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March 16, 2017
Q. Chima Moneke, I'll ask you first, how are you feeling after last night? Obviously that was a quick turnaround, exciting victory. How are you feeling right now?
COACH LES: I'm really excited, excited to be here, but at the same time it's another game for us, you know, we want to keep our season alive. And it's business-like. We have a business-like attitude right now. But overall, I'm excited to be here.
LAWRENCE WHITE: Also excited. Coming off last night trying to continue our streak, you know, trying to keep on playing with my guys.
BRYNTON LEMAR: I kind of agree with these guys. We're really excited to be in this position, but at the same time we know that we want to keep this team together. So we're just trying to embrace the moment and just stay with it.
Q. For any of you guys, your coach has had success against Kansas in the tournament before when he was with Bradley. I'm just curious if he's talked to you guys at all about that?
LAWRENCE WHITE: I mean, we all know that, but to us it's just another game.
BRYNTON LEMAR: With me, we haven't played Kansas before, but we do know that if we do what we do, I think it'll give us a good opportunity to win. And like Lawrence said, you know, we're coming to this game to win, and we're all competitors, and we still want to keep our season alive.
And yeah, but this whole success with Kansas back then, that was back then. This is now. So just gotta move forward and stay locked in.
Q. Brynton, everyone looks at the 16-1 games and saying there's no way a 16 can beat a 1. But that's why you play basketball games. How important is it to have that positive mindset going into tomorrow night?
BRYNTON LEMAR: I think it's very important to have that mindset. Everybody should come to the game wanting to win. We don't back down to anyone, and we're here for a reason. We worked hard all season, and our whole goal is to win as many games as we could. But going in, everyone should have a positive attitude. If you don't, I feel like that's a losing mentality, and I know our guys, we all -- we're all competitors and we're looking forward to facing the challenge of playing Kansas tomorrow.
Q. This could be for anyone, but looking at this Kansas team, what's an area that you think you guys can exploit tomorrow?
COACH LES: They're pretty good all around. I feel like, being a post player, they don't have -- they play a lot of guards, and their depth in the front court can be exposed if they get into foul trouble.
But at the end of the day, they're all really good players. Everyone in this conference -- everyone in this tournament is a really good player. So if we can play the way we can play, then we can expose some things.
Q. Chima, you've lived on, is it, five continents? Is that right?
COACH LES: That's correct.
Q. Okay. That's like crazy (laughs). But there's one game tomorrow where there will be ten players from foreign countries. As you've seen the game growing up and you've lived in all these different places, how do you see the game growing and the interest in it in other places outside the United States?
COACH LES: That's a really good question. I feel like the talent -- first of all, the talent in other countries is getting much better. Australia will eventually beat America in an international game.
And honestly I just feel like a lot of people are getting a lot of confidence in coming over here because people are setting that trend. And a lot of people are doing it. For me, I had my good friend Dante Exum. He's done that. Patty Mills, Andrew Bogut.
And I feel like, yeah, if you have someone to look up to, it makes it easier. If you get that opportunity, that's the most important part, and I'm glad I was able to get that.
Q. What's the toughest part for you guys about coming off of a high-intensity, emotional game just two nights ago and then coming in here and playing against a team like KU. What's the hardest part of preparing for a 16-1 game after a game?
LAWRENCE WHITE: I don't think it's too hard. I think it's better for us actually. We have to dust off the first game nerves. I think it was good playing the first four. Gives us a little momentum coming into this.
BRYNTON LEMAR: Yeah, I have to agree with Lawrence. We already have one game under our belt. But I just think the hardest part is just to stay locked in, because there's a lot of attention that we're getting from social media and our friends and family, stuff like that. So just turning that switch on and off. We have to be consistent with that, and I think we're going to be fine.
Q. You guys mentioned that you could shake off that rust with that play-in game just last night. Do you think that that game last night not only allowed you the opportunity to shake off rust but maybe create momentum and get some energy moving into tomorrow?
COACH LES: I don't think it was necessarily rust, but nerves obviously for our school to be playing in a game like that for the first time in history. There's always going to be nerves. And I feel like we needed that game, like Brynton said, to get rid of it.
But it's going to be a big environment tomorrow, and to play against a great team like Kansas, I just hope that -- I know I won't have any nerves tomorrow, and I know my guys won't be, and I just hope we can bring it from the start.
Q. Brynton, we all know you played last night, but what has this 24 hours been like according to the time line, as soon as you finished the game to preparing for a trip to Tulsa to arrival, how much sleep. What's this 24 hours, if you could break it down, what's it been like?
BRYNTON LEMAR: It's been exciting. Just winning that game and then hopping on a flight to Tulsa here, it's been a blur, and everything's moving really fast. So I just think it's important for us to just stay -- like I said, stay locked in and stay focused and enjoy the moment but know that we're here to take care of business also.
But overall it's been a whirlwind. Everyone, like I said, hitting us up, trying to talk to us and stuff like that. But it's been great.
Q. How proud does it make you guys feel to put UC Davis on the map for athletics? I think a lot of people know how great an academic institution it is, but now to give it some exposure athletically. What does that mean to you?
COACH LES: It's still unbelievable. I was looking at my Snapchat feed yesterday and just seeing how many people were watching the game and how excited they were. It's phenomenal to have this attention. I just hope that it can continue for a while because Davis is a great university. Once you figure out where it is, you'll find out it's a really great place to be.
LAWRENCE WHITE: To piggyback off of that, it's a high academic -- I think top six in the nation. So being student-athletes, it's hard, it's more of a wear and tear. We're in the quarter system. So right when we get back, we have finals. So it's tough, but it's -- I wouldn't change it for the world.
BRYNTON LEMAR: Yeah. It's a rewarding experience, you know, just seeing us put on for our school and our community. Like Chima said, just going down your news feed and seeing everybody from across the world, you know, cheering for us, all the alumni riding behind our backs and everything like that. It just feels amazing.
And you know, like you said, we know that UC Davis is a great academic school, but we're also trying to have athletic excellence also as well. And it feels good to be a part of that, so yeah.
COACH LES: Hi, everybody. Thanks for being here. Excited to continue this run of representing UC Davis. I heard the back end of the players talking about it, and it's amazing. You spend time there, it's a special university. I think one in 200 Californians is a UC Davis grad. So they understand what an elite institution it is, but once we get outside California a lot of people don't know about it.
So we're enjoying being ambassadors of putting this national spotlight on a place we all love and have enjoyed being at. They enjoy going to school there. I love going to work there every day. So just excited.
And last night was a little bit of a microcosm of who this team has been all year. It's not always sexy and pretty, but at the end of the day they gut out some really tough wins. It's a resilient group. They do it on the defensive end with key stops. They do it by making plays down the stretch. I've got guys who are running to take the last shot, running to get to the free throw line, and that's what it takes to continue to advance. So excited to be here. We're enjoying this experience and looking forward to competing tomorrow.
Q. A decade ago, old hat, you're going to play Kansas and Bill Self and go out and upset them; right?
COACH LES: You know, it's funny, someone gave me the stat last night that it's 11 years to the day, something like that. So fortunately, the ten-year statute of limitations is up where you can't talk about it. So we're past that point (laughs).
I'm really not interested in prodding that bear, Bill Self, and adding motivation to the game. But I was reminded last night. My wife and I were sitting on the plane as we were getting ready to take off and a number of the players from that team were texting me about our win and had watched the game, and then our matchup with Kansas. And my wife just leaned over and reminded me that those were the guys that won the game back then against Kansas.
And I've been married 27 years by saying, "Yes, dear." So we'll just go with that.
Q. Can you just kind of introduce us to your style of play, some of your individual areas that you think you might be able to match up okay with Kansas and some areas of concern?
COACH LES: Well, there's a lot of areas of concern and we probably don't have enough time. But, first of all, I have the utmost respect for Coach Self. He's a Hall of Fame coach. And I've stolen a lot from him over the years, which is the greatest compliment. I watch their team every offseason. And now with the advent of, you know, video and uploading, I can watch a lot of games. And he's just a guy I've known back from when I was in Illinois and he was coaching at Illinois, and just had a lot of respect for the way he approached coaching.
And I just think in this business, if you stop trying to learn, the game's going to humble you. So I'm continuing to try and learn. And he's a guy that's taught me a lot, although, albeit from a distance. So I love their team. They're guard rich.
When I first got into coaching, my college coach told me, Jim, never be guard poor. And when I look at their team, they're guard rich, which is special and gives you a chance to be special as a team.
With respect to our team, I like our overall team athleticism, and we try and use that on the defensive end to be disruptive and take teams out of their offensive rhythm. It's important for us to get first rebounds on the defensive end. And then offensively, we've got some pretty good weapons, in Brynton Lemar and Chima Moneke. And then when we get that third scorer to step up, we become a really potent basketball team.
Last night it was Lawrence White, who not only does it every day for us defensively, but has been stepping up lately and playing well offensively. So our guys compete hard, they play hard. What I'm impressed about is they haven't been overwhelmed by the moment or the spotlight.
We've talked a lot about enjoying it, embracing it, but not letting it overcome us, and let's just revert back to our habits come game time. Let's revert back to we've always played for each other. We have very selfless guys, which was easy to have them buy in to the defensive end of the floor because of that.
And the last thing we talked about last night before we went out on the floor is make the energy and effort plays without the basketball, and that'll get you into the flow of the game. And I thought they did that, and they developed a pretty good rhythm and were able to sustain. So we'll go in with that same mindset, have a lot of respect for this program, their players and especially their coach. But I do know one thing, we show up and compete.
Q. You've used the words grit and toughness about your team a lot. If they researched your basketball career, they'd see that you played for about 800 professional basketball teams. Is that something you can appreciate and reflects as part of your coaching attitude?
COACH LES: Well, any league that had a letter in it, I played in it. So you know, I think I was able to survive just with tenacity and hard work and getting the most out of my abilities and by competing.
And I think what we try and instill into our players as a staff is just, one, respecting the game, and then respecting the integrity of our practices of how hard we go after it. And I'm not a big quantity guy, but a big quality guy. So we really -- we work hard. We get after it. And I tell the guys all the time, if you respect the game, the game respects you back, and good things will happen.
And this has been a group, back to October, I could probably count maybe on one hand the number of practices where I walked out of the gym and felt like, ah, you know, we just didn't have it or the concentration wasn't there. So with that being said, we've kind of just stuck to who we've been. We compete hard, work hard.
The attention to detail has been really good, especially here late in the year when it needs to be, when all your video is out, all your plays are out, everybody knows what you're going to do, the attention to detail becomes a premium. And they've elevated that, which has given them a chance to win.
So you know, my thing was always, hey, I gotta respect the game, I gotta do more than the guys who are more talented than me. And now I look at this group that I get to coach and they're awfully talented. Boy, if we can get them with that mindset, good things are going to happen.
Q. Coach, obviously you've had a pretty crazy 24 hours here. In a situation like this, do you worry at all that your players are going to succumb to a little bit of fatigue?
COACH LES: I really don't. I think in the last quarter of this season and we've got a great sports medicine staff, so they've really managed them off the floor with so many of the recovery tactics and nutrition. We as a staff have made sure that we've been efficient with our practice time, but not overwhelming in order to save their legs.
And if anything, at this time of year the coaches are burning it on both ends and we're making sure the guys are getting plenty of sleep and plenty of rest, and I feel good about where they're at. Some guys have some bumps and bruises, but nothing more than usual. I'm sure with some of these bumps and bruises, if we had practiced a while, it might be questionable, but for playing Kansas on this stage, I'm sure they're going to be ready.
Q. Do you think there could be an advantage with already playing a game and having momentum with a game under your belt and Kansas hasn't played in over a week?
COACH LES: I don't think there's any question. I told the guys in our meeting before we came here that it was nice to have that game. I thought we did some things during the game a little uncharacteristic of who we've been. And I told them, and I'm going to push those off and blame it on the first-time experience in playing and under the spotlight. So that should be behind us.
So they all agreed. So I think they feel more comfortable. They know what to expect, and they're going to be ready to go. So I do think it's an advantage.
Q. It's your sixth year at Davis. Did you think you'd be able to take the program to this height this quickly?
COACH LES: I'm not sure I'd put a timetable. I think, first and foremost, what we try to do initially is just to establish a culture of how we want to go about our business. I've also gotten unbelievable support from above, from our administrators, our new athletic director Kevin Blue. Ralph Hexter has been our interim AD. And Linda Katehi, when I was hired, our chancellor, when I sat in her office, said we don't want to sacrifice our academic standards to move forward and build a championship athletic department, a championship basketball program. Can this be done?
I said, Absolutely. But it's going to take some time.
And she said, How much time?
And I said, Well, that I really don't know. Until you get out and start recruiting and building the program and bringing in the types of young men that we needed to move forward, you couldn't really tell.
And so in four years, I thought that group two years ago laid the foundation of success, winning a Big West Championship, going to postseason for the first time, and people started to realize that we did have a basketball program on campus and at UC Davis. So that was unique.
And a lot of the guys, J.T., Darius, Brynton were secondary role players on that team, but witnessed what it took to have success, and they carried that torch that led us to this stage. So that transformation of that initial group buying into a vision, heck, we had never done anything as a Division I basketball program. So that first recruiting class had to buy in to our staff, our vision and maybe what we could get done. But it was a leap of faith.
And then J.T., Darius, Brynton kind of saw, and it was easy for them now to take it to the next step and start building upwards for a level of success, and now we want to sustain it.
I was just going to add one more nugget. So I got a text today. My family is here with me, except for my daughter, Hannah, who's my youngest, who's in high school, who happens to have swimming, midterms and prom this week. So what's going on with dad is really irrelevant with all that stuff.
And so I got a text this morning, and I probably had 200 texts over the last 14 hours since we finished the game, which has been unique. But the most pressure I felt going into this game came this morning when I got the text from Hannah after her chemistry class, which stated, My chemistry professor just told the class that if you beat Kansas, we all get As on the next test...dad, step up (laughter). So tomorrow night I'm coaching for chemistry.
MODERATOR: No pressure whatsoever. Good luck tomorrow.
COACH LES: Thank you.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports