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March 21, 2015

Steve Fisher

J.J. O'Brien

Dwayne Polee II

Aqeel Quinn

Skylar Spencer


MODERATOR: We're about to start with the San Diego State student-athletes.

Q. This is for Dwayne and J.J. Coach Fisher's had a lot of success building the program with transfers and we know what you guys have meant to the program. What has it meant to you guys to come play at San Diego State and for Coach Fisher?
J.J. O'BRIEN: It's meant a lot. He recruited me out of high school and I chose to go to Utah and just to have the opportunity when I transferred to come back here. It was a blessing so I'm very fortunate to him. Especially to be a part of something that's growing and to be here during those first years of success, starting with Kawhi and started before that, too. To be a part of three consecutive tournament appearances for me has been amazing. So I'm blessed to be a part of it.

DWAYNE POLEE II: I just want to say you can't forget AQ because he's also a fifth year as well. Just to see what Steve Fisher built from the ground up is something special and just to be a part of it, six straight tournament appearances doesn't come around very often so just to be a part of something special is a great feeling.

AQEEL QUINN: Let them know, DP. It's been a fun experience just to know that we left a legacy once our time here is done. That's something that will last for ever. I mean, when we come back and we look up in the rafters and we see banners and we know we're a part of that. It's just been a blessing, man, to be a part of this and what a special group of guys and us three seniors, it just means a lot.

Q. Can you take us through the last 48 hours and maybe tell us where you ate so we won't go there?
AQEEL QUINN: For lunch the day before yesterday, I had a turkey sandwich. Right after that my stomach just, it was not feeling well. We came to the shoot-around, I didn't feel good in shoot-around at all. I told Tom, I'm like, I can't -- this is not right. So when I got back, started vomiting, got IVs that whole night until like 3:00, 4:00 in the morning. Woke up, got another IV. Didn't eat all day. Then came to the game. Tried to give it everything I had, but then that second half it just wasn't right, so I told them I can't go no more. And then last night I had another IV and we here now.

Q. Are you okay now?
AQEEL QUINN: Pretty solid now.

Q. This is for all you guys. Coach Fisher turns 70 on Tuesday, don't tell him I told you that, but he's very animated on the sidelines to this day, always has been. Does he bring that energy all the time, is he always like that in practice and everything?
DWAYNE POLEE II: Yeah, he brings that energy every day in practice. Defensive sliding, he'll be doing stretches with us, he's just really uplifting, he brings a lot of energy to practice every day.

J.J. O'BRIEN: Yeah, it's funny because when he wants you to do something, he's going to act it out for you, so before he tells you what to do, he's acting out himself, he's moving his feet real quick and everything. He moves pretty well for a 70 year old man, I must say.

Q. On defense or offense?
J.J. O'BRIEN: On defense, he does that a lot on defense.

SKYLAR SPENCER: He's got a good stance on defense.

J.J. O'BRIEN: How to get the hands up and cover the drive, so he's pretty active.

SKYLAR SPENCER: He's always animated and involved in our practices. He let's the assistant coaches do their thing but he make sure he always puts his input, he is never just going by quietly. You always hear him doing something.

Q. AQ -- he gave me permission to call him AQ.
AQEEL QUINN: DP said the stretching part is the funniest to me. When we're doing our stretching, when he's like just mimicking what we do, that's the best part of practice to me the whole time. It's a good sight to see. It's pretty funny to watch him. If you guys come out to practice right now, you'll probably catch him doing a couple stretches.

Q. You for some of the bigs here, I guess Skylar especially and Dwayne, you guys have great length, height and all that, but Okafor obviously is a presence, a monster inside. How have you guys defended this season someone who's got that kind of physical size?
SKYLAR SPENCER: You have to control the paint. You can't let them overbear you, take control of them. You have to always be aware, stay connected because when you playing against a good big man, you rest for one second they can catch you slipping, and that's an automatic 2 points, so I just have to be on my toes and stay aware the whole time.

Q. J.J., I'll start with you, you talk about being special, about being a part of this growing. A victory over Duke, what would that do for the legacy that you're building?
J.J. O'BRIEN: It would do a lot. Probably the most behind or close to the win at Kansas, just program building wins that tell a lot about what kind of teams we have, especially in the tournament to make it to the Sweet 16, that would be huge. Coach Fisher had battles with Duke back in his Michigan days and we're fortunate enough now to be a part of that year at San Diego State. It's a big opportunity, man. They've got a great history, and to get a win would mean a lot to our program.

Q. J.J., a question, you guys talked about hanging banners a little earlier and obviously Sky's the only guy that's coming back next year but earlier Coach Krzyzewski was talking about Marshall Plumlee and how big guys maybe develop a little bit later than perimeter guys. I'm just wondering if you three seniors could talk about Sky's development and him being one of the guys to kind of carry that banner again next year?
J.J. O'BRIEN: Sky came in with a natural ability to block shots, but he's grown so much in that area just with his timing, his ability to block shots without fouling, and also with his ability to alter shots. With his defensive positioning, sometimes he doesn't even have to block a shot, helping outside the lane, helping on pick and rolls, not letting the guard get by him so defensively he's going in that area a lot. And offensively, I think a lot of people have seen this year, he's had great post moves this year, he does a good job catching and finishing, so overall I think he has grown a lot, and just his maturity overall. He does everything right on the floor. There's few times you're going to catch him not doing the right thing. He's very mature about how he goes about playing defense, offense and just being a leader.

AQEEL QUINN: I think Skylar, from the first year it was just blocking and then he was like carrying minutes with DeShawn Stephens, and then last year he played a lot, started. He was vocal on defense but he was there with shot blocking. But now this year, what I've loved like more than anything is his communication on the defensive end. We can actually hear him now, like years previously we were like can you talk louder please so we can hear you. Now he's like the main one screaming and yelling back there and it's so much easier when you know he's back there and which way to jump on ball screens and stuff like that. I just think the communication barrier is at an all-time high right now, and I love it.

DWAYNE POLEE II: Aside from the defense, I think Sky's grown a lot offensively. I think that just gives us one more weapon, having Sky down low to finish around the basket and grab offensive rebounds and just give us an added weapon.

Q. This is for J.J. Since you brought up the Michigan days, what do guys now, it's been a long time since the days of the Fab Five and Coach Fisher playing Coach K's team in the championship game, what do guys know about it, and do you guys ask questions about those days?
J.J. O'BRIEN: We don't ask too many questions about it, but I think we all know a lot about it. I mean, they had the whole documentary on it. They just had the documentary on Christian Laettner the other day. It's in history and if you're a basketball guy you know about it, just their battles, them starting five freshmen and playing against them in the National Championship game, so many opportunities that they played against them. We know a lot about it but we don't speak too much about it.

Q. Maybe for AQ and J.J., is this a little bit similar to a couple years ago when you guys played against McDonald's All-American five-star guys and you guys really, I don't want to say, chip on your shoulder but you went in there being not highly rated guys and kind of wanted to show the world something is this a similar situation, I mean they have nine McDonald's All-Americans and both of you guys weren't really highly recruited out of high school and now you have a chance to play on the same floor with them?
AQEEL QUINN: Are you talking about Jamal Jeter at the Hunter Center when we played UCLA? That year it was pretty much the same. Like you said, Jamal Jeter was the anchor of that team. You know Jamal Jeter's fiery and he plays with a lot of passion. I think this year they do have a lot of McDonald All-Americans and I think a lot of people in our locker room had developed as far as the older guys and we have a couple young highly rated recruits that came in as well. But we do have a lot of passion and heart. The experience will help us, and we definitely are looking forward to this opportunity. As you said, we do have a chip on our shoulder being San Diego State and we had to hold up that mantra.

J.J. O'BRIEN: Yeah, like he said, I think we're more now on the upswing of getting more highly touted recruits with the freshman class that we had but we don't compare with five as far as like they do right now. I mean, when we tossed the basketball up, your starts don't really matter. I mean they're proven great players, they're No. 1 seed but in the game we've just got to worry about playing basketball. So it is a similar situation, but we just want to win and move onto the next round. Five stars and McDonald's All-Americans aren't really something we need to worry about. We just need to worry about them as great players and do what we do as great players.

MODERATOR: Any other questions? Thanks, guys. We're ready to begin with Coach Fisher. Questions.

Q. Can we go back to December 2001 when you took the team back to Cameron Indoor Stadium and how much when you're building that program, how much that exposure meant to building the program, where it is now?
COACH FISHER: We don't take bye games and that was a situation where the longer I held out, the more money they offered us to go. I tried like the Dickens to get Mike to give me a home and home and couldn't get that done, but we robbed a bank to go there and we played well. We played well. We had Randy Holcomb on that club and wound up going to the NCAA Tournament ourselves that year and it was a great experience for us, for our kids, for the program, a nationally televised game that was helpful in starting the growth of the program.

Q. You're coming up on your 70th birthday. How have you been able to maintain the fire that it takes to be able to maintain the kind of success you have been able to build in college basketball?
COACH FISHER: I don't feel 70, and I look in the mirror and I know I'm approaching 70. If you do something you love to do, and I've said this before, my dad was my first coach. That's all he wanted to do. A wife, four kids, World War II, he did everything but student teach. I saw his passion for coaching our little league team, and he told me, do something that you love to do. Don't do something for money, do something you have a passion for and opportunities and good things will happen.

Q. You talked about that being a great experience against Duke in 2001. Can you talk about how far you've come? Now here you are, six straight tournaments, you're playing them in the Round of 32, measuring up against one of the blue bloods, one of the greats.
COACH FISHER: Well, there's no question that Duke is one of the elite, and that's where most of it, and I'm not demeaning us, aspire to get. They're less than a handful that you could say that are at that level. We have a great opportunity. We're here, we think we can win, and probably most people in the country will not think that could happen but we're coming in to play and play as hard as we can if we make shots. You know, you've followed us, underline if. We're as good as most people in the country. We guard efficiently, we guard collectively, and last night when we had open shots, we made them. We need to do the same when we play Duke on Sunday.

Q. What would it do for the program as you talk about, you've built a program; not a good team. You've built a program. What would it do in terms of the next step beating Duke in the Round of 32, and also just to even be here and no one thought you were going to go to Duke and win. There will be some people that think you can beat this team tomorrow, that's where you guys have come to.
COACH FISHER: We've never been beyond the Sweet 16. I said that last year when we lost to Arizona. San Diego State will eventually sometime, maybe not in my lifetime, but we will have a team that will get to the Final Four, have a chance to win a National Championship. To say that, now people don't laugh when you say that so that's a neat feeling. A year ago when we went in to Kansas and Allen Fieldhouse and won there, I know a lot of people said they didn't win at Kansas, they couldn't do that. But we did. So we want to continue to grow who we are, and this would be a huge opportunity to do that in front of the whole world. I think we're the only game that's going to be on when we play on Sunday and we'll have a lot of eyeballs on it and our goal and hope is to play well and win.

Q. Steve, Coach Krzyzewski earlier was talking about Marshall Plumlee and the development of big guys that usually comes later than perimeter guys. I just wondered if you might speak to the development of Skylar Spencer and if it's been easy for him to be overlooked in the mix of everything that's happened.
COACH FISHER: Skylar Spencer knows who he is. His signature is he's defender, shot blocker, protects the rim. He has worked tremendously hard to grow an offensive game. Last night he had some really, really good baskets for us versus St. John's. We need for him to have confidence in his offense, but we need to be -- need to have him as our Rock of Gibraltar defensively. He's a terrific young guy that doesn't care if he doesn't get a lot of touches. But he has to have the ability to draw a defender on him. They can't just walk away from him, say he can't or won't score.

Q. Steve, how would you compare what you've done at San Diego State to what you did at Michigan, and how have you built this program basically out of nothing to what it is today?
COACH FISHER: What happened in my first stop doesn't happen, and it happened to me. It happened at a blue blood program, one that sometimes people say you win because you're there and sometimes people are saying that about Duke now. It's Duke, they're supposed to win. At San Diego State, we reenergized a dormant program and took a program that had not had recent success and one step, one block, one coffee shop to the 300 at the National Kiwanis meeting, we drew an audience and we grew it because we got some players who helped us win. And now we have one of the better programs not only on the west coast but in the country and we're very proud of that. Four straight years, we've sold the building out before the season began, we had won 29 straight at home before we dropped one to Boise State. So we've worked hard at it. Been a lot of people that have worked hard at it. It's been a community affair that has allowed it to happen. The nice thing is, we still see an upward tic in trend and I like that, too.

Q. Do you feel like you're not known for being this architect at San Diego State or do you think people still know you as the coach of the Fab Five?
COACH FISHER: I would say probably that depends on your audience, on who you're talking to. I walked into the hotel here where we're staying and people looked at me and looked at me and, do I know you? Oh, yeah, I know you. Those are the guys that remember me from yesterday. I went to the Final Four the last two years, and they all know me as San Diego State coach now. I like the fact that now when I go to the current people that are involved and they say San Diego State when they point at me.

Q. Coach Krzyzewski described you as a friend. I'm curious how much interaction you've had with him in the coaching circles over the years, away from the court obviously?
COACH FISHER: You know, it's a small fraternity relatively speaking and there are no secrets. We all go to the same places to watch the same groups of kids, these AAU programs. Mike has always been a guy, and I have great respect for him as a basketball coach obviously, but the way he interacts with people is something that everyone should take a look at and say that's how it's supposed to be. So often you get a head coach that walks right by the assistants and up to sit either by himself or with other head coaches. Mike has always gone out of his way to shake hands, to sit and talk long before I became a head coach. Got great respect for him. So I've known him for a long time. Our wives have known one another through various functions and I call him a friend. I think I said this outside, when I got the job at San Diego State, and I got a telegram from Mike Krzyzewski, welcome back. People don't do that. He does it.

Q. It's been 23 years, I guess, since the national title game, the one time you guys were in an NCAA Tournament game against each other. It's not very often that coaches go 20 years, have the longevity to be around two of them and have that happen. Is there going to be any special feeling going against him all these years later after doing it once before?
COACH FISHER: The excitement for me is we're playing, we're playing in the NCAA Tournament, we won a game, we're in the Round of 32, we're playing a great, great program but we'll be worrying about the players on the floor. Mike is the architect and I think I would probably lose 10-9 in a game against him, but he's not going to be playing, nor will I. But he's got a terrific team and we're just happy that we're still playing and our happiness wants to be still playing after the game.

Q. Rick Pitino was on the radio a few days ago, didn't like the one-and-done, wants to see that eliminated. You've done it all different ways. Do you like the one-and-done, do you think it should change and do you think it will change at some point?
COACH FISHER: I like the way it was before the one-and-done. I think if you're talented enough and somebody's coming and saying we want you and we will pay you millions to have you, they should be allowed to do it. I think -- I've coached kids, we had a young player named Jerod Ward. If you're a junkie, you know that name. Clinton, Mississippi. Came to us, who's better, Jerod Ward or Felipe Lopez. Tore his ACL twice. Had he had the opportunity, he would have gone to the NBA out of high school. I don't know how long he would have played, but he would have had quite a bit of money. And I've said this before. Nobody bats an eyeball when a 16 year old turns pro in tennis or other sports. So there's value to be gotten obviously from going to college, but I don't think you should say you have to stay X number of years if you're talented enough.

Q. You talked about you guys need to make shots to win, I guess that's pretty standard. But one guy didn't make shots last night, Win Shepard, he contributes in other ways obviously. What has his growth been as a player during his time there, where his emotions are a little different now as a freshman when he's not having a great shooting night?
COACH FISHER: When Winston Shepard signed with San Diego State, he was the highest ranked player we had. With that came the pressure of expectations. He played terrific as a freshman but people expected more. Started every game as a sophomore, people expected more. He is our leading rebounder, he's our best passer, he's one of our smartest players, he knows what to do and he's to the point now where he's not worried about what others are thinking, and he's playing to win, made great progress, and he is a huge piece to what we've done over his three years to have the success that we've had. Winston's done a great job for San Diego State.

Q. Steve, your first handful of years, how hard was it to attract top players?
COACH FISHER: Early on? When I took the job I heard from a lot of high school coaches, and one, I tell this story. He said, I've got a player you need to look at. He's not good enough to play for Rick Majerus, but I know he can play for you. I said the last time I looked I'm in the league with Rick Majerus, and I need guys that can play for Rick as well as me. I made a home visit with Tyson Chandler my first year. Went pro right out of high school. We were unafraid to go talk to people. The audience I got early on, they wanted me to sign the Fab Five book. So we got audiences with people, some just wanted to see who we were. Some of those guys went someplace else and we got some bounce-backs early on. So we were unafraid to knock on doors but we said we have to grow our program a certain way. Junior college transfers, four-year college transfers and good high school players. This past year we signed four high school players and it was the highest rated class we've had. We will still take, like everybody does, like Duke, like Carolina, like Michigan State, a transfer who can fit a niche and help you. So we now attract, we get in the doors easier now. We've been smart to go into doors we thought we could have an opportunity on, but I use the phrase, we don't have to get on kneepads to get into your home to recruit your son and I like that.

MODERATOR: Okay, thank you, Coach.
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