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March 15, 2018
Charlotte, North Carolina
THE MODERATOR: We're ready to start our interviews with the student-athletes from Creighton. We have from left to right, senior Marcus Foster, junior Khyri Thomas, senior Toby Hegner, and senior Tyler Clement. We'll have 15 minutes. Please raise your hand.
Q. Marcus, I know you probably talked a lot about extra motivation facing Kansas State and as a follow-up, how did your two years in Manhattan affect the way you are as a player and as a man now?
MARCUS FOSTER: It really just made me learn. You know, things I went through I had to grow up and mature, and now I'm in a spot now I'm the man I wanted to become and just a little learning curve I had to go through. Everybody has to go through things, but you face adversity and you get over it and move on.
MARCUS FOSTER: Extra motivation for me is this could be my last game. There's not any other way I can put it. I have to put everything on the line so I can be able to play until it's all over.
Q. Marcus, I'm curious if you've had any relationship with Nigel Johnson. He's also kind of playing here and if you guys have spoken or plan to speak at all?
MARCUS FOSTER: Me and Nigel talked the night we found out there's a possibility we could play each other. He was my roommate for two years at Kansas State. We've been talking throughout the years. Me and him are definitely excited to be able to play each other, you know, on different teams this time.
Q. Obviously you can't reveal specific like tactics or plays and whatnot. What has Coach exactly helped emphasize in practice like even anecdotally to prepare you for the upcoming matchup?
MARCUS FOSTER: Kind of the same things we've been going over and over this season. We struggle on the defensive end and teams are going to try to punk us. You watch Kansas State play and that's what they're real good at. They're good at stopping teams and being tougher than teams. We have to bring a another other level of toughness. Try to keep them out of the paint a little bit. They are good shooters, so we have to be able the contain the 3 point line and also keep them out of the paint.
THE MODERATOR: Khyri?
KHYRI THOMAS: Marcus kind of just really put everything out there on the line. Just really focus on the level of toughness to match theirs or be a little better than theirs. That's one thing. And really just getting those guys a little frustrated with whether we trap or what our game plan is. Just really to kind of get in their heads a little bit, because I know they're going to do the same to us. But at the same time, you know, maintain our focus but to get them riled up and cause them turnovers which will eventually lead us to our game, which is a fast pace and knocking down 3s.
Q. What was your reaction when you found out you were going to play K State? Was it kind of a roll of the eyes or anybody but them? What was your reaction when that happened?
MARCUS FOSTER: It was kind of different, you know. I mean, I was just happy for our name to be called, but, you know, I wasn't expecting to play them. I knew coming in there's going to be a lot of media attention towards it. That's the one thing I wanted to stay away from just because I'm so locked into this last game that I have to play and I want to be at my best and I don't want to have to worry about other things rather than just going out there and giving it my all.
Q. I guess this is for any of you guys. When you found out you were coming to Charlotte, what was the reaction from Davion and Ty-Shon? What did they tell you about Charlotte?
TOBY HEGNER: They were really excited. We were just as excited for them, as you know, going back to we're in the tournament and we were all excited at the moment, but it meant a little bit more to them to come home and play in front of some of their friends and family. They were pretty excited. Pretty good feeling to witness that.
Q. Any of the players. Every team's goal at the beginning of the year is to make it to the big dance. What's your feelings now that you're in the big dance with a chance to play in a national championship?
TYLER CLEMENT: Yeah, that was one of our main goals coming into the season was getting back to the tournament. We talked about how we've gotten to the tournament five of seven years but not necessarily happy just to be here anymore, we want to make some noise and win a couple games for sure. I guess our whole sentiment, we're happy we're here, we're not satisfied with that. We want to keep rolling and keep extending our season. We're trying to make some noise.
THE MODERATOR: Toby.
TOBY HEGNER: The big thing for this team and especially for us, no Creighton team ever made it past the first and second round. Our goal going into the season was to make a run, like Tyler said earlier. And that's something that we can do, but we got the take it one game at a time, and right now our focus is on K State and what we have to do to win that game.
THE MODERATOR: Khyri, your turn.
KHYRI THOMAS: Toby just hit it right on the nail. Not just to be here and get past that first and second round, you know, we did it last year, kind of looked past the Rhode Island game. Unfortunately we lost the first round. To get past the first and second round will mean a lot to us.
THE MODERATOR: Marcus.
MARCUS FOSTER: All year we talked about how we can exceed our expectations and at the beginning of the season, we weren't the team we were supposed to be and lot of people doubted us, and over the season we got better and better. The more we started talking about the tournament, we were like we're not going to be happy to be in there. We're going to try to make some noise, like Tyler said, and want to leave our mark on our school by making history by making it to the Sweet 16. We have to take it one game at a time, unlike we did last year.
Q. Toby, in watching film of Dean Wade, what exactly do you see from him? Give me your breakdown of Dean.
TOBY HEGNER: Dean is a great player. You ask anybody in the Big 12, they'll tell you he can do it on both ends of the floor. One of our focuses is post up game and transition is very, very good. And we're going to have to do whatever it takes to keep the ball out of his hands and make someone else put it on the floor and score.
So, we've got a lot of things on our mind to take Dean Wade out of the game, but it -- it's a team effort no matter the situation and that's what we prepared.
THE MODERATOR: Who has the next question? Anyone else before we let them go?
Q. What's been the top song in the tournament play list rotation that's been going on in the locker room, just for anybody?
TYLER CLEMENT: Martin has been playing "The Middle." I don't know who sings that. We're getting kind of sick of it because he keeps singing it. We don't have a song that's kind of fueling us. We're tired of "The Middle." "God's Plan," maybe.
TOBY HEGNER: There's a lot of different songs going through our locker room right now.
THE MODERATOR: Anyone else? Okay. Thanks, guys.
We're ready to start with Coach McDermott from Creighton.
GREG MCDERMOTT: Well, we're thrilled to be back in the NCAA Tournament. You know, this is the second year in a row that we've had a pretty serious injury to one of our key guys that has ended his season and had to figure out a way to rally around that. And I'm really proud of the way this team has functioned since we lost Martin Krampelj. Guys had to play different roles. We had to have some guys step up, even a red shirt that wasn't playing that had the red shirted pulled in Jacob Epperson. We had to kind of reinvent ourselves after that injury and it took a little time. We certainly have moved the right direction and extremely proud of those four guys you just talked to because their leadership has been critical in us sitting here today.
THE MODERATOR: Questions.
Q. Marcus answered the question the way you would hope he would. It's just another game, NCAA Tournament, all the pressure on survive and advance. Do you sense there's any extra with him because he played at K State?
GREG MCDERMOTT: You know, it wasn't probably his top choice of who he would like to play when the pairings came out. But he and I had -- because we're playing K State, it gave us an opportunity this week to have a lot of conversation about it. And I don't know how Marcus answered your questions, but in my conversations with him, you know, we all make mistakes when we're 18, 19 years old and he's taken ownership of those mistakes. And to his credit, he's made the changes in his life to be the person that he is today and be the leader and the teammate that he is today, and that may or may not have happened had he not made those mistakes when he was 18 and 19.
So, while I'm very proud of what the stat sheet says about Marcus Foster this year, that doesn't hold a candle to how proud I am of who he's become off the court, the friend, the teammate, the father that he is today is a very different person than the one that first met with me when he left Kansas State.
That's why I do this, that's why Bruce does it, and to see guys grow and hopefully move on to bigger and better things in their life, and the combination of the two experiences have led him down this path and in the landing spot that he is today. I'm extremely proud of him.
Q. Greg, what adjustments, if any, have you made in preparation leading up to this week, things maybe you've gathered from your last couple of experiences here?
GREG MCDERMOTT: You know, we've had a little more time. Last year we played in the finals of the Big East tournament on Saturday and get turned around on Tuesday and jumped on a plane for the West Coast. We've had a little more time to really get our legs under us. I think from that standpoint I think we're a fresher team than we were a year ago.
But we've had enough guys that have been here and they've done a really good job throughout the season in helping our freshmen move along when we really needed them. And they've done that this week in helping prepare them for what's ahead this week. And it's the biggest stage in college basketball, but at the end of the day you go out and do what you do.
There's not a lot of surprises and secrets that you're going to pull out in the middle of March. You try to execute your stuff as well as you can and try to disrupt what the other team is going to do.
So I think we're in a good place and I think the guys are really anxious to get out on the floor tomorrow night.
Q. Coach, when I say "Dean Wade," what do you think?
GREG MCDERMOTT: I like the vision of him with the boot on instead of the boot off (laughter). No, honestly I hope he's healthy and he's able to play, but I had a chance to watch Dean in high school and we recruited him a little bit but probably were too late. He committed to K State shortly there after. But his development since I saw him in high school is really incredible. I've seen him play a little over the course ever his career. I haven't studied him like I have this week. He shoots a 3 point shot extremely well. He can beat you on the block. He's got great pace to his game when he catches it on the block but also catch it off the block and face you or back you down.
Having said all that, what makes him dangerous is his ability to pass the ball if you attempt to come with some help. He can make some of those other guys very, very efficient, very, very effective with his ability to pass the basketball. I've been incredibly impressed with him. I think he's a really good player. I think he's got a bright future ahead after college.
Q. I guess just going back to the freshman a little bit, they've had two kind of big stages away from home that they've had to play well against, obviously the Villanova one at home. What about those three players gives you the confidence that extend their minutes, extend the rotations in big situations when you need important play from your team?
GREG MCDERMOTT: Number one, they've earned it with their play in the practice floor. Even when they -- when Mitch and Ty-Shon weren't shooting it great in games, they continued to shoot it in practice and continued to spend the time off the practice floor preparing themselves. I had lunch with those three the other day, and one of the things I talked about and actually thanked them for is they've all had to play a role different than probably what they anticipated. You know, Ty-Shon really got thrust into the point guard role because of Caleb's injuries and he did a good job so we left him there. That's not his true position. Ronnie recently goes down late in the year when we're playing the three most important games of the year to try to get into this tournament and we slide Mitch Ballock full-time to the power forward position, a position he never really played except for a few minutes with us early in the season. And Jacob Epperson was going to red shirt. He's sitting there in the middle of January just icing his knee, taking his time before gets back to the practice floor after the meniscus surgery, and all of a sudden on January 27th he gets thrown to the wolves because of Martin's injury. They've all -- it wasn't a typical freshman year because we really asked them to get out of their comfort zone and do different things. And if one of them fights us on there or one of them can't embrace the role we've asked them to play, we're not here today. You know, what made me really think about it, I rewatch the Providence game and looked at the start of overtime. We've got Khyri and Marcus and three freshmen on the floor to start that overtime. So I think that speaks volumes to the progress that they've made.
Q. As a coach, what does it mean to you having your team back in the NCAA Tournament?
GREG MCDERMOTT: You know, it never gets old. I've been fortunate to do it quite a few times now, and it's the same level of excitement when your name is called as it was the first time. You're just as happy for your guys because it's so hard to get into this tournament. I've watched a few NIT games the last few days as you're trying to kill some time and get to the game and those are really good teams playing. And, you know, you can't ever take for granted the fact that you're here because things have to go right. You need the bounce of the ball some and you've got to have a pretty good basketball team. And for that reason, I'm really proud of our team to be here.
THE MODERATOR: Who has the next question?
Q. Coach, as the mentor of Marcus Foster, when you saw this pairing, did you think it was an unfortunate set of circumstances that he has to talk about all this in the final weeks of his college career?
GREG MCDERMOTT: I would say it would have been unfortunate if he's not prepared to talk about it. But I think it's important that K State fans understand that the person that Marcus Foster was as a freshman, guy that's hungry to play and great teammate and always in the gym, he's back now and there was a lot of bumps in the road, some in Manhattan and it wasn't always rosy in Omaha for that first year, especially. But because of the fact that he's matured enough that I think he can address it as someone that recognizes that you know a lot of what happened was my fault and decisions I made put me in this position, and decisions that I've made since then have put me in the position I'm in today.
So, you know, because he's grown so much, I think it's healthy for him to have to be able to answer it, because he let down some people and let down his family and that was one of his motivating factors to get his life back on track. He's got a wonderful family and he really disappointed them and now they're pretty happy, as you can imagine.
Q. You remember a time that you realized, okay we're going to get through this, like you said, the first year Creighton was a little bit of a challenge. Do you remember a breakthrough, Marcus is going to be fine?
GREG MCDERMOTT: I don't know if there was ever one particular time. I was seeing -- I was seeing constant growth. Sometimes it was very slow, sometimes it was a little bit more rapid, but just some of the decisions he would make and some of his interaction was his teammates. I recruited him out of high school. I've known him since he was 15 or 16 years old and knew his family I knew what he was like back then. I knew the Marcus Foster y'all saw as a freshman at Kansas State. I really felt he was still in there, we had to bring him back out. And with the help of his family, we were able to do that.
His decisions got better and his -- I think once he recognized, you know what, I'm in this position and I'm sitting out this year at Creighton because of decisions I made at Kansas State. Once he grasped that, I think he was able to move forward quicker.
Q. The first time you spoke to Bruce, I imagine you spoke to Bruce when were you talking about taking on Marcus, do you remember what that conversation was about, what Bruce said about Marcus and where they were at?
GREG MCDERMOTT: I remember exactly the conversation, but I'm not going to discuss in it this room. Bruce was very honest and up-front and open like I would be if the shoe was on the other foot. And he called me. He let me know exactly what I was dealing with, and I appreciated that and we moved on after that.
THE MODERATOR: Other questions? Okay. Thank you, Coach.
GREG MCDERMOTT: Thank you.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports