|Browse by Sport
|Find us on
March 16, 2018
Q. Keenan, I was hoping you could talk about your journey over these four years, how important it is to be here and how special it would be to advance.
KEENAN EVANS: This journey has meant everything to me. Like I say in every interview, just being at the bottom of Tech basketball and now it being at one of the highest points and being part of a team that can pretty much make history is unbelievable.
Q. For any of you guys, how do you feel like just getting through the first game, just kind of feeling through your emotions and getting that first one, how important is that so when you get the first one you say, all right, now we can just kind of roll through it?
TOMMY HAMILTON: That first one felt good, man. That was my first tournament game, and it was my first taste of it to see what it's like. It was ugly, but we got it done. I think that we're aware that most of the games like this tournament is going to be like that, so we're preparing to come out and play our best game tomorrow, and I think we'll be ready.
Q. Jarrett and Norense, when you see Keenan, obviously he has nights like last night, 0 for four in the first half and then he comes back in the second half. Talk about how you know he's going to come through, and what was it like those few games you were without him this year?
JARRETT CULVER: We just trust Keenan a lot. So we put the ball in his hand at the end and he came through this season, so just trusting him at the end to do what he does. He's proven to us that he can be trusted. Two games without him, we knew we were going to have to play hard, and we just did our best to try to win those games.
NORENSE ODIASE: Just like he says, we trust him, put the ball in his hands, he makes plays all year long. Those games without him, obviously we struggled, but just glad to have him 100 percent now.
Q. How much more intense was that game last night than the stuff that you normally play in the Big 12, if any, or was it about the same? What was it like?
JARRETT CULVER: I feel like it was very intense because if you lose, then your season is over. So we wanted to keep going, and the first game is really tough, so we just played our hardest. And we knew if we lost, our season was going to be over, and we didn't want that.
KEENAN EVANS: Just being in a conference like the Big 12 kind of prepares you for those types of nights. Tournament is kind of a different atmosphere, but being in the Big 12 prepared us, so we've been working at that and we've been talking about finishing, and that's one of the big parts of that game last night was finishing at the end.
TOMMY HAMILTON: Yeah, like Keenan says, playing in the Big 12 prepared us for games like last night. And I think also it was just a part of our identity that showed. We've been down big at half in games and came back and won and been down with a minute to go, came back and won, so it was something that we've been doing.
NORENSE ODIASE: Like they all said, the
Big 12 sets you up pretty well to be able to play in these games. Just like Jarrett said, there's a little bit of added intensity because it could potentially be our last game, so we just brought that to the table, and we wanted to play hard.
Q. Keenan, just reflect on coming out of Richardson because you weren't the typical four or five-star recruit that everybody was after, but about the path that led you to Texas Tech, and when did you first realize that I've got a pretty high ceiling and I can make a lot of things happen out here?
KEENAN EVANS: Just in high school, just putting in all the work, not being really touted as a four- or five star motivates you every day, and I feel like that's how this team is just with our name. We're not Kentucky or Kansas across our chest, and we have to go take everything we want, so that's just been my motto all my life, got to go take it instead of -- can't let it be handed to me, I've just got to go get it.
Q. Guys, just each one of you, kind of talk about how important it is to get off to a quick start against a Florida team that has a lot of depth to it, very tenacious on the defensive side, and to not kind of find yourselves down three points going into the half.
JARRETT CULVER: Starting off the game is very important, just starting off strong and attacking and trying not to get down is very important for us, so it really sets the tone.
KEENAN EVANS: Yeah, last night we didn't get off to a good start, so this game will be big for us to get off to a great start. We're kind of flinging the ball everywhere and not doing what we practiced, so getting off to a great start is very important in this game.
TOMMY HAMILTON: It's not about how you start. It's about how you finish. That's all I've got.
NORENSE ODIASE: It's huge. Whenever you can get through the first game, I guess some jitters are gone. We know what we're used to. We're back in the tournament. We can kind of not relax, but kind of settle down into it, see what we did last game, what went wrong to start that game, and just watch the film and see how we can get better for this game.
Q. Keenan, take us through when you hurt your toe. Talk about what that felt like and just how difficult was it for you to try to push through it, and then where are you at right now with that? Are you 100 percent, or is it adrenaline or what?
KEENAN EVANS: It was tough to overcome just because I felt like I was letting my team down in a way, but I felt like it wasn't my fault, and also it's just not 100 percent, and I still battle with it every night. Just the support and confidence given from my teammates helped me make it through every night, and the trainers staying up late and working throughout the day to just help me feel better is greatly appreciated. I'm definitely still working on getting to 100 percent.
Q. Have you ever had anything like that before?
KEENAN EVANS: Not really, not this bad.
Q. Jarrett and Keenan specifically, with the way that Florida just -- they kind of volume shoot threes, several of those guys do, I know you guys have played good three-point defense all year long, but how about maybe in this game specifically is it so much more important to keep your rotations up and be on everybody that's on the line outside?
JARRETT CULVER: They're a great team. They're a great shooting team, as well, so we just try to focus on trying to take that part away in a way, so just focusing on that and our defense turns into offense, so just making sure we take that away.
KEENAN EVANS: In the tournament, they always talk about threes is what beats you, so we've just got to be more urgent getting out to that three-point line and not fouling them on three-point shots and just try to take away what they do best.
Q. Keenan, can you describe the mindset of maybe taking over a game like you really have in the second half, and part of that, I don't know if you watch the NCAA Tournament, if you looked at other players that took over their team and had great runs in the tournament?
KEENAN EVANS: It's just, in my mind every night is a senior night for me, so I don't want to lose, I don't want to go home yet. And as time ticks down, it just putting more pressure on yourself. If we lose, I feel like it's all on me, so I just try to do what I can.
I saw some highlights, I think with the Houston game, the guy took over and just kind of amazing to see other players do it, too, and you're like, I want to be that guy for my team, whether it's just on the defensive end or the offensive end.
Q. Jarrett, just kind of talk about how surreal this experience has been for you because this time last year you were finishing up with the Coronado Mustangs and now you're sitting up there on the stage. How exciting has this been for you?
JARRETT CULVER: It's a blessing to be here most definitely. I am glad to be here with my team. We set a goal from day one since we started. So just glad to be here, made March Madness, and we're just trying to do something in it.
Q. For Keenan or any of the guys, the feeling of the crowd last night, because it was packed with just two Texas teams and just the crowd was cheering for both, and what are you expecting tomorrow as you guys get back at it again here?
KEENAN EVANS: I'm expecting even more fans tomorrow, just because it's a Saturday, and it's at a pretty good time. Just Raider Nation, I'm hoping they show up and show out and help us come out with a win.
TOMMY HAMILTON: Same as Keenan said. It was a great atmosphere. It was fun to be a part of, and we kind of knew there was going to be a lot of people here since we were not that far from school, and the alumni base is huge in Dallas. We hope to see you guys even more tomorrow.
CHRIS BEARD: Just pleased to advance. You know, really proud of our players. You work so hard, and these games are so hard to win. They really don't define a season. A lot of really good basketball teams, championship basketball teams, will leave this tournament at some point, but for us, it's just a deal where we want to try to live another day as a team that enjoys being around each other in practice and games, so we just feel fortunate to advance to the second round.
Our respect for Florida and their program and their coach couldn't be any higher. This is one of the best offensive teams in college basketball, the three-point shooting. They're a really good defensive team that gets a lot of steals and turns you over. And a coach that's one of the best coaches in college basketball. His teams play hard. They don't beat themselves.
I think they've been to the Elite 8 like the last four or five times they've been in this tournament. They have our full respect and full attention.
From our standpoint, we think we're going to have to play the best game of the season tomorrow. That's our approach, and that's our objective.
Q. Could you just speak more to Florida and the way they volume shoot it with several of those guys from behind three? I know you guys have been good with three-point defense all year, but how this game might be one of the most important as far as three-point defense?
CHRIS BEARD: Yeah, every team in this tournament has a different offensive identity. And I think it would be safe to say that one of the big parts of Florida's offense is the three-point shot, both in transition and in the half court.
So that's going to be a lot of work for us. You've got to kind of pick your poison. If you try to take away the three-point line, you open yourself up for drives or inside play. But if you sag back, they're certainly a team that can beat you with that one weapon. That's something we've got to figure out. I don't have the answer right now, but I've just got to have to by tomorrow evening.
Q. Could you talk a little bit about Davide's game last night, and considering the pressure of the situation and the size of the stage, did it look to you like maybe he's beginning to come of age?
CHRIS BEARD: Yeah, we really like Moro in our program. We think he's going to be a great player, highly recruited guy, took some visits to other BCS schools. I think when our team, Jarrett Culver and Zhaire Smith have gotten a lot of attention this year for having outstanding freshmen years, which they should. Culver is a great young talent as well as Z. But I'd put Moro in that same class. He is just a guy that is kind of waiting his opportunity. Coming from Italy and being an international player, he played for his national team this summer, which did not allow him to come to Lubbock for off-season workouts in the summer and conditioning. The first day that he played was basically the first day of school. He took a huge adjustment to get used to the athleticism and physicality of college basketball versus international, so he's just been trying to keep up.
We have always had a lot of confidence in his talent, his game and his basketball IQ. He has made some big plays for us this year. He's won four or five Big 12 games himself with key plays he made down the stretch. It was nice to see yesterday all his hard work and all the confidence that we have in him within our program help us win a tournament game yesterday. But I think Moro is going to be a special player.
Q. When you got to Texas Tech, you had a point guard in Keenan who was going into your junior year. Can you kind of explain how he's developed his game and developed as a player to become the guy that you guys kind of look for to close out games?
CHRIS BEARD: Yeah, absolutely. I think the first thing you've got to recognize is Coach Tubby Smith and his staff recruiting Keenan, investing time in him as a freshman when they didn't have the best of records, but Tubby had a plan, and Justin and Zach and Norense and Keenan were getting playing time. As a sophomore, Keenan is the starting point guard on an NCAA Tournament team, the first tournament team at Texas Tech in over a decade since Coach Knight was the coach and I was there with him.
And then I think you've got to give our staff some credit for putting him in some situations offensively where it built up confidence in him, allowed him to do things, expanded his game a little bit. Thirdly and above all, not even close, you've got to give Keenan all the credit. The Keenan Evans story is not me or Tubby. It is Keenan Evans. This guy self-made himself into one of the best players in college basketball, and I can tell you how he's done it. He's done it with a lot of work. He's in the gym every day. He's in the film room a lot. He's a guy that's changed his body in the weight room.
To me, he's everything good about basketball college when you think about four-year players staying and grinding. I think Keenan will play in the NBA. The courage he's shown here in the last month with his toe issue to still play at this level in the kind of pain he's in, I've never coached in the NBA, but I know those guys look for the intangibles, and that guy's middle name is intangible. I've never coached a tougher guy than Keenan Evans.
Q. From a baseball analogy, is he kind of like Mariano Rivera for you guys as far as at the end of a close game, you put the ball in his hands, he finds a way to either get fouled or finish at the basket? Those finishes he makes look easy, but those aren't easy plays he's making, right?
CHRIS BEARD: Yeah, he's a special player. You know, we kind of take what the game brings to us in terms of finishing. There's different ways we can go, but certainly Keenan is our point guard, our leader. He has courage to make those plays in those moments. He wants the ball late. He's earned the right to be in those moments throughout his career, the ups and downs. So certainly, yeah, he's one of our better players, and we absolutely want him involved late in games.
Q. Two quick questions about Keenan. The first one, just how different was this team during that stretch, though, when he was really hurt? When he hurt the toe at Baylor and the next two games he really wasn't himself and then the third game he didn't play?
CHRIS BEARD: In my personal opinion, a little bit too much has been made of that. We're playing in the Big 12 Conference, and we're on the road at West Virginia and at Baylor, and then we've got Kansas. Y'all might have heard of them. We got them at home.
So I think the relationship between Keenan being out for a little bit and resting a little bit and us dropping a couple games, obviously that's a factor, but you also got to consider the other factors.
That stretch also allowed us to learn some things about our team. Other players were given more minutes and opportunity, and I think that will only pay dividends -- it paid dividends yesterday, seeing Moro and Niem and Brandone Francis make big plays down the stretch. So there's no question that's affected our team.
But everybody in this tournament is affected by something. There's not one healthy team in this tournament completely. There's not one team in this tournament that's not overcoming some type of adversity. We've chosen not to make this an excuse and just keep writing our book and see what happens.
Q. Quite often he has a big second half, and you've seen it time and time again this year. Is there anything you say to him at halftime, you just kind of know he's capable of doing that, and I don't have to say much?
CHRIS BEARD: No. I mean, at this point I listen to Keenan a lot more than I talk to him. Certainly he's a more aggressive player, the bigger the moment, but he also does a great job at the point guard role trying to get people involved early.
I grew up, to me the greatest player ever was Michael Jordan. I grew up in that generation, no cable TV, but you could watch his game on WGN. He would always get aggressive as the game goes on, too. Keenan is a floor general. He's a guy that can play the point guard no doubt, but he can score, which we need him to do.
Q. Chris, Rick Barnes was in here talking about recruiting and developing players and stuff. He said, I want to get old and stay old, speaking about his players. How hard is it trying to balance that, trying to recruit four, five a lot of repick guys but four-year and three-year guys and try to have a great team?
CHRIS BEARD: Yeah, it's definitely a challenge, but I think each program has a philosophy. Each program has a way they go about it. We are looking forward to being in the neighborhood of one-and-dones and consistently being able to recruit top 25, top 30 players. That's where our program is heading. We want to coach the best players. We have a University and a program that I think will attract those kinds of guys.
But we also want to balance with developing players. Back in my day, it was Ronald Ross and Jay Jackson. Now you're seeing it firsthand with Keenan Evans and Zach and Justin. Coach Smith and those guys started it. We've tried to do the best we can finishing it. I think there's definitely a balance between developing players within your program, but also trying to recruit the best talent you can.
Q. Your high school coach, Mike Kunstadt, was in the stands last night supporting you. What's your relationship like with him?
CHRIS BEARD: Yeah, I've been very fortunate in my ride as a player and coach, and something I'm really proud of is I played for two Hall of Fame high school coaches, Mike Kunstadt at Irving High School right here in the Metroplex, and Terry Priest, who was also in the stands last night, from McCullough High School in North Houston Woodlands. My relationship with those two guys is as important to me as any.
I'm always associated with Coach Knight and Pat and those guys, and I'm very proud of that, but I'm also very proud of my relationship with my two high school coaches. Coach Kunstadt taught me about discipline at a young age. He taught me the pyramid of success with John Wooden, taught me how to put my socks on without getting blisters, taught me how to play basketball without dribbling the ball. And then certainly Coach Priest was a guy that believed in defense and discipline and team basketball. So some of the things that you see in our teams today are a direct reflection of those guys, Mike Kunstadt and Terry Priest.
Q. Mike talked a lot about your defense and how proud he is of that because he feels like he maybe instilled a little bit of that in you. Would you agree with that?
CHRIS BEARD: Yeah, that was the only way I had a chance getting on the floor. Growing up in Irving, I wasn't the most athletic guy. So I learned early on, you take a charge that makes Coach K happy and you stay in the game. I would take a lot of charges. But no, that's something I learned from those guys. I think a lot of programs around the country, they talk about defense, but they don't live it.
I've said before you go to a high school or junior college practices and you see the backup people shorts, defense, and then you watch a two-hour practice and they don't work on defense at all. With us, we talk about it and believe it. In our 90-minute practice today, we just went over for 70 of the 90 minutes. That was something that started long ago with Coach Kunstadt and Coach Priest.
Certainly on our staff, Mark Adams, one of our coaches does a great job. Simply stated, Coach Adams is the best defensive coach I've ever seen. And that is no disrespect to Coach Knight or Coach Kaspar or all the coaches I've been around. Mark Adams has a way about defense, and it's been a big part of our team, our identity, is the work that Coach Adams has done on our staff.
Q. Seems like Zach Smith has really worked his way back from injury and had a really good game last night. What has he brought to the team?
CHRIS BEARD: Just like with Keenan, Zach is probably the story nobody is talking about, and I will because I'm proud to represent Zach and his family, and be his coach. Zach has been voted to be a preseason all Big 12 player, one of the top five players in the Big 12, and that's why the coaches in this league -- and I couldn't vote on my own player. So the other nine coaches in this league thought Zach was one of the best top five players in this league, so that says it all.
Zach gets hurt early in our Big 12 season and basically is not a part of our season really until senior night. So for him to play the way he has in the Big 12 tournament and the way he has in the NCAA Tournament yesterday, I don't know if I've ever seen a more courageous effort. He obviously doesn't have his legs and he's trying to get used to the basketball side with the shooting and the skill, but he's just playing on pure heart right now. But his rebounding and defensive rim protection last night, he made a big three in our opening win, I think it was against Texas, in our first-round game. So Zach is just playing on pure, like, heart and courage right now.
But he, too, is a guy that's got a great future in pro basketball because of his talent and skill and work ethic, and for us to overcome his injury this year and be sitting here right now as one of the last 32 teams speaks a lot for our other guys. For Zach to come back and be able to contribute at this high of a level just speaks for him and his heart.
Q. Quick question on Brandone Francis. I know he was only at Florida for a year, but did he give you any insight into anything Florida does offensively and defensively behind the scenes?
CHRIS BEARD: Yeah, of course, this happens in coaching from time to time. We were going over personnel this morning, and we just asked B, do you think we're right here. And so, yeah, of course, that's kind of a thing that happens sometimes. Another thing in this game is we played against their power forward who played at Rice last year. Rice gave us all we could handle. We know how good he is. He's actually one of my favorite players watching play and stuff. Yeah, we still talk about his shot fake today. We call it the Rice shot fake. Now we'll call it the Florida shot fake. But they've got some great players on this team.
Some of the things that we've seen them do are some of the things that we believe in in basketball, so we look for a great game tomorrow against a team that we have nothing but respect for.
Q. Coach, how many teams do you think commit to defense the same way you do, and why don't more?
CHRIS BEARD: I don't know. I can't speak for other people. I just know my coaching journey starting with Coach Kunstadt and Coach Priest all the way up to my first college job with Danny Kaspar when I was in college with Tom Penders played defense, pressed, caused turnovers. There's different ways to play this game. But I learned a lot about competitiveness from Coach Penders and guarding. Those Texas teams guarded. And if you thought otherwise, then you just weren't on the inside.
And certainly with Coach Knight, the basis of everything we did was man-to-man defense. Our Little Rock team was a great defensive team ranked nationally in the top ten all season long. And that's certainly been what we've tried to get done this year at Texas Tech.
Playing in our conference with this talent and coaching, it's hard to stay up in those rankings, but we do stay focused on defense, but I can't speak for what other people do. I can only speak for what we do. And in our opinion, we think defense is the key to championship runs.
Q. I know you probably took a lot from Bobby Knight when you were working for him. Was there one quality more than any other you took from him, and you don't do the facial expression thing he did, do you?
CHRIS BEARD: No, I don't have that whip he had. Yeah. I never get tired about answering these questions. One thing was preparation. Everyone in college basketball, especially in this tournament, wants to win. Every player, every coach, we want to win. But it's the people that will do anything to prepare to win. With coaching, it's just a different level of preparation.
I mean, in this tournament, I saw coach watch practice tape from the day before. This was his commitment to preparation and watching study, studying film. I think a lot of people want to win, but coach wanted to prepare to win.
I also think just the commitment to graduating players, Coach was always talking about so proud of the former players and his graduation rate, what his guys were doing. I'm really proud of that, too. We had five seniors last year. All of them graduated. And these guys we're watching right now, Justin, Zach, Niem, Tommy, Keenan, they're all going to graduate in May. Really proud of that.
Some of them are already working towards their graduate degree. I learned so much from Coach Knight, but probably the commitment to academics, and it wasn't just an APR deal there on paper or something you put in an article. It was real. Coach wanted everybody who played for us to graduate. He cared about that, and that's something that's really important to me that I hope in some way we're emulating.
Q. I've heard you mention your love of Whataburger several times. When you go, what do you get, and if you don't go to Whataburger, where else do you go for a burger?
CHRIS BEARD: That's the only thing, on this Whataburger ride we're on, there's a lot of other places, too. But Whataburger is a great place. I think breakfast, we go taquito. If my girlfriend is not with me or my daughters, I'll go extra cheese. During the day, I'm pretty easy, it's just a one, mustard, pickle cheese only. I'll go with the milk shake. Another thing I learned from Coach Knight, a root beer milk shake. I almost got this at Sonic one time with Coach. The lady is like so you want a milk shake with root beer in it? No. I want a root beer milk shake. You want the root beer to substitute the milk? No, I want a root beer milk shake. That is when Coach Knight and I were on I-20 going to I think to Rockwall High School on that one.
But no, back to Whataburger, I do enjoy a milk shake, but I never substitute that as my drink. Even in the days where I didn't have much money, and I'm very fortunate now, I'm blessed, I would never be the guy that substituted it. I would go ahead, man, I've got to get the unsweet tea, and then I get the milk shake, too.
Another great thing about Whataburger, too, have you ever been to Whataburger at 2:00, 3:00 in the morning? Don't go through the drive through. Go in next time, and just get a corner booth and just watch America. Just watch it. You'll see so many cool things at Whataburger. You will see a guy pick up a tab for somebody else. You'll see somebody clean up a plate that wasn't his. You'll see some of the bad things in America, too, at a Whataburger late, but I love people watching, and that's one of the many things I do.
Q. I want to ask a Whataburger follow-up about Keenan Evans. What would Keenan Evans be on the Whataburger menu, if you can figure out what that is?
CHRIS BEARD: That's a tough one.
Q. I know it's a tough one.
CHRIS BEARD: Back in the day, you could say stuff like this and your players would never see it. But today, they see it before I see it. You've got to be careful. Yeah, I don't know. We've got Moro on our team this year. Moro coming from Italy, he loves pasta and cheesecake. We try to incorporate that into every pregame meal.
Classic Moro style, he had been in Lubbock for about 4 or 5 days and he came to my office, he is a quiet guy, Coach, can I talk to you. He said, Coach, you don't like those. Normally something is going on. You don't like those. I said, Moro, come in. He's like, Coach, everything is good, apartment, coaching staff, language, no problem, academics, I got it, but the fuel the body part, Coach, because that's what we call the nutrition, fuel our body in the process, too much chicken strips. Do we eat chicken strips every meal? Is this America? So we've tried to get away from the chicken strips a little bit this year and go with pasta and cheesecake for Moro.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports