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March 2, 2017

Jeff Rutter

Reed Timmer

T.J. Thomas

St. Louis, Missouri - Arch Madness

Bradley - 67

Drake - 58

THE MODERATOR: T.J. Thomas and Reed Timmer represent the student body for Drake. We'll ask Jeff for an opening statement and then go to questions for T.J. and Reed.

JEFF RUTTER: This game seemed to be reflective of how our season has gone the last couple of weeks. It kind of ends with me saying how proud I am of our guys. Tonight was a tough night for us in a lot of ways -- on the floor, off the floor. On the floor, probably needed a little bit more offense, maybe a few more stops, but incredibly proud of our guys and how hard they fought.

We got out rebounded by 20 -- by 24 last Saturday. Tonight we win the boards. We had 12 offensive rebounds. That's a sign of care and energy and heart and toughness and passion. We had that thing at three a handful of times in the second half, but we just couldn't seem to get over the hump. They had a couple of timely shots to stretch that thing to six and seven, and we just couldn't cut it any more than that. Just very, very proud of our guys' efforts. Yeah.

Q. T.J., you had a good offensive game the first half, and then Donte Thomas, who I think you were guarding some in the second half, kind of went off in the second half. Can you describe both of those halves.
T.J. THOMAS: I just think the game comes to you. I feel the first half I had good shots and good passes from my teammates, and he had a couple of tough shots in the second half. That's how it goes sometimes.

Q. For both of you guys, three in the Arch Madness to start the tournament are immediate rematches. What are the challenges of that turnaround this late in the season, especially since you've seen Bradley twice.
THE MODERATOR: Reed first please and then T.J.

REED TIMMER: I think it's -- it's just an adjustment. We play them twice during the year. So you're going to play a team the third time regardless in the tournament. So I don't think it made that big of a difference playing them our last conference game. If anything, it would be an advantage because we know it's fresh in our minds. We know how to defend them and what our game plan will be.

I don't think it's any disadvantage or advantage. You've just got to come out and play your game.

T.J. THOMAS: I agree as well. I just feel like it's a game of basketball at the end of the day. So we go out there and play and try to win. They do the same, no matter how many times we play them.

Q. Both of you are juniors. With the way this season ended, how motivated are you to get back into it and have a great senior season?
T.J. THOMAS: I'm extremely motivated because this is my first year from JUCO into DI. I can see how the level of basketball is here. I'm looking forward to getting in a jump off-season.

REED TIMMER: Yeah, I agree with T.J. I've been here three years, and going into my last year, I don't think there's any more -- anything else to motivate you other than going into your last year, you're going to have a successful year. Looking forward to things like that.

I think it's also important to take some time off just to regroup in your head, and then come back and hit it hard. Definitely looking forward to eventually getting back to work with the guys and enjoying every moment of it.

Q. T.J., you spoke of this being your first year at Drake. What has the adjustment process been like transferring from JUCO, and how do you feel like you've progressed, in what areas over the season?
T.J. THOMAS: This season has really taught me to think the game more than just being aggressive and playing the game. It was like a great learning lesson for me. It slowed things down and put it in a different perspective.

THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, we'll dismiss you now and stay with the head coach.

Q. I want to ask you about Donte Thomas and what he did in the second half. You guys were -- well, just start there and then a followup.
JEFF RUTTER: He's been a beast all three times we've played him. Quite honestly, at halftime we felt maybe we solved the puzzle or cracked the puzzle. We held him in check fairly well the first half -- no points, four boards. And then to go 17 and 5 in the second half, probably none bigger than when we added a three, and he hit the -- I thought it was like a midrange, 15-, 17-footer, and it just seemed to be a back breaker only because we just couldn't seem to cut it any closer than that. Very, very good player.

With that said, certainly, much credit to Bradley, their team, their coaching staff. As coaches in this league, we all -- it's not like we're just wrapped up with our own team. We follow everyone. The job that Brian's done has been really special, and it's been not so much fun to play against, but fun to watch. A good young team with talent that keeps growing and getting better and some guys that really have the ability to step up and be special, Donte certainly being one of those.

Q. Well, just your team, obviously, you guys have had some ups and downs, but for you taking over the team like you did midseason and for you guys to go through the stretch you did, and like you said, you really stayed together. Could you kind of speak to that.
JEFF RUTTER: Thanks, Dave. Appreciate your question. Maybe I can sum it up best by what we shared with the team. We said that no one, no one can take away from us what we've accomplished over the last three months. We set out to help these guys have a great experience. We set out to help these guys enjoy the journey and to help build their confidence, continue to help them play for one another.

We feel we did all that, and along the way, we had a handful of wins. But far more proud of those other things I mentioned even more than the wins. I mean, it was so much fun for our staff to see our guys, their confidence grow, for them to just carry over making plays on the practice floor and then doing it under the lights.

Yeah, that was a special run to begin league play, and it was a challenge, no doubt, the last couple weeks of not being able to get over the hump and just experience more of that success. But that's how it goes sometimes.

It's a good group. It's a really good group, talented group, good team. Today, again, was just reflective of how these last eight or nine games have gone for us, most part. It's a group that's got a strong core and a strong nucleus. You add a couple pieces, and it's a group that can certainly get over the hump, and we've got good days ahead.

Q. I asked T.J., from your perspective, what have you seen out of his growth this season, and what do you expect from him next year?
JEFF RUTTER: T.J. has stretches of fabulous play. That first half that he had here tonight, just his motor was running. He had great energy. He was active. He used all that 6'8"-plus length that he's got and bounce. He's got some skill. T.J.'s best days are ahead of him. You know, it is an adjustment, and he'll work hard in the off-season and kind of take his skill level another step.

Just, again, just kind of understanding of our system and such. He's a great teammate. Really, really proud of him. He was a good addition, a really good piece to the puzzle, just as De'Antae McMurray, two transfers we added.

Q. Speaking of McMurray, would you mind speaking about him and just how this season has gone for him. He had a rough performance today but definitely has a lot of talent.
JEFF RUTTER: Yeah, loads of talent, and like T.J., all our guys, just awesome, awesome young guy, high character, really coachable. De'Antae has the ability to get you ten assists on any given night. He's got a chance to get you 25 or 30 on any given night. He's worked hard in his defense to improve that, and, again, he'll have a great off-season. He's a good quarterback, just a good pass, dribble, shoot guard. Proud of De'Antae with the progress he's made.

I mean, all our guys. Reed -- you know, a guy like Reed, his confidence, it seemed like, since day one was up here. He just made plays from day one. Some of our other guys, it's like they worked very hard to improve their abilities, but they had to work maybe equally as hard at just being confident enough to make plays. With some of the other guys, maybe it took a little bit longer.

Graham had a tough day today, but Graham's been special the last couple of weeks, in particular, and I think he's been special since day one that we've had him, but he's really worked hard to be a complete player.

C.J. Rivers and Ore and Casey, all of these guys, they've made great progress with their skill in the game, just seeing their confidence grow, and it can continue to grow.

Q. With Reed, it seems like the feeling is starting to get monotonous and happening every year. What will you say to him to keep his confidence up going into next season as he is a very talented player and I'm sure it's getting very tiring to be one and done?
JEFF RUTTER: Well, two things. One, he needs to trust in the entire process that we'll continue to -- like every team will do, at any level, you work hard to improve your roster, and then he, along with his teammates, need to continue to work on their game.

Reed made big strides this year. One thing in particular, just his ability going right, and the scouting report is on him. I mean, this guy is a beast driving left, and he's worked really hard at driving right. That might sound simple, but it was effective this year. And he's got other areas of his game he'll really pinpoint, like he does with anything in his life. He's going to lock in and zero in and figure it out and be determined and get better at it.

So, again, this group has got bright days ahead, no doubt about it.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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