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March 20, 2015

D'Angelo Harrison

Steve Lavin

Sir'Dominic Pointer


ST. JOHN'S - 64

MODERATOR: Coach Lavin will be joined by D'Angelo Harrison and Sir'Dominic Pointer.

COACH LAVIN: Just in terms of the game, foul trouble early clearly, you know, affected our chances to be successful. Rysheed picking up that second so early in the first half and that's when San Diego State put some distance. That's when they kind of extended, went on their run. With him out and we fought back some and cut it to 7, and we played them even for most of the second half until late, so we were equal on the boards in the first half, shot 50 percent in the first half. Their put-backs, second chance points in the first half is where they were able to extend some, and then knock it in, in the seven 3s also allowed them to extend. So the 3-point shooting in the first half and the second-chance points is where they were able to put some distance between us and them. But obviously we're a different team when Rysheed is on the floor, and in the second half again we played them pretty much even until the very end of the game. So big picture, just proud of this group of seniors taking us on this ride, restoring pride in St. John's, getting us back to the NCAA Tournament and representing the University in such a first-class manner and all earning their college degrees. True to their character, they fought and scraped and showed grit, fight, right to the last possession of the game. So the most gratifying year of my coaching career because of the opportunity to participate in this senior class' journey here at St. John's.

MODERATOR: Questions for the student-athletes. Please raise your hand.

Q. D'Angelo, how tough was it against their size without Chris? They're going 6'7, 6'7, 6'8, 6'9, and you guys are playing all guards how difficult was that?
D'ANGELO HARRISON: It was tough but we didn't use that excuse. We did what we can down low. You credit them, they've got some of the 50/50 balls and kicked out for 3s in the beginning. They got off to a hot start. They were shooting 3s, we were daring them to shoot and they were making them. You credit them. It was tough but we fought as hard was we could but it just wasn't enough today.

Q. Can you talk about what emotions you're feeling as you picked up your fifth foul, walked off the floor and realized your career was going to end at that moment?
D'ANGELO HARRISON: No, just keep trying to do what I can to win the game. Nobody was there to foul so I fouled. When I sat down that's when it hit me. It's tough. I don't even know how to put it in words yet, but I owe this guy my life, so I'll probably talk to him every day for the rest of my life, that's just the kind of guy he is.

Q. For Dom, after you got a couple of fouls early, how much did it take away from your aggressiveness because you basically were the rim protecter back there?
SIR'DOMINIC POINTER: It didn't take away from my aggressiveness at all. I was down there playing tough. The ball didn't bounce our way. A lot of times we had the rebound in our hands, we slipped out of our hand and we gave them easy layups like that. It was more the ball just didn't bounce our way.

Q. D'Angelo, it looked like you talked to Winston there a little bit at the end of the game. What did you guys say to each other?
D'ANGELO HARRISON: Just continue to move forward. He played well, so just continued success. That's my little brother, I talk to him every day, we're all in a group text. Just saying keep moving forward and keep winning, win the next game, it's important, for us.

Q. For both of you guys, can you describe the way that when San Diego State gets a second chance point, like after you've already gotten the stop and then they get another chance, the way that that affects morale or spirit or your ability to keep pushing?
D'ANGELO HARRISON: It definitely hurts, but our goal was get the first rebound but sometimes they're going to get the tip. I tried to do my best, when they get it try to run up under them, try to grab it, too. They're just bigger than us on some plays and sometimes you just can't do nothing about it.

SIR'DOMINIC POINTER: Exactly what D'Angelo said. We did get our rebounding. We were trying our best, the ball bounced their way a couple of times. Sometimes we had, like I said we had the ball in our hands, we got tipped. Once it got tipped around it, they a lot bigger so they longer, they get the rebound and they put it back up. I wouldn't say it was deflating it until the end, but more toward the end it hurt us.

Q. If Chris is there, how different is today's game?
D'ANGELO HARRISON: You could say the game would be different but we're an old enough group that that wasn't a factor. We played without him, we played without him before. I think we only lost one game when he wasn't out so I think we're like 6-1 when he didn't play. We didn't use that as an excuse. I mean, you can say it would be different, he's 6'9, does unique things. We didn't use that excuse, we just tried to play hard.

Q. For Dom, you had a stretch where you guys got back where you were within 7 again and you were getting a lot of stops but you committed four turnovers in five possessions. How frustrating was it to be there with a chance and not be able to convert?
SIR'DOMINIC POINTER: It's very tough but we just kept fighting through it. The team, we don't let those turnovers affect us, we came out, we scratched it off and kept playing. We started to come back at the end just we didn't have enough guys.

Q. I know that you guys are going out in a very well-respected class. The last three games, you had three opportunities to do things that you had never done before, beat Villanova, win a Big East tournament game, win a NCAA tournament game. To have come up short on all three, how do you put that into words?
D'ANGELO HARRISON: That's a tough question, to be honest. We tried our best, man. I couldn't do enough today. I played my hardest, I do what I could and we just came up short. So you credit San Diego State, credit their coach. I mean, it's tough, that's a tough question, I don't know how to answer that.

SIR'DOMINIC POINTER: Like D'Angelo said, we played our hearts out and not winning none of it was hard, but it happens. Like I said, we had a great year, successful year as a team, our seniors played our hearts out, everybody played our hearts out, that's all we can ask for.

MODERATOR: Other questions for D'Angelo or Dom? Thanks, guys. Congratulations, a great year. Questions for Coach Lavin.

Q. Steve, I mean, it's the obvious thing's missing here, which is Chris, and the number of second chance points that you mentioned. I mean, is this not somewhat his, you know, his doing?
COACH LAVIN: You know, it's interesting. If Rysheed doesn't get in foul trouble, I think this is a game that comes right down to the wire. We knew San Diego State was a very capable, you know, basketball team. They've had a great run of success, six straight NCAA tournaments. But to me the defining or turning point in this game was Rysheed picking up that second foul within the first minute because he's been a catalyst in this run that allowed us to get to the NCAA Tournament and the numbers bear that out, and even points in the paint. We outscored them 40-30 with the points in the paint. Granted, there's a plus 13 on the second chance points, so it's undeniable that their size was a factor for them in terms of getting those second shots. But this group has been successful without Chris. Ideally, we would have preferred to have Chris' services today, but to me, when I look at the game, it was, when Rysheed picked up that second foul because of the way he influences the game at both ends of the court with his ball pressure, with his ability to put pressure on defenses by breaking them down off the bounce, his playmaking ability, finishing at the rim ability, drawing fouls. He's a real catalyst and a key contributor to what we do at both ends of the floor, and he's one of the better guard rebounders I've coached. When he went out with the second foul, really the rest of the game was pretty equal until right there at the end until we were in a situation where we were just fouling to try to get back into the game. We cut it to 7, had multiple possessions but we never really got back over the hump from the lead that they extended on us with Rysheed out, even though I thought the group fought back admirably well given the circumstances. And I thought the second biggest factor is Dom takes that spill and he was just basically not the same. So now Obekpa is not with us, Rysheed's in foul trouble and Dom goes down with the hip pointer. That just now becomes too much to overcome, and we still fought back in spite of that, had the ball on multiple occasions on the break and a couple possessions where we can cut it to 5 or even to 4 if we hit a 3-pointer on one of those possessions. So the group fought admirably well and I'm proud of them, but those combinations, Rysheed and Dom being injured I thought was the difference tonight given that we didn't have Chris with us.

Q. Steve, if you had Obekpa for tonight, would you have opened in that zone with Rysheed down low protecting against the guys 6'9, 6'10?
COACH LAVIN: The hypotheticals are obviously, if we had Maurice Harkless tonight or Jakarr Sampson or Amir Garrett, but I'm just proud of this group and we got to give credit to San Diego State. They had a great season and they played really well here tonight and we came up short but I thought the foul trouble with Rysheed and then Dom's injury, the combination of those two made it very tough on us tonight with the group we were competing with.

Q. I know the game just ended, but is the door open on a return for Chris Obekpa next season or do you expect that his time at St. John's is done?
COACH LAVIN: We'll get a chance next week to decompress and talk to one another. We've texted the last couple days, we've been in communication and I wouldn't be surprised at all if he doesn't return to St. John's.

Q. Your post-season record at St. John's is 2-8. Why don't you think it's better and how disappointing is that number for you?
COACH LAVIN: We probably need about an hour and a half for that one, so I won't, in fairness to the other writers who probably have deadlines tonight I'm not even going to delve into that one because I have to talk about the last five years, Harkless going pro, Sampson going pro. I'm just proud of this group if they got us back to the NCAA Tournament and it's so rare to be able to take two groups, the team we inherited from Norm Roberts, the team he left behind, great character, they were such a special group, D.J. Kennedy because they got us back after a decade in the dessert. D.J. Kennedy and Dwight Hardy, Paris Horne, Justin Burrell, Sean Evans, Malike Boothe. Go right down the list. That was a special group of seniors in my initial year at St. John's and I was like a stepfather, as we all can appreciate. That's tough to do, coming in as stepfather with someone else's kids, and they punched us back in the tournament and then we had to start over with this wonderful group that now got us back to the NCAA Tournament. Ideally I wish we finished in the Final Four, cutting down the nets in the National Championship but they overcame a number of things that you don't anticipate. We never thought Harkless would leave after one year and lose Jakarr after two, and Amir Garrett to Major League baseball. But these guys, the last of the Mohicans fought to their last possession for St. John's, really represented the front of that jersey well. And if we wanted to do an overview, comprehensive, sit down together, it would be great to get a cup of coffee with you, Zack.

Q. Your four seniors played 39 minutes tonight. You had a four or five minute stretch in the second half where you your guys didn't score. Do you think fatigue set in?
COACH LAVIN: Those kids were so tuckered out, that's why I'm so proud of them. The combination of Dom Pointer being injured, Rysheed Jordan being in foul trouble and obviously we know we didn't have Chris Obekpa's services and yet it's still a 7-point game with multiple possessions and a chance to cut it inside of 7. These kids are super heros in my eyes. I look up to them and I told them as much after the game. I've had 27 years in the business and I probably admire this group more than any that I've coached and it's tough to separate who's your favorite, I had some special groups along the way. This one, because of what they had to overcome and where they started as the youngest team in school history. Not the youngest team in the country but the youngest thing in school history. And those things that we just talked about, the number of kids along the way that decided to opt for the professional route, which I can't fault them for, if I had a chance to play for the 76ers, I would probably opt for that, too, if I was at that age and had that opportunity, financial gain but it made it tougher and to me the story even more remarkable of this group of seniors who will all earn their degrees. I'm sure they were tired emotionally, physically. They gave everything they had to this University and they gave us a special ride this year and took us back to the tournament so couldn't be more proud of them. But they're probably a little tuckered out.

Q. Coach, you talked about how this is your most rewarding season as a coach and we talked about these seniors and how they define St. John's and the program going forward. How have they changed you as a coach going forward?
COACH LAVIN: It's a unique group. The first year I didn't get to coach them because of the cancer, so they arrived on campus and ended up playing for a coach other than the one who recruited them. Right there, that's not something they signed up for, yet they had a great attitude, they were eager to learn, they worked their fannies off that first year and made progress. Then my second year my father passed away. So any time you go through a battle with cancer and losing someone so close to you, and this group, there's something special about their character, their makeup, their demeanor. These phrases we use in coaching and teaching and education, and they're just really a special group. So I think their resiliency, their spirit inspires me. I mean, watching that grit and that determination, that resolve, they were so resolute, tenacious comes to mind as a word, they're just a tenacious group that would not be denied, which, you know, which is why they're all going to earn their degrees and why we're here tonight. I just wish we could have taken it further. Obviously that's what makes it tough. It's kind of a bittersweet. It comes to an end after a great run with this great group of kids. I wish we could take it further but San Diego State played really well and we were short handed and they deserve to move through the brackets and we're proud of what we did. Now we go home and regroup.

Q. This is another hypothetical question, I guess, but given Rysheed's importance to the team, did you consider keeping him out there?
COACH LAVIN: Yes, I did.

Q. Or bringing him back early?
COACH LAVIN: Yeah, in hindsight naturally as a coach, 20/20, but my concern was that if he picked up a third or a fourth that maybe then we would look back at the second half if he ended up fouling out, we didn't have him down the stretch. But we definitely considered it and then we were staying -- I didn't feel they were pulling enough, like you know, if it got past, if they started to go double digits, it was 10, 12, 14, 16, I think I would have gone back to him, but the fact that I felt we were right there within striking distance, it ended up being a two, two and a half possession game at the half. I thought we were in a good place, Dom's injury compounded it, because Dom was dominating the game, but then after the hip he was not the same player. He hung in there, didn't want to be taken out. The combination of no Chris Obekpa, then Rysheed's foul trouble, if we didn't have all three of those working against us maybe we get inside of 5 or 4 or 3 but it put us under duress because we've shown we can beat everybody playing 6, 7 this year. But we need all 6 of those 7. Now we're down basically to four. When Rysheed is on the bench, there is no Obekpa, then Dom's injured. Essentially we're playing four in a group of seven and that was a little too much for us to sustain against a good team at this stage of the year.

MODERATOR: Thanks, Coach.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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