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March 16, 2016

Jim Larranaga

Angel Rodriguez

Tonye Jekiri

Sheldon McClellan

Providence, Rhode Island

Q. Could you guys talk about -- has Coach Larranaga told you any Providence stories since you've arrived here, just of his days here as a player or anything like that? I know he was a little bit nostalgic about coming back.
SHELDON MCCLELLAN: No, not yet. He hasn't told us any stories, but I'm pretty sure they're coming. We heard he was a great player at Providence, so he's probably putting us a little bit. Kind of happy, we're excited to be practicing at the gym. It was a great feeling, but he hasn't told us any stories yet. I'm pretty sure he will.

Q. Tonye, can you talk about what it means to be back in the NCAA Tournament after three years?
TONYE JEKIRI: I think it's a great feeling for me and my teammates. I mean, being here my freshman year, it was really exciting, being around with the great seniors we had. And these tournaments are so amazing, and being with these guys and me being a senior and enjoying this moment together, it's a blessing to us.

Q. Angel, have you looked at any -- I'm assuming you've looked at Buffalo a little bit. What do you see from them? What should people expect from the game tomorrow?
ANGEL RODRIGUEZ: Well, first of all, they made it here. That says a lot about them. They just won their conference tournament, and also they were in the tournament last year, which tells us they have a lot of experience. We didn't make the tournament last year, so it's definitely a team that we have to respect. And they like to play fast. Just a lot of things that makes us respect them and actually be focused for the preparation for tomorrow's game.

Q. Angel and Sheldon, you guys both transferred out of the Big 12. I wonder if you had a chance to watch each other and if you had a little bit of a scouting report on each other when you started practicing together at Miami.
ANGEL RODRIGUEZ: No. There was no scouting report. In fact, we were spending a lot of time together working on our craft, so, you know, there was not much to scout. When we played, we would always be on the same team, so there was no point of scouting each other.

You know, now after two years, this is our third year together, there's a lot of stuff that we know about each other. And the times that we have to guard each other, then it's a lot easier to guard each other than guarding a random player. For the most part, it's always been us playing together, not against each other.

Q. Sheldon, I understand you guys met with a sports psychologist, the coach's friend. I wonder if you feel like you're mentally stronger than you were and what you took away from that heading into the tournament.
SHELDON MCCLELLAN: Yeah, I mean, it was definitely a lot of motivation from Bob Rotella. But he basically just told us to be confident when we go out there on the court, believe in ourselves, don't believe in the other team. If you believe in the other team, there's no point of playing. He just told us to play with a lot of confidence and stay poised together as a team because you can't go far unless you play as a team. Whether you're playing a lot or playing a little, don't be into yourself, be into the team. And somebody that hasn't played the whole year is going to wind up playing an important role throughout this tournament, depending on how far we go. Everybody has to be ready, whether he's a starter or not.

Q. Does UB remind you of any team that you've played this season so far when you watch them on film?
TONYE JEKIRI: I mean, they're more like a team like Virginia Tech that we've played, where they -- the tallest guy on the team is probably 6'10", and the starter comes -- their bench player is a guy 6'8" who plays the starter like many. They're pretty fast, and they try to spread the floor and stretch it out and drive, and they're a three-point shooting team, also.

Today in practice and defense, we're just working on switching, and big guys like us trying to guard their guards, a 6'8" guy, a 6'7" guy who can put the ball on the floor. They're going to be a big challenge for us, but they're more like a Virginia Tech team that we've played.

Q. Angel, I kind of wanted to piggyback on that question a couple questions ago about you and Sheldon. How did you guys develop that chemistry? Was that something that really happened that season you were both just sitting out, and how much has your friendship come into that chemistry you guys have on the floor?
ANGEL RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, definitely the year that we were redshirt, it made everything a lot easier. It made our chemistry grow, given the fact that we've never played together. You know, as a friendship, the respect grows a lot, because you see each other working so hard. When you're tired, you push each other, and when you're frustrated because you're not playing, you talk to each other. It's been far beyond just basketball. We've built a great relationship, and at the same time it's a great opportunity to be in the same class. We're both seniors, and we know this is our very last NCAA Tournament with Tonye and with Ivan. Not just me and Sheldon, but the seniors have -- we have a special relationship, and I know it's obviously been built over the time, over the struggles and the success that we've had as a class.

Q. For both of you, how much do you love those alley-oop opportunities when you get them?
ANGEL RODRIGUEZ: It's an easy assist for me. I just throw it up and he gets it and does what he has to do. He makes my job a lot easier.

SHELDON MCCLELLAN: Yeah. He makes my job a lot easier, too. It helps me score without the ball. A lot of teams put a lot of attention on me throughout the game, so he definitely makes the game easier for me. He just knows where I am, and like I said, that's just the chemistry we built during our year off. But I think we just have two good ballplayers with great IQs who are out together out there on the court.

Q. UB is a team that has a lot of balanced offense, four guys with double figures, seven guys with over seven a game. Mainly, Angel, can you talk about a guard-oriented team that has so much balanced offense and spreads it around that way and what that does for you guys on defense?
ANGEL RODRIGUEZ: I think overall they're a good match-up for us, just like Tonye compared them to Virginia Tech. They play a lot of guards, and a lot of them do a lot of scoring. They drive. They're also very capable of shooting the three.

You know, I have tremendous belief in our team and our guards and our bigs of doing what we have to do to stop them. But overall it should be a pretty good ballgame, you know, good guards going against good guards. And at the same time, I think we've got to take opportunities with our bigs, with Tonye, feeding him the ball and letting him go to work. I think with the size advantage he should be able to create a lot of problems for them, and that'll open up our game as guards because they'll have to help, which gives us a little more freedom to do extra things.

JIM LARRANAGA: Well, I graduated from Providence College in 1971. I haven't been back here in a little while, but it's very, very nice to be back in Friartown. I saw one of my former teammates, backcourt teammates, over at Alumni Hall where we played our games. Our Miami team is excited to be here in Providence. We had a very nice practice over at Joe Malabey Court, and we're looking forward to playing Buffalo in the first round of the tournament tomorrow night.

Q. I've got a couple questions online from a couple Providence folks wondering your impressions of the campus and of Alumni Hall.
JIM LARRANAGA: Yeah, I didn't recognize it. There's just so much construction that has taken place since I was there. The place looks great.

I wish some of that stuff was in place when I was playing. In fact, I really wish I had a chance to play in the Dunkin' Donuts arena. That was something I missed out on.

Q. Jim, just wondering, has it set in it's been 10 years since your Final Four run at George Mason, and how much do you think the game has changed in those 10 years?
JIM LARRANAGA: Well, I think some of the rules have changed. I think the shot clock going from 35 seconds to 30 seconds, the no-charge area with the arc in the lane has been expanded. One of the biggest rules that I was tremendously in favor of, and I hope my fellow coaches feel like it was a good change, was the elimination of the five-second count on the dribble, because I thought that was a waste of time. It was never called, and then all of a sudden it would be called once at a crucial time of the game. So I think the improvements we've made are good.

I think some of the concerns I would have are about the number of free throw attempts that we're getting. It seems like that's an area that the number is going way up. I don't think fans want to sit there and watch a free-throw shooting contest.

Q. As somebody with a Providence basketball pedigree, how cool is it for Providence, the Dunkin' Donuts center, to be hosting a tournament of this magnitude?
JIM LARRANAGA: Yeah, I think Providence has always been a basketball town. When I was here, every game was a sellout, Joe Malabey was a legend, and when he left, Dave Gavitt took his place and he became a legend. He created the Big East Conference, and the stars of the Big East were born. This has always been actually a guard-oriented town when you think of the Vinny Ernst and Johnny Egans, Lenny Wilkens, Jimmy Walker, Ernie DiGregorio, Kevin Stacom, Joey Hassett and the guys of today, like Kris Dunn. It's a great basketball tradition here, and I think our guys enjoyed seeing the campus and seeing the great tradition here.

Q. The players talked a little bit about how they see UB similar, very similar to Virginia Tech. Is that a fair comparison and who do they remind you of that you guys have played so far?
JIM LARRANAGA: I think the University of Buffalo is similar to us in that they utilize ball screens a lot, and the team in our league that does that a lot is Virginia Tech. But I also think their tempo is very, very fast, similar to a team in our league, Wake Forest, who runs a lot. Danny Manning is the head coach, and they play an up-tempo game.

I think the game will be played at a pretty fast pace, and our guys have got to use their speed and quickness to be sure we're not giving up a lot of easy baskets to Buffalo.

Q. Their season three-point percentage wasn't great. Just what do you see from them? How do you view their perimeter threat?
JIM LARRANAGA: It's not what you're doing back in November, December, January, it's what you're doing in March. They shot the ball pretty darned well in the MAC tournament. They made, I believe, 11 threes in Game 1, 14 threes in Game 2, and 10 threes in Game 3 in the championship. For our defense to be as good as it needs to be, we can't allow them to go off from the three-point line.

Q. I'm wondering if you already went and had an angry angry milk shake --
JIM LARRANAGA: It's the Awful Awful.

Q. Have you had it yet and are you going to take the team over there?
JIM LARRANAGA: I was asked what my favorite restaurant was. I said, well, when I was at Providence College I didn't have any money to go eat at a fancy restaurant. I did work at Oates's Tavern. Anybody from Providence here? Is Oates's Tavern still around? I used to eat at the Newport Creamery, which is basically a place for hot dogs and hamburgers and shakes. And the shake was called the Awful Awful, the awful thick, awful good, and I kind of lived on those in college. I was trying to gain weight. I couldn't gain weight. I can't lose it now.

Q. I wanted to get your thoughts on the development that Mac and Angel have shown in their years at Miami, from where they started to where they are now.
JIM LARRANAGA: I think when Angel Rodriguez and Sheldon McClellan were sitting out during that transfer year when they were redshirting, they developed a tremendous bond. They're both gym rats. They love to be in the gym. Angel was the leader and Sheldon was kind of the follower. Sheldon looked up to Angel and how Angel played and what kind of tough guy he was. And Sheldon is one of those nice guys. He's very, very team oriented, very unselfish, and the best part for Sheldon was having Angel tell him how great he was. They just became great friends. When they got on the court together, Angel was always throwing the ball to Sheldon and telling him to shoot.

And by the time they became eligible as juniors, Sheldon was basically our best player, and Angel was our best point guard delivering him the ball. They've grown together. They've grown closer and closer to their teammates. We've got a great bond, great chemistry on this team. And I think Davon Reed described -- he was asked in one word, the best way to describe this team, and he said, "fun." Just fun to be around these guys, fun to play, and I think Angel and Sheldon show that. They really enjoy just being with each other on and off the court.

Q. I wanted to go back to 2008 when I think PC was courting you for their head coaching position. I think school officials even came to your house.

Q. Just talk about that process and what ultimately made you decide to stay at George Mason at the time.
JIM LARRANAGA: The first thing is when I graduated from Providence College -- I'm very goal oriented, and I started writing down a series of goals -- and one of which was to become a head coach at the Division I level, and to be specific I wanted to become the head coach of my alma mater, Providence College. Throughout my coaching career, assistant coach at Davidson, head coach at AIC, assistant coach at Virginia, I always had my eye on Providence College. I actually interviewed for the head coaching job in whatever -- was it '85 when Rick Pitino was hired, '85? I interviewed with the then-athletic director who I just lost his name -- former hockey coach -- yeah, Lou Lamoriello was the AD and I met him in New York and I interviewed there, but they ended up hiring Rick. It's still in the back of my mind, okay, my time would come maybe later on.

And in 2008, Bob Driscoll did call me and we sat down and spoke. Father Shanley came to my house and we visited. But I was going through some things personally that the timing was just not right. I was very, very torn. I came very, very close to accepting the position and would have been very, very excited to be the head coach here. I think it's a great school and a great basketball tradition, but eventually I had to make the decision based on family responsibilities to stay at George Mason.

Q. I was wondering what your impressions were of Bearden. He's played at a high level lately and they'd like to think he could have played up at a higher league.
JIM LARRANAGA: I coached in a mid-American conference for a number of years getting Antonio Daniels could have played up because he was the fourth player chosen in the draft. Earl Boykins probably could have played up despite his size, and that was probably true of Bonzi Wells and Gary Trent and a lot of guys who played in the league. In fact, my first year when Grant Long and Dan Majerle were playing in the mid-American conference, I was telling NBA scouts that these guys were NBA players and they were not on anybody's radar. I thought it was ridiculous. But when I watch Buffalo, they're not only an experienced team, they're an experienced NCAA Tournament team. They played in the Dance last year. They've helped the Mid-American Conference now two years in a row.

They've got guys who have a lot of confidence, play with a swag. They handle the ball very well, Bearden especially, and he's very good at getting to the rim, getting to the basket and creating shots for himself and others. And if they're shooting the ball from three-point range like they did in the MAC tournament, they're a very, very tough team.

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