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April 1, 2005

Luther Head

Jack Ingram

Roger Powell

Bruce Weber

Deron Williams


JOHN GERDES: Please address your questions to a specific student-athlete or if it's more than one, please let us know who you are addressing the question to. Open it up to questions at this time.

Q. Deron, as you look at Louisville, scout them, do they look a mirror image of you with three guys on the perimeter?

DERON WILLIAMS: I think they're very similar to us. Most of the credit goes to their guards, but their big guys are underrated just like ours. I think it's going to be a great match-up.

Q. Luther, can you talk about as the run has gone on, if at all, has your coach changed, what you see in him as he's gotten to this first Final Four as a coach, person, and how he's acted towards you guys?

LUTHER HEAD: I don't think it's different than that. I think he's been the same way the whole year-round. Probably got some confidence as we have coming to this stage and just going as far as we've gone.

Q. Luther and Deron, is this Final Four going to turn into a 3-point shooting contest? If it does, do you like your chances?

LUTHER HEAD: Who knows. I hope it doesn't. I hope we play great defense. We don't care about the scoring. We don't care where it comes from. As long as we defend well, we got confidence going into the game.

DERON WILLIAMS: I don't know what's going to transpire. We know they like to shoot a lot of threes. We have a tendency to shoot threes. Hopefully we can make them. Like Luther said, we rely on our defense. Our defense really wasn't there for us against Arizona, that's something we got to come out and have that intensity and that defensive pressure that we usually do.

Q. Do any of you do a good impersonation of your coach? Do you ever joke about his voice?

JACK INGRAM: I don't know. There's not really like a voice impression, but he gives some crazy looks. There's a couple pounds, he'll go boop.

ROGER POWELL: The boop thing, that's my impression right there.

Q. Deron, I wonder how important turnovers might wind up being in this game.

DERON WILLIAMS: They're always important for us. We try to take care of the ball as much as possible, so that's something we got to do. Especially against their pressure and their zone, we can't get careless with the ball because that can end up costing you a game.

Q. Deron, they've played a lot of zone. Can you assess their zone, what they do well with it, does their length make it difficult?

DERON WILLIAMS: I think that's the key. They're long all around the board. Shortest guy out there is 6'3". That presents a little bit of a problem. They do a good job of swarming the ball when it goes inside or goes baseline. They just do a great job out of the zone.

Q. Looking around town, there's a lot of Illinois fans in town. What does it mean to you to have so much support from so close by for this weekend?

ROGER POWELL: It means a lot. Every place we played so far in a tournament, we had a great showing of Illini fans, a lot of orange. I think that helps us a lot. It's so exciting for the fans, for them to be able to come and be close. It's such a blessing.

JACK INGRAM: I don't know if we'll be able to quite recreate last weekend with how many fans we had compared to everyone else. You have to give credit to our fans because they really helped us through a couple tough stretches and really got us over the hump last Saturday. We just appreciate all the fan support. It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for our fans and stuff. We're just glad that they're here for us.

Q. Earlier the Louisville players and coach indicated the inside game may be as important as the guard play. Roger and Jack, your thoughts on your importance in the game tomorrow night?

ROGER POWELL: I think we play a big role in the game. I think all along we've played a very big role with this team. That's the thing that's good about our team, we have great guards. But then we have a good core inside, presence. I think the thing -- the inside is going to help a lot tomorrow, but if everyone is not playing well together, you can't really just depend on one aspect of our team. It's pretty much everyone.

JACK INGRAM: I think we do a good job. When we do a good job, we take some of the pressure off the guards. Teams have tried to take away our guards by zoning off the bigs. We really have to make teams accountable for how they play defense. We have to keep them honest. If we can make plays and make shots, the guards do a great job of giving us great opportunities. We just have to take advantage of them.

Q. Can you talk about your Final Four experience so far, including last night's NCAA presentation.

LUTHER HEAD: The presentation yesterday was great. I mean, had a chance to see all those guys, get a chance to talk with some of those guys before we go to war here. I mean, this is a great experience being here. Making the season being better, just to make it to the goal that we've been playing for all year. We don't want it to end. We still want to keep going. We know we still got goals to meet.

Q. Luther, how is your hamstring? It's been a few weeks since Bruce's mom has died. Can you talk about what, if any, effect that's had on you, how important his family has been to you?

LUTHER HEAD: My hamstring is doing a lot better. I've been getting a lot of treatment. I'm feeling like it can get better. Hopefully by tomorrow I can be a hundred percent.

DERON WILLIAMS: You know, coach's situation was a bad one, in all aspects. We tried to help him through it because we're a family. I think us making it to the Final Four, even though you can't take away from that loss, but it's helped him get through it, helped him have a bright spot in his days.

Q. Did you guys have to learn to be unselfish? Did the coach pound it into you? Did you come about it naturally?

JACK INGRAM: I really think it's just been ever since we all got on campus. We just came together. Everyone was such different backgrounds, we just came together. We were such a close-knit group from the very beginning. When we kind of took the off-the-court situation, it blended real easy to on the court. We really just want to win. We all know if the team does well -- one thing coach says, if the team does well, we'll get individual praise. It's worked out for all of us. It's one of the things that has been almost seamless off the court to on the court.

Q. Roger and Deron, you are predominantly juniors and seniors. What is the biggest impact that that experience brings to this club?

DERON WILLIAMS: I think it just brings us a lot of leadership and maturity. We've all been through it. We've been through NCAA tournaments, Big-10 championships. I just think we're prepared this year mentally and physically. We knew what we had to do to get to this point. I think we just went out and did that.

ROGER POWELL: Like he said, we have so much experience. We have a lot of maturity. We've been in different situations, big games. So we're pretty much ready for anything. We're pretty much ready for what the game situation is going to be like so we don't get rattled as much. I think that plays a big part.

Q. Deron, what do you think of the movement to maybe move back the three-point line in college basketball?

DERON WILLIAMS: I don't -- makes me no difference. I played with it back playing USA, you know, going overseas. I guess I'm kind of used to it.

JOHN GERDES: Gentlemen, thank you very much. We'll be joined by Coach Weber. We'll make Coach Weber to make an opening comment.

COACH WEBER: I mean, obviously we're very excited to be here, to be part of it. I think the first kind of moment where you kind of recognize that you're here, when we crossed the bridge. All year we've seen the posters, March to the Arch, then all of a sudden it's a beautiful night, we're coming across the bridge, the city is lit up, the Arch. A couple of kids were joking about it, but I think it hit them that we were truly here. This is what our goal was, to get here, make a run at a national championship. I think yesterday the salute where they honored all the four teams, I think that was a special moment that they'll always remember. I'm sure the practice today will be something -- I know they've talked about it, are excited about it. But overall they've kept their focus. We've had good, hard practices this week. All I've asked of them is that they come and play their hearts out, don't leave anything behind. You know, this is a game you're going to remember forever, and you don't want to have regrets, something that will run through your mind that you didn't do or could have done. You know, just go after it.

Q. You had said last week that the pressure on your team to get here was fairly stifling. Now that you're here and you've seen St. Louis and you've qualified for the Final Four, do you feel that your team is going to relax and play maybe even better than it has in the tournament so far?

COACH WEBER: I hope so. You know, I've talked to the kids about the miraculous comeback. No matter what, everything had to fall right for us to come back from 15. In a way, we grabbed the victory, but at the same time we got a break. Now let's take advantage of it. At the same time Louisville, they made the great comeback also, so they're probably saying the same thing. I'm not sure the kids felt the pressure. Maybe that's why we got a little stagnant in the second half. I know as a staff, we wanted it so bad. Maybe the kids wanted it that bad. We always talk about the players, they need to want it just as much as the coaches. The way they played that last four minutes in overtime, maybe they did want it just as much as us and that's why we were successful. We got over the hump. Now we're here, we're just going to relax and play.

Q. Because you've had to live being No. 1 all year, were one shot away from being undefeated, how big of a disappointment would it be not to finish off your goal? Everyone's happy to be at the Final Four, but you're almost a special case considering you've been the top dog for so long.

COACH WEBER: Well, you know, one of the goals we talked about St. Louis since I got the job. We talked about winning a national championship all year. Every day they start practice and they end practice with a little chant or whatever. Part of it is "national champion." We'll see if that was rhetoric or if it really meant something. We'll see by their actions on the court. As far as disappointment, yeah, you know, you have a chance, an opportunity. We're one of four that has a chance. You have special teams that have a chance. We would be disappointed. But at the same time we've had an unbelievable journey, the last four or five months, whatever it's been. It's been spectacular, one that's going to go down in history. It's the hundredth anniversary of Illinois basketball. It's so ironic that it's the best season of all time. It would even be more special, a fairytale, great ending of a story if we could be crowned as national champion in the hundredth year.

Q. The way that you play, the way Louisville plays with three perimeter guys, bigs who can go out and shoot, is that a trend in college basketball, is it an outgrowth of the young kids that are big enough that immediately they go to the NBA?

COACH WEBER: I've been asked that several times throughout the year. For one thing, there aren't as many big kids. I'm not sure what it is. I've joked, something in the water 18, 20 years ago, they stopped growing or something. Then the few that you maybe could pick up end up going to the NBA early. But I also think at the same time the big kids that are there, the 6'8", 6'9" kids, instead of getting big, strong, working on post moves, they're working on three-pointers. That's the influence of the international players, Nowitski, guys like that, now you've had to adjust with your teams. Playing small, we did it in the Missouri Valley. We had success. When I got the job, one of the first things those three guards came to me, "Can we play together?" I didn't even flinch because we had had such success at Southern Illinois, I didn't feel it was going to be a question mark. I'm sure everyone would love to get a big guy, but at the same time you kind of take what's there and make the most of it. Right now it seems like the trend is more small ball than anything.

Q. Can you talk a little bit about how you've been able to share this Final Four experience with Gene Keady? I know he's been to a couple awards breakfasts with you. What other things have you done to give him the experience that he never got?

COACH WEBER: I more than anything thanked him. I would not have this opportunity if it wasn't for him. You know, first him giving me an opportunity to coach. Second of all, all of the things about life and basketball that I learned from him. You know, he's why I'm here. I said it after the game the other night, you know, I wish he could be here, to be honest. I'm not sure -- I said this, and I hope people didn't take it wrong, I'm not sure I deserve it. There's so many guys that put more time, whether it's Coach Keady, Coach Chaney, so many guys that have been important to our game that didn't get here. I wanted to make sure that the kids understand that, that it is so special. There are a lot of people, great players, great teams, great coaches that haven't got here. One thing I want to emphasize, I think our kids deserve to be here. What we've done this season, you know, it's amazing. I mean, the consistency, the comeback, the attention that we've had, to deal with the big target, the bigger target, the bigger target, and they continue to play with that poise, don't team to get rattled. I hope we can perform well here also because they deserve to be here and they deserve to play well.

Q. It's been a long road for you nonetheless to get here in your career. I wondered if like in maybe year 12 or 13 as an assistant coach under Keady that maybe you wondered or resigned yourself that this kind of moment might not happen for you.

COACH WEBER: The one thing, I've said this before, I love the journey. I loved being an assistant coach at Purdue. I would have stayed there forever. I loved working for coach, we had success. I got a chance to work USA Basketball, so many opportunities I never dreamed of. It was a simple life, but it was a great life. I enjoyed it. I didn't think I could top it, and we went to Southern, had just an unbelievable run. I enjoyed that. Of course, now it's even gotten better here. But there were times, you know, I think other people kept saying, "You got to become a head coach, how can you stand it, why are you staying there as an assistant?" But I liked it. I would doubt myself. I'd start thinking, "Man, what's wrong with me? Maybe I don't have the urge." If it came, it came. I was patient. It worked out. I think all the preparation helped me be ready for Southern and helped me be ready for this.

Q. What has last month been like for your family? Has the success you and David both have had been any kind of a comfort at all in this time?

COACH WEBER: Really, my mom passed now it's four weeks I think today actually. We haven't really had a chance to grieve. We did almost publicly over that weekend. It was tough to deal with. But then we knew how important our lives and our careers were to my mom and my dad. We knew we had to go on with it. There's no doubt they would be so excited, so proud. You know, they sacrificed so much for us to be where we are now. They wanted us to have a better life. They wanted us to be teachers and coaches. We're living their dream. I think when the season ends, we'll get together as a family, reminisce, talk about what missing mom, missing dad. But at the same time it's been a relief, it's been joy. You know, you can't get any better with my brother winning the state championship in Illinois, then myself having the success that we've had.

Q. Do you remember back in 1980 when you were at Western, what your sales pitch to Coach Keady was like there?

COACH WEBER: I went to see him. I drove down there, we didn't hook up when I was there. I went back. I called him. I was working camps. I was a young guy, didn't have a lot of money. He said, "Come back down to see me." This is a true story. I can still remember, I was at Marquette University High School on a pay phone. I said, "Coach, I can't afford to come back down. I can't take off camp again. Either you hire me or you don't." I think he felt bad because he wasn't there the first time I came down, and he hired me. Then the ironic thing is, another sad thing that happened was the first day I got there, my sister got killed in a car wreck and I had to go back to Milwaukee. Here he hires this guy, and I can't even be there. It was a tragedy that started the career, craziness. Then I came back. It's all ironic, crazy, being in the right place at the right time, how things worked out. Then being with him for 19 years, which is a long -- nearly half my life.

Q. Could you talk about the Orange Crush, they're kind of a unique organization raising money for charity, what they have meant to you. Obviously, there's a lot of them out there.

COACH WEBER: Really, all our fans are tremendous. A lot of people have great fans. But I think our team is special this year. There was so much riding on it, such high expectations. They've been with us from the start of the season, whether it's at home or on the road. I mean, we go to Georgetown, and we might have had more orange than they had. You're in Washington, D.C. They were in Vegas. They've been everywhere. The Orange Crush organization, not only are they great at the games, but they do so much off the court, whether it's raising money for charities. They go out in the community and work, helping with different organizations, working in schools. It's a special group. They're basketball fans, but they go beyond that.

Q. You shot 35 threes against Arizona. Does that number scare you when you look back and see how many you shot? Is that sort of in the range you are comfortable with?

COACH WEBER: It's a little more. In some of them, you have to remember near the end we were trying to catch up. It was a little bit higher than we wanted to. Some of it was how Arizona defended us. They just clogged up the middle. Frye was tremendous. He didn't let anything in the paint. We had to just take what they gave us, and that was the three. I would hope our number's down a little bit. You know, a lot will depend on how they defend us. If they zone us, we have to have a lot of threes, then we have to shoot well. I'm not sure any of us will have quite as many threes, but I'm sure there will be three balls going up in that first game tomorrow night.

Q. Can you talk a little bit about just being the sentimental favorite as you come into this tournament with all that's happened with your mother, your proximity to Illinois, all the Orange Crush fans here?

COACH WEBER: I'm not sure. I haven't been out there. I would hope there's a lot of orange, I would hope there's a lot of orange. They've been planning on it. It's a great feeling. As I said, it's been a fairytale season. The last time I talked to my mom, she said, "I keep seeing you on TV all the time, it's amazing. I'm just in awe. People call me." She said, "It's like a fairytale." We've had a fairytale season. Now we got to finish with the last chapter. Our team, it's been so special, unexpected, not totally unexpected, but the way -- from the Wake Forest game, Gonzaga game, the season, at Wisconsin, the big wins, the way we played, the unselfishness, I think not only has it attracted our own fans, but a lot of people around the nation because we hear from quite a few even neutral fans that are excited about our team.

Q. Rick Pitino and other coaches, possibly yourself, have talked about moving back the three-point line. I wondered, if that's done, does it risk taking away anything from what's been so much a part of March Madness with three-point shots or is nine inches not that big of a difference?

COACH WEBER: I don't think it's as big a difference. Kids will adjust. They've adjusted now. Somebody mentioned this morning, we were talking about the three-point line at one of the breakfasts I was at. When the ACC first experimented with it, it was inside the top of the key. People thought maybe that was too far. And now if you watch the NBA, those guys shoot the three very effective. Ray Allen, it's amazing what some of those guys do. So I think the kids will adjust. The one thing I believe it will do, it will spread the defenses. I think it will cut back on the physical play inside, which is I think the main goal of all the rules committee, the coaches involved with the rules committee, to kind of lessen the physical play inside.

JOHN GERDES: Thank you very much, coach. Good luck.

COACH WEBER: Thank you.

End of FastScripts...

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