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March 22, 2017
San Jose, California
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by Arizona student-athletes Kadeem Allen and Allonzo Trier. Questions.
Q. Allonzo, can you take me through, as you're sitting, one, how confident you'd be back, and, two, just the mental state of having to show up every day, having to be there mentally every day, not knowing when it's going to end, and how you grew from that and what it kind of helped make you in terms of going forward just with your life?
ALLONZO TRIER: It's an interesting question. Obviously it made me mature a lot. It's a situation that nobody is really used to going through and it's kind of different. And I think it allowed me to find ways to engage in the game and engage with my teammates and be locked in even though I wasn't playing.
And then having hope that eventually I would be able to get out there and play the game that I love and be a part of the game with my teammates. And then when I get that opportunity that I would be ready because I was engaged with my teammates. So I think that's the best way I can answer that question.
Q. Can you guys talk about Savage Life and what you guys mean about that individually? I know you've talked about it many times already, but you're on a different stage?
ALLONZO TRIER: I'm not in it, so I have no comments what it means or anything like that.
KADEEM ALLEN: I can't talk on it. I don't really know. Just a term one of our players came up with and we just rolled with it.
Q. Was there a time maybe late at night or you're sleeping thinking, this isn't happening? Like, I'm not getting back -- did you have to go through tough times like that?
ALLONZO TRIER: Yeah, there was a lot of times where it gets to you. And it's more when you're kind of by yourself and you're in your room, and you're sitting there and you don't know when things are going to take a good turn for you.
You're frustrated. You're sad. And you can get emotional. But I prayed and I'm very thankful to God I had an opportunity to play again and things have worked out to lead me to where I'm at right now. So very blessed, I would say.
Q. Have you guys noticed how any changes in Lauri as the years have gone in terms of him kind of opening up more and getting more comfortable with being part of the program and his personality kind of showing itself a little more?
KADEEM ALLEN: He opened up a lot more when we first came here. And he had to get comfortable to everyone and adapt to us. But as the year went on and everything went how it went well for him and for our team, he just became himself.
He's a great kid, and one of the best kids I've ever been around. Funny guy. But his roommate maybe could tell you a lot more about him.
ALLONZO TRIER: Yeah, Lauri has grown and he's adapted and -- to the culture here. And you know he's learned like every freshman does when they go through over the course of a season in college basketball. So as you would expect, his game has expanded. He's added things that have brought new elements to our team and have helped us. So we're very grateful to have somebody like him on our basketball team.
Q. I heard he has a pretty good Borat impression, too. Is that true, as his roommate?
ALLONZO TRIER: I guess that's his favorite movie or so. So he does impressions very well to that movie.
Q. Kadeem, can you talk about a little of the struggles last week against Saint Mary's and what the focus is for tomorrow night?
KADEEM ALLEN: They're a very good team. We had to adapt and adjust to way they play the game. And really wouldn't say quite it was a struggle, it was just a good basketball team and they were making good plays. And we just had to capitalize on the things we'd done, and at the end of the day we got the job done and we won the basketball game.
So congrats to them for making it there, but we just put it together. And for this week, they're a very good basketball team. They've been in the NCAA Tournament 11 times -- 11 out of the last 12. And every other year they make it to the Sweet 16. So they're a good basketball team, well-coached team. And we just have to come in tomorrow, be prepared and ready for a battle.
Q. Did you care what people thought as you were going through the whole thing, the headlines and everything or did you have to block everything out?
ALLONZO TRIER: Did I care about what people thought?
Q. What the outside people thought when it came out it was a test and everything. Did you think, boy, people are going to think about me, or did you have to block it out and say I know what happened?
ALLONZO TRIER: The people that mattered to me most knew the truth and that's all that mattered to me.
Q. The headlines and stuff, nothing bothered you?
ALLONZO TRIER: They were going to do what they do to make a headline and make it juicy and make a story out of it. That is what it is.
Q. Kadeem, how as a teammate did you try to help him, as he went through it? How did you help him as a teammate?
KADEEM ALLEN: As a team, coaching staff, everybody was behind him the whole thing. Like he said, we knew the truth. The truth came out, and he's playing now. We're happy to have him back now, and we're just happy to make a run in the tournament.
Q. How much did running through the tournament and beating UCLA and beating Oregon, how much did that give you guys confidence heading into this tournament?
ALLONZO TRIER: I don't think it gave us any more confidence. We believed in ourselves a great deal. But I think it showed people how good of a basketball team that we were to be able to make a run like that, to win three straight games and beat three quality teams in a row. It showed how together we were. It showed how tough we were. And we believe in ourselves a great deal, and we're a very confident team. And I think we put that on display in that tournament.
Q. Kadeem, same question?
KADEEM ALLEN: Just piggyback off what he said, they're good teams and we just went in there, fought, did what we did. Nothing was easy. But we just stuck with what we did all season long and just came out with the wins.
Q. Battling those teams, is it any surprise to you to see all three of you guys still alive in the Sweet 16?
ALLONZO TRIER: No, they're all very good teams, and we've all battled each other hard throughout the year and the conference. And, you know, it was some of the best luck and we're all representing the conference well. So that's great.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks, guys. We welcome Arizona head coach Sean Miller to the dais. Coach, a quick opening statement.
COACH MILLER: Well, we're very excited to be here. Obviously, I know the story line is Xavier and Arizona and certainly the past connection with me being at Xavier for eight years. I think if this was the first time that this happened, it would probably be a more appropriate or bigger story.
But how this has happened twice in the last three years or two years is amazing to me. If it happened in the NCAA Tournament, I think that's improbable enough, but to be here in the Sweet 16 round two of the last three years against these guys, you know, I wish it was different, but it isn't. And now that I've said that, the focus clearly is on both teams, the players, the great players on both teams and I think both programs vying to stay alive and trying to advance.
But we're excited to be here in San Jose, the state of California. We had a practice earlier today at Aaron Gordon's high school. Brought back a lot of memories for us, and looking forward to playing a really, really good team and a very, very well-coached team tomorrow.
Q. Have you seen Lauri's confidence and kind of his comfort level grow as the season's gone on, just kind of assimilating to being here? And how has that impacted the way he's been able to play for you?
COACH MILLER: I think one of Lauri's great strengths as a player is the fact that his confidence does not waver. He's been confident from day one and he remains confident right now. And one of the main aspects of him being such a confident player is although he is a phenomenal 3-point shooter, it's not the only thing that he does, and he really has tried to embrace the other aspects of the game, to add to what he's always done, well, which is shoot the 3-point shot.
He's much more well versed on offense and defense around the rim. He's become a very good defensive player. Even in the last month he's really grown because of the variety of players that he's defended. And we've asked him to score more around the basket, and he's responded.
So he's as versatile of a player that I've coached and I think he's one of our nation's best. Certainly we wouldn't be here today or have the record or the season that we have under our belt if Lauri wasn't with us for every game this year. And he has, he's been the one constant.
Q. Have you noticed his -- the way he's been able to get comfortable here in terms of living here and kind of just going through daily life here? Have you seen him kind of grow in terms of his comfort level with that as it's gone on?
COACH MILLER: No, he has. It's not easy. English isn't his first language. But Lauri's father, Pekka, played at Kansas. So he played college basketball. He lived in the United States. So Lauri came here, I think, through his father really understanding what it was about. And he came here with a clear purpose, to develop and gain a lot of great characteristics that you can gain by playing in the NCAA and college basketball, in addition to FEBA, which he has a lot of experience in.
Lauri, just so you know, is an incredible student. In the time he's been with us, he might have one B. He's equally adept in the classroom as he is on the court, and he's a great teammate and a great kid. His future is incredibly bright.
Q. Curious, your impression of West Coast players from the time you got to Arizona to now in recruiting. Has it changed at all? I know you recruit nationally, you recruit internationally. Do you think that the Pac-12 resurgence is related at all to an uptick in talent?
COACH MILLER: No, East Coast/West Coast, it's hard to stereotype. There's some really skilled players in the East or Midwest that are not physical and soft. There are some incredibly physical, tough-minded, non-skilled players in the West. I give you those two because if you stereotype, you know, West Coast is usually the softer and everybody else is tougher.
But we're in San Jose, Aaron Gordon, he didn't lack for toughness or physicality in the way he played. But I think the Pac-12 does not get enough credit for the amazing amount of talent that has gone through, not just 20 years ago, but let's take a look at this year's NBA All-Star Game. I think you had four players from the Pac-12 that were playing in this year's NBA All-Star Game.
So my first or second year at Arizona, if you went to play Washington in Washington State in two games in three days you would run into Isiah Thomas and Klay Thompson back to back. You head over to UCLA you have Russell Westbrook. And clearly our program, Arizona, we've had quite a few.
So not all of them I know grew up in the West, but this year's another example, if you look at the teams that remain in the tournament -- Oregon, UCLA and Arizona -- there's quite a few, I think, top level players.
Q. Coaches talk about adversity how kids react in the worst moments. Two parts, one, what about Allonzo's makeup told you he'd be okay when and if he came back and how he handled the whole suspension. And, two, in a weird sort of way, did that time away allow you to trust or give more guys minutes this week or beyond that maybe in the past you wouldn't have because he would have been playing?
COACH MILLER: Allonzo missed 19 games. We did not have a crystal ball. There was no guarantee that he was going to come back in 12, 20, ever. But his love of the game transcended anything else. He worked hard every day in practice. The fact that he was allowed to practice was both good for him and his psyche, but also our team.
Then when he was able to return to our team, it wasn't as if he was injured or disconnected. The only thing that he wasn't able to do at that point is play in the games. But if you miss 19 games and everybody else has played roughly 19, you don't just flip a switch and say here I am. We definitely went through a period of time where we had to kind of renew the roles and figure out what would be best for our team. But that period of time ended several weeks back.
And regardless of how we play tomorrow night, this is the best version of us that we've had all year, because we are at full strength. And I think that from Allonzo on down, we have things, in my mind, the roles that our team and players should have, we're in those roles right now. Hopefully we can keep getting better and bring out the best in everybody.
Q. Off your opening statement, what have you -- I imagine you're more than just a partial observer of Xavier basketball -- I mean what have you seen Chris do through the years and maybe even this year, you mentioned adversity. I know he's had injuries and a suspension Myles Davis, that type of thing. How have you watched him in general and then this year specifically?
COACH MILLER: Of course, I watch Xavier every chance that I can. A big, big fan. Love that place. I see Joe and Byron out there in the crowd. The friendships that my family and I have, we still have today. I don't get back to that area very often, only because it's not easy to being that we now live in Arizona.
But, first of all, Chris Mack has led Xavier to four Sweet 16s in the last eight years. There aren't many coaches that can say that. And our players, and I'm sure you got this when you talked to them, they know that Xavier has been to 11 of the last 12 NCAA Tournaments. They know that a year ago Xavier was a No. 2 seed; that right now they're closer to being in, like, three or four Sweet 16s in a row than they are any other way.
What they just did, they dismantled their bracket. It wasn't a close game at all -- in the last game against Florida State, and Florida State has one of the more talented teams in this tournament. So it's so much about in March being at your best than how you've been all year.
And the injury that they overcame from Sumner, I've watched them reinvent themselves by changing defenses, playing more zone. Macura and Bluiett, I think, are two just outstanding players. But Chris Mack is one of our game's bright coaches, great coaches. He's not my former assistant. He stands on his own two feet and his record and what he's done speaks for itself.
And I don't know if I've seen a coach take a team that had lost a number in a row and lost such a terrific player, and now flip it and have them playing at such a high level. We're playing against one of the hottest teams that's remaining in the tournament. And if last weekend is any indication of where they're at, it's scary for anybody that's going to play against them.
So I give a lot of credit to Chris and his staff, their team and players, but also Xavier. It's a special place who loves college basketball. And it just seems like they bring out the best in everybody.
Q. How do these two teams match up tomorrow night? And how do you see this -- what's it going to take to get a win tomorrow?
COACH MILLER: Xavier is a great rebounding team, because of such change and the injury and all the different things they've had to deal with. I think that's lost sometimes. They rebound toe to toe on defense and on offense with any team that we've played. As a matter of fact, they might be one of the best overall rebounding teams that we've played.
And we're going to have to be able to answer the bell in that one area. Macura and Bluiett are experienced. Their coaching staff does a great job of creating set plays and action to get them shots. And when Xavier is on defense -- and that's probably the biggest thing that's changed, really they're playing three different defenses. And you have to recognize the defense they're in. You have to make sure that you can handle the ball and get good shots.
And J.P. Macura, he just has a knack of being able to deflect the ball and steal it. And he's a nuisance in a really good way. So we can't let him affect the game of disrupting us, regardless of what zone offense we're in.
So it's a recognition game, when we have the ball. It's really being aware of their team, but especially those two players, and we have to be able to rebound.
I also think that their center position, they rotate three players at that spot right now, and they get a lot of production in 40 minutes from that position. So there's a reason why they're playing at such a high level and all the things that I just touched on are really, I think, a part of their success right now.
Q. Do you remember much about going to Hutchinson and seeing Kadeem for the first time?
COACH MILLER: Yes. Kadeem Allen, the reason that we recruited Kadeem Allen, I had an Uncle Joe, my dad's brother, who was the long-time high school football coach at New Hanover High School, lived in Wilmington, North Carolina forever. And he passed away a few years back. But Kadeem was one of my Uncle Joe's favorite kids.
And he called me and told me. And he would get on my dad about, I'm telling you this kid, Kadeem Allen. And then ironically we knew the coaches at Hutchinson Junior College as well. So I think between those two relationships it allowed us to get in the door.
But I always came back to that, that knowing where he was from, knowing his family, knowing how far he had come and the great things that people like my uncle and the people in Wilmington, the people at Hutch, they always described him as a great kid and a winner and somebody that was against all odds for a period of time and has really risen.
And, man, I'll tell you what, that has -- there isn't anybody that I've ever been around that has come further than Kadeem. And right now he's just such a great leader and he's our team's heart and soul.
I always come back to this, but in college basketball, when you walk in and tell a kid, hey, I think it's in your best interest that you redshirt and a year earlier he was the National Junior College Player of the Year, that conversation doesn't always go well. But in his case, he said if you think that's the best, that's what I'll do.
And right now he's two credits from graduating. And his defense, his offense, and it's fun to watch somebody in your own program develop like him.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports