March 26, 1999
ST. PETERSBURG, FLORIDA
Q. This question is for you, Khalid. How much are you looking forward to the matchup with Scoonie Penn, the play in the last game, does that bother you?
KHALID EL-AMIN: I'm looking forward to the matchup against another guard or another great competitive person. I'm definitely looking forward to the experience of the game on Saturday night. About the last game, I'm over that. I think Scoonie said it best. That game's over with and it's about the next game. I'm definitely focused on Saturday night.
Q. For each of you, what are the greatest strengths that Voskuhl and Freeman have inside and what makes them so difficult? How important are they to your success in this game?
KHALID EL-AMIN: They're a tremendous asset to our team. They really help us on the defensive end as well as rebounding. I think that they're the most underrated front court in the nation right now. A lot of press and a lot of critics have underrated them for the whole season. They're definitely the keys to our team. They're the ones that hold us together defensively and offensively they give us that punch when we really need it.
RICHARD HAMILTON: I think the same thing. I think they're the two most important people on the team. I think, like Khalid said, they're two underrated players in the country. I think they do a lot of things that they don't credit them for. Without them we wouldn't be here in the Final Four.
Q. This is for both players. Could you talk about the perception of Duke and the other guys and whether your game is a semifinal game or an undercard in a boxing match?
KHALID EL-AMIN: I think it's the semifinal game in the Final Four. We're not worried about Duke right now. We have to take care of Ohio State and we're definitely focusing on Ohio State. That's the job at hand, and that's what we're looking forward to.
Q. Can you talk about Scoonie Penn, how valuable he is to Ohio State and if you'll be checking him on Saturday night?
KHALID EL-AMIN: He's definitely the lead of Ohio State. I think the point guard is the lead of each time. He has that leadership quality. He's a great player, but I feel like our team is going to be able to take care of business on Saturday.
Q. Khalid, can you talk about how you have developed as a player since your high school days?
KHALID EL-AMIN: I think Coach Calhoun of Connecticut -- they have really stepped my defense up and stepped my overall game up. I was always a leader coming in, playing the game. But they just really made me become a better point guard, a better scoring guard.
Q. This is for either player. Could you talk about the mood of being at the Final Four, how you feel being here, what you see when you look around, what you hear.
RICHARD HAMILTON: I think it's a great experience. You know, it's an experience of a lifetime. We just want to take advantage of it. You know, one thing, when we arrived here, everybody said we've never been to a Final Four before. One thing we try to, it's just another game. We don't want to just be in the Final Four, we want to win as most games as possible.
KHALID EL-AMIN: What you said, it's definitely an experience of a lifetime. You may not have this experience again. So you definitely have to make the most of it. You know, we couldn't come here to play one game, we came here to play two games. So hopefully we'll be prepared and ready to go Saturday night.
Q. For both of you guys, does pride come in to play a factor when you're talking about the two of you guys taking on Scoonie Penn and Michael Redd as the dynamic duo; which is the better?
KHALID EL-AMIN: I think so. We're not telling the truth if we said pride wasn't a factor. But it's definitely a team game. We're going to play Connecticut team basketball and that's what's going to get the job done on Saturday.
Q. You played basketball at North High School, a lot of people said at the time 5'9", he's never going to make it in college, he's too small. And then next thing you know, they're going to say now the same thing, you'll never make it in the pros. What's your attitude about all of that?
KHALID EL-AMIN: I'm just going to keep working hard and try to continue to make myself better. The guard coach at Connecticut, he has molded me like I said before. He'll continue to, hopefully he'll get my game, and I'll be ready for the next game. But right now we're focusing on trying to win the Final Four.
Q. Has it been a real challenge to you?
KHALID EL-AMIN: It definitely has been a challenge. Everything's a challenge. But at the same time I'm attacking it with an aggressive style and being patient with it at the same time. I've just been loving the whole college atmosphere and everything. So I'm really happy about my decision, I'm really very happy about my career academically.
Q. If both of you had to pick who is more dangerous to you guys, Michael Redd or Scoonie, which would it be?
RICHARD HAMILTON: I think we really can't, you know, pinpoint or say one player is better than the other. You know, they're both very -- they bring different things to the game. Scoonie brings getting everybody involved and everything like that. Michael is a good scorer. You can't say I'm going to focus on this for one person and another person sets up something else. So you really have to be prepared for both of them.
Q. This is for both players. You both played tough games to get to the Final Four. Do you think Ohio State has a little of an advantage having gone through Auburn and St. Johns to get here? You guys had strong competition but not as the quality as those two teams?
RICHARD HAMILTON: I think regardless of who you play, you know it's going to be a competitive game. The names don't mean nothing once you're playing in an NCAA tournament, regardless of who it is. Us playing Iowa, that might have been one of the toughest games of the year, you know, regardless -- we played everybody else that was on the schedule. So I think at this point, you know, everybody's going to try to come out and bring their A game and A effort. You can't say they took the hard way and they took the easy way. This is a game and you have to be ready to play.
Q. Richard, a couple of guys in Ohio State's locker room was talking about they've been undermatched up front all year long. Rebounding for them has been a big concern. Is that something you guys feel you can take advantage of up front against them?
RICHARD HAMILTON: I think that's one of the great aspects of our team. We have great rebounders in Kevin, Jake and Edmund. We have guys that like to rebound. I think we don't feel as though we need to attack that; that's just something we do. That's something that those guys come out and do, rebound.
Q. Khalid, would you describe what makes the game so effective and describe his style, please.
KHALID EL-AMIN: He can play the game, plays it intelligently. He really knows his weaknesses and strengths and he plays to his strengths and he's definitely worked on his weaknesses all year. As far as the strategy of his game, he's just a smooth player. He's willing to do the things he has to do for the team. And that's just a characteristic of a great player.
Q. Maybe for both of you, could you talk a little bit about Coach Calhoun, since you've gotten the win, he seems very loose, very light-hearted. Have you guys noticed that?
KHALID EL-AMIN: I wouldn't say loose and light-hearted. He's definitely enjoyed making it to the Final Four, but he really wants to win the Final Four, he really wants to be a national champion. I think that's characteristic of a great coach or competitive person. He hasn't really been too light-hearted. Our practice has been very intense and he's trying to focus us and get us prepared as much as possible.
RICHARD HAMILTON: I think the same thing Khalid said. I think Coach attacked the practice when we got here since the preseason practices. He attacks every one the same. I think if he got loose on us, we would get loose and we wouldn't be out here prepared to play and things like that. I think he's a great coach and basically knows what he's doing.
Q. Khalid, you had a lot of responsibility at a young age, can you talk about that a little bit and also how that helps you in a moment like this in the Final Four where it's a big event?
KHALID EL-AMIN: It just matured me much faster, than I guess a regular teen. I think that's the only thing its done for me. In a situation like this, I feel ready to go and very excited about playing. Like Richard said before, this is our opportunity of a lifetime. So you really have to make the most of it and that's what I plan to do.
Q. Rich, so much has been made about you as a scorer. I'm just curious, do you think about yourself as a defensive player? If you cover Michael Redd, what do you think you have to do?
RICHARD HAMILTON: I take pride on defense. Everybody's passing -- the one thing I try to do is be a well-rounded player. Listening to Coach Calhoun and the coaches, they have said go out and be a team player, don't go out and shoot the shots, don't go out and be just an offensive player. The one thing I try to do is just, like I said, be a well-rounded player. If I do have to cover Michael, I think I have to be ready. Just like I'm playing anybody else. You have to be prepared to react from offense to defense, getting back and covering your man. I think it will be a challenge and will also be fun.
Q. You guys got a chance to face Michigan State earlier in the year. You probably played one of your better games in that particular game. Could you just talk about the team, and do you feel that they are a type of team that can give Duke a run? Everybody's making out Duke to be so invincible.
KHALID EL-AMIN: I feel Michigan State gave Duke a run in the grade A tournament. I believe Michigan State is a great team and I feel they have the characteristics of a championship team.
Gentlemen, thank you very much. We'll have Coach Calhoun up here next.
End of FastScripts....