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March 24, 2004
EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY
THE MODERATOR: We will now take questions for the Saint Joseph's student athletes from the floor.
Q. Jameer, how motivating has the underdog status been for this team, especially considering you're the No. 1 seed? For some reason, y'all can't seem to shake it.
JAMEER NELSON: We'll, people are going to say what they're going to say. They've been saying things about us all year. We don't take it as motivation. We just play through it. Things going to be said, things going to be positive, things going to be negative about you. I think we do a great job of blocking things out.
Q. Jameer, in terms of a match-up on offense and defense, do you think you'll be matched up with Paul? Will that just be an occasional thing?
JAMEER NELSON: The thing about the match-up is not me against him. It's my team against his team.
JAMEER NELSON: I'll never be one-on-one against him. My teammates always have my back.
Q. Jameer, could you just talk about from seeing Chris Paul on tape. You were such an impact player as a freshman, what do you think of the job he's done for Wake Forest?
JAMEER NELSON: He's done a great job, you know, especially as an individual player. His numbers are great. He seems to be like a natural point guard and also like just calm out there at all times out there on the court, which a team needs their point guard to do.
Q. Tyrone, do you think the loss to Xavier in the conference tournament actually worked beneficially to you guys, giving you more rest for the big dance?
TYRONE BARLEY: Not really. If anything, I think we had such a long layoff that it probably hurt us more than it helped us. But coach, he do a great job of not overworking us in practice and everything. So conditioning-wise, that wasn't a factor.
JAMEER NELSON: Like Tyrone said, it wasn't a factor. Coach does a great job of letting us get our subs in practice. I think what it did for us, it basically made the chip on our shoulder a little bigger.
DELONTE WEST: Yeah, he took the words right out of my mouth. It just made us a little more hungry, you know. In a way, you know, losing give you a little more motivation going into the tournament. But we were (inaudible) to have an Atlanta 10 championship right now. You can look at it either way, but that's the past. We have just concentrating on winning our next game.
Q. Aside from the Xavier game, any point in the season was it not fun, the streak, when it got to be work?
DELONTE WEST: Well, this season we definitely had our ups and our downs, but I think the only time it wasn't fun was in the locker room after the Xavier game. But, you know, we have a great group of guys at Saint Joseph's, you know. They make coming into practice each and every day fun. Speaking for myself, I definitely enjoyed every moment of it. I don't think my teammates can complain either.
JAMEER NELSON: I definitely can't complain. I came back from my serious year, that's the reason why I came back, to have fun with these guys, to my left and my right, and the coaches, who are having as much fun as we are, even though they're doing most of the work behind the scenes, they're having a lot of fun.
TYRONE BARLEY: Every time we stepped on the court, it's been fun. You asked about like if there was pressure or whatever. I think the only time I kind of felt pressure was during the Rhode Island game. That was another game we kind of struggled with. It was kind of late in the game, probably like a minute and a half left. I was thinking like, "Wow, we might go undefeated." That was the first time this whole season it like entered my mind during a game. So other than that, that was the only time.
Q. I'm sure it's not lost on any of you that two of the No. 1 seeds are already gone. For all the heat you took for being the No. 1 seed, do you think it's time to think what is a big conference?
TYRONE BARLEY: Well, I look at it as with so much talent now coming out of high school, you know, everybody can't go to the Duke and North Carolina, so there's talent definitely being spread around throughout Division I. If the Top 4 teams are in this tournament, then, you know, No. 1 seed, they're definitely favorites. But it's really anybody's game. It's just who plays better on that particular night.
JAMEER NELSON: Just to back Delonte up, it's about any given night, anybody playing better. I think at this point seeding doesn't matter, ranking doesn't matter, and statistics doesn't matter. Everybody, we're all on the same level. Everybody is going to come play hard. Everybody understands if you lose, you're going to go home.
TYRONE BARLEY: I think college basketball nowadays, it's just so wide open, I just think that little schools don't get enough credit. You know, the bigger schools, they're going to get the media attention and everything. But I just think it's so wide open that, you know, the little schools, it's time for the little schools to get more notoriety or whatever.
Q. With how strongly Coach Martelli reacted after Packer's comments addressing the crowd on Selection Sunday, the fact that he's analyzing the game. He's going to be here this weekend. Can you respond, any extra motivation to prove what the rest of the national audience heard that day about what he felt about Saint Joseph's?
SPEAKER: I don't know if the guys knew who Billy Packer was. I didn't know who Billy Packer was. This is.
TYRONE BARLEY: Everybody is entitled to their own opinion. We really didn't think too much of it. I think it was just Martelli's master plot to get more media attention. Other than that, we don't really concern ourselves with that. We just go out and play.
JAMEER NELSON: I think he spoke for everybody, you know, what he said (laughter). Took the words out of my mouth. I mean, we got to go out there play, regardless of who is going to the game, regardless of who is going to watch us. People are going to say positive things, people are going to say negative things. Everybody is entitled to their own opinion.
DELONTE WEST: I think during the time on Selection Sunday when Coach Martelli made the comments, I think it was just such a monumental time for Saint Joseph's at the time, you know, it was just during the celebration, everybody was happy. It seemed like he just took a cheap shot at us. Coach just responded like anybody would. You voice your opinion; I'm going to voice mine. Coach is definitely the head of what we do down in Saint Joseph's. He's our leader. How he felt about the situation at the time, that's how we feel, too.
Q. Jameer, you are the No. 1 seed in this regional. Can you talk about carrying the mantle of being No. 1 and having to keep that and to move on?
JAMEER NELSON: Like I say, No. 1 doesn't matter anymore. You know, it's who's going to go out there and play harder, who's going to go out there and get dirtier, who's going to go out there and get all the loose balls.
Q. Jameer, you talked about it doesn't matter what the seed is. How much does experience -- you are a more mature, older team than the Wake Forest team you're going to be facing. How much does that factor in?
JAMEER NELSON: Well, I think the majority level of the this team has been great all season. We've been handling things well as far as the media, school, just juggling our lives. So I think on the court experience is big for us because we are a mature team in this game. I think in previous games where we've been a little older than teams, we've been able to use our minds a little more instead of our ability to play basketball.
Q. I know y'all look at the same tape, but individually you must take something away from it, and from talking to the coaches individually on how you're going to approach this game. What impresses you most about Wake Forest on an individual level?
SPEAKER: If you turn the ball over against them, it's basically going to lead to two points because they like to get out and transition. They really don't run too much offense. It's basically just quick hitters, whatever. What I picked up most of all is just limit our turnovers and get back in transition, we'll be already.
JAMEER NELSON: Limit our turnovers, trying to get back in transitions, as best we can.
DELONTE WEST: I think in that game I diss against Wake Forest defense, it's definitely not a time to be nervous out there, have the jitters. The pressure they put on the first pass, deny the passing lane, they're talented on the perimeter. You definitely got to be out there. You got to be out there thinking. You got to bring your A game.
Q. You talked about having fun earlier. It would seem like Saint Joseph's is a fun place to be going to school this year. Can any of you talk about, a small school like that, do you feel more like perhaps a regular student than students in some large universities?
TYRONE BARLEY: Do we feel like regular students? This year it's been such a rollercoaster, just the atmosphere around campus, it's like amazing. To answer your question, no, we don't feel like regular students because it's impossible to feel like a regular student with as much notoriety and media attention that we receive. It's just everything has been great, though. Just the community, it is like a family at Saint Joseph's University. I can't really talk about how I would be like at another University. It's just great there.
JAMEER NELSON: I can't compare my experience at Saint Joseph's to another university because I've never been at a university to go to school there. Like Tyrone said, I think it was a circus so far. It's been fun, a lot of crazy things going on. Like I said, we're mature enough. We've been handling it well.
DELONTE WEST: From my experience, this year, past years I've been on campus, you know, Saint Joseph's, like you said, it's like a family atmosphere. Whenever it's not basketball season, the lacrosse team is having a good season, everybody backs everybody. Unlike most big universities where you have maybe a classroom where there's a hundred people in there, your classroom may be filled from 15 to 25 people, so everybody know who you are. You know, it's a good support system. Everybody's behind each other. The students definitely has made a fun place to attend school. Classes are fun, you know. The teachers, everybody's into the season. We definitely been enjoying it. We hope it continues with success.
Q. Delonte and Jameer, Coach Martelli mentioned on Monday for all the attention being given to the back court match-ups, he thought it would be somebody else, another player or if you, who would decide the game. Do you agree with his assessment? If so, who are your leading candidates?
DELONTE WEST: Well, I think he made that comment because when you look at Wake Forest, they do have a solid in-the-lane presence, but they're definitely dominated by the guards also. They have a great lead guard in Chris Paul. The other wing, he's a good shooter. He adds additional firepower. I think he's their leading scorer. I think he just referred to it because in most of the games, they're the two doing most of the scoring, similar to Jameer and myself. It's going to come down to the game, who willing to get on the floor, who going to dive on the floor for loose balls, go the extra mile for their team. It's going to come down to players who got the most grit and want it more. Your "star athlete" usually comes from a guy that's just coming in the game, he's kind of nervous, he comes up with that big play. So I think that's what he was referring to.
JAMEER NELSON: I think coach is really saying like these guys are great players, you know, the match-up is going to be hyped up and all this stuff. Just off of that, somebody else could feed off of that energy. Really the guys we bring on the court, as far as our bench, I think he wants us to understand that this is why we bring guys on the court that's going to go 10 points, we have somebody that can do that, too. Like Delonte said, they're well-balanced and we have to try to unbalance them.
Q. You guys have a really late tipoff tomorrow night. What are you going to do all day?
DELONTE WEST: What's tomorrow, Thursday? Oh, man. Well, we going to miss Dave Chappell. I was really looking forward to seeing Dave. I'm going to tape that tomorrow. We're going to take it easy, try to stay off your feet as much as possible, get some carbohydrates in your body, get mentally focused, ready to play.
JAMEER NELSON: I think the time we have tomorrow is going to be spent like focusing on the game, as far as us getting motivated. Once I -- I if I have a long time before the game, a lot of plays run through my mind, situations. I don't know how these guys think, but that's how I'm going to think.
TYRONE BARLEY: Basically going to get rest all day. Doesn't really matter. We don't play at 12:00. Four worst games of the season are all at 12:00. The later the better.
THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, thank you very much. Good luck tomorrow. Coach Martelli will be up in less than a minute. Coach, if you'd be kind enough to say a few words on your overview of the game with Wake Forest, then we'll entertain questions.
COACH MARTELLI: Obviously, we're looking forward to continuing play, to be in the second weekend of the NCAA tournament is special for these three young guys. I would just like to add an addendum. Somebody asked about what they're going to do tomorrow. They left out three and a half hours of study hall that we would put them through tomorrow. I don't know why they forgot that. We will use their time as wisely as possible. I think that this is going to be a terrific match-up and not just because of Paul and Jameer or Gray and Delonte. But I really like the way that the -- the values that Wake plays with. They're willing to take the 3. They open the floor up. Skip Prosser is really a good friend of mine, a terrific basketball coach. We're really anxious to be playing here the second weekend of the tournament in such a great spotlight on these players, our program, and the University. Just absolutely elated to be here.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for Coach Martelli.
Q. Obviously the big elephant, Billy Packer is calling the game.
COACH MARTELLI: Is that right?
Q. That's right.
COACH MARTELLI: I didn't even know that.
Q. Yeah, right. How ironic. Can you discuss the excitement of all of this?
COACH MARTELLI: When I did hear it Sunday night, I laughed out loud because I thought that CBS had really got it. I think that this is supposed to be about stories, and there's a lot of stories other than the game on the court. Then I took a pause and I thought, well, that's a great statement for this regional, later finding out it's the first time in five years that 1, 2, 3, 4 have gotten through unscathed. I thought it was a great statement for the regional. The third thing I thought of is this would come up. He has a job sod, I have a job to do. One of the parts of my job is to make sure he has all the information that he needs to profile our players, our program and our university. And we're going to do that. Then the fourth thing is, I'm really a big pizza fan, so I figured he might bring us a couple Pappa Johns and we could sit around the hotel and discuss things. Shameless plug there, but they are an NCAA sponsor? I can get away with that, right?
THE MODERATOR: You did.
COACH MARTELLI: Pepperoni, if I could.
Q. We asked the kids earlier, do you think the loss to Xavier in the conference tournament could have maybe proved to be a little more beneficial by getting more rest leading up to the big dance?
COACH MARTELLI: No, I don't think so. Really the Liberty game was a challenge because it was our second game in 16 days. That's just unusual during a basketball season to have that much time off. I think the other thing is that when we got pounded by Xavier, kicked to the curb really, that our psyche was scarred. You would think that's strange for a team that had won 27 in a row, how could your psyche be scarred? But we were. We had to build emotionally. I really think that one of the key points here in these two games for us was Jameer coming out and getting the first 7 of 9 points, then everybody felt good again. Up until then, it was like they were trying to live without breathing, everybody was so rigid. So the Xavier loss, you know, it's in the rearview mirror now. I'm not one of those that believes losing is a benefit in any way, shape or form.
Q. When you see the way early entry is going now, there might be 12 or 13 high school guys going in the draft this year, do you think down the line you may see more programs like Saint Joseph's, Xavier, UAB with upper class dominated teams advancing further and further in the tournament?
COACH MARTELLI: I absolutely believe that. I don't know that it's just because the kids are going early. I think that the kids who are going to school, they want to go somewhere and get an opportunity early in their career. They don't want to wait around. So they'd like to be able to go somewhere and say, "Can I go there and make my mistakes?" As it was maybe when I started, 19, 20 years ago in this business, they were all going to the same place because they were the only ones on TV. B, they thought the only way to get to the next level was to go through certain programs. Well, that's not the case anymore. I think you're going to see young kids go, take their chances as developing, but go somewhere where they can get a chance to make their mistakes and not just sit for a year or two behind somebody else that was the All-American in their own year.
Q. When you scout a team, get your team ready, I know you prefer looking at the individual player, comparing him to another player. If you could step aside and look at this team, Wake Forest, do they are resemble Xavier more than any other team or less?
COACH MARTELLI: No, I do that for the team. I give them an example of what I think this team is like. To me, they're like GW from the Atlantic 10. They have athletes all over the floor. They run. They're fast. They're aggressive. They're also balanced, like Villanova. They have four double-figure scores. Everybody concentrates on Paul and Gray, "They're the guys, they're the guys, they're the guys." Downey gets double figures, Williams gets double figures. To me, they have a balance like Villanova. You have to pick and choose against Villanova who you want to try to shut down, but they have players all over the floor, athletes all over the floor, young athletes, very similar to GW. I don't see them as Xavier-like because Xavier is really riding Chalmers a senior, Miles a senior, Sado (ph). These guys don't have seniors.
Q. Jameer, flirted with going to the NBA last year. Where would this team be this season if he did decide to go to the NBA last season?
COACH MARTELLI: We'd be watching. We'd all be sitting home saying, "Gee, isn't it great Xavier made it from the Atlantic 10. I hope Jim gets healthy and hits more home runs this year." He is the best player in college basketball because he's the best leader in college basketball. From the day that he came back, he has demanded in a very quiet way from his teammates that we pursue excellence, and from his coaches. That's what we've done. We would be good. We would have been good. But we obviously wouldn't be, in my opinion, here on the second weekend of the tournament.
Q. Can you talk about when Jameer was a freshman, obviously you gave him the keys. You see a kid like Chris Paul, what he's doing. How special is it for a kid to be take over and run a program as a freshman point guard?
COACH MARTELLI: I'm really enamored by Chris Paul. I would like to launch an investigation, is that all right? This kid is TJ Ford. Whoever Ford plays for in the NBA, he is not there. He is this kid reincarnated. I'm amazed at his speed, his calm. He hits big shot after big shot. But not only he hits them, he wants to take them. When I watch him, I do sit there and I think about, "Boy, that's what it was like when we had Jameer." Jameer is not as good a shooter or aggressive a scorer as Chris Paul was as a freshman. I don't know all the freshmen in the country, but if there's anybody that's had more of an impact on their team than this kid has, God bless him, because he is a dynamite, dynamite player.
Q. So with that, what do you anticipate seeing from the match-up of those two guys?
COACH MARTELLI: Well, I'm hoping that experience and a little bit of size pays off. I did do a little scouting while we were waiting in the hallway. Chris Paul walked by. He's taller than I thought he was. He's thin, but he's a little bit taller than I anticipated when I saw him. You know, you can't make it just about the two of them. We all have to guard Paul. I know that they all have to guard Jameer. Really the key will be, I think, who gets into the lane the most, because whichever guy gets into the lane the most, he'll make his teammates that much more effective.
Q. Player of the Year, Jameer Nelson, undefeated regular season record, why is so little expected from this team? Why does it feel like the thought process is they're overachieving?
COACH MARTELLI: Because the Player of the Year is 5'11". People aren't used to that. The Player of the Year is from the Atlantic 10. People aren't used to that. Even though David West was the player of the year in a number of services last year. We play an unorthodox style. We're not going to run out there and throw the ball in the lane. We would like to throw the ball in, have them throw it out, if we can complete those two passes. But other than that, we play a style, but not as fast as Wake. We kind of just fit in. We're pretty good defensively. We're not as good defensively as Pitt and Oklahoma State. I think people have a tough time really touching and feeling us. But when you watch us, I think you enjoy what you're seeing. Obviously it's been effective 29 times this year.
Q. You and your players seem to fully embrace the excitement around the program. Has it ever been a problem in the last week or two getting your team focused on preparation for a game?
COACH MARTELLI: To be honest with you, it hasn't been a problem because this has been going on in Philadelphia since the Eagles lost the NFC championship game. I said to somebody, "This is like Selection Sunday." Every day since then, whether it's an a national media outlet coming in, a newspaper reporter, the Sports Illustrated situation, this thing has just kept climbing and climbing. We all look around and we'll say, "That's as much as it can become. Can't become any bigger than that, can it?" It just keeps getting bigger. I told the team last night there are several things I'm really impressed with being with them all the time. One is that they just deal with this. There's no high, there's no low, there's no lunacy. "Did you see what that guy wrote about me? I can do whatever I want." They just handle the task at hand. Even the bumps along the way, you know, we go to a restaurant, it takes a long time for them to get a meal. Most teams I had would get anxious, silly. These guys kind of flat line out. "What do you want us to do next? Let's get it done." The welcome challenge that they have is they get to play basketball, whether it's in practice or a game every day. I'm amazed by them. But the attention has not altered their way of acting in any way, shape or form.
Q. I don't know if you have any relationship with Mike Montgomery or not. Was there any slight feeling of satisfaction that they went out first? Your league has two standing, the so-called power conference out there is watching on TV.
COACH MARTELLI: I'm absolutely elated for the Atlantic 10. I think that the Atlantic 10 statement of non-conference strength of schedule, No. 1 for years and years and years, kind of dictated, originated by John Cheney, then everybody has followed up. I think the administrators in the Atlantic 10, each of the individual schools, allowing their coaches to go out and play these kind of schedules, I think that's a great statement. The first part of the question, because I see myself as a teacher and a coach, I feel, and I can be an emotional guy, I don't know that you ever picked that up, any of you, but I can be an emotional guy every once in a while, I feel for all these teams that go out. You know how hard it is for them to be in a locker room, because I know what that locker room is like. You feel for people that are in that situation, whether they be a one seed, eight seed, whatever the number would be, whether they won every game all year or they managed to sneak into the tournament. It's really a challenge from one -- for a coach, that's the most challenging time, that last game, because they're collecting your uniforms. You're really not prepared. You don't really know what to say. So I feel for Mike Montgomery. I feel for Tubby Smith, Mark, all those guys that went out, maybe questioned what kind of year they've had, because they've had great years.
THE MODERATOR: Coach, thank you.
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