March 30, 2023
Houston, Texas, USA
Semi-Finals Pregame Media Conference
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by Johnell Davis, Bryan Greenlee and Alijah Martin.
Q. When you guys walked in, you saw the big picture outside of your locker room. Just your reaction to that, like, oh, wait a minute, we're actually here. What was your reaction when you saw your player mural outside the locker room?
BRYAN GREENLEE: I thought it was pretty cool, seeing all the guys up there together and see some graphics that they put up there. I thought it was cool.
ALIJAH MARTIN: It was cool to see myself, the guys on the wall and stuff.
JOHNELL DAVIS: I thought it was cool to be up there. See my guys, see who I'm doing it here with.
Q. Johnell, talking with Coach May earlier this week, he spoke about your journey to FAU. And he brought up the fact that he couldn't believe that you were getting overlooked, because when he saw you, he knew. Can you reflect on Coach May and how that relationship was forged and kind of how you got to Florida Atlantic and what's made it home?
JOHNELL DAVIS: Coach Akeem, he introduced us to Coach May when I first got here. So then Keem left, and I built a relationship with Coach May, and it kept going from there.
Q. Bryan, in the media we talk a lot about transfer portal, right? And some of that's NIL. But how that's changed everything, good and bad. I'm just wondering, from your perspective, you've kind of been part of that. How did that give you this opportunity to where you are today? And for the other two guys, you've stayed at FAU. What's it been like to be able to build a team, almost in a traditional way that you don't see as much anymore in college basketball?
BRYAN GREENLEE: You're asking how the transferring opened opportunity? Honestly, I just think it was in God's hands. I played at Minnesota my freshman year. And it just wasn't the right fit.
I learned from it. And when I came to Florida Atlantic, I'm from Florida, so it just seemed to be the perfect fit. I had a previous relationship with Coach May from high school. And I just stuck with it, honestly. I was somewhere where I could play, somewhere where I had a good group of teammates. We just had to start from somewhere and continue to trust each other and build.
ALIJAH MARTIN: So we really don't bring in too many transfers. And it's not a good thing or a bad thing. It's just Coach May is all about culture, and he want to bring in the right guys that was going to fit the culture and not bring us down. And that's what he does, and that's what he did.
In most situations it don't work out like it did for us. So it's a good experience.
JOHNELL DAVIS: I really don't worry about that. I just put trust in Coach May, really.
Q. Bryan, correct me if I'm wrong, you were considering going to University of San Diego for a while there during COVID?
BRYAN GREENLEE: Correct.
Q. I understand it was really close. And what was it about you kind of pulling out the last second? Obviously it was the pandemic and you're on Zooms and all that, but just take us through that whole process and what happened there.
BRYAN GREENLEE: When I entered the transfer portal, I obviously was weighing out all of my options. And when I committed to San Diego, I didn't have the FAU offer yet. So I guess the situation happened before I got here, maybe like in the summertime at FAU, and it opened up a spot. And I got a call. And I just talked it over with my parents and it was the right fit.
It was definitely a hard choice. San Diego and FAU are both beautiful campuses, close to the beach. Good ball. But I just ended up going with my gut and staying here.
Q. I was with you for a day. You guys are about as loose as any team I've been around. How do you come into this right now? You're obviously -- I know you don't want to hear it -- but the underdogs. How loose are you? Have you started to feel any pressure?
JOHNELL DAVIS: We aren't feeling any pressure. We go out play our game, like Coach said, have confidence.
ALIJAH MARTIN: Same as Johnell said. No pressure in there, just ball. And we've been playing this whole month. So we belong to be here and we're just going to trust it.
BRYAN GREENLEE: We're not scared of any challenge. We love playing under the bright lights. We just play our game and try to execute everything as best we can and have fun.
Q. Dusty said no stage is too big. You proved that. But each step gets bigger and bigger, from Columbus to Madison Square Garden to here. When you got here, did you look around, did you have to make sure you guys got that out of your system, you're not wide-eyed anymore? And what was it like when you're out there playing in a football stadium?
BRYAN GREENLEE: I think when I'm on the court at least, and like the ball's tipped, I tune out the fans. I don't see the crowd that much. Even the energy, I'm not focused on that.
The big adjustment to me was getting used to the backdrop and trying to like navigate my shot and everything like that. But it wasn't too much of an adjustment. I think when the game starts, it's just going to be like I'm playing back at FAU or wherever. Obviously more fans.
But I'm not going to worry about it too much.
ALIJAH MARTIN: We most definitely took a second look around and just soaked in the moment. But obviously we had to flip the page, lock in, get ready for practice and start your routine and stuff like that so we can just get in the rhythm of things.
JOHNELL DAVIS: Going off what these guys said, you just want to get between the lines, you're just ready to go. When the ball goes up in the air, ready to go.
Q. Alijah, questions about your recruitment. What was your perception of FAU and its basketball program before Coach May and his coaching staff first made that contact with you? I was curious, what were those first conversations you had with the staff about what you could possibly achieve and what the FAU basketball program might be capable of with you all on the roster?
ALIJAH MARTIN: I didn't really have any of those type of perceptions, goals, things, looking at the program like that. I was just simply trying to come in and make an impact and just help the team.
They didn't really promise me anything. Just work hard and stay with it, I'll play minutes and stuff like that. But obviously you've got to work for what you want, you know?
Q. Wondering how you guys feel. You match up with San Diego State. Obviously they're a very defensive-minded team. So particularly on offense, how do you think you'll be able to overcome that?
ALIJAH MARTIN: We're going to take the matchup as any other game. They're a lot like us. We practice every day. We'll be well-prepared. Take what the game gives us.
Q. Wondering if you can pinpoint a moment or a game this season where you realized that you had built a team that was capable of making this kind of run.
JOHNELL DAVIS: The moment. The moment where we pinpointed it is our second game where we beat Florida. We had a lot of momentum going into the rest of the games. We had so much confidence. Thought we could beat anybody.
Q. I asked earlier about the ah-ha moment you saw your picture on the mural and that type of thing. But how is it you've been able to keep your poise and your opponents haven't? In these games, you always come up with the big shots. That is not an easy thing to do. Is that something you have -- every team goes 10, 9, 8, 7, that type of thing. But is this a coaching thing, every day in practice? You've kept your poise so well against some really good teams this tournament.
BRYAN GREENLEE: I would just say we've been prepared throughout the season for situations like this. Like we've been in so many different games where it's been close. We've been down with a few minutes left. And it's just something that we've built. I think it's through the work we put in and the trust that we have in each other.
But we're just a brotherhood. And when we're in the huddle, everybody gives each other confidence, and we don't panic. We don't get tight. We just continue to chip away and play our game.
Q. Alijah, Coach May was talking to us about your recruitment a little bit earlier this week. And I think he talked about giving you a campus tour during COVID via Zoom on a golf cart. What can you tell us about that? What do you remember about it?
ALIJAH MARTIN: I just remember it was very sunny outside. That's the only thing I could really see, a lot of palm trees. I'm from Summit, Summit, Mississippi. We have pine trees instead of palm trees. You know what I'm saying? I was looking at the area, the conference, I was going to trust God that it works, and just go with it.
THE MODERATOR: Nick Boyd and Giancarlo Rosado and Vladislav Goldin join us.
Q. You guys have gotten on a bigger stage each step of the way here. And now you're in a football stadium, 70,000 seats. What did you have to get used to out there in practice? And also did any of you come in here wide-eyed and have to take a day, take a day or two to just settle in and realize settling in it's just a basketball game?
NICK BOYD: Honestly, I feel like the arena felt a little more comfortable than the last two we played in. I don't know, for some reason the rim felt closer. The balls are bouncing on the rim nice. I feel like the court felt really comfortable compared to the last two arenas we played in.
We weren't really shocked by it. We knew what to expect, and we went out there, had a good practice and had fun.
GIANCARLO ROSADO: NRG, it's a beautiful stadium. We're blessed to be here. What we had to get used to was the backdrop. We're not used to that. Used to The Burrow. But the backdrop was nice, like Nick said, the rim is nice. The court is a little bouncy. It's a great atmosphere. Going to be a great environment.
VLADISLAV GOLDIN: It's huge. It's actually huge. And the way like you look around and it's like you see how many seats there are, how many potential people are going to be there and you go, Wow, I'm going to be here? Wow.
Q. Giancarlo, you're one of the couple locals on the roster. How exciting has it been to guide a local college to this big stage, Madison Square Garden and now NRG Stadium for the Final Four?
GIANCARLO ROSADO: It's amazing. I'll tell my kids how I was a leader on one of the best teams in FAU history. It's been an honor to share this moment with my brothers and represent West Palm Beach. I've been getting a lot of support back home. And I want to tell everybody back home thank you and I love you guys.
Q. Vladislav, the transfer portal was a positive for you. It opened something for you to come to FAU that may not have been there a few years ago. What was that process like? Now that you look back, how has the transfer portal helped you and helped your basketball career at FAU?
VLADISLAV GOLDIN: I think it helps like a lot because you can find the opportunity, play and change everything to a positive direction. And I feel like that works for me and works for many players who went to the transfer portal. I find it's a pretty good thing in general.
Q. When a smaller school makes a run like this to the NCAA Tournament, everyone seemingly calls them Cinderella. I'm curious if you like being called Cinderella, or if you're a little insulted by it?
NICK BOYD: No, not really. We don't really like Cinderella. We feel we've proved ourselves this whole year just by our body of work, our numbers, how we play as a team.
I feel like a Cinderella team doesn't play the way we play. We haven't came in games and just shot people out or beat people by offense. We beat these teams frame by frame defensively, and I don't think we're a Cinderella team.
VLADISLAV GOLDIN: I disagree, just because I feel like we've been playing good basketball the entire season. And we've been ready for this moment. So for me it's kind of the same because we didn't track anybody that much.
GIANCARLO ROSADO: No Cinderella at Florida Atlantic, man. If you want to call us something, call us champ, call us the beach boys, but no Cinderellas.
Q. Talk a little bit about what Coach May has said, words of encouragement behind the scenes as you guys prep to take on -- to get on such a big stage. How has his presence been behind closed doors?
GIANCARLO ROSADO: Coach May is probably one of the most poised, calm coaches that you'll be around. He makes sure that we always are right mentally. He makes sure we're good and makes sure we know the task, though.
He's definitely been emphasizing San Diego State, as he should. We have Kyle Church on the scout. He's been emphasizing that too. And we're really focused.
VLADISLAV GOLDIN: I think the thing Coach May and all of our coaching staff is like they act the same like when nobody sees it, when everybody sees it. And I feel like that's very important to us as a group, be ourselves no matter what. We play March Madness. We play conference. We play non-conference. We work in August. We work anytime, anywhere.
NICK BOYD: To piggyback off what Vlad said, I've never been around a person who has been the same every single day. Coach brings a positive attitude every single day to practice, the game doesn't change about him. When you're around somebody so consistent you'll do whatever for them. And it's going to be the same thing on Saturday.
Q. Giancarlo, because you're from South Florida, I just wanted to ask your thoughts on the fact that there are two South Florida teams in the Final Four, traditionally South Florida is thought of as a football recruiting hub, what does this do for the sport of basketball in the area?
GIANCARLO ROSADO: It's big time, man. I was just talking about this with one of my relatives, how football is really South Florida. Like, you know that. Football, when you think of South Florida, you think football.
Now two teams from South Florida is in the Final Four on the big national stage, that's great for the community and that's great for the youth because they're looking at us like, man, those guys are doing it so we can do it. So maybe it will be good for the sport in South Florida.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports