March 18, 2022
Fort Worth, Texas, USA
MODERATOR: Within the student-athletes from Baylor University. Adam Flagler, James Akinjo and Dale Bonner joining us. And we have 20 minutes allotted for the student-athletes.
They'll be followed by Head Coach Scott Drew. Start with questions in the room and move to questions from Zoom, if there are any. On the right, second row.
Q. This one's for James and Dale. How did the first experience of March Madness for y'all live up to what you expected?
MODERATOR: James, you can start with that.
JAMES AKINJO: It was cool. I mean, it was fun. It was intense. But it wasn't nothing, like, too crazy or nothing that I didn't expect. You know, so, I mean, it was cool. It was fun.
DALE BONNER: I would say the same thing. It was definitely exciting. But on to the next game, though.
MODERATOR: Front row on the left.
Q. Adam, what do you see from North Carolina? Do they look like any teams you've played this season?
ADAM FLAGLER: They definitely look like a couple teams in the sense of their size. It will definitely be something that we will new to. But at the end of the day, our confidence really preps us for anybody in the country. So we just going to pride ourselves on focusing on our defensive principles and going out there and execute.
MODERATOR: I'm sorry. Didn't see you there. Third row.
Q. Dale, it seemed liked from Norfolk State you had a really good defensive performance. It seems like you've transitioned to a higher defensive dab. What have you done to improve on the perimeter?
DALE BONNER: I would say consistently bringing the energy. Energy can do a lot for you. And that's what I try to do every time I play.
Q. Adam, I had a question for you about -- you guys like to get in transition. They're a very high transition team. So in terms of those types of styles, defensively, you talked about your principles there. What do you think is going to be key to limit how much they want to get out on the floor and try and run?
ADAM FLAGLER: Just focusing, really, on taking our best shots. And then at the end of the day, they're a really good offensive rebounding team. So as long as we're obligating them out and -- we have a chance. We got a lot of guys that can finish, like James. Lob threats like Matt. So it's me and Dale spacing the floor. We got a lot of key pieces for transition. But at the end of the day, we're obligating them out, giving us a chance, we set ourselves up good.
Q. Adam, obviously, you guys have stressed the hot start or a fast start to each game this season. When you see how North Carolina played against Marquette yesterday, does that maybe emphasize the importance of that a little bit more going into tomorrow?
ADAM FLAGLER: The main focus on any of these games, you know, is one-zero. We can all go home at the end of the day. So we always want to start off on a fresh, fast start and go out there and apply pressure and just make our presence felt.
MODERATOR: Stay on the right side.
Q. Adam, for you offensively, with how consistent you've been in your ability during conference play especially to get into that double figures mark, how much has that been you kind of looking for your shot and how much of it is just the way that the offense flows through you?
ADAM FLAGLER: A lot of it is just the way our offense works with, James. You know, being able to break anybody down. It's making it easy for a lot of us to score the ball. And, you know, with my confidence and the work we put in during the summer allows me to feel a lot more comfortable out there, to be aggressive and just play hard.
MODERATOR: Left-hand side, front row.
Q. James, you, obviously, got off to a great start yesterday. How key is that in NCAA tournament games like this?
JAMES AKINJO: I think that's a big key. You always want to throw the first punch and that's sets the tone for how the rest of the game will go and you'll see how the team responds. We always want to be the aggressor coming out every game.
Q. This is for Adams. I mean, you guys are in a bracket that included North Carolina, UCLA, teams with multiple national championships. We saw Kentucky go down. And then Kansas is also on this floor. What does it mean to be Baylor, the defending national champion and being in the position you guys are in, and what does it say where you guys are and where you guys want to go?
ADAM FLAGLER: I just got to give a lot of credit to Coach Drew and how he carries hisself, as well as the team. He's the leader at the end of the day.
Coming in, we always focus on who we have at hand. I know it's a really good bracket. But at the end of the day, we got to win against the team in front of us in order to advance. That's all we focused on.
Q. This is for Adam. You saw Brady Manek last year when he was at Oklahoma. When looking at him, either on film or what have you, what do you think has changed about his game. We know he can shoot the three. What do you think has changed from what you saw of him this year?
ADAM FLAGLER: He's definitely being a lot more aggressive. We've all seen from playing against him, as well as him being in the Big 12, we know what he's capable of. We're definitely going to focus on making him feel uncomfortable out there. It's going to be exciting and we can't wait.
MODERATOR: More questions for the student-athletes? Left-hand side, third row.
Q. This is for any of you guys. What are some of the challenges that Carolina presents on the glass? And in particular, Armando Bacot?
ADAM FLAGLER: Like I said, their size is really elite from the -- literally, I think the two to five. You know, they have really good size. So we definitely have to focus on obligating out.
But, like I said before, the Big 12 is a huge conference. And all of the teams in the Big 12 focus on rebounding. As long as we focus on staying true to our principles, we'll be fine.
JAMES AKINJO: Yeah, I think -- I mean, they big. But the Big 12 got a lot of big teams also. So we real confident in our guys. We all put in a lot of work in the weight room and stuff like that. So we going to help our bigs down there with their bigs. But I think we got confidence in guys like Flo, Jeremy. They can get it done on the glass.
MODERATOR: Nothing? Okay. Right-hand side.
Q. This is for Adam and James. And, obviously, talking about that size. And since you guys lost John for the season, was there a point you felt like you guys adapted to, kind of, life without him on the court and were able to kind of work around maybe a little bit of the size differently that losing him caused on the court?
MODERATOR: Dale, do you want to start on that?
DALE BONNER: He asked James.
MODERATOR: I'm sorry. James, go ahead.
JAMES AKINJO: I ain't going to lie, for me personally, I never ain't used to seeing John not on the court. So it's always kind of weird not seeing him out there with us. When we out there, we kind of just -- it just put a big responsibility on not just the bigs, but the guards to get down there and help rebound. And he helping every day, talking and stuff.
So I think we're (undiscernible) pretty well not having him. We're rebounding well and getting better and better with it every day.
ADAM FLAGLER: At the end of the day, you really can't replace someone like John in the sense of his energy. How aggressive he is, how physically, you know, gifted he is. So as a team, we all just got to focus and hone in. The guards got to go in there and battle as much as we can and, you know, help those bigs, Flo, Jeremy, Kendall. All those big guys down there.
Q. Adam, it felt like the game got called tighter in the Big 12. You got two falls. Does that change anything the way they call you in the Big 12 versus you and tech?
ADAM FLAGLER: It's definitely an adjustment. We're an adaptable team at the end of the day. So whatever the refs decide to call, we're going to continue to play. So we're going to continue to be aggressive. The coaches do a great job of subs in, subs out, you know, communicating to us how exactly how we should still be aggressive while being smart.
THE MODERATOR: Any other questions for the student-athletes? Go back to the second row.
Q. This one's for Adam and James again. Is there an art of science of getting used to when you travel to so many different gyms and, you know, maybe one's way different than the other in terms of the look or what's behind you or depth perception? Is there an art or science getting used to that so quickly where you can, you know, adapt and get your shot?
THE MODERATOR: Adam?
ADAM FLAGLER: It really just boils down to, you know, the work that we put in prior to the travel. You know, the preparation at the end of the day, we do have a shoot around, certain things so we can get a feel for the gym, maybe a different ball, the arena and everything.
So once you get in the gym and once you get up a couple shots, you start to get more and more comfortable.
JAMES AKINJO: Yeah, I think, you know, if you can shoot, you can shoot no matter where you at. What kind of gym you in, no matter what rim it is. So I think we got a lot of confidence whatever gym we in. And I think it just carries over to -- obviously, we get in here.
Shout-out to our GAs and our coaches for getting a lot of shots up and getting a lot of work. I think the confidence we got just carries over gym to gym.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for the student-athletes? Third row.
Q. James, to build off of that: Y'all had a really good three-point shooting game, after not the best game from Oklahoma. Do you think there's something going forward from the game from yesterday that transfers to tomorrow how the three-point shooting came around?
JAMES AKINJO: I think just our energy. Like I said, I think we had some great practices leading up to the game against Norfolk. And I think when we playing hard and defending and running hard, shots going to fall. As you have fun, you just play. That's kind of the way that basketball works, usually favors the team that plays hard and gets the most 50-50 balls.
We just going to bring the same energy, the same intensity, the same focus from the jump. And the cards going to fall how they fall.
Q. Dale, I wanted to ask you, I know you spoke to us a few moments ago about going from Division II to Division I. But for you personally, what kind of physical change or adjustment did you have to make in order to play at this level and be as productive as you have been when you've been called upon?
DALE BONNER: I would say it's definitely more physical. So getting in the weight room with our strength and conditioning coach, Charlie, just getting stronger each week and getting used to the contact. I think I got better at every game. So I'm just going to continue to grow.
THE MODERATOR: Any more questions? If not, we'll let you guys go. Thank you.
SCOTT DREW: How we doing today?
THE MODERATOR: Head Coach Scott Drew with the Baylor Bears. We'll take questions in the room, followed by questions in Zoom.
SCOTT DREW: It's just a blessing to see you guys again. So that means we're still playing and that means that's a great thing. Proud of how we played and competed yesterday. And probably my afternoon was ruined by watching North Carolina play in just how good they were. And Coach Davis has done a great job with them. And they're really playing good basketball.
I know we got a lot of challenges ahead of us tomorrow.
THE MODERATOR: First question in the front on the left-hand side.
Q. Scott, could you maybe just talk a little bit more about what North Carolina brings to the table? Especially Armando Bacot?
SCOTT DREW: Yeah, it's tough to stop a team that has a lot of different weapons, people that can score 20. Bacot in the middle is really hard to guard one-on-one. He does an unbelievable job of cleaning up the glass and getting them second chance opportunities.
At the same time, you surround him with a bunch of guys that can make shots, really spaces the floor. Brady Manek, we're, obviously, really familiar with. He can grow that beard to try to hide, but we know who he is. He's a great player. He can really shoot it. And I've always respected his game and what he brings to the table.
THE MODERATOR: Right-hand side. Second row.
Q. Hey, Coach. In terms of talking about Armando and what he can do on the boards, is it easy to get guards to embrace that area, the rebounding, especially when you lose a guy like John who was so integral in that area?
SCOTT DREW: I think everyone has had to pick up their level of commitment in the rebounding of things, and we've tried to do that. At the same time, when you get an elite rebounder like Bacot, everyone knows to block him out. And he's pretty good at not being blocked out. He's got great hands. He touches it in his hands, he gets it. And he's really physical and it's hard to keep him off the glass because of that.
Q. Scott, how did you -- how were you able to keep the continuity with this team two of your most talented players get injured and out of the lineup?
SCOTT DREW: I think it's a tribute to the staff who has done a great job game planning, assistant coaches. And most of the credit, obviously, go to the players. They've all stepped up, embraced different roles, different things they've had to do and understandably up for. They know what a loss it's been not having LJ and John.
Throughout the year, we've had more injuries this year than probably we've had in, I don't know, maybe ever in my 19 years at Baylor. And we've had guys step up. And that's helpful. And I think players are used to stepping up and helping out.
Q. Scott, during this bracket with North Carolina, UCLA, Kentucky was in this bracket, all multiple championships, Kansas on the same floor. What does it mean to be the defending champion and what you guys are trying to do and what you've been able to accomplish so far better?
SCOTT DREW: Well, what's so great about March, no matter what game you watch and no matter what who you probably picked in your bracket, you know it's a one game, 40-minute event. So anything can happen. And, you know, there should have been several other upsets yesterday with a close game.
Really, I think the important thing is having player led teams. And what I mean by that is them understanding just the parody in college basketball and how hard and how well they have to play if they want to play in this tournament. It's not guaranteed. You can play a great team and go home.
I think a lot of times you see 16-one, 15-two, and you just assume there's a big difference. For 40 minutes, nobody wants to go home. So you better bring it.
Q. Scott, you guys, obviously, thrive a lot off of your transition game and UNC does the same. Is there a delicate balance you have to walk because of what they can do, what they're on offense, and what you guys need to do defensively to try and limit that?
SCOTT DREW: Yeah, we prefer to make shots, so they got to take the ball out of bounds, not turn it over. Great teams score easy. They score easy and don't turn it over.
So I think both teams, why we're both good is because -- in basketball, really, things are pretty simple. And that is, take good shots, offensive rebound, so when you miss them, get them back. Don't turn it over.
And North Carolina has really gone to a another level as far as assisted turnovers. Their ratios, especially from conference on down are really impressive. They've done a good job of limiting people's buckets by not putting themselves in positions with live ball turnovers.
Q. Scott, with the NCAA tournament, when you have the potential to play North Carolina or Marquette, do you have a few guys in the bracket that comes out for either contingency and how do you attack it once North Carolina is the opponent from there?
SCOTT DREW: So usually each assistant coach will grab one team, one they've scouted before or familiar with, and then from there you just go with who wins and you're ready once the game's over.
Q. Scott, you talked about how well Carolina played yesterday. Without giving away too much of your game plan, how do you plan on -- how do you decide on what you want to limit, whether it's inside and focusing inside, or just how hot they can get from beyond the arc?
SCOTT DREW: Well, I think first and foremost, you got to do, especially when you only have one-day prep, you got to do and stay with what got you here. I don't know if teams are going to make too big of adjustments in trying things they haven't done all year and don't feel comfortable with.
At the same time, I mean, both teams don't want to give up layups and both teams don't want to give up uncontested threes. And that's why you're hoping they grasp and learn as much as they can in the scouting reports. Buck has become more isolation plays rather than having advantages based on execution.
Q. Coach, you think about Adam and how consistent he is in terms of reaching that double-figure plateau, especially in conference play. What's that area he's been so good in that has allowed him to be so consistent there?
SCOTT DREW: Adam is somebody that the bigger the game, it doesn't affect him. Usually the better he plays. And he's a two-way guy. And he can score at all three levels. So you feel comfortable as a coach when you have someone like that that has experience and doesn't get rattled. Doesn't mean he's always going to make the game winning shot or the game winning play, but he usually doesn't beat himself and always shows up for the team.
Q. Scott, how do you counter such a great defensive player in Leaky Black?
SCOTT DREW: Well, I think if it was just one, I wouldn't be worried. But all of them are pretty athletic, move their feet, do a good job. What's really impressive is both teams don't play -- have a big rotation. And both teams do a good job of staying out of foul trouble. So that means you're doing your work early and moving your feet.
So, at the end of the day, for us, we're going to do what we do. And there's things they're going to try to take advantage of, we're going to try to take advantage of. And usually it comes down to players making plays, and we like to say control what you can control.
As many tough shots as they have to make, contested shots they have to make, we can live with those results. We can't live with uncontested or unforced errors on our self-inflicted wounds on our part.
Q. Coach, I wanted to ask you about the guard play of North Carolina. Of course, yesterday, Caleb, six threes, and Davis with 12 assists. It seemed like when either one of them are on this season, North Carolina looks like a different team. What have you noticed from that tandem in preparation for tomorrow?
SCOTT DREW: I mean, they're excellent players. And they played really well. I haven't seen a game where they haven't yet, so probably that's a bad thing.
Again, very talented players playing the best basketball at the end of the year. What makes them tough is normally if a player can only do one thing, drive it or shoot it, you can limit it. When they can do multiple things, both of them are good at creating for themselves and others. And they can score beyond the arc and they can score in the paint.
Again, you just try to limit the easy buckets for them, make them earn everything and make it as difficult as possible.
Q. Scott, when Matt Meyers is shooting like that, especially from outside, what does that do for the rest of the team?
SCOTT DREW: That makes us look like better coaches. Obviously, making shots helps everybody. With us, it's really the quality of the shot. And if we get our players to take good shots, then we're doing our job, they're doing their job and we can live with the results.
Q. Scott, we all know that Coach's name is out there for several opportunities, and clearly deservedly so and he's been there before. Can you talk about how he's -- talk about how he's handling it and how he's ready if it comes when it comes?
SCOTT DREW: Coach Tang and I have been together for 19 years. And he's had opportunities before, but, obviously, each year those opportunities grow and deservedly so. He's done a remarkable job. I know a lot of people say he's the next Tommy Loyd. And I know Tommy really well. And Coach Tang is the exact same way.
I love him as a brother and he's a terrific coach. And there's a big reason why we've been successful, because we have a great staff. And he's a big part of it. So when he chooses to go, I know he'll do a great job. And hopefully we don't have to play him.
THE MODERATOR: About five more minutes left with Coach Drew.
Q. With such a quick turn around between games, how much is it important about in-game adjustments when you actually get a chance to see Carolina on the floor being able to make those things on the fly, something you couldn't see on tape?
SCOTT DREW: I think that's why both of us playing in leagues that, you know, so many great players and great coaches, you pretty much by conference tournament time and the NCAA tournament have seen everything. At least you can bring a reference, this is similar to what Iowa State does or similar to what Duke does for them. That's nonconference scheduling prepares you for this and guys are used to making adjustments. And the great thing is, they have a database and they have experience in games of doing whatever you would change to.
There's very few things that you have done or have seen.
Q. Scott, I know it's a different team. What have you taken from last year's championship run and try to instill in this team this year?
SCOTT DREW: I mean, I think experience, no matter what profession you're in, you write a great story, you have that to build on for the future, to write another one. And I think with coaches, there's things that work and things that don't work. Each team, it's different. But that experience is, like, a cheat sheet, a cheat code hopefully to help you navigate those waters.
I think more importantly, the players having that experience. Because players listen to players more than they do than coaches, believe it or not. When a senior tells them, this is what we got to do or lock in, and that, to a freshman, means a lot more than to a coach saying it.
THE MODERATOR: Let's return to the middle in the third row.
Q. And Scott, I guess on the broadcast, they mentioned Kendall to the good name, as well, might be having an issue with strep throat. Can you update us on that?
SCOTT DREW: Kendall is a tough kid. He really did a great job in competing and playing. And, obviously, he'll have more energy hopefully Saturday than he did -- but, again, credit him.
Doctors said he could play. And even though he was recovering and not 100 percent, he wanted to be out there for his guys and coaches love that.
THE MODERATOR: Any more questions? On the left.
Q. I just wanted to be sure: Is LJ definitely out for this game? Is there any update of --
SCOTT DREW: Yeah, he's definitely out for this game. I wish I could tell you otherwise, but I can't.
THE MODERATOR: Anything else for Coach Drew?
SCOTT DREW: Thanks, guys.
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