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March 12, 2018

Carlik Jones

Mike Jones

Ed Polite

Dayton, Ohio

THE MODERATOR: We're being joined by a couple of student-athletes from Radford, Carlik Jones and Ed Polite as well as Coach Mike Jones. Questions?

Q. You guys were picked to finish seventh in the preseason poll for your conference. How did that motivate you to work harder to try to prove the people who picked the poll wrong?
CARLIK JONES: Being picked seventh we found it kind of funny because we know that we worked hard. And being picked seventh was just, like you said, a huge motivation for us. Started in the preseason working hard and offseason -- not offseason, but, like I said, preseason we were working pretty hard.

And we just -- our Coach used to put seventh place in the locker room, just put seventh everywhere. And we see that coming in the locker room and leaving after, so every day that just motivated us to be better.

ED POLITE: We took it as a slap in the face like people didn't really believe in us. So each day at practice we worked hard to show them that we had the game, we knew what we had to play for and we knew that nobody was really on our side, thought we was good enough. So that really helped us going into the playoffs.

Q. Carlik, you played here before in this arena. Because I live around here and work around here, too. So I saw you play in the district final here. So what's your memories of that and getting to come back here and play?
CARLIK JONES: I've played here about three times. I know my sophomore and junior year I lost here. My senior year I finally had got a win here. So I really am happy to be back. I'm glad to be back here and playing at home and in this atmosphere. And I kind of really got a bad taste in my mouth going 1-2 here. So I would love to be back here and get a big win.

Q. A lot of family going to be here?
CARLIK JONES: Yes, a lot of family and friends.

Q. How important is that to you? How much fun -- that's an extra thing for you than some of the other guys on the team, so how much fun is that for you? Talk about that.
CARLIK JONES: It's real big. I've had a lot of friends and family members who hasn't been able to make it to some of the away games or some of the home games out there in Radford. It's about six hours from Cincinnati. So being here in Dayton, about 35 to 45 minutes from my home, is helpful to my friends and family, so they'll be able to come finally see me play.

Q. Ed, thinking about -- what do you know about LIU, who you're playing, and anything that you think is really important for you guys in this game tomorrow?
ED POLITE: You know, we haven't really -- they're not in our conference, so we haven't really seen them too much or seen them in a non-conference games. But we do know they're good at transition. So we know our transition defense has to be top-notch. We're going to work on that.

Q. Is there a team that you've played this year that, when you look at the scouting report or coaches have said this is kind of like somebody that you played in your league this year?
ED POLITE: I mean, a lot of teams have been good on us on transition offense. So, teams like Winthrop and fast-paced teams on transition, like Virginia Tech that we played so far. So we know we have to be on that.

Q. What about offensively, Carlik, what has to happen for you guys in this game that you think is really important?
CARLIK JONES: Our coaches talk tempo and pace every day in practice. So I feel like if we move the ball and we move with pace, we'll be able to get what we want.

Q. Carlik, that was some shot to finish your conference tournament there. Can you walk us through the final seconds of that shot?
CARLIK JONES: Yes. We were supposed to do a double drag. I got the ball around 10 seconds. I drew it over and we were supposed to have our 4 and 5 man at the top of the key setting a double screen. I was sitting there just dribbling and I'm screaming at one of our, our 4 man to come up so he can get in the right spot to set the screen.

But I also kept my eye on the time and I see it going down. So I just had to go. And as I was going he eventually came up, set the screen and I actually think that was better that he came later. And seeing the clock go 3, 2 and I had to go from there. And it was a big shot.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you. Coach Jones, would you like to make a statement?

COACH JONES: Very excited to be here with our team. We have a, I know a lot of coaches say this, but we have a terrific group of young men who I have loved coaching this year. It hasn't always been peaches and cream, but I'll tell you what, they got closer and more connected as the year went on.

We went through a lot of adversity and just really happy that these guys became champions, something that will link them for the rest of their lives. And now the cherry on top is to get to play in the NCAA Tournament. We're very excited to be here and appreciate all of you all being here as well for us.

THE MODERATOR: Questions for Coach Jones.

Q. Talked to a couple of guys and they were like camaraderie, teamwork, coming together, some of them have been involved two or three years and you just referenced it. Could you talk a little bit more about why this team is close and why you think they have gotten so close and how important that is to your success?
COACH JONES: First of all, we have a bunch of characters. Man, they've got a lot of personality. We knew that we had some guys that had some give and take. They weren't just robots. And we've allowed them to have that freedom to express themselves and to be individuals.

And it's just really, it's flourished with all of them and with our team. So it's just -- we have a ball. We absolutely have a ball. And that was one thing that working with Shaka at VCU we had fun. Our coaches had fun. Our players had fun together and players and coaches had fun.

And this group kind of struck me as the same type of group that could handle that. And when it's time to get serious we get serious, but when it's time to have fun we have a ball. And this stuff is hard, so you might as well have fun while you're doing it. And this team has embraced that and they've done a really good job of being able to separate the two -- the having fun and get down to business and be focused.

Q. Your opponent, a couple guys said, they talked about the transition, reminded them a little bit of Virginia Tech, Winthrop, teams like that. I know it's a crash course in trying to figure out a team and get ready for it. What do you think of them? What do you feel like is most important for you guys to do?
COACH JONES: First of all, their coach is a very good coach. Derek Kellogg spent a lot of years at UMass, played for John Calipari at UMass, was a great player. And he has a style that's similar in terms of the dribble-drive offense. They really get to the foul line a lot. They have some athletic players, some dynamic scorers.

They like to push that ball in transition. They've got one of the fastest paces in the country. So those are challenges for our team. At different points in the year we've been susceptible to that. And we've gotten better as the year's gone on but we have to be really good at it tomorrow against an LIU team.

Q. How could you describe the past 24 hours and how you have felt from finding out you're in the tournament up until now?
COACH JONES: It's been a whirlwind. It's been fun. We had the plan that we were going to leave Sunday night if we were selected to play in Dayton. And so the show -- I think the show used to be at 7:00. Now it's at 6:00, which gives us an extra hour to pack.

So we all finished all of our obligations with the media and got a chance to pack and get on the bus. And the first two hours maybe or hour and a half the guys were raucous in the back, then it was dead silent back there.

But it was good to get out of, away from campus, just get back to our circle. Our circle has been everything to us. And to get here and get to bed and be here in Dayton and start to feel the sense of the tournament and get all that hype out of the way and now really focus at the job at hand has been really good.

Q. At 16th seed, how do you gear up for this game and like not think, oh, my gosh, if we win we're going to be somewhere else on Thursday? How do you focus on the opponent at hand? Is it hard or not?
COACH JONES: Not for me. I'm not sure right now if it's hard for the guys; we'll find out here in a minute when we go into practice. But when I was at VCU we played here and then we flew to Chicago. And then 48 hours later we were playing Georgetown and 48 hours we were playing Purdue.

So having gone through it for me it doesn't feel any different. But we also do things in the non-conference, like go to exempt tournaments and this year we went to, I think we played at Nevada first and then we went to San Francisco and then we flew to Vegas and then 48 hours later we had a game against A&T who we didn't know. And then 24 hours later we had a game against UC Davis who we didn't know.

So they have some familiarity with this whole rushed process and getting up and moving. So I think they'll be fine.

Q. Talked to Carlik earlier about being back home. He said, I'm 1-2 in this building.
COACH JONES: Gotta even that.

Q. He wants to even that out. Kind of a neat thing for a guy like that to come back here and experience that. Just comment on that.
COACH JONES: I mean, he really had a tough, tough year last year when he found out that he wasn't going to be able to play. It was tough on his family. I mean, these guys, their identity is so closely tied in with basketball. And for that to be taken away from a young man is very difficult, especially a young man who's five or six hours away from home.

So we tried really hard to pull him into the fold, to keep his spirits up, but he had some tough days last year. And so now -- I mean, for him to have the success that he's had this year and to be able to, at the end of the day, come home and play in front of his family and friends in the NCAA Tournament is just, it's a blessing for him. It's a blessing. I'm really happy for him because he's a great kid.

Q. What was the most important aspect of coaching you learned under Coach Smart, and how have you been able to apply it to your players at Radford?
COACH JONES: Great question. Shaka is like 10 or 12 years younger than me. So, good thing I've always been a person who believes I can learn from anyone and any situation. And it was just refreshing to work for him because he believes in relationships very strongly. And he believes in spending time with the players, whether it's -- I remember one time we had a kid from California, he was a freshman and he played the piano, and we arranged with the music department for him to get a piano for about half an hour. And I went in there just me and him, listened to him play the piano. And it just made a connection.

And he's very big on having those relationships, because once you have the relationships, now you can get to the meat of coaching. You can -- they'll be more willing to listen if they know you care about them.

And so that's the one thing that -- obviously I knew about that as a coach, but it just became more crystal clear working with him because it was so important to him. And we were able to see how the relationships helped us go from an okay team to a Final Four team at a school that no one thought could make that happen. And I believe that's the number one reason why it was able to happen.


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