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March 23, 2018
PORTER MOSER: Just excited for our guys. I mean, they're ready. We just had a great workout, and same kind of prep. You've got one day to get ready for Kansas State. We've got a ton of respect for Kansas State. They've guarded as well as anybody in this tournament. I think they're giving up 33 percent in three games. Really a lot of respect for how hard they play, especially how they're guarding.
Q. Ben and Clayton, Clayton, I know you mentioned you had some friends who were Jayhawk fans back home. Any K-State connections for either of you, friends, family, et cetera?
CLAYTON CUSTER: Yeah, I mean, me and Ben both know a lot of people from our high school that go to K-State. We have a lot of friends that go there, people who we were really close with in high school. Yeah, we've definitely gotten some texts and calls from people who go to K-State for sure.
Q. What are the nature of those?
CLAYTON CUSTER: Oh, I mean, they're pulling -- I think they're kind of pulling for us, just because of our relationship. At least I hope they are. They might be saying that to my face. I don't know if they actually believe it or not. But yeah, it's all good natured.
BEN RICHARDSON: Yeah, I mean, I've received lots of texts, as well. You know, I got a couple that were like, cheering for you to win this game, but if K-State wins, then I don't know if I can pull for you, like joking around. But it's all in good nature. We get a lot of good support from back home, and it's been really good to see all the people reaching out to us.
Q. Donte, I was curious with the '63 title team, how much ownership do you take in that title for the school? Like is that something if you got into some trash-talking, would you bring up the fact that this happened in history, or is it so far removed that you guys never even really think about it?
DONTE INGRAM: I mean, when you talk about having pride for your school, and tradition comes up in conversation, obviously, that's something that -- Loyola has the only championship in Illinois. A lot of people forget that. I mean, we take a lot of pride in that. That's something that doesn't go away ever, obviously. Yeah, we take a lot of pride in tradition, and our history is very important.
MARQUES TOWNES: I mean, yeah, just like Donte said, it's great tradition. I know we always talk about -- the '63 team always comes in and always tries to talk to us and give us their support. They always joke around and say we're better than them, that they have support for us. And we're happy to talk to them, and we're happy to have them along on this run. Like he said, it's tradition, and we're looking forward to the next challenge.
Q. Has there been anything they've told you in this tournament that has been useful or has been a motivating kind of thing for you guys?
CAMERON KRUTWIG: I don't know if they've told us anything in this tournament, but obviously they're always around. They come to practices and stuff like that. It's just cool to see those guys kind of around and that they're still connected with us. It's not even really sometimes about basketball, it's just kind of about stories that they have and things that they've experienced in their life. Not necessarily just about basketball, just about their life and how they grew up and stuff like that. So when I came here, it's definitely pretty cool to see those guys around and just kind of learn history from them and just kind of take what I wanted from them.
Q. Donte, as a kid growing up in Chicago, did you have an awareness of Illinois basketball and what Bruce Weber did with that program and the success they had even going as far back as 2005?
DONTE INGRAM: Yeah, I mean, obviously growing up in Danville, Illinois, which is very close to Champaign Urbana and the U of I campus, I was very aware, a big fan of Dee Brown and all those guys, and that was a big thing when they were going up against North Carolina on their great run. That was basically the school for me growing upright next to U of I. Yeah, obviously I'm aware of the tradition, the 217. Another guy from the 217, so yeah.
Q. Clay and Ben, talk about three Blue Valley Northwest students in this, the exposure for Blue Valley Northwest, Overland Park, the Kansas City area in general, from two teams that a lot of people didn't expect. Talk about the exposure for the area back home.
CLAYTON CUSTER: Yeah, I mean, it's obviously really cool for us. I think we're making Coach Fritz a popular guy right now. He's been joking with us that we're making him famous. I don't know, it's been really fun. It speaks to a lot of what Coach Fritz has done with that program, Blue Valley Northwest. It has to be one of the best high school basketball coaches in the country.
I'm glad that me and Ben are getting to experience this as well as Mason over there at K-State. We have a real good relationship with him and just happy for him that he's getting to experience this, too.
BEN RICHARDSON: Yeah, just to go off that, we're super blessed that Fritz put together that team back in, whatever, third grade, fourth grade, and we came together and ended up at Blue Valley Northwest and got a chance to be taught such an advanced level of basketball at a young age. He instilled so many values and intensity and just the right way to play for me and Clay growing up. And it was just great.
It's good to see that he's kind of getting in the spotlight a little bit. He came down to all the games, and he's so happy for us. It's really special, and it speaks a lot to how great of a coach he was, that me, Mason and Clay, all down here playing in the Elite 8.
Q. This is for Donte and Ben. You guys have reached a crossroads that most college athletes don't get to, which is that if you win, it's like basketball immortality, but if you lose, your Loyola careers are over. What must that feel like?
DONTE INGRAM: You know, obviously we're very happy and fortunate to be in this position, but we don't take any of these moments for granted. You know, obviously being seniors, me and Ben -- I've been here since day one with Ben, from freshman year to now. We've came a very long way together.
Obviously to be here in year four, and we're in the Elite 8, and a week from now, college basketball will be over, we don't take these moments for granted. We want to leave it all out there and do whatever we can do to help the team win.
BEN RICHARDSON: Yeah, I mean, it's definitely a lot of big-time moments. And just being in this position, like Donte said, we're just super grateful to be here, and we're grateful for all the hours that our teammates have put in, our coaches have put in. You know, we're not necessarily thinking about basketball immortality or what it means to get to a certain point. We just want to win the next game, and we're focused on what we've got to do daily and in our preparation and all the little things that we've got to do leading up to winning the next game.
You know, I mean, that's just the main focus is taking care of the next one.
Q. Marques obviously hit the big shot last night, your first year of eligibility. Can you just talk about your journey to Loyola and getting to this point like from high school and everything?
MARQUES TOWNES: Well, first off, I want to thank Coach Moser for recruiting me after I decided to transfer. That was a really good moment for me coming to my official visit at Loyola and just being there. When I first got there, it just felt like family, and that was the main thing for me. It felt like a home. So that's when I decided to come here.
The journey has been long. Unfortunately, we didn't have any postseason tournaments last year, but we had a real good team. We had real good heart. Just trying to push the guys in practice all last year. It was a long journey. For any redshirt, for any player that has to sit out, it's kind of rough mentally, but you just stick with it.
And now this year, I'm just fortunate and blessed to be with these guys. This is a special group of guys right here, and we've been doing this all year, just one game at a time. Coach has instilled a good culture in us, and he's just a really good coach, and I'm really happy to be playing for him.
I'm just happy to be in this position in the Elite 8 now. This is amazing. Just my first year back, I can't believe it, back-to-back NCAA appearances. It's amazing.
Q. Clayton, I guess you and Dean were back-to-back Gatorade Players of the Year, right, in Kansas? How well do you know each other as that? And along with that, why are there so many Kansas people in this tournament at this stage?
CLAYTON CUSTER: Yeah, I mean, I think it speaks to Kansas high school basketball. I think there's a lot of good players in the area. I mean, Dean was a really good player in high school. We don't know each other barely at all. I had somebody tweet a picture at me. There was like an All-State banquet thing when I was like a sophomore or junior, and I didn't even remember that we were both on it at the same time. But there was like -- we were standing right next to each other in the picture, me and Dean. That was kind of funny. But we don't really know each other very well at all.
But I mean, I think it just goes to show Kansas high school basketball might be a little underrated, and I think that it might deserve a little bit more respect.
Q. Clayton, a little detail kind of, but I noticed after the last game, you did a TV interview on the court, and you turned, and a number of K-State players just came up to you and congratulated you. Were those guys you knew, or was that just they were swept up in the ending and happy for you?
PORTER MOSER: So one of them was Mason Schoen, and me and Ben played high school basketball with him. He went to Blue Valley Northwest with us, but he was a year older than us. We won a state championship together. We obviously have a really close relationship with him, and we're happy for him that we're in this situation.
And then the other one was Amaad Wainright. We grew up playing against him around the area in Kansas City, and his older brother, Ishmail, played at Baylor, and we all know each other. We all work out in the same gyms all the time in Kansas City. We have mutual respect for each other, and I think that we're all happy that we're in this -- like experiencing this at the same time.
Q. What will it be like, particularly playing against guys who you played against in high school, now seeing them on this level, the biggest stage you guys have ever been on?
CLAYTON CUSTER: I mean, it'll be cool. I think once the ball goes up, it's a basketball game. We're going to be competing, trying to win the game. But I mean, obviously we know a couple of the guys over there, and we know what they can do. So I mean, I think we'll be talking to our guys about the guys we know on their team, and I'm sure they'll be talking about us over there.
But like I said, I think once the ball goes up, it's a competition, and we're going to try to win the game.
BEN RICHARDSON: Yeah, I mean, I think it's definitely a lot of mutual respect. We kind of understand where each other has been and a lot of the hard work that each other has put in. Like Clay said, we've spent a lot of time working out in the same gyms for a long time. The first time we played, we played in an open gym against Ish and Amaad probably in like fourth grade. And that was the first time I met them, and we like guest-played in tournaments together and stuff like that.
So it's cool to see how far we've all came, and it's a good, mutual respect for the way that each of us has worked on our game to get to this stage and the Elite 8.
Q. Coach, this whole upstart thing obviously has been a theme throughout the tournament, particularly in the South Region, but there's going to be at least three low seeds in the Elite 8, maybe even four potentially. As a guy who's coached for a while, are you surprised by this? Should anybody be surprised by this? If not, what has sort of fed into this do you think moving forward?
PORTER MOSER: You know, I'm not surprised. You know, watching, being a fan and a coach for so long, it's madness. There's things that happen. I think there's a lot of parity in the game, and I love it for our league. There was a lot of talk that we weren't going to get in if we didn't win the tournament, and we know in the Missouri Valley how good a league it is from top to bottom. And for us to get in here, I think it's going to spark conversation about this, and I know the committees have such a hard job. Trust me, I know. I know people on the committee. It is a really, really hard job.
But it was -- I'm not surprised there's low seeds in here. I mean, things happen. There's a lot of parity, and especially when you -- you get a group, and we're kind of hitting. We've got a group that really believes. They're finding ways to win, and things happen this time of year, especially when you get a group that just believes and has made some really clutch shots down the stretch.
Q. You said it should spark conversation maybe or could. What should the conversation be?
PORTER MOSER: Well, about, you know, the system, I think it's tough. There was so much talk that we weren't even in the conversation to get in, and we felt that we won our league by four games. It's an amazing stat with Clayton Custer; we're 29-2 with Clayton Custer. Because he was injured five games. I just think it's -- we have a lot of respect. I think there's a lot of leagues that are really good.
Now, I understand it. I understand that it's a hot topic with this, and trust me, I'm the first one to say, the committee has a really hard job.
But I think it's -- I'm very proud of our team, what we've done, now we've gotten in, and we've shown that we belong here. This team did.
It's hard to imagine if we didn't win the tournament, and not get this opportunity and get this stage. I know it's a reality of the way the tournament is, but I think that -- the first part of the question was am I surprised that there's low seeds advancing? And my answer is no, I'm not surprised that low teams are advancing.
Q. I'm sure there were lots of milestones along the way that you would know about, but it's seven years for it to hit in a quantifiably huge way. How much has it meant for you to have that time to build it your way?
PORTER MOSER: You know, like you know from being there in Chicago, it was a grass-roots rebuild. But the dynamics changed when you jump to the Missouri Valley, when we jumped. The first year we took a step back, and then that second year in the Valley, we won 24 games, and we won the CBI Tournament.
And we've just kind of been building and getting our arrow going up. And I think -- I hope we're an example of, you know, it takes time. I get it. I've been there. Fans, administrations, they want it so fast, and it's tough.
Culture is when your young guys come in, and the older guys have the habits of what you want, of what you want to build. Culture is about the accumulation of a bunch of habits, and when you take over a program, if it's down, then you have a whole locker room of guys you didn't recruit, and it's going to take some time. Your first recruiting class comes in, it's going to take some time.
We really started turning the corner when Donte and Ben were freshmen, and those seniors were a guy like Christian Thomas, a kid like Joe Crisman, a kid named London Dokubo, really, really tough kids. And those young guys came in like this is how it's going to be. This is how you're going to act off the floor, this is how hard we work, this is how hard we invest. And now, look, now they come in, now Cameron Krutwig, Lucas Williamson, Christian Negron, they come in and these guys are seniors. This is all they know now is our culture. It takes time.
So the feeling of building it and really getting it to this point the right way with culture, I'm blessed and -- you know, the administration and the fan base were steadfast on this is how we want. We're not going to bend on the academics at Loyola, that's first and foremost, and the type of character and the person that is at Loyola. We're not going to bend on that. So we were on the same page.
That is such a great example of trust in your fan base, in the community of doing it the right way.
Q. What do you remember about the time you played against Illinois and Bruce Weber, and how would you describe your relationship with Bruce over the years?
PORTER MOSER: Bruce is a great coach, great guy. I've known him over the years. Illinois guy. What I remember is the one game we played there, and I know -- trust me, it sticks in my craw, that game. I was at Illinois State. We were just taking over that team, and we were in last place when we got there, and we played the team with Dee Brown, Deron Williams, Luther Head, Roger Powell, Augustine, they were loaded. Not that I look at lines, but it was probably a 25-point underdog. But we went in there, and we had a shot to win it at the buzzer. We missed it. It goes into overtime.
Deron Williams wasn't supposed to play. It was one of those things, yeah, he's not going to play. He plays, and he has like 29 against us, and we lost in overtime.
So that was -- and I think at that time, I don't think Illinois State had won at Illinois ever, or it had been umpteen years, but I remember that game vividly. They were a great team, and Deron Williams went off and had a great game. That was my experience of that game.
But Bruce has got a ton of respect all around the coaching profession, just always been -- from his days at Southern to Illinois to here, just phenomenal team defense. They're physical. They don't make it easy. They make it hard. So a ton of respect for what he's done at every stop of his journey.
Q. My question, I guess, is about Clayton. You mentioned being 29-2 with him in the lineup. Obviously he has wonderful skill but probably some intangibles, too. I'm curious what it's like coaching him, and could you tell us a little bit about as a player what stands out to you about him?
PORTER MOSER: It's a kind of -- all these guys are coaches' dreams kind of kids. It's by design. That's some of the character we recruit. But Clayton is one of those guys that -- it's like how they talk about a great quarterback in the huddle; if you're in that huddle, you hear offensive linemen and other positions say, you just know we're going to march down that field because of the confidence he instills and everything.
That's kind of the way they feel with Clayton. Clayton has that ball and he's leading us, you have that comfort level that he's just got a high IQ. You talk about off the floor, I mean, he's an Academic All-American. He's a first-class citizen. After practice always getting his shots up. You don't have to coach -- I can say this about all these guys. I don't have to coach energy. I don't have to coach effort. We can coach the fundamentals and the detail of the game.
That's a big reason why I think we're making a step forward. Our time and energy is focused in on the -- the culture of energy and effort is already instilled. Clayton is one of those guys, he's got a winning mentality, as a lot of them do. He's about winning. This is a great statement about Clayton Custer: The first game Donte hit the big shot, and he was up here humbly saying, you know, any one of these guys could have shaken that shot.
The next night against Tennessee, Clayton hit that shot. He was humbly up here saying the same thing. And then we had a week where Clayton got a ton of hype. I mean, we're on campus, we had a welcome back party, Clayton was -- hit the shot to go to the Sweet 16. And he's in the position to do it again. And a lot of people would be like I'm going to do that again, and he drew the help, drew the corner, and kicked it, and it was just a winning play. And then Marques was the one that stepped up and hit the shot with three minutes left.
Clay did the same thing. We drew a little play for him, drew the baseline, turned, found 'Dre for a shot. Didn't try to force it. If he has it, he takes it. If he doesn't, he knows how to spray it. He's about winning instead of like, I've got to get mine.
Q. If I can just ask you, I didn't get a chance to get into your press conference the other day, but right before the three-pointer that ended up being the game winner, Nevada's two fouls down with fouls to give. Were you surprised they didn't foul you to get you to the line before that three-pointer?
PORTER MOSER: No, because he was in the same boat I was. You have to make a split decision. There was a point there where we were like, should we -- you start to think, should I call a time-out? This is a big possession. There was a six- or seven-second difference. If they foul, then you're pretty much saying, you were going to try to make them miss free throws because they're going to foul and foul and foul again until you get it because the shot clock resets, right? They rolled with their defense. And they can score so fast.
For me, I decided not to take a time-out because then you have to inbound the ball, knowing they have some fouls, and they could be denying everything and making -- they could hold, grab, do whatever, because they have fouls to give, and we'd have to get it inbounds two or three times, which you're vulnerable to turnovers.
So you have a small window to make that decision, and at that time -- I probably would have done the same thing. You're gambling on your defense. They get a stop, they've got seven or eight seconds, and they're a fast transition team.
You know, he's a really good coach, and I'm telling you, Nevada was one of the hardest teams I've had to scout against in a long time. It's just one of those things they can go either way. Marques made the shot, and then I knew I wanted to call a quick time-out because they just blow and go. And you at least -- because they can score in two seconds.
So that was just kind of my thought process at the end of not calling a time-out because with fouls to give, their length, switching everything, you've got to inbound it two or three times in a row, which was prone for a turnover if something went wrong.
Q. Talking about the preparation for Nevada, I was struck going in the locker room all the posters with the plays all over the wall. What goes into that work? What's the benefit? And how do you turn around that much information in what's a really short period of time heading into tomorrow?
PORTER MOSER: You know, I think we underestimate the youth on how much they can absorb. Some people have that philosophy of, I don't want to give them too much, overload. Our guys embrace it. But in terms of that, the way that locker room looks, you know, you could rewind the clock to every locker room at St. Louis with Rick Majerus. You could rewind that clock to Utah with Rick Majerus. I took that from Coach.
We travel with it. We have a war room. We put everything up. We travel with it in the locker room. The guys embrace it if they're sitting -- I don't know if it's through osmosis or anything. It's if you can pick up a competitive advantage on stopping a play here or there. But this group embraces preparation. You can hear some of the things they say. They embrace it.
Some people's philosophy think it's overkill. I understand that. There's a million ways to skin a cat. That's something these guys embrace, and in terms of how that locker room looked, what you're referring to, it had Rick Majerus all over it.
Q. Given all the controversy around college basketball this year, how much of a relief is it that you recruit at this level and typically you guys aren't involved in the top 100 kids and some of the stuff that goes along with that?
And secondly, do you think maybe that is part of why the country has kind of embraced this run that you guys are on, because it kind of seems a little different maybe than what some of the other top programs do to build their teams?
PORTER MOSER: You know, I can't speak about how the country feels or not. I love how our team has been embraced because I think we play the right way. I think we share the ball. I think we're tough. And I think they've embraced that mentality.
You know, in terms of recruiting, I'll be honest, I want to recruit top 100 players. I do. You name one coach that says they don't want to recruit -- I want to get those players. We're going to continue with that.
You know, I think we're getting very good players. I do think -- we've never been a team of recruiting a number because it's rated this for your fan base. We've gotten guys that fit what we do. But trust me, I mean, we're going to continue to recruit at a high level.
But you know, we believe there's a certain way to do it. We're going to -- obviously follow the rules and do it the right way. You'd be -- that's something that we all want to recruit at a high level and those players. It's not because we don't want to go down that path. That's not the case. These kids, there's so many good kids out there. There's so many good coaches out there doing it the right way, and we all want the same thing.
Q. It's very unusual to have four players sitting on the front row from a championship team of 55 years ago or whatever. Heard the players talk about what it means to them. For you, what kind of resource is that, not only for your players but for you, and what do you think it would mean to them to have you guys continue this run?
PORTER MOSER: Well, in 2013, I was fortunate enough to ride their coattails to the White House. President Obama had us in the White House for the 50th anniversary for the Game of Change. And I got to spend a couple days with them as we traveled to Washington, D.C., and I was just blown away by their character, about the stories they told, just sitting there listening to the whole story behind the Game of Change.
I love that this run is sparking the renewed conversation of what that team meant to our country and integration, and to hear the stories firsthand from them and to hear the brotherhood that they had, the black guys, the white guys, everyone together. It was a brotherhood, it was a high character. They embraced the Loyola education.
It just solidified about what we were trying to do. And I said from there, the past is a part of our future. And that '63 team had zero ego. They were never like, hey, you'll never be us. We're the -- bowing our chest on this. They've had open arms, trying to be role models, mentors, whatever it is, to our guys from the moment I stepped on campus. And you appreciate that. They're about the right thing, the right way.
They paved a path for so many of the student-athletes to come after them that I hope the story to the youth is being told and told again, that they know what the Game of Change and the Loyola '63 team meant to our country and the world of college basketball.
Q. Porter, how would you describe the level of surprise maybe your players have now because they seem a little bit more matter of fact today. I don't know if the novelty has worn off, if they just have gotten used to being the team that maybe has opened some eyes.
PORTER MOSER: You know, Andy Katz said that to me. We were talking in the locker room, and he said, I've never seen the team so chill after they went to the Elite 8. Trust me, these guys are bouncing off walls. They're so excited. They're embracing it. But it's just kind of been who we are, about the next game. They've wanted more.
I told this story to some press yesterday. When we won a share of the conference title, the Missouri Valley, at Evansville, so we knew we were co-champs with three games left, and we were at least co-champs. And I did a courtside interview, I come in the locker room, and it was just -- I'm like, you guys, we're -- they were like, no, they didn't even want to celebrate. They're like, we want the word "co" out of that equation, and it's been like that every step of the way.
When we got into the tournament, it was like, we didn't want to just be here. It's just kind of the way they are. Trust me, we've had -- they're bouncing around like little kids. They're so excited. But they just have this edge to them that they believe and they want more, they want more. They enjoy the moment.
Some of these team meals back at the hotel after these wins are priceless, when everybody is not around, and it's just us, a couple hours after these three wins, and after our win in the conference tournament, and just those moments are unbelievable. Like little kids. And the next day, it's like -- like today, it was all about Kansas State, where it is. It's just kind of how they're wired with that.
Q. I would like to ask, Coach, about Rick Majerus. Obviously a great coach, but I'm curious as to maybe the two or three things that you took from him more than anything else in developing as a coach for yourself.
PORTER MOSER: You know, the way he taught it, he was a teacher. He embraced being a teacher from his days. My college coach, Tony Barone, was a teacher. That era of coaches started out, you'll hear stories, I started out in grade school, then I started in high school and I was a teacher. I remember Coach Barone getting mad at me because I went from playing for him at Creighton to coaching at Texas A&M. And he's like, you guys skip a step in the youth nowadays. It's true. I had to teach, I had to do this, I had to drive the high school van. That era was embraced being a teacher of the game.
And working for him and then working for Coach Majerus, the attention to detail was off the rails. He was meticulous about teaching. He loved practice. And I've embraced that. Now, honest to God, head coaches, boosters, fans, players, assistant coaches love game day. Head coaches don't love game day as much as them. We love practice. So I took that from him.
Sitting in a boardroom with Coach Majerus for a couple days preparing for a game was like nothing else. The way he looked at the film and talked about this, that, stopping this, what could we do, how do you do that. And then watching him game plan, his mind work was terrific.
You know, I think that was some of the things. And then building it the right way. It kind of solidified what I've always tried to do is get kids who want to win. Coach Majerus, anybody who played for him and knows him, he had an affinity for post players. You look at his teams at Utah, he was stacked with big players. So I'd bring him a post player, I'd talk to him in the recruiting process. And his first question wasn't, was he athletic, how high did he jump, what could he do; it was does he love the game. That was the first question he'd ask, because if the big loves to play, I can help him get better. He always wanted to know that.
That's why he'd love Cameron Krutwig. Coach Majerus would love Cameron Krutwig. The kid loves to play. But I took a lot of those things from Coach.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports