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March 13, 2018
THE MODERATOR: We're being joined by student-athletes from Arizona State, Tra Holder, Shannon Evans and Kodi Justice as well as coach Bobby Hurley. We'll open the floor for questions.
Q. This goes to all three seniors. Since Selection Sunday, what has the past 48 hours been for you guys? I know you were emotional. It was an emotional time for you guys. Just describe your emotions over the past 24 hours.
TRA HOLDER: It's been very exciting just to be able to celebrate with my team. We came in on Sunday not knowing what our future was going to be. When I found out I started being emotional and it was just a great day. And I'm happy I'm in this position with my teammates because we worked so hard all year, and I feel like we deserve it.
SHANNON EVANS II: Kind of piggybacking on what Tra said, it was a good time for us. We really didn't know what our fate was going to be like before the Selection Show. So when they announced our name, it was pretty cool.
KODI JUSTICE: Yeah, it was definitely like a roller coaster ride. In the beginning you just didn't know. We were nervous. We knew we had a good shot to make it. We knew we had a great non-conference with two big wins over No. 1 seeds. So we knew we had a shot.
So our emotions in the beginning, we were just nervous. But after we found out just to be able to share this moment with these guys, all the things we've been able to do to finally take this team to the tournament was just an exciting day.
Q. What are your thoughts on being here in Dayton, Ohio, and there's snow outside and just the overall travel experience?
KODI JUSTICE: It's different. It's a little cold outside, like you said. Different than Arizona. But just to be out here, it's exciting. It's cool to be able to be part of the whole March Madness, this NCAA Tournament. And we're just excited to kind of get going.
SHANNON EVANS II: Like he said, it's cool. The weather, kind of better in Tempe, I would say. But just the whole environment, the March Madness, the field and everything about it is great and I'm glad to be here.
TRA HOLDER: The energy, you could definitely feel it. Coming in yesterday, we were greeted by fans. And the people who hosted it were very open-armed and it was great to be here. And I've seen a lot of teams play the last couple of years in this building. So I'm anxious to get out there and just happy to be here.
Q. As you guys struggled in the Pac-12 and people started to discuss whether or not you would make the NCAA Tournament, now that you're in, did you guys start to feel a little bit of pressure just facing that possibility?
TRA HOLDER: Overall, I think our conference was kind of underrated in a way. I know we didn't have -- our conference as a whole didn't have the best non-conference, but I think teams really figured out the best way their team could survive.
I know a lot of teams went to zone and that was really a good decision by their coaches because it worked effectively for them. And I feel like if they would have had that early in the non-conference and I know a lot of teams were young as well. So I think once they got into conference play, they were able to find their niche and they're more comfortable in their system.
Q. I know it's a while ago, but Bobby compared that St. John's/Kansas weekend to the NCAA Tournament. How do you feel like that's helped you guys prepare coming into this week with such short notice?
SHANNON EVANS II: I feel like it helped us tremendously. Like you said, both of those two games were big-time games for us. And this whole week is going to be good for us taking one game at a time starting tomorrow, things like that. So I feel like it really prepared us and I feel like we're ready for the challenge.
Q. So you guys get to the tournament and you're here. Is there less pressure -- there was so much expectation during the season with that slump, and now do you feel like, we're here and we can breathe and we can play basketball? Or is there even more expectations to live up to?
KODI JUSTICE: I mean, me personally, and I know probably these guys, I don't know if we could ever say we felt the pressure. It's basketball. We're out here playing a game we love. There's basketball, there's going to be ups and downs, there's going to be win streaks -- you're going to be on losing streaks. It is what it is.
So it's hard to control some of those things. What you can control is your effort, your energy every single day. We knew if we went out there and competed and played our hearts out, we were going to be able to hopefully come out on top and then there's sometimes you just don't. So we just go out there every single day and play as hard as we can.
So we never felt pressured. I don't know if that pressure is something you put on yourself. So being able to be in a tournament and kind of just -- you get this fresh start. So the energy is up, it's better. Everything's flowing. It just feels better to be in this environment.
Q. Tra, at one point you said when the team was at its highest point, ranked No. 3 in the country, you felt teams are going to come after you now, that you were the hunted. And on Sunday, Kodi said now you guys can be hunters. How much does that change your guys' mentality heading into the tournament?
KODI JUSTICE: It gave us that underdog again. We're the underdog. We're not looked at to be one of the guys that can win this tournament. So we can go out there and just play our game, play free, do what we do and not worry about anything. It's literally we're out here playing basketball, having fun, so now being the hunter you can go out and play free instead of on most nights when you're the hunted you get everyone's A game. So we're just going to go out there and play our game.
Q. Tra mentioned the zone earlier gave you some trouble. Now you're going against a team whose entire culture is built around zone. Just what you've seen from film, I don't know if you've had a chance to study it yet, but what stands out about Syracuse's zone, Kodi and Shannon?
KODI JUSTICE: They're probably one of the biggest teams you play against. You go from 6'5" all the way to 7'2". So they're real big. They're athletic. They're going to give us challenges. We're going to have to be able to be smart and where we attack it. We're going to have to make sure we attack it and we do the right thing, we take smart shots. We've got to attack the offensive glass.
There's going to be a lot of things we have to attack in certain positions, but we'll have to be smart about it and being able to go through the entire Pac-12, most teams zoned us so we're kind of ready for zones.
SHANNON EVANS II: To piggyback on what Tra said, I mean, Kodi, we have to attack the gaps and things like that. They're real big up front from 6'5", 6'6", all the way to 7'2" inside. So being effective and just not throwing lazy passes and things like that, I feel like that will help. But I feel like the biggest thing he said, attack the offensive glass and try to get second-chance shots.
Q. This moment, senior guards, can you just put it into words and just the overall emotions and excitement and putting Arizona State on the map so early on in the season and now you guys are here? Can you just describe that feeling?
SHANNON EVANS II: It feels good. Just to see where we started from, I know these guys have been here longer than I have, but to see where they started from to see it like now, how our program has changed. So it's a great feeling. And I'm proud to be here definitely with these guys beside me.
TRA HOLDER: It's definitely been a dream of mine. This preseason, I talked with these guys and that was our whole goal this season was to make the tournament. And that's the reason why I was a little bit emotional. Because I'm going to step through the door on such a high note, and we thought we were for sure going to make it. But it came close. And just glad the committee (indiscernible) us and we're here.
KODI JUSTICE: It's definitely exciting to be here with these guys. We've been through a lot. We've worked so hard. So just to be able to share this moment with these guys, my teammates, the coaches and all that, it's great to be able to go out there and keep competing, because it's, like you said, we're seniors. Just to be able to put this team back on the map, put the team on our back and all that, it's exciting.
Q. I know you guys have emphasized that you faced a lot of zone, did you guys look specifically at that Washington game knowing that their coach runs that same zone that Syracuse does?
KODI JUSTICE: We've looked at multiple zones. Yeah, we'll look at Washington because they played it. But it's different. Their size, athleticism, it's just a different zone all around. So it's hard to compare their zone to any other zones. But the way we attacked Washington's zone with being able to get the ball to the middle, attack the gaps, that's definitely things we're going to have to do.
Q. Kodi, specifically for you, Arizona State, it's been the team you've rooted for since you were a little boy and now you're here playing with them in this tournament. What does it mean for you to kind of help put your city on the map, especially a town that you've grown up with and fans that you have at home supporting you?
KODI JUSTICE: It means the world to me. This is a dream for me to be able to be a local kid from Arizona, to be able to take this team to the tournament, to be able to do things this city's never seen.
So it's exciting moment for me. It's great to be like I said to share with these guys. I wouldn't be able to put this team where we are at without them. They've helped me so much to help me grow as a player, as an individual. So it's just a great feeling all around.
Q. What about being here with Bobby Hurley and just his history with his family and just their integration in basketball in general, and just being able to be under his leadership in this critical moment?
KODI JUSTICE: It means a lot. He's taught us a lot. Not just from playing in this tournament but to be better people, be better basketball players, all around. So to have him as your leader, it's great.
Who else could you ask? He's won two national championships. He's done it. So just to be able to listen to his words of encouragement, of things that he thinks we need to do, it's great to have somebody like that in your corner.
SHANNON EVANS II: What Kodi said. It's good to have a leader like that somebody that's been there and done it. A lot of people talk about it and try to tell you things but they never actually did it. So he's somebody that has done it and did a great job doing it. So to have him here with us is amazing.
TRA HOLDER: I think it's great to have him on our side, especially for us because we're all guards and he was a guard. He played in the ACC. So it's ideal for us. We've just got to listen to him and follow his game plan because we'll be successful if we do so.
Q. Shannon, you said you were anxious coming into this. How do you expect to control your emotions and help lead the team, especially all three of the seniors as well, coming in with a lot of emotions?
TRA HOLDER: This could be it, this could be the last time I put the jersey on. So not only for myself but I've got to play for the guys, for the coaches, for the fans. We don't want it to be our last game, so we've got to give it our all.
Q. Bobby is obviously pretty intense. I've heard bits and pieces about, I don't know if it's game-day workouts he does at the hotel. I'm sure he does them every day. But have you guys ever participated in these workouts or anything you guys can tell us about these things?
TRA HOLDER: The one thing that stuck out to me in the summer we had ran this mountain probably five miles or so. It was about 100-plus degrees, like, at six in the morning. We all ran; it was optional if you wanted to win it or not. He was top three in our whole team. So that just tells you his mentality as a person.
I know today I saw him drenched. He ran early before film. So his mindset, you could tell when he's on the sideline how it's instilled in us.
SHANNON EVANS II: I think it's crazy, to be honest. But kind of what Tra said, he's very intense and I also look back to when we ran that mountain that day, and he was in like the top tier group of the players as well. And every day he works out he tells us like how he beat his time before and things like that to motivate us as well. It's always good to have a warrior like that on the sideline for you.
KODI JUSTICE: I've never joined his workouts. They seem a little intense for me. But it's good to be able to have somebody who is a competitor. He wants to win in everything he does. So to be able to have somebody like that to not just push you every single day, but to challenge you to be better in everything you do.
So just him, being able to see him at 6:00 in the morning he's drenched with sweat, like Tra said, telling guys his times and all that. It's cool to see that because it makes you want to compete in everything you do.
THE MODERATOR: Coach, an opening statement.
COACH HURLEY: It was a very emotional couple of days, just a roller coaster, really, leading into Selection Sunday, and just playing different scenarios out and the tension and the anxiety about wanting to be in this field and feeling like you deserve to play. And so it was just an amazing feeling when we were selected.
And just so happy for my players. My seniors have been with me since my first year at Arizona State and have gone through some tough times. It was great to see them experience that moment on Sunday. And we've had great practices, and there's kind of renewed life and enthusiasm to what we're doing. So we're really, really enthusiastic about the opportunity to play tomorrow.
Q. With your team being a bubble team and your history in the tournament, what's it like to be in the unfamiliar position of having to prove that you belong here?
COACH HURLEY: Yeah, I mean, I think at one point, in late December, we're at Arizona and we're down two with 35 seconds left and there's a loose ball and it's a tie-up and we don't have the arrow, or else we have a chance to go down the floor to tie or take the lead and probably, on Monday, if we win, be the number one team in the country.
So to ride that roller coaster, and to see us have our struggles and lose a lot of close games and not win at the level that we had hoped, we put ourselves in that position, but we had a special non-conference. The guys, the memories they gave us at Kansas and Xavier, I think, put us in a great position. And we beat Kansas State on a neutral. And we played St. John's on a neutral. And St. John's has talent. They proved what they can do. They fought a lot of injuries and such. And San Diego State was another good win.
So we accumulated a lot of victories versus teams that were either in the NCAA Tournament or considered in the tournament. So I think that helped us. But in the future I hope to not have to put myself through that. If we're having a great season, to just close it out a little better, to take any of the doubt out.
Q. With the expectations when they were doing so well in non-conference play at the top of the top and then with that slump during conference play, do you think now that you're actually in the tournament you could take a deep breath, you can breathe a sigh of relief, like, now we're here; let's get back to playing basketball?
COACH HURLEY: Tra Holder has had an outstanding season as a senior. He's -- 40 points against Xavier, 30 against Kansas, 29 at Arizona. He's that type of player. To see that guy at my house on Sunday just break down and cry, and Tra is -- he's got a poker face, man. He doesn't show a ton of emotion outwardly. To see him have that moment, it was unbelievable.
I just feel like in practice we were awesome yesterday. And the energy, guys flying around. Romello White took a charge today. I've never seen that happen. So there's things that have happened that haven't happened, and I know our players are going to turn it loose and they're very, very excited to play.
Q. I asked your guys about playing against Syracuse's zone. You actually played against it when you were a freshman?
COACH HURLEY: Yes.
Q. Ten assists, I think, six turnovers, maybe.
COACH HURLEY: Thanks for reminding me.
Q. What do you remember about that zone, and does it look any different today?
COACH HURLEY: What I remember from that game was, as a freshman, it was my first game on TV and it was my first big-time game. It was a Big East/ACC Challenge. And I think Derrick Coleman won the tip, and he tipped it to Billy Owens. And then Billy Owens took, like, two dribbles and I was the last guy back. And then he threw a lob to Stevie Thompson. He just dunked it right over me. It was the first ten seconds of my college career. So that's kind of what I remember from that game.
And I don't remember specifically playing against it. But, yeah, we had a ton of experience this year. As we got to league play, teams saw -- they can't let our guards get in the paint. So a lot of teams zoned us, so we faced a lot of zone defense, especially Washington, I guess would be a mirror image of how Syracuse plays their zone. But no one does it as well as they do.
So got a big challenge in terms of attacking it and proving that we're capable of executing and playing great offense against a team that plays the zone, because we didn't always handle it great in conference play.
Q. Your former assistant coach, Nate Oats, now the head coach at Buffalo, he's taking on your in-state rival, Arizona. What would it mean to see him take down U of A and have you given him any advice?
COACH HURLEY: Nate and I talk quite a bit. We're very good friends. Obviously we've spent a couple of years working together and shared a championship together. And I'm always invested in his success. And he's a great coach and he doesn't particularly need my advice.
I gave him a couple of nuggets of things that we focused on when we played Arizona. And we played them very well each time we played him this year.
So I know he's going to -- he's a worker. He's watching film. He's going to have his guys ready to play. Arizona is playing a phenomenal level right now. They've gotten so much better over the last couple of weeks.
Q. What do you remember if anything about Coach Boeheim recruiting you or maybe any memories of him being down there at St. Anthony's over the years recruiting your dad's players?
COACH HURLEY: I just remember when I was coming up he coached great point guards, and that was very attractive for me to want to consider playing at Syracuse. I saw Pearl Washington play, Sherman Douglas, and those were guys I looked up to when I was coming up.
And I remember an unofficial visit I had at Syracuse. And I saw them play in the Big East regular season championship game. It came down to the last regular season game with Pittsburgh at the Carrier Dome. It was just a special environment.
So, yeah, they were right there. I just when I visited Duke, it was just, I couldn't say no to that. But I always enjoyed the possibility of going there and always thought what a great coach Coach Boeheim was.
Q. Coach Boeheim mentioned obviously your rich integrated basketball family and history with coaches and just among the sport, but apparently your mom is the biggest fan of the game and just how she dictates kind of her passion for the game, too.
COACH HURLEY: Yeah, my family is probably part of the reason I love it the way I do. And I'm so expressive about that as I coach. But, yeah, she -- I never would have gotten where I am without my mom and what all great moms do. They don't get a lot of credit for all the work they put in getting me to tournaments and practices as I grew up. And then she always -- she kept score. She did every game for my dad. So that rarely happens in a family.
Q. Can you talk a little bit more, obviously very passionate about your senior core. And then with Kodi Justice being from Arizona, so putting his team and his city on the map, too, in this moment.
COACH HURLEY: Kodi is the first guy I hugged after, and he's, again, a day-one guy with me. And just works at it, and has had so many great moments and just wanted to see him and Tra and Shannon go out the right way and with a tournament appearance and a chance to advance in the tournament.
And just this is the beginning hopefully for us in establishing a standard for Arizona State basketball and what we want to do and having young guys in the program now that could get to the tournament. That's what we're hoping to do moving forward. And these guys are the foundation for that -- Tra, Shannon and Kodi.
Q. Throughout the season you often had Mickey Mitchell in the middle zone. What do you like about him in the middle of the zone in that position?
COACH HURLEY: Mickey, I think, has got a good feel for the game. He's very good IQ, good passer. He's strong. When he catches it, rarely do guys just take the ball from him. And then he's got the vision to move it. And then he's physical kind of a downhill attack guy too from the high post.
So you have to -- you can't beat a zone as good as Syracuse's zone one way; you've got to do it multiple ways. And obviously the high post is important, and you need a guy in there that makes good decisions. And I think Mickey does a good job in that role.
Q. You referenced that weekend in December against St. John's and Kansas at the time as a tournament preview or a way to get your guys prepared. How do you think your guys have mirrored that experience coming into this game?
COACH HURLEY: Yeah, we didn't talk a ton about that. And this setup is a little different. We're just kind of focusing on this game. And you're at the point now in the season, if you're not locked in to who you're playing and how to attack your opponent then it's going to end quick. So that's just my mindset, my approach.
But when we're setting up scheduling, we scheduled hard because we want to prepare our guys for the NCAA Tournament. That's why you go to Kansas and you play Xavier on a neutral, and all these games we played, high-level games. And been in a lot of wars this year, and you hope that pays dividends this time of year.
Q. Do you allow yourself as a younger coach to think about Boeheim and what he's done as a Hall of Fame coach?
COACH HURLEY: It's just greater appreciation for how good he is, how successful a guy like Coach Boeheim is. To be able to deliver tournament appearances and Final Fours and national championships for that period of time and sustain it as a program is unbelievable.
I didn't -- I had, like, an unusual out-of-the-box playing experience. I thought you were just supposed to go to the NCAA Tournament and go to Final Fours and that's just how it is. No, it's really difficult. I learned that at Wagner. I learned it at Buffalo, how difficult it is for a mid-major to win your conference tournament and get to the NCAA field.
Same at ASU; it's been a steep climb. It's been a lot of adversity. It's not easy to get to this event. So you just feel completely fortunate and excited for the opportunity if you make the NCAA Tournament field.
So it's impressive what a coach like Coach Boeheim has been able to do year in and year out for the career he's had.
Q. Your guys talked a little bit about a preseason run that you guys did up a mountain, and I heard you do this, you really get your day started, the workout type thing. What do you do? How important is it for the process of getting ready?
COACH HURLEY: I think it's always, for me, I try to push my limits to what I do. This morning for a guy -- I was in the 21s for three miles, and that's just my goal. And I'll just crank the treadmill up as high as I can tolerate. And then I'll run as fast as I can for about that period of time and then I move on.
But I just, I want to be set the tone for myself to right away get my day going with that. I thought that thing was beneficial, that run. It was hot when we did it. It took us almost an hour. It was about six miles. And it was uphill and you have to get to the top and back down. And guys were struggling. But you do things like that and you hope that it builds a mental toughness, ability to fight through things and push your limits.
Q. Three miles, (indiscernible)?
COACH HURLEY: I'm in the 21s somewhere for three miles on the treadmill.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.
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