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March 22, 2017
San Jose, California
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by Gonzaga student-athletes Nigel Williams-Goss, Przemek Karnowski and Jordan Mathews.
Q. Nigel, can you talk about when Jordan arrived, he arrived kind of late in the summer, I know, what was it like and just sort of transitioning him on to the team? And how has he been for you guys in terms of fitting in and all that stuff?
NIGEL WILLIAMS-GOSS: Just a credit to our team. We just kind of welcomed him right in. Me and Jordan had a previous relationship because we played on the same AAU team together, our last summer of AAU with California Supremes. So I already knew Jordan. I was kind of like that median and introduced him to the team and everything like that.
But we have a family atmosphere over at Gonzaga and it was the same for me when I transferred over. Everyone was really accepting. And we knew he was going to be a big piece for us this year. It's been great to have his maturity level, his leadership and obviously all the things that he brings on the floor. So he's just been a great addition for us and the transition was really easy and just a credit to the team for welcoming him and myself with open arms.
Q. Jordan and Nigel, you both played in the Pac-12 and now WCC. Do you think the way this tournament has gone with the success of some of the Pac-12 teams and you guys that West Coast basketball is getting maybe a little more respect?
JORDAN MATHEWS: Yeah, I mean, there are four teams in the West Coast in the round of 16, three Pac-12 schools and us. I don't think it's ever been a lack-of-respect thing. It's just time difference, our games are a little bit later.
Just the way the tournament goes. I mean, it could have easily been the other way around and all four of us would have lost, but because we're here, I think we're in the spotlight now and we have to make the most of it.
NIGEL WILLIAMS-GOSS: Yeah, similar to what he said, I think obviously the West Coast has been playing really well this year, and just making the most of our opportunity and just hopefully we can keep it going.
Q. Mr. Karnowski, if you could sort of speak to how this team is different than the past few years? You've obviously been very good for a long time, but how much expectation is there in Spokane of reaching the Final Four. You guys seem to have taken a step forward. What's different?
PRZEMEK KARNOWSKI: Obviously every year there's expectation like that. There's no different mindset. But I think this year we have a lot of weapons that we can use. There are guys that can hit 3s. We have size inside. So if one thing isn't going well for us, we can do a different thing and score off of that.
So I think that's really good for our team to be that versatile. And at the same time we play hard defense. And I think that's been a huge difference maker for us this year as well.
Q. Przemek, just kind of wondering, do you ever kind of look back on last year and everything that you had to go through just to get healthy to play again and kind of see how far you've come along this year? Everything that you went through last year, is it even part of your thought process anymore?
PRZEMEK KARNOWSKI: Not right now, I'm just trying to enjoy the moment right now. But obviously there have been some situations that I thought about it during the season, and I'm just really grateful for another chance. And it kind of taught me a lot just to be appreciative and make sure you are living in the moment.
Q. How difficult was it to go through that? I understand you could barely walk or couldn't get out of bed in a morning. What on a daily basis --
PRZEMEK KARNOWSKI: First of all, just being limited with basketball, but second of all I was limited with daily activities like you said -- just walking, preparing my own food, getting out of bed stuff like that. So it was tough for me because I always been kind of close to sports.
My dad has been basketball coach since I can remember. So I was always around the gym. And just not being able to do that stuff. It was sad for me, but at the same time I had a great support system, with my coaches, my parents. All my teammates, they were there for me whenever I needed them. And it was huge for me just to be there and in that position. My position wasn't the best, but they were always there for me.
Q. Jordan, after spending three years in the Bay Area at Cal now you're back here for arguably the biggest games of your life. What's this like for you?
JORDAN MATHEWS: It's a lot of fun. Lately basketball's taken a different tune for me. It's always been highly competitive and highly stressful. But my parents told me you need to soak this in, enjoy it. And being around these guys has been the best time of my life. And coming to Gonzaga was the best decision I think I've ever made.
It was difficult at first, but to be in this position, playing against a great team in West Virginia with an opportunity to move on, is just something I'll take forward and enjoy tomorrow and moving forward.
Q. Nigel have you seen anything similar to West Virginia's press this year? And how do you go about attacking it?
NIGEL WILLIAMS-GOSS: I think no one is exactly like West Virginia. They lead the nation in forced turnovers. So you can't really simulate or duplicate what they try to do defensively.
But all year long we've given credit to our coaches for getting us prepared and dialed in the game plans, and I feel like tomorrow is the same thing. I feel like the last couple days in practice, they came up with good ideas and schemes of how we're going to attack the press, and I feel like it's our job to go out there and execute it.
It's not go be any surprise of what they're going to do. So it's not like we're going to be, like I said, surprised about their pressure or anything like that. We just have to execute our game plan. We know it's not going to be the prettiest game, probably turn the ball over some, but really try to limit our live ball turnovers.
We feel like even if we turn the ball over and it goes out of bounds or something we can set our defense. We have a lot of confidence in that. Just trying to be strong, trying to be physical and executing our coach's game plan, we feel like we'll be all right.
Q. Nigel, just curious, did Findlay Prep sort of change the recruiting dynamics on the West Coast? I know you spent time there. Just curious because there's never really been anything sort of like that in the West, and I was curious if you noticed any sort of change in how the West Coast has recruited?
NIGEL WILLIAMS-GOSS: I don't know if it's changed the recruiting landscape, but it was like the first major prep school on the West Coast. Before Findlay it was Oak Hill, Montrose Christian, schools out east. So I think it was a big outlet for us kids on the west to go to a prep school like Oak Hill, but not having to travel so far.
I definitely think it was a great thing they started, and I think you've seen more prep school develop here on the West Coast. So I think it was just really good for prep school players to have an opportunity to play at that level here on the West Coast. And I mean, obviously, with the record of producing high level Division I players, you know, it kind of works out for everyone.
Q. Jordan, how are you different, if at all, as a player, with Gonzaga than you were at Cal?
JORDAN MATHEWS: I think my role is in a weird way expanded at Gonzaga, because I can -- I've learned some things at Gonzaga I didn't really want to accept at first, but they really helped, playing on two feet, different kinds of passes to get the ball in the post, and playing with other great players.
Not that I didn't play with great players at Cal. It just forced you to step up your game. Our redshirts and our red squad, we have some good players there and going up against them every day, it adds facets to your game that you haven't had, and it makes you better because you're making mistakes every day, and it's hard every day, so I think I've added dimensions to my game that I didn't have last year.
Q. One example of what you do?
JORDAN MATHEWS: Rebound.
Q. Przem, your beard is looking fluffier and more glorious than the last time I saw you in Vegas. Is there any postseason wager?
PRZEMEK KARNOWSKI: No, all natural.
Q. That's just you?
PRZEMEK KARNOWSKI: That's how it is.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you. I'd like to welcome Gonzaga head coach Mark Few to the dais. Coach, an opening statement.
COACH FEW: Well, it's an awesome, awesome feeling and accomplishment for our team to be in their third Sweet 16 and get another whole week together. The guys are excited. The coaches are apprehensive about playing somebody like West Virginia and what they bring. So it's been an exciting week of preparation.
THE MODERATOR: Questions?
Q. Mark, how do you go about simulating West Virginia's press in practice, what do you do to prepare for it?
COACH FEW: You don't. You can't. God bless them, I got a great -- red squad, we call them, made up of some of our scholarship guys and some of our walk-ons. But not -- it's impossible to simulate the intensity, the physicality, just the relentlessness that West Virginia brings.
But that being said, I mean, our red squad probably did as good a job this week as they have all year, with just literally fouling us multiple times on every possession and just -- it was as physical a week of practice, and you want to prepare your guys, but you also don't want anybody to get hurt.
Going all hands on deck Thursday. So it was kind of -- got through this morning's practice. The last one before tomorrow and so everybody's healthy. So that's a win right there.
Q. Bob was talking about his friendship with you earlier when he was in here. You guys seem to kind of be on opposite ends of the spectrum. I just wondered where that friendship started and --
COACH FEW: Opposite ends of the spectrum. What does that mean?
Q. Different people.
COACH FEW: I think yes and no. We both love to coach. I think -- I think we're both real, kind of what you see is what you get. That's what I love about Hugs. The Hugs you guys see is the same Hugs I see when it's just me or him, maybe him and couple other coaching buddies. He's just a great guy.
I mean, he's a great coach. His teams play hard. They're always tough. But he loves his players and you can tell his players love and respect him. And he's a real guy. There's nothing -- he's not this persona over here and then he's a totally different person behind all that. I totally respect him for that.
And, yeah, we've had some good times together. I think we enjoyed hanging out and talking. And he knows I like to fish. He theoretically, supposedly likes to fish. I've never seen it or seen any pictures or anything. But he talks about it. I think he goes up to the lake and kind of does other things, sitting in the boat.
Q. You've been playing at a high level for a while now, but seems like other teams on the West Coast have stepped up their play. What have you seen just in general from that? And do you see improved play, any reasons why the schools out here have gotten better?
COACH FEW: I don't know that they were bad before. I just think sometimes these things are cyclical. And I think if you kind of really, you know, drill it down a little bit, the teams are a little bit older and experienced.
I mean, I said all year, like even preseason rankings, nobody realized how old UCLA was and how much experience they have coming back. I mean, a lot of those guys we played against in a Sweet 16 game that we won to go to the Elite Eight three years ago, whenever that was, down in Houston. And they're back.
I think Arizona's an older team. Oregon is an older team, with a lot of experience. And then we're kind of a new team, with what we got put together, but we have some older, more experienced guys. So I would probably look at that aspect more than anything.
Q. You won't know until you go up against it tomorrow, and you say you try to simulate it, but what is it about Nigel, the rest of the guys that you'll put out there on the court that you feel like they have some of those attributes that can handle the pressure that you'll face tomorrow?
COACH FEW: Well, they're tough. They've shown -- you're not going to be soft and go 34-1, not with a preseason schedule we play. And I think Saint Mary's showed themselves very well in the NCAA Tournament. I mean, ask the Arizona guys about them.
And again, just you're Gonzaga you get everybody's best shot. So I think the fact that our guys are at this juncture of the season, 34-1, proving ourselves to have some toughness and have some will, and that's what it takes against West Virginia, because you know they're going to bring it.
Q. When you look at what they'll try to do, they'll try to speed you up. A lot of teams including yourselves try to slow it down. Is that more of a physical?
COACH FEW: I don't remember us ever slowing it down. I've tried but I haven't been very successful with this group at times.
Q. ... run your offense in the face of how they will try to speed you up. What are the ways that you do counter act that when they try to get you out of the things that you will set up?
COACH FEW: You know what, we just need to play. I think this is probably one of those areas where we're going to play instinctually and play off feel. And I don't think you really need to call sets or things like that. But there's an advantage to us for directing the ball to certain places that we need to make them deal with. So we'll certainly, there will be some of that going on, too. We're just not going to roll it out and run up and down do that.
But I think we averaged over 80 points a game this year. So whenever we consistently always play as fast as anybody. But it comes down to taking care of the ball, that's been a big stab for us all year because we've been so efficient on the offensive end. And I really think our defense has got to show and we've got to really buckle down and block them out. They're -- one of the sneaky stats is their offensive rebound percentage and just how effective they are there.
Q. One question on Przem, just what he had to go through last year, was there ever a worry at all, maybe just basketball he's got going to get it back?
COACH FEW: No, that was my thought probably until, I don't know, June maybe was when he finally started turning the corner ball basketball-wise. Initially it was just we gotta help this kid somehow just get back to normal activity, a normal life where he can get up out of bed. And it was a struggle to fit a 7-foot, 300-plus-pound guy into a car and get from point A to point B.
Just for long stretches from probably December 1st through the winter, that's all we were concerned with. And I think it's a miracle that he's here playing. It really truly is. And I think all of us were hoping just for that, first of all, and then now we're just kind of playing with house money, so to speak.
And it's so rewarding and moving to just see him function on the floor and he's actually, probably moving better than he ever has, which is a real credit to him, his docs, our training staff, everybody.
Q. Another question with you and Coach Huggins. Seems like you're both avid fishermen --
COACH FEW: Again, he talks a lot about it. I have witnesses. My wife can show you my calendar. Pictures. I don't get any of that from him. I think he sits in the boat a lot. I'm just not sure -- I think we all know what's going on. But anyway go ahead.
Q. Fishing, is it another way to kind of get away from things? What does it mean for ball coaches?
COACH FEW: It's a way, no offense, to get away from all of this and just to be alone or to be -- some of the places I'm blessed to go fishing are the most beautiful places in the entire world, when you're there. And you just take it in. It drops you down a couple notches.
They're the type of places that, I mean, if you came into them with any doubt there was a God, you leave that there is a God. This is impossible to have without somebody creating it.
It's a great way -- I can think about recruiting. I can think about my team. I can just do a lot of soul searching out there, and yet it's a challenge. It's competitive. It's all of that.
And then my wife will tell you, I think my team will tell you, if I do it on days off you come back a better coach. You're in a better place, not as surly or salty. You're not as negative. You're just in a better place. Works for me. Other guys take naps and eat, drink. I fish.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports