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November 28, 2003

Paul Hewitt

Ismai'l Muhammad


PAUL HEWITT: I want to thank Jack Powers and all of the people at NIT for inviting us this year. This has been a tremendous experience. Obviously for our players, but personally for me, to have a chance to compete against Coach Knight -- this is the second year -- you learn so much watching his teams play. You learn so much watching how his teams try to attack you, and after the game, I thought he gave our kids an unbelievable compliment today on how hard and how tough they played. When somebody I respect as much as him says something like that, it means a lot to me and it should mean a lot to our players. I'm very happy for these guys. It's been a four-year climb. The guys that know me know how I feel about that 8-5 rule and being on probation for doing nothing wrong and here we are at the start of the fourth year, I think we've got everything we need to be a very good basketball team, plus a couple more pieces coming. But for the moment, I just I can't say enough for guys like Isma'il Muhammad, who for two years I think on and off has been frustrated but keeps working and keeps working and now he sees the fruits of his work.

Q How good are you guys?

PAUL HEWITT: You know, they know, they know how fragile this can be. We played well the first five games because we've defended and rebounded. We've got to continue to do that. If we slack off on that we become very average and maybe even bad. They know their potential. They have been through a lot the last few years. We were 0-7 his freshman year in the ACC and we battled back to go 7-9. There have been up-and-downs. Last year our chemistry was not good at all and that stopped us from being successful, and now I think talent, everything is there. No knock on the guys who write in the magazines and stuff. Like I said since the first game I've been amused to read about how there is nobody left at Georgia Tech. We are a good basketball team. We have good players; not about x's and o's. It's not about strategy. It's about good players making good plays like this guy here.

Q Against a supposedly disciplined Tech team what was the difference?

PAUL HEWITT: We continued to just do the things we focused on all preseason, contesting shots, rebounding, attacking people as much as we can.

Q Did you have an inkling you would be able to beat the No. 1 and No. 25?


Q You felt that confident in your team?

ISMA'IL MUHAMMAD: He's been telling us all along we was going to win.

Q What was it about this team that made you think you had --

PAUL HEWITT: They are a cohesive unit. Basketball is a team game. I think a lot of times people get caught up in numbers and who is getting shots and who is not getting shots and who is supposed to. These guys are a team. I've been telling them since the first week of practice I love coming to practice with these guys. They come to work, they are unselfish, it is a team game. I've been telling them since the first week, guys, we are going to be good. I don't care what anybody says, we are going to be a good team. Now we have to keep it up. We have to keep doing it.

Q What did Coach Knight tell you exactly?

PAUL HEWITT: Just complemented their toughness and how hard they have played. And for somebody like him, I've watched his teams play over a hundred times, any time he's on TV I watch his teams. I love their motion and how hard they defend. When he gives somebody a compliment like this, it should mean a lot to me and the players.

Q What do you think of Emmett, a guy people don't know much about?

PAUL HEWITT: He's great. One of the things I love about watching him play, because I've watched him play a number of times since Coach Knight has been there, he moves so well without the ball, you should almost count assists that he gets by moving without the ball. A lot of times, obviously on a stat sheet you count an assist when somebody passes to the shooter. He creates so many open shots with his movement without the ball. That was a big concern for us. He knows what he's capable of doing. He stays well within his confines, plays within himself. He doesn't do anything somebody says he should do. You can tell he listens to his coaches and people on the outside; hey, you need to do this and that. He has good disciplines, moves well without the ball; a terrific free-throw shooter.

Q Do you prefer coming off the bench?

ISMA'IL MUHAMMAD: If we keep winning, I think everybody on the team is going to be happy.

Q You had a great player last year, obviously in Chris Bosh, when he left, you talked about chemistry; was it first practice, second practice? Sometimes when you have a great player like that, other players will stand around, just by nature.

PAUL HEWITT: Well, I think, you know, Chris, you understand, he played with a freshman pointguard last year and if he is back with the Jarrett Jack, not of last year you are talking about a totally different basketball team maybe not much more success than what you see on the court but it would be a little stronger. Chris had, believe me, he didn't contribute to any chemistry problems. He was a team player all the way. That's why our guys loved him, absolutely a team player. Sometime teams have to grow. They have to learn how to close games out and learn how to win. When I say chemistry, I don't necessarily mean like decision-making sure we know who gets the ball so this person goes to the foul line and so and so gets the touch to make the shot. Last year we took -- it took us all the way to February to win a road game, just not because we weren't trying but the chemistry was not quite right. You saw the end of the game, we were up quite a bit but Jarrett does a masterful job of running the clock out. That's what I'm talking about, they understand each other really well.

Q When did you see that to the point where you could tell these guys you were going to come to New York and win?

PAUL HEWITT: First week, first week of practice.

Q By winning this tournament, did you raise the bar for yourself?

PAUL HEWITT: I think our team has got high expectations all along. I think we understand that now there's going to be a little more attention placed on us and hopefully these guys get credit, guys like Isma'il and B.J. Elder. Now people are going to start paying attention. As far as raising the bar, it's a long season and people are going to come at you but if we continue to go do the things that I've seen so far in terms of playing hard, defending hard, rebounding, being cohesive offensively, I'll take my chances with this team.

Q If you get double figures scoring from six guys every night, can you be beat?

PAUL HEWITT: That's the way I like the game to be played. I was fortunate at Siena to have a bunch of guys that could play like this. Every night we had four or five guys in double figures that I think that's the way basketball is supposed to be. It's the ultimate team game in my mind. If four guys are moving in one direction and one guy is moving the other direction, it breaks everything down.

Q Were you balanced --

PAUL HEWITT: I thought we were getting better. They just whipped us last year. We only lost by eight. We played really well but they played better.

Q Any thoughts about winning the MVP?

ISMA'IL MUHAMMAD: That's a great feeling to win MVP. I was kind of surprised. I believe we had so many players on our team who played well so it could have went to a number of different guys.

Q What was the injury; was it a cramp?

ISMA'IL MUHAMMAD: Yeah, just catching cramps.

PAUL HEWITT: He's got to get in better shape. (Laughs).

End of FastScripts...

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