's where for ten years you're in the desert, it's a drought, and none of the players have been in the NCAA Tournament. Then after we made the NCAA Tournament, we were in a reset because not one player returned the following year. That's why it took us three years to get to 20, and four years to get to 21 and now we're back in the dance but once you actually get here, I think it's madness because all that logic oftentimes goes out the window and the brackets are busted and turned upside down. That's why we love the NCAA Tournament.
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