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March 15, 2017
Buffalo, New York
THE MODERATOR: Okay, we are joined by student-athletes from Mount St. Mary's, right to left. Elijah Long, Junior Robinson, Chris Wray. It's been quite a long 48 hours. We'll open up to questions for these gentlemen right now.
Q. Chris, can you describe what that moment was like when you grabbed that ball at the end of the game last night?
CHRIS WRAY: I think the word was necessary. It was necessary. Like we talked about, in moments like that, especially in March, if a team gets a hand on the ball, more times than not, it actually goes in. A heave, a throw, anything, so it was just necessary to get the ball.
Q. For those of us who have not seen a lot of Mount St. Mary's basketball, for any of the three of you, how would you describe the way you play and what was the key to your success in the tournament run and last night?
JUNIOR ROBINSON: I think we just cause a lot of chaos on the court. We play really fast, really hectic. We take a lot of threes and defend the three well. So our success is just playing, being able to play together, and our love for the game.
ELIJAH LONG: Definitely, a little word that Coach always says is "mayhem," and it's like a controlled chaos, and it's just trying to turn the ball -- turn the other team over a lot. Just fast breaks, a lot of fast breaks, alley-oop dunks, and just being able to play off each other's energy.
Q. Just for any of you guys, what have the last 24 to 48 hours been like from playing, you know, a thrilling game in the NCAA Tournament to traveling here and getting ready to face the overall top seed?
CHRIS WRAY: As far as traveling, we've done this in the non-conference. We had a long, three-week trip, so as far as the traveling part, we're used to it. We just try to keep the same mentality of one game at a time, regardless of what game it is, whether it's conference, nonconference, tournament, and now NCAA Tournament.
THE MODERATOR: Junior?
JUNIOR ROBINSON: Like he said, we had that three-week trip where we played I don't know how many games in how many days. But -- so we're used to it. It was pretty hectic. It was kind of fun, too. Now we get to come and play another game tomorrow night.
Q. Junior, you talked about it's kind of controlled chaos. How does that style fit your style of play?
JUNIOR ROBINSON: Just really fast. I mean, we don't really play -- we play controlled, but we play really fast and sometimes too fast. But we just find a way to stay -- keep our control and stay calm.
Q. Does it suit your personal style, though?
JUNIOR ROBINSON: Oh, yeah, it does. I like playing fast. I like a lot of threes, I like dunks, and we do a lot of that. So it fits my style perfectly.
Q. Junior, I guess you've had your share of doubters in your career. What have people said since you've come on the scene now, and obviously, are a pretty good player. What have you thought about all of the doubting you've received over your career and how have you handled that mentally?
JUNIOR ROBINSON: I've embraced it. It's kind of like a chip on my shoulder to prove people wrong that height really doesn't matter. It's about the heart that you have and the passion that you played the game with. I mean, each game, I'm going to probably be the shortest player on the court. Actually, I'm going to be the shortest player on the court.
So, I just have to come out -- I just come out and play my hardest and play with the heart that I have for the love of the game and for the love of my brothers.
Q. Just wondering, I mean, it's not just playing a one seed, but, you know, like many people, I'm wondering if you guys were actually watching last year that championship game and Nova winning it and knowing what it's like from then to now and knowing you're playing in the NCAA Tournament.
ELIJAH LONG: Yeah. I think someone asked a similar question yesterday about that. And I don't think any of us on the team would have guessed that we're going to play Villanova, you know what I mean? But it is March Madness. It's a humbling experience, but then again, they're just human beings just like us. We're just going to go out there and play.
The one thing that they do well on a consistent basis is play hard. I don't think they ever take a possession off defensively or offensively, so we've just got to match that intensity and you never know what could happen at the end.
Q. Quick question for Eli. Eli, you are the first Canadian player in Mount St. Mary's history, and here we are playing in Buffalo where you get to play so close to home. What is that like for you?
ELIJAH LONG: It's funny because I put in a group for tickets and there's supposed to be 26 of my family members come up, but I didn't get all those tickets. I only have nine, so only nine people can come up. But other than that, though, it's amazing, because my parents don't get to see me to play in person a lot. They're always in Canada. Sometimes they can't cross the border or they're just busy. So when moments like this come along, and I can play an hour away from my house, it's surreal. I thank God for it. God always has a plan, so, it's a humbling experience.
Q. For Junior, Muggsy Bogues talked a lot about watching you last night and being really impressed with what he saw. Has you heard any of his comments and how neat is that to kind of put yourself on the national stage a little bit and to get some of that recognition?
JUNIOR ROBINSON: Well, I haven't heard that. That's the first I heard it, so thanks for telling me. It's an honor, because he's a Hall-of-Famer. It's a great feeling to be recognized just because I'm short and doing things that nobody thought I could do.
Q. Just a follow-up for Elijah. You talked a little bit about growing up just an hour from here. Did you ever make trips to Buffalo as a kid or anything like that?
ELIJAH LONG: Yeah. I had -- one of my basically family friends, he played for a Buffalo team in New York, so I made trips up there to see him. Other than that, the only time I travelled to Buffalo is to get airports, because they're cheap, the flights are cheap. I would drive here, past the border to catch a flight, to go to either my high school or back to the Mount.
Q. Chris, you guys always talked about being locked in. Did you get a chance to enjoy the win or straight to ill Nova and being knock locked in and ready to play tomorrow?
CHRIS WRAY: I mean, we definitely get a chance to enjoy it. We talked about this, and we're just enjoying the whole ride as a whole. You have to take in everything for each experience. I feel for us to enjoy it and look back at later on, we have to focus at what we have at hand. You don't want to look back at it to say you celebrated too early when you have a lot more in you.
Q. What are you guys most excited about or looking forward to when you play against Villanova tomorrow night?
THE MODERATOR: Pardon me?
JUNIOR ROBINSON: Any of us can answer?
Q. What are you most excited about or looking forward to?
THE MODERATOR: Anybody in particular?
JUNIOR ROBINSON: I think it's going to be a hard-fought game. We're go together make it a grind-it-out game. We have to come out and try to compete with them at the highest level that we can compete at.
ELIJAH LONG: One thing I'm looking forward to is to see, not only about what's going to happen tomorrow, but what we're going to have in the future for next year, you know? It's going to battle-test us and get us ready for not only tomorrow, but in the future for next year, whatever that is. Because that's a great team, so, I think it's preparing us now for, you know, not only the weeks ahead of us but months, and probably hopefully years ahead of us for the team that we have now.
Q. For anybody, did any of you see video or anything of Kris Jenkins winning shot last year and have you had a chance to watch him on TV this year, knowing that Jenkins is back and Josh Hart who's a National Player of the Year candidate is also on their team?
CHRIS WRAY: I'm pretty sure everybody watched the game. I mean I was -- I'm pretty hyped about it. I just love basketball all together, just watching the game, seeing Marcus Paige make that shot before, and then seeing that, it's good for the game of basketball. Overall, I can't really say I watched too many of the games this year, because I've been focusing on what we've been doing. We have done our scouting, in preparation for the game.
Q. For any of the guys, 16 has never beaten a 1. I'm sure you know that. Do you have a mentality? Hey, why not us?
JUNIOR ROBINSON: I mean, records are meant to be broken, and we have the confidence going into this game, that if we take care of things the way we're supposed to and handle ourselves in the manner that we can, why not?
CHRIS WRAY: I just want to state, everything to gain and nothing to lose.
THE MODERATOR: Any other questions? Not seeing any, guys, good luck, first game tonight against Villanova. Appreciate you being here. Thank you. Oh, I wanted to introduce Mark Vandegrift, athletic communications, Mount St. Mary's. He can assist you with any other needs you have with their team.
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by Mount St. Mary's head coach, Jamion Christian. Coach, congratulations on a first-round win. Welcome to Buffalo. Great to have you here. We'll go ahead and open up for questions at this time. We'll get started right in the center here.
Q. Jamion, you're facing the second very fast turnaround for the week. Can you talk about the turnaround, having a day to prepare for it?
JAMION CHRISTIAN: First of all, I think our travel couldn't have been more smooth getting here. Buffalo, everything was great for us when we got here. We're excited for the opportunity to be here. When you're playing great games like this in great environments, your enthusiasm has to carry you. We've had an enthusiastic bunch, an enthusiastic group all season long. So the first thing is we're really excited about being here.
There are always a lot challenges in every opponent you're going to play. Villanova is an excellent team. They've been excellent program for 50 years. They've been really good and they've been on this stage more often than us. The biggest challenge starts with their personnel, just the professionalism that they live with every single day. We've got to do a great job of making sure we understand their personnel really well. Just understanding, we have to go out and be us, play our game. There's five guys on the floor. Ball's going to jump up. The team that plays the best on any given day has an opportunity to win.
Q. Are you able to play freely now, as a 16-seed going against the one? Is all of the pressure off of you?
JAMION CHRISTIAN: I don't really acknowledge pressure. I think pressure is what you put on yourself every single day. We've tried to do a great job of doing that in practice every single day. So I don't know if that really exists in our world. You know, we're going to go play freely because that's how we play.
I have such a great belief in the guys we have on our roster. We've challenged ourselves to the highest levels we could this season playing six NCAA Tournament teams, playing on the road against some of the very best. You have to believe at some point that your preparation has you ready for the moment.
Q. How different does this feel being here now doing, this as opposed to that First Four, and do you feel like this is a different level, getting here?
JAMION CHRISTIAN: You know, no. I think it's a tournament setting. I think the NCAA does a great job making sure they're positioning teams to feel as comfortable as possible, and with the short turnaround we had before, I think we're really well-prepared for what we need to do. We had a short turnaround for the University of New Orleans, and we've got an even shorter turnaround for Villanova. So I think we feel pretty good on the stage where we're sitting.
Q. Coach. Jim Phelan is a native Philadelphian, coached at Mount St. Mary's for many years. Did you play for him first of all?
JAMION CHRISTIAN: I did. I played for Coach for three years.
Q. What did you learn from him and how have you applied his teachings to your coaching style now?
JAMION CHRISTIAN: I think the first thing I learned is you've got to have really good players and good guards. I believe he was there for 49 years, but I forced him into retirement. Let's make sure you have good players that allows you to be a really good coach. One thing Coach Phalen was always great with is he always gave his guards a ton of freedom. Every day we came into practice and did very similar things. But it was all about being free and allowing the guys to play with a lot of confidence.
Hopefully one day we can go watch our team play, they see his resemblance on our teams because I think our team really try to play that way. We try to take outside shots when they're there. We try to play unselfish when the moment calls for it and we try to play really stingy defenses. I think when you see -- if anyone remember's Coach Phelan's teams playing, 830 victories, his teams did those things really well.
Q. You preach being locked in. How long did you let the guys enjoy last night's win and when did sort of the focus become all about Villanova?
JAMION CHRISTIAN: We've got just an amazing group of guys. We're excited for the country to see these guys get on this stage and perform. They really enjoyed it in the locker room and they were excited about the opportunity in the locker room. But about ten minutes being in there, they started settling in and asking questions about Villanova and started eagerly asking questions about when they can watch film and start preparing.
They set a goal for themselves. They'll continue to stay focused and locked in to try and achieve that goal. Our group is different. They enjoyed it for about ten minutes, I would say, and they really reset pretty quickly and are ready for the next challenge.
Q. Junior Robinson hit big shots last night. He got that neat note about him being the shortest player in the NCAA right now. What should the country know about him and what makes him special as a person, as a player, that type of thing?
JAMION CHRISTIAN: I don't think he's one of the shortest guys. I think he's one of the best guards and people really got a chance to notice that. Our back court is exceptional with Elijah Long and Junior Robinson. I think people are really going to start to get a chance to see two of these guys play together in a fashion that you don't get a chance to see very often.
Elijah got in foul trouble last night so was not able to fully be out there the entire time. I think these two guys in the back court can be as good as anyone. And on any given night, they can play with anyone. Junior has a tremendous heart, has a tremendous passion for winning, tremendous passion for his teammates. His spontaneity allows him the chance to make big plays and he's done that for us not just this year but in the years past.
What the country needs to know about him is he's got incredible heart, he's got incredible passion, and he's going to try to attack every moment out there. They are really going to really enjoy watching him play.
Q. Coach, if you could talk about your style of play offensively, and then your style of play defensively in terms of man-to-man zone, just to learn a little bit more about what you guys do at both ends?
JAMION CHRISTIAN: Yeah. We're going to play -- on the defense we're going to play predominantly man-to-man. We have some zone stuff in there. But I just feel like real men play man-to-man defense. We're going to play man-to-man, and if something happens miraculous and we have to go to a zone, we will. But we're going to do a great job as we can to just try to stay man-to-man. We've done a great job of that all season long against many opponents.
Even in nonconference against that tough schedule, our man-to-man defense was very good. Iowa State went below one point per possession and they're one of the best offensive teams in the country. I have a lot of confidence in our team defensively.
Offensively we're going to try to spread you out. We play a couple different styles. We'll play two post guys some with the opportunity to ball screen you and throw the ball to the low post and attack from there. But predominantly the game we'll play with four guards out, very similar to Villanova. We're going to space the floor our. We're going to shoot 24 to 25 threes a night. We shot those at 36% this past year which is a pretty high percentage. We going to try to space you out and make outside shots.
That's going to open the floor for Elijah Long and Junior Robinson to get to the rim. If they're able to do that, and we're able to make about 15 threes tomorrow night, it will be a good day.
Q. In follow-up to that, what would you say overall are the two, three, biggest strengths to the ball club and what areas have you struggled most with an area that needed to get better as the year involved much?
JAMION CHRISTIAN: Our versatility, I think, on our roster. We have a lot of guys that can guard a lot of different positions and a lot of guys that can handle. A lot of times we're able to put defense in tough predicaments on offense because Chris Wray played point guard in high school so essentially he's a third or fourth ball handler on the floor for us, who can make plays and decisions for us.
That's one of the biggest trends is our versatility. Again a lot of guys that can shoot the ball from the outside and a lot of guys that can get the ball to the right guys. Defensively, I think what we had to work on most was really just learning how to play with physicality, just being able to rebound the basketball. We're still a very young team. That kind of comes and goes with young teams, but we've done a good job of that as of late, over the last month, being able to rebound the basketball and finding enough ways to make some tough plays.
Q. Two questions. One, what is the biggest concern about Villanova and, number two, did you ever feel at the beginning of the season you have a shot at the defending National Champ?
JAMION CHRISTIAN: Biggest concern, really, Villanova, just how well they play. They are as connected as a program, not just a team, as I've ever seen. Everything they do from practice to the game carries over. They just do a tremendous job of playing together and carrying over the things that they work on, and that's always a big struggle for a coach is trying to get his team to be able to do that.
Coach Wright did an unbelievable job of getting that group of guys there to buy into what he's trying to do, and he's been able to do that great with those guys. What was the second question?
Q. Having a chance at National Championship?
JAMION CHRISTIAN: It's always a tremendous opportunity. That's one of the biggest things. When that ball goes up tomorrow, it won't matter if they're National Champions or not. That's the reality of it. The team that puts together the best game plan and the team that follows it best will have the best opportunity to win. They've done that 30-plus times this year. That's the challenge that it is.
Tomorrow is a new day. The ball will go up. We'll have an opportunity to play against one of the best. We will consider ourselves one of the best. There's 65, 64 teams left in the tournament. 64 teams still have a chance to win a national title. I would consider our team as good as any.
Q. Coach Christian, I know that many of these Villanova players come from the D.C./Baltimore area. That's the predominant area you recruit from as well. You knew them on the recruiting trail before they were Wildcats. What was it like facing guys that you've seen grow not only in your own program but within theirs?
JAMION CHRISTIAN: Josh Hart and Kris Jenkins, I had a chance to watch these guys play for a long, long time just being in the D.C. area. Josh I know a little better than Kris. Josh, I had a chance to watch him really grow up from a person getting adjusted at Sidwell Friends School to the person he is now as one of the best players in the country. One thing that's really exciting for me -- I've always known him to be one of the best people I've ever had a chance to recruit and get to know.
One of the best things to me being a guy from a distance is getting a chance to watch the country get to know him and what an amazing person he is. He's a guy that's really created his own destiny on this thing. He not only worked on his game, but he's worked on himself personally and he's really turned himself into an unbelievable person. I'm looking forward to continue to root for him after this, but tomorrow we're obviously going to be on different sides of the coin.
Q. You mentioned your nonconference schedule pretty challenging, how does that prepare you for tomorrow night?
JAMION CHRISTIAN: Well, we're going to play against a team that's complete on all ends. When we played that nonconference schedule we had to do that, playing six teams in the NCAA Tournament, I think eight teams that were in there in their championship games and then a Texas Arlington team that lost in their semi-final.
I feel like to be at your best, you have to challenge yourself against the best. You have to look in the mirror and see where you're weakest at against the very best. If you do that against anyone else, you're kind of short-changing us. So I think it helps us to understand what we need to do. I think the fact we've been in a lot of games is a big strength for us. Understanding the level of physicality, understanding the level of execution you've got to have, understanding how fast you've got to get back in transition, because those all change depending on the level that you're at. I think that's the big strength of our team, just having -- the fact that we've had to do it time and time again and we've got experience doing it.
Q. What does this mean for you, this tournament. What does it mean for you in the program and how is the program going to be able succeed and capitalize on being part of the field?
JAMION CHRISTIAN: We got a tremendous basketball tradition here at Mount St. Mary's. As mentioned before, Coach Jim Phalen coached here for 49 years. He is in the College Basketball Hall of Fame, made it to 30 wins. We're all continuing on a legacy that's pretty large.
I always consider our tradition way more like Carolina and Kentucky because it's an older tradition. It's been around for a long time. A lot of home games are filled with people who came to Mount games as children and now their children come, so on and so forth. So you don't see that in many places around the country. A lot of places have new traditions.
We have a old tradition that expects our basketball program to be good and loves to support our basketball program. It starts there, and I think moving forward, anytime you have a chance to play on the biggest stage against the best teams, you get a chance to show how much progress your program is making, and tomorrow is an opportunity to show how much progress we've made since the last time we were here in 2008 when they played North Carolina.
So that's going to be exciting for us, and we'll be able to continue on with the great tradition we have, partly because we've got great players in our program now, and continue to recruit well and and this can only help us continue to recruit well and bring in quality guys that can make our product better.
Q. Having already been on the big stage last night, how does that help you go nothing tomorrow night?
JAMION CHRISTIAN: I feel like settling down is important in any tournament setting. I think that's really important to be able to do. It's just being able to -- to understand like the bounce of the ball is a little bit different, the neutral site is a little bit different. We should be pretty comfortable with that. The only issue, really, is that Villanova has all of those guys back basically from last year, and they played pretty well in the last tournament. So they're going to be pretty settled as well.
I looks for two teams here -- usually you have a lot of turnovers early in the game. I think both teams will be pretty settled in pretty early on. I look for it to be a pretty competitive team throughout.
THE MODERATOR: Any other question. All right, Coach, congratulations on getting here, and good luck tomorrow.
JAMION CHRISTIAN: Thanks so much.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports