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March 18, 2019
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by student-athletes from Fairleigh Dickinson, Darnell Edge and Mike Holloway and Jahlil Jenkins.
Q. Talk in general last 24 hours for you guys, less than 24 hours ago you find out where you're playing in the NCAA Tournament. You're here in Dayton going to get through practice in a little bit. Just the general emotions and what you're feeling here in Dayton already.
DARNELL EDGE: This is a great feeling. Sitting here we know all our fans, alumni everybody finding our destiny. And coming out here, had an early flight this morning, flew in, had some good food. Came back from practice. Been a lot of emotions and a lot of excitement.
JAHLIL JENKINS: Like Darnell said, it was great seeing our fans and seeing where we're going to play. And come out here to Dayton has been great. It's my first time out here I'm very excited.
MIKE HOLLOWAY JR.: Just exciting, and it is nice to see who we finally play and getting ready, like Darnell said, getting on a flight coming in, practicing, just a lot of emotions and a lot of ups and down and anxious and ready to play.
Q. Including tournament, you won the last nine games of your season. What clicked for your team as a whole?
MIKE HOLLOWAY JR.: One word and that's family. We came together and -- after a great team meeting a while back and we just became one big happy family. We came together as brothers and one unit and it helped us in the long run in the championship.
Q. Five guys in double figures scoring this season. Just talk about the keys to your offense, how you've been able to distribute the ball so evenly and get contributions from everybody on your team on a regular basis.
MIKE HOLLOWAY JR.: We play inside out, as you guys probably have seen and you know. We just feed the ball inside and then once guys start doubling down on myself and all the other bigs, we get back to our shooters and Darnell. As you see that's been working for us very well. Darnell is shooting at a very high percentage, and Jahlil is getting a lot of 3s off. We're one of the best 3-point shooting teams in the conference. So we play a lot of inside-out basketball which helps us out.
JAHLIL JENKINS: We just play together as a team. I our starting five has the ability to go off at any time, any night. And we just play together and go over the coaches' game plan.
DARNELL EDGE: Like these two guys mentioned, we've got five, six guys who can go for 20 any night. So we have no ego problems. We all want what's best for each other and what's best for the team. We also run a lot of plays for each player, so everybody feels like they're getting their share.
Q. You guys are up there in the top 10, I think, in the country minutes per game, playing close to 40 minutes a game. But down the stretch you still make all your free throws. What would you attribute that to? You're both up 88, 89 percent on the season. In the last couple of minutes you still seem to make them despite potential fatigue?
DARNELL EDGE: I think it's just confidence. Us playing that many minutes it shows that the coaches have trust in us being on the court. And me and Jahlil, we want the ball in our hands when it comes down to late in the game to seal the game with free throws.
JAHLIL JENKINS: First off, you gotta get a lot of treatment after practice so you stay healthy throughout the season, and just practicing and just being confident.
THE MODERATOR: Any further questions? Thank you. We're joined by head coach Greg Herenda.
COACH HERENDA: I'd like to first say, on behalf of our university, administration, athletes and students to thank everybody for coming here today and welcoming us to the NCAA Tournament in Dayton.
This is our second trip, my second trip to Dayton. We came back here in 2016 and had a great, great visit but not a great game. So we're coming here to play a really good basketball team in Prairie View, but our goal is to win a basketball game tomorrow night at 6:40. But we're very humbled and grateful and gracious to be here in Dayton, to be the first game of the 2019 NCAA Tournament.
THE MODERATOR: Questions?
Q. You alluded to your second trip back as coach just two years ago. Any preparation changes from last time, anything you want to do differently?
COACH HERENDA: To clarify, I probably made a mistake. It was three years ago in 2016. The biggest difference is now the freshmen who were on that team are now seniors. Our program has grown. Mike Holloway and Darnell Edge are tremendous senior captains that won a championship in our conference, have been here and have grown into men getting ready to graduate and now getting ready to win their first game in an NCAA Tournament.
So I think we're more prepared from top to bottom. This is my sixth year at the university, and we have better players. We have more players. We have a tremendous staff. And I think the trip and all the media surrounding it we've handled better today at practice. I remember in 2016 we just practiced like Vince Lombardi and the Green Bay Packers, and we probably went overboard.
Today we took care of business and rested a little bit. We need to be prepared to play a really good team that's going to press us and really test us. I just think in totality our experience this year is hopefully going to help us advance in the tournament.
Q. You kept the rotation pretty tight in the Conference Tournament, specifically in that title game. With that being said in the tournament, crazy things happen, foul troubles and whatnot. Could you see yourself bringing in a 3-point threat of McNamara to (indiscernible) electricity for the team?
COACH HERENDA: Are you related to Patrick McNamara?
COACH HERENDA: I love it. It's a great question, and what happened in the last regular season game we lost our starting 3 man, Xzavier Malone-Key, who did not play in our practice tournament, and we had to move sixth man, Elyjah Williams, up to the fifth man. So we're really a next-man-step-up kind of team.
When we came here in 2016 Marques Townes was on our basketball team, and he transferred and went to Loyola Chicago and went on to be a really good player for them on the Final Four team. When we lost Marcus, it was next man up. We lost Darian Anderson, who was going to be a Hall of Fame player at the end of last year, and we went to the semifinal game.
Individual talent will take you so far, as you well know, but the team's going to take you to championships and tomorrow night if we need to use any of the available players, I have confidence in all, some more than others, obviously. We have really good 6, 7. But the only reason why 7, 8, 9 and 10 aren't as good yet is because they don't play as much. That's the experience factor.
You're right, Patrick McNamara -- and they have guys on their team that we look and we prepare, but if you're playing Division I college basketball and you're in Dayton, you're capable. And we have capable players that could come off the bench. And if that happens they'll be ready and I'm sure Prairie View has the same situation. So when it's one-and-done you use whatever you have, you use all the bullets in your gun.
Q. What kind of challenges does Prairie View's defense present? They're known for a lot of steals?
COACH HERENDA: I grew up as a coach. And I helped run a basketball camp many years ago. And Rick Pitino was the head basketball coach at Providence College. Me and my friend paid him money to come to Central Massachusetts Basketball Camp to teach the press. And he came.
Gary Williams taught the press. When Gary Williams was the head coach at Boston College before Maryland.
I watched Jim Calhoun practices. I love press. I love the pressure. But Prairie View and Byron Smith, their coach, takes it to another level. It's like Malcolm X said once "The fear of the riot is worst than the riot itself."
You don't know when it's coming with their press. You can come across half court, they're coming at you. You can inbound the ball, they're come at you. They could trap out of the zone.
You have to be prepared at all times. So this is going to be -- I told my team, we just practiced at Wright State -- this is another final exam. And the final exam is in preparedness, are you going to come to the basketball, are you going to pass it with two hands.
It's simple. The greatness comes with simplicity. And we just need to do the simple things. And Prairie View is going to make that really hard to do. And we press. So I think it's an exciting first game. We have two teams that are champions, have won 20 games and they're going to go at it.
So it's for the fans here in Dayton and throughout the country I think it's going to be exciting but really difficult for either team to win. And hopefully the best team will win.
Q. I was just wondering, what were some of the key points of emphasis on the defense and offensive end going into this thing?
COACH HERENDA: Offensively take care of the basketball and run our stuff. We run good -- we led our conference in field goal percentage and 3-point field goal percentage. So we shoot the ball well because we run good offense and get good shots. We just don't get lucky.
We have the number one free throw shooter from last year, Darnell Edge. And he's in the top five in 3-point field goal percentage shooting. So offensively take care of the ball and put it in the basket.
Defensively, we've got to keep everything in front of us and rebound the basketball, and just make sure they have to work for their shot.
It's funny, when you get down to it, it's the same things you say on the first day of practice, take care of the ball, rebound, pass it. It's simple. And I don't care if it's Fairleigh Dickinson and Prairie View or Carolina and Iona, everyone is basically saying the same things. But it's a truism and simplicity assistance. And we have to do the simple things really, really well. And that's not easy to do, especially against a team like Prairie View.
Q. With Nadi Beciri being cleared to play, how do you plan on using his talents as a forward to your advantage on Tuesday? If not, do you see him as a potential on the bench moving this team forward?
COACH HERENDA: Nadi played two games this year and tweaked his back and has never been able to play again. And now he's practicing. And quite honestly, I don't know how much he's going to be able to give us.
But that being said, Nadi Beciri is -- to know Nadi is to love Nadi. You watch the end of the bench tomorrow night, he's, I don't know. He looks like Vlade Divac, and he has a personality like everybody goes to -- everybody, like, gravitates to Nadi Beciri.
And that's so important. I think this time of year when you have a teammate next to you that he's got your back, it just makes that player better. And I tell our players every day, we'll do it here in a few minutes, just cheer for your teammates. Help your teammates. And you all know that. When you guys are students at Dayton, looks like -- a lot of you guys. When you know your classmate is behind you and, like, wants you to do well in your project, guess what? You're going to do better in your project.
And Nadi off the floor, you can't quantify what Nadi Beciri brings to our team. If he goes into the game and scores buckets, I'm going to be the happiest person. And so are his mom and dad who are driving out here tomorrow. But I don't know how many minutes he can give us. But he gives us so much more than minutes and points to complete our team.
Q. Can you talk about your senior leadership? And being that it's the second time these seniors are in the tournament, how you hope it will benefit you tomorrow?
COACH HERENDA: I said this before, it's like you can't put a number on experience. It's like going on your first date. You're nervous and it's this tenseness in your first date.
But on that second date you kind of feel a little bit better. You know what I'm saying? And this is our second date here. So I think our experience of just being here and being a senior is -- it just happens. It's an intangible.
But here's the key, though, and it's a great question, our two seniors score points, rebound, steal the ball. Our seniors are productive. So you're going to listen to productive people. If you don't listen to a kid that's got a 2.2 grade-point average going into your, like, whatever class you take, you're like, I ain't listening to him. I don't know about you. But if there's a kid with a 3.8 I'm on him.
And we've got 3.8s and 4.0 student-athletes here at Fairleigh Dickinson University. And on the court -- I think Jen, our compliance, and Nikki, our academic people here -- our kids work hard. And they're not 3.8 or 4.0 students but they're above 3.0, and I'm proud to be their coach for four years. And I think these guys are proud to be their teammates I think they'll do well and lead.
Q. I know that you won your 200th career game this season. I imagine that's not like at the forefront of your mind. But how much fun have you had, not with just that game, but how much fun have you had coaching this team all year?
COACH HERENDA: When you win 200 games you realize how many you haven't won. Like, Mike Krzyzewski can sleep well tonight. Bob Hurley in New Jersey can sleep well tonight. I'm not catching those guys.
I started as a junior college coach in Elgin in the Midwest, and I'm a Jersey City guy. I went from Elgin Community College to Cabrini College in Philadelphia to UMASS Lowell to Fairleigh Dickinson. And prior to those jobs I was an assistant for 22 years.
So the 200 wins just makes me realize, man, you're paying your dues. And that being said, I just -- I try not to be nostalgic, but I just coached a lot of good players and I'm coaching a lot of good players, but looking forward, those games maybe give me more experience to make the right calls.
But I don't, if you do the math, don't do the math, you know what I'm saying? But we've won enough games and we've won enough championships. And I'm just so proud -- I've been getting texts today from the kids from Elgin, Cabrini, UMass Lowell -- I was an assistant and Holy Cross, at Yale, at Seton Hall University, at East Carolina University -- and I'm just telling you, it's amazing what you people can do.
The media is just nuts. It makes you feel the love. And I don't deserve all the love, but this is the moment when you get it and the love. And the love goes to the players, because if I didn't have good players all those years I wouldn't be sitting here, that's for sure.
Q. What are you telling your team before they step on to the biggest stage in college basketball to kind of calm their nerves?
COACH HERENDA: Just do what we do. That's our line. Do what we do. You'll hear -- I've got a lot -- you want to hear expressions I have? Do what we do. Don't be a hero. Don't bore me. Have an imagination. Work on your game. Move it. Shoot it. Have fun. Get excited. God bless us. You'll hear me say that. Because sometimes our guys do something -- and George Blaney was my mentor at Holy Cross, and that was his line.
And I say it, and the players tell me -- and I don't even know I say it. So they'll make a mistake, and I'll just say God bless us. And so what I tell them is what I tell them every day. I think if you try to reinvent yourself on this stage now then you're making a big mistake. So just do what you do and don't worry about who you're playing. It's how we play.
And I think if we play our game -- and I'm sure Byron Smith is saying the same thing -- but if we play our game, I like our chances tomorrow night, I really do. But I think you need to give players confidence -- I give these guys the green light. Right now we have -- Darnell Edge is tied, I believe, Ryan, is this true? He's tied with Mustafaa Jones for the all-time leading 3-point shooters at Fairleigh Dickinson.
And I coached Mustafaa Jones who was a walk-on at Hartford, and we took him at Fairleigh Dickinson. He became the all time leading 3-point shooter. Darnell Edge we recruited as a 17-year-old freshman and four years later now he tied Mustafaa.
So I can't be accused -- players accuse me of a lot of things. One is not letting them shoot. If you are open in my program, you are mandated to shoot. So -- if you can shoot. And Darnell -- Reggie Miller is doing a game tomorrow night and Reggie Miller might be one of the great shooters in the history of the game. But Darnell Edge is one of the great, great shooters in the history of Fairleigh Dickinson University and the NEC.
Q. With that great comeback you had against Robert Morris in the semifinal NEC game and the great game against Saint Francis in the championship, do you believe that this team is in its best form going into Tuesday night?
COACH HERENDA: Best, it's close to. I think we need to be better. That's our mantra, too. Let's get better. We have to improve to win this game tomorrow night and, you're right, you hit it right on, Robert Morris was a war. And then Saint Francis, we went to Laretto, Pennsylvania in a band box, and it was set up for Saint Francis to win. And we went in there and didn't win there by a bucket or two or three; we went up 11 points. I think it wound up nine or eight at the end of the game.
But we're playing good basketball but guess what Prairie View is -- has Byron gone yet or no? The man sitting in this seat next, after me has won 17 out of 18 games. So I think every team probably in this tournament, especially the automatic qualifiers, are really at a peak performance level. But I know our team is and I know Byron's team will be. And tomorrow night we'll find out who moves on.
COACH HERENDA: I have a question. Am I an adjunct professor at University of Dayton? Are you guys mandated -- really I'm impressed. You're dressed. You look it. And you feel it. And I'm -- I was an adjunct professor at East Carolina University and I loved it. I'm a teacher.
I have my own radio show, if you want to listen to my radio show: The Greg Herenda. Just yesterday, I had Dick Vitale on my show. If you want to do something want, if you really to be special, man, just do it.
And if I can do it -- I'm glad no one asked me -- this is the finality of it. 11 months ago I was in the hospital and I had two major blood clots, one in my thigh and one on my abdomen. I had 104.5 fever and I didn't know if I was going to make it out of the hospital.
I was with my wife and my son in San Antonio, Texas. 11 months later I sit here. And it's not me; it's the people at the hospital, my family and my team that brought me back to this point. And some teammates have been quoted that I was an inspiration for them. And quite honestly, they were the inspiration for me.
And I just love to see the youth out there. I'm a 58-year-old man. And I was your age. And I'm just telling you, man, if you've got a dream, you just follow it. And it's not about talent. It's about heart. It's about desire. And it's about perseverance.
Q. We have a class trip, a media class.
COACH HERENDA: Are you the professor?
COACH HERENDA: Everybody gets an A. I appreciate it. Presentation's important, and I look out and it's class, professor. It's class.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports