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March 13, 2017
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by our student-athletes from New Orleans Tevin Broyles, Erik Thomas, Nate Frye and Christavious Gill. Questions for the student-athletes.
Q. Erik and then just maybe -- just kind of obvious question what does this mean to the school after all the trials and tribulations that this program's gone through to be here and be part of a real select group?
ERIK THOMAS: It means a lot to our school and our city as well. For our program to be able to have this opportunity and for Dayton to let us -- take us in for the First Four is an honor. And we're really ecstatic just to be here, really just to represent our school, our program and make our city and fans proud.
NATE FRYE: Like what Erik said, we're blessed and fortunate to be here. We were at the selection show just waiting eagerly to see where we're going to play. We have no type of attitude about First Four typing, playing to get in. We're just excited to be here. Our hard work is paying off and we're here to show the world what we can do.
CHRISTAVIOUS GILL: We're just excited to be here. It's been 20, 21 years since UNO has been to the NCAA Tournament or any postseason bid.
And we're just happy that we're here, you know, blessed to have this opportunity. It's for the city, the program, the university, it's for everybody in New Orleans who has been in New Orleans since the devastation of Katrina. Even the people that left, it's for them, too.
TEVIN BROYLES: Just to lean off what my teammates said, it's a great opportunity for our program for our student-athletes. It's just good for us. You can put UNO back on the map. Like he said, it's been 20-some years since we've been in the tournament. We're thankful and grateful for the opportunity that we can receive.
Q. All four of you guys, have you all come down yet? Have you had the rude awakening that you're in the tournament and gotten over getting into it? And what's that been like, and how much do you know about Mount St. Mary's?
TEVIN BROYLES: I'm sorry, could you repeat that?
Q. Just what does it feel -- have you come down from the high of getting to the tournament, the reality of being in the tournament? Have you accepted that? And what do you know about Mount St. Mary's?
TEVIN BROYLES: I don't think the feeling went down because this is something that we always wanted. Dreaming of it as a little kid, so I don't think the feeling is going to go away anytime soon.
It's just great for us, man. I really can't explain how each one of us feels, honestly, but I just know this is one chance to do this. So we're just really excited. That's all I can say about that.
Q. And Mount St. Mary's?
TEVIN BROYLES: I feel like they're a good team. They won their regular season and conference tournament. So I feel like they play very aggressive and everything. They played like us. I know they played a non-conference -- a tough non-conference schedule.
I know they've got three people that are double-figure scorers. We're going to have to lock in on both ends of the floor to get the job done.
ERIK THOMAS: The feeling hasn't hit me really yet. I'm just grateful to be able to live this dream, just being able to experience all this all the way from the Southland Conference tournament championship game. You know, being able to experience it with my coaches, with my teammates, with my family, it's meaningful. It's one in a lifetime.
Not many people can say, hey, I've been to the NCAA March Madness tournament. So I'm here and I'm just living it every day little by little and day by day. So I'm just enjoying it.
With Saint Mary's, I mean, they have a great team, like he said, feeding off what he said. They had a great non-conference schedule. And they're a hard-working team.
So for us to match up to them, people want to see this matchup. And I think it will be a great game tomorrow.
Q. It's been several years, but Katrina took out a lot of things there, including nearly your school and your program. Is there still a sense even now when something great like this happens that it's part of putting that behind you, overcoming the shadow of that after this many years?
CHRISTAVIOUS GILL: No doubt. You know, couple of years ago UNO had to go Division III once they opened back up in the Sunbelt. It's huge because going Division III and coming back up and going to Division I, even when people think we couldn't, bringing the program up from there, six years later, five or six years later, and we're here now. It means a lot to the city. And it means a lot to everybody that was involved in Hurricane Katrina.
Some people may have cried, even alumni from our school. I've seen some cry. So it's really important, but it's also important to us to make them happy. I mean, that's something that anybody will want to see and it made me so proud and my teammates so proud that those people were happy.
NATE FRYE: I would agree with what he just said. When you have an event like Katrina having come through New Orleans. What the Saints did, winning the Super Bowl, it's going to be magnified because it's all part of the regrowing process.
I would still venture to say that New Orleans is still in the rebuilding process as well as our university. So there's a lot of areas of New Orleans that hasn't come back from Katrina. My father himself, he's from the Ninth Ward, and we live in Houma now. And he went to visit his neighborhood and it's not even there.
So to go back and see things like that, it just gives us that more fight during games. We're playing for things bigger than just us. We're playing for things bigger than just a trophy. We're playing for the regrowth of our school, our student attendance, we're just trying to get people to rally behind us to give them something to hope for. People in New Orleans love sports. So I figure that would be a good way to do it.
Q. Christavious, why did you -- you're a senior?
CHRISTAVIOUS GILL: Yes, sir.
Q. Why bother, why did you come there if the thing four years ago looked pretty tough? And did you get a lot of scholarship offers or you didn't have a lot of D-I offers? Why come to New Orleans?
CHRISTAVIOUS GILL: Actually Coach Slessinger, he was an assistant coach at Northwestern. I'm from 30, 40 minutes away from Northwestern State. I would go to camps and my team would play up there for certain tournaments. And Coach Sless was recruiting me, and he ended up taking a head coach at New Orleans.
So he offered me my junior year, and that was my only Division I offer. Schools were showing interest, but that was my only Division I offer. And Coach Sless believed in me from the beginning four years before I became a senior. I was a freshman in high school. He believed in me and he believed we had a future for this program to bring it back to where it was back in the '90s, the '80s and '90s.
And I believed in him as well. And my family believed in him as well. And that kind of made my decision fairly easy.
NATE FRYE: My situation was the same as Christavious. I really didn't have that many college offers coming out of high school either. I went to a really small high school.
I had one, along with UNO, I had one other offer from UCC Chattanooga. And the day I was supposed to go and visit the coach, the athletic director got fired. I'm a person who believed in destiny. When Coach Kris called maybe the day after, we went and visited the school, went up there, my family. And I think the thing they were most impressed was Coach Slessinger's attitude toward winning and his values, that he instilled in himself as a man that he taught to his players. And I think that got them from day one and it got me as well.
The thing about Coach Sless, he's going to work you to the bone, but at the end of the day you're going to feel good about what you are doing in the practice arena, what you're doing in the community. We do a lot of community service work.
We just recently had a tornado, and New Orleans doesn't really get tornados like that, so we went and helped people clean up and everything. And it's not for media attention. We don't do it for that.
We do it because, like I said before, we're still trying to help the city rebuild. When something like that happens we try to put a hand in and do whatever we can to get the job done.
ERIK THOMAS: Basically what these guys are saying is, you know, if it wasn't for our coaching staff, they gave us a lot of opportunities to come here. It wasn't just, hey, we wanted to come to this school just because it's destiny. Each and every one of us have a story why we came here. I'm a JUCO transfer.
Coach gave us the opportunity to play Division I basketball. A lot of these guys had to take that chance coming from a Division III to Division II to Division I, that's a lot of jumps. They put faith in the coaches. That's personally why I came to the school. I love the family-oriented program we had. And all the coaches showed interest in what I had and they believed in me. So that helped me make the decision to come to New Orleans.
TEVIN BROYLES: Me, Te and Nate have similar situations coming out of high school. We didn't really have many scholarships. We had people that showed interest, but Coach Slessinger and the University of New Orleans was my first offer. They offered me right off the spot after visiting me.
Coming from a small town, like Gautier, Mississippi, it's a blessing to receive. And the reasons I came here because Coach had a vision. He believed we could rebuild the program and he believed in us. He told us in the recruiting process that how things was here.
And so I felt like if I came here I can be a part of something great. I can make history, and I just feel like this is what we're doing. And also when I came and I visited the previous, my previous teammates treated me like family.
So that really just made me buy in and made me commit. So I'm just thankful and give all the glory to God.
Q. Erik, you came in two years after the other three seniors, and y'all kind of grew together after that. How hard was it to break into that? How accepting were they of you? And I'd like for the other players to just talk a little bit about him coming in and how you all accepted him.
ERIK THOMAS: Coming into the program my junior year, the keyword I would say is I had to earn my stripes coming in, just like any other player in this nation would have.
I had to come in and be able to produce. I wasn't coming to sit on the bench whatsoever at all. So coming in I knew being an undersized post I was already at a disadvantage. So my work ethic and really just spoke for itself.
I had to come in here and work with these guys and become brothers with them. It was a great experience. As soon as I got there they all treated me like I'm one of their own.
We linked in real quick, each and every one of us. So I would say it was a great family environment for me coming in, and they made me feel right at home.
TEVIN BROYLES: I'm sorry, could you repeat what you said again?
Q. How was it when Erik came in?
TEVIN BROYLES: Man, it was pretty fun having Erik come in, man. Last year, you know, things didn't go how we wanted. We still stayed together. Actually, I'm actually glad that God put us together because he put something special.
I don't know why we crossed paths, God put him in our lives but I'm just thankful. I mean, he's amazing dude. He's a great player. It's just good to have him on our team. And he's proven himself this year that he can play with the best.
So I'm just thankful to have him on my team and in my life. And I just wish him the best of luck. It's just -- I don't know, it's unbelievable. I can't really explain it. I'm sorry.
NATE FRYE: I personally don't like Erik. I'm just playing (laughter). No, me and Erik, we spend a lot of time with each other, especially last year, we went on a trip with each other, got to know each other a lot, and it was his first year coming in. I felt we really vibed.
And I know Christavious and Tevin can say the same thing. He gelled in right with our brotherhood. That's what our team mostly it's a brotherhood.
Him being new had nothing to do with him gelling with the team. It wasn't going to be an issue because anytime we have a new player coming in, we're going to make sure he feels right at home.
We're going to show him the ropes. We're going to tell him what not to do, what to do to make his transition from one school to the next school as smooth as possible, because you go from different coaches, philosophies are very different, game styles are very different.
And so it was important that we communicated to him what you need to do to be successful. And he listened. He listened to the coaches and he's become a great player because of it.
I'm also glad he's here. He's made a great impact on the Southland and a lot of people have seen what he's doing at his size. We call him Charles, like Charles Barkley. When he first got here he was a rebounding machine. We were trying to figure out he was doing it. He just fit in with our brand, he was a hardworking player at his size. And it was like, okay, this guy's going to fit right in with our program.
CHRISTAVIOUS GILL: Erik just works. I mean, coming in, you could tell that he had dedication and that same attitude we had and we didn't even know him. That tells a lot about him and his personality, his attitude, he's always positive, never negative.
And I mean, he picks everybody up. He works hard, like, you can tell, you can tell just watching him play, you could tell how hard he crashes the glass and how much he cares about the next person beside him, not only scoring the ball but passing the ball, rebounding, playing defense for the next person. And it's just an amazing feeling.
And as far as coming in, I think he gelled in well, as far as our attitudes, our attitudes was the same as far as everybody had the same thought process. Everybody wanted to win and that's vital to any program. So I compliment Erik for that and I appreciate him for it.
Q. I saw pictures of your coach in that red crawfish suit. Did you ever see that? I mean, I just can't -- he seems like he'll do anything to help involve the community or promote -- like I can't imagine Calipari or Rick Pitino --
ERIK THOMAS: That's what makes that man great. That's what makes all of us blue-collar. He's our role model when it comes to leading an example in the community.
We're big on that. Whether it's someone way in the hood, way in the country, no matter where we're at, we've been everywhere, honestly. We've been way out in the country, places you never heard of in Louisiana, personally I haven't until I got there. We were out there helping -- floods, tornadoes, no matter what the situation was.
So I'm actually proud to be a Privateer because I done helped so many families out that had so many issues with homes being tore down, water filling up six feet up into their houses and helping them, giving them that hope and that joy and that happiness back into their lives.
So if it wasn't for Coach Sless, you know, being able to reach out to the community and talk and volunteer us just to get us there, you know I wouldn't be able to experience this.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you. Good luck tomorrow night. FastScripts by ASAP Sports
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports