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March 28, 1997

Bobby Jackson

Sam Jacobson

Courtney James

Charles Thomas


ALFRED WHITE: We have the Minnesota players with us now.

Q. Courtney, talk about your feeling as you got back on this floor. You played here, won the state championship, and now you're book here again. Coming back home with all your friends.

COURTNEY JAMES: It feels real good to be in the Final Four. And I'm sure the team feels the same way. But playing back on the home floor. And I played the high school state championship here, and it's real special for me. And it's going to feel real good when game time comes tomorrow.

Q. Courtney, again, could you talk a little bit about how a guy growing up in Indiana with Duke down the road in Indiana winds up with Minnesota?

COURTNEY JAMES: I looked at all my choices and I looked at the outside 5 schools. I picked the school I thought was best for me. And I guess I picked the right school. We're in the Final Four right now. Indiana and Purdue were on my list. I looked at the team, I looked at the coaches. I felt I needed to get a change and get out of Indiana so I went to Minnesota.

Q. Charles, could you talk about how you got to Minnesota in playing for Clem after your run through the All 8 Classic and the Sweet 16 in Kentucky, your senior year.

CHARLES THOMAS: Coach Thorson (ph) and Coach Barns (ph) recruited me early when I was a freshman in high school. And they really sold the University of Minnesota to me. And I felt it was the right situation for me.

Q. Bobby, talk a little bit about Kentucky's defense, and what they'll do, and have you guys seen anything like it either in the full court or the half court?

BOBBY JACKSON: Defense is sort of like ours, the way they run the pressure. We pretty much have seen all year a lot of variety of things. The main key about Kentucky is the pressure defense. We've got to come out and execute and push the ball down the court. I think if we do that we'll be really successful until the game.

Q. Bobby, growing up I'm sure you played against guys like Fred Campbell, how much did that help you and make you into the player you are today?

BOBBY JACKSON: I haven't done a lot of playing, like Freddy Brown are tremendous athletes. I think by playing with that group of guys it really motivated me and helped me learn the game. I didn't really start learning to play the game until I was in college. But they really helped me out a lot.

Q. Bobby, I want to know who was your favorite team growing up, college team growing up in North Carolina and why?

BOBBY JACKSON: Of course I'm from North Carolina I was always a Tar Heel fan. And I wanted to go to North Carolina coming out of school, but I didn't meet the requirements to go there. But I'm not mad that they'd recruit me out of junior college. Dean Smith is a great coach, and he has a fine basketball program. I just wanted to move on with my life, even if it wasn't the University of North Carolina. Like I said, they've got a great program and hopefully things will work out for the both of us.

Q. Well, Sam, a lot of people since you were a young kid in high school expected this to be the kind of destiny you had to be in the Final Four with the Gophers. Can you talk a little bit about what that's been like, being so closely followed by the hometown fans and finally being here with the team?

SAM JACOBSON: Definitely it's been great for me growing up in Minnesota. Basically a dream come true following the Gophers throughout my childhood and finally being a part of this great program and being a part of the success in this program in the last couple of years. And it's just basically a dream come true, and it's something I want to take advantage of now that I'm here.

Q. How much of an advantage do you feel that Kentucky has having been here last year as opposed to you guys here for the first time?

BOBBY JACKSON: I think it had to do with the advantage, we've got a great team and Kentucky has a great team. I think it boils down to who is going to play the hardest. If we play the hardest and do the offense and the things that's going to help us win. If Kentucky goes out there and do the things, execute the offense and that will help them win, they will be successful. I think you've got to look at -- I know everybody's favoring Kentucky because they've been here and won last year. But we're staying in focus and not thinking about what other people are saying. We're going to come in here and play our style of game and not let everybody get to us. We're going to stay focused and listen to what the coach has to say to us.

Q. Sam, I'm assuming you're drawing Ron Mercer on the defensive end, if that is so, can you talk a little bit about that?

SAM JACOBSON: Yeah, Ron Mercer is an outstanding player. I think it's not going to be an individual player, just me trying to stop him, it's going to be a team defense. I don't think anytime you've got an outstanding player like that, there's no way one person can stop you. And they shouldn't be able to stop you. And it's all about team defense. I'm going to matchup with him, but it's going to be a team effort.

Q. Bobby, could you talk about matching up with Wayne Turner and the pressure that Kentucky brings?

BOBBY JACKSON: They bring a lot of pressure, and me and all the guards have to handle it. Kentucky has some great guards, such as Wayne, but we also bring pressure, too. And people don't realize that. We're just going to go out and do the things that got us here from day one. The pressure defense, we're going to go out and do the things that got us here.

Q. Can you talk about growing up in Harlan and were you a Kentucky fan and how did you end up in Minnesota?

CHARLES THOMAS: Well, I grew up in Harlan. I was a Kentucky fan, but it wasn't ever a dream of mine to play for Kentucky. I wanted to be part of a quality program, winning program, and just come in and help the team win. That's my main thing coming out and being productive, helping the team I never dreamed of being a part of Kentucky's program. It wasn't the time for me to go there. But I feel like I'm in the right situation now.

Q. Bobby, Coach Haskins has talked about how he doesn't like earrings and big shorts and tatoos and all that kind of stuff. Can you talk about what it's like to play for him and do you have -- do you feel like you watch the way you talk around him or how you dress and just kind of what it's like to be a player under him?

BOBBY JACKSON: Well, it's great to be a player under a great coach like Coach Haskins. He brings so much to the game. And everybody knows his style, and we respect that. And if we didn't respect that we wouldn't be here. So that's all I've got to say. He's just a great motivator and he brings a lot to the game. And people don't realize that he's such a great coach and he's done so much for the game. And we understand what he wants out of us.

Q. They have tried to make some comparisons, with the Iowa team, and the type of pressure that they put on. Is there any comparisons to playing Iowa and what you see in Kentucky?

BOBBY JACKSON: Iowa brings a lot of pressure and Kentucky does, too. So they're kind of similar. But our impressions is for 40 minutes they don't let up. They're just like Kentucky. We just have to handle the pressure. If we do the things that we did against Iowa I think we'll be really successful.

Q. I'm told that the crowd responds very specifically to you in home games, that they boo when you get taken out of the game. Do the guys kid you about that and how do you respond to that kind of thing?

SAM JACOBSON: I'm in my junior year, so I think I'm used to it, it's not anything really special. I think a lot of fans have followed me through my high school career, since I went to Minnesota they basically are still following me and watching me. And I thank them for that, for supporting me, and supporting this team. I think we've got a great support from Minnesota, in the last two places, in San Antonio and Kansas City, we've had great crowd support. As far as kidding around with me, it doesn't happen too much. You just don't see it on this team right now.

Q. Charles, Kentucky has a reputation for ferocious practices and great physical conditioning. You've practiced against some of these guys. Did you notice that in them and is that maybe -- we talk about the comparisons with Iowa, is Kentucky going to maybe stay on it a little more than Iowa does as far as the pressure is concerned?

CHARLES THOMAS: I think they're very similar, but I think Kentucky is more pressure, because they travel a lot more, for 40 minutes. As far as conditioning, I think we're well conditioned also. We've just got to go out and execute on both ends of the floor and we'll be successful.

Q. This question is for Courtney. You guys arrived two days before the other teams, has that been an advantage to help you get acclimated for all the things going on here?

COURTNEY JAMES: We tried to get out of Minnesota, a lot of friends, like family wanted to talk about us, we tried to get focused on the game by coming in a couple of days early, staying in the hotel, and chilling, going out on the town to eat and see the city. I tried to show them around, have a good time. But the main thing is on basketball. A lot of friends and media wanted to see us and talk to us in Minnesota.

Q. Courtney, you've played in front of a lot of big crowds before, but what's it like to see 20 thousand people at practice?

COURTNEY JAMES: This is a great feeling. Everybody was taking pictures and bring their cameras, because this is an once in a lifetime thing, you play in the Final Four. We dream about it. Everybody dreams about getting here. We finally made it. We can talk about it all year, but everybody had their doubts. We had great intentions, but when tournament time started we worked hard all season, like we were capable of doing it, and execute our games we can make it here. We had the jitters, but in two or three minutes we get in the flow.

Q. You guys have all talked about how the NCAA last year got you together and redoubled your efforts. Did you go to work the day after you got back from the NIT?

COURTNEY JAMES: We started right after the game at NIT, right after we lost to Tulane. And since then all season we just worked; weight room, conditioning, shooting, drilling with a lot of stuff. And when the season started I felt we were ready to take on anybody in the world. And we proved that this year, we had a great team record and a great nonconference record, but we finally made it to the Final Four. We're not satisfied yet, we want to win this championship.

Q. There was a question earlier that referred to a tatoo ban. Does Coach Haskins allow it or not? It seems half the players in the country have them?

SAM JACOBSON: Let's go to whoever has one.

BOBBY JACKSON: Well, I had my tatoo before I got here. Courtney got here -- coach didn't like that. Coach don't like tatoos and earrings. But we understand that. But there isn't no way we can take them off, so we're going to have to stick with it. And you listen to Coach, he knows what's best for the game. We don't bring earrings or anything, because he finds everything.

End of FastScripts....

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