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October 19, 2006

Billy Gillispie


PETER IRWIN: We are now ready for Texas A&M University and Billy Gillispie. Welcome, Coach. Would you like to make an opening comment or two?
COACH GILLISPIE: Glad to be back. A lot of change in the conference. We are really looking forward to a fun and exciting season. For the first time we have some experience returning and we have some newcomers that I think will have a major impact on our team.
And practice has been going okay. I know no coach has gotten up here today and said that it's going really well, but we are trying hard and we are trying to get better and we have a long way to go and hopefully we will get there.

Q. Billy, you may have talked about this, but your two kids from Seagoville, and Bryan Davis, are they really going to have an impact?
COACH GILLISPIE: They need to, Mike. I think that Donald Sloan and Derrick Roland, I think as far as having toughness and athletic ability and hunger and those kind of things, they are as far along as any freshman I have been around in that respect. They don't know exactly where to go and how to do it, those kind of things. But they are tough enough already. They are athletic enough and they are strong enough and those kind of things, and I am really pleased with how well they have done.
And they will have to make a major impact for our team. Their athletic ability is really going to help us. It will help us play faster, help us defensively and rebound better and I expect great things from them.
Bryan Davis, he reminds me a lot of Joe Jones as a freshman, and that's saying a lot. I don't know if he will be forced to play like Joseph was as a freshman because we didn't have too many alternatives at that point. But he has some -- he is tough like Joe and he has really good hands and he has an understanding of how to play the game.
So he is really a lot further along than most freshmen in a lot of different areas. But he is in the same boat. They are all running around trying to figure it out right now. At least they are running around fast. They are trying hard.

Q. Billy, I know last year you had a red shirt freshman that you seemed to be excited about 6' 10" Junior Elonu. Talk a little bit about him, and then also a player that came so fast at the end of last year, Josh Carter, if you could elaborate on both of those.
COACH GILLISPIE: Chinemulu Elonu, we call him Junior, because we can't pronounce his name. And if a coach is going to be yelling, you don't want to be staying Chineme Elonu, and you will be mispronouncing his name and you will get mad at yourself and they will laugh and the players will laugh even more so, so we call him junior. He gives you quite a reason to get mad at him quite frequently.
He is an athletic guy that -- he is a different type guy that we don't have. I don't think Bryan Davis will ever be a shot blocker. I don't think Joe and Antanas is a shot blocker. Marlon is probably the best shot blocker we have. But junior is a guy, he can block three or four shots a game if he gets an opportunity to play that much. He is still very, very, very raw. He is still very, very inexperienced. He started playing the game at a very late age. And I hope he is able to make a major impact for us this year because we could use his athletic ability inside.
As far as -- what was your second part?

Q. Josh Carter?
COACH GILLISPIE: Josh Carter, he's grown to 6' 7 1/2" now. When I saw him as a senior and we recruited him he is about 6' 3 1/2" legitimately. He has put on 15 or 20 pounds of muscle. His body looks a little bit thin, but he has matured physically. And I think he will have a fantastic year. I think he will continue to work hard and I think he will continue to emerge as one of the better players in the Big 12 before he is done with his career.
And he is very important to us this year because of his offensive offense capability.

Q. Billy, a couple years you had talked about getting the roster to where you want it to be. How close is this roster to where you want it to be? Is it a lot deeper now --
COACH GILLISPIE: Excuse me for interrupting. It is a lot closer to being a complete roster, but it is not there yet. And I think -- I think it takes four or five years really because you are trying to get a program started, and then the guys you get it started with are gone. And then you have three, four, five guys coming in every year.
I think it takes a while to get it exactly like you want it. But it is a more complete roster because we have more athletic guys. And I think we are to the point now in our recruiting to where we can start recruiting closer to needs than just recruiting good players, and we will try to recruit good players that fit needs now.
So we have some short-comings. Like right now, we are not big enough on the wing. We have some question marks about who is going to be Acie's guy who gives him a few minutes. So hopefully we are going to be able to continue to develop our roster so that we can have a complete roster.

Q. Billy, can you just talk about the importance of having Joseph and Acie and having that kind of experience and leadership?
COACH GILLISPIE: It is fantastic to have them. They are great people, number one. I love our team as far as the kind of people they are and the things that they bring. They are such quality young men, all of them. Those two especially. It has been so much fun to watch Acie develop into the kind of player I thought he could become, but also into the kind of young man that he is so pleasing to be around and he is so family oriented and he is so -- he is such a good leader to the young players and he is just a great, great, great young man. It has been fun to watch him develop into that kind of guy.
Yesterday, he had to go to a study session and he had to leave practice early. And I think we have some other good players on our team. I was thinking, man alive, I don't want him to leave. It is going to be too soon before he is gone.
Joe is the same kind of guy. He is one of the best young men I have ever been around. We have had a lot of people come in and watch practice as far as we have had some scouts come in. We have had a lot of high school coaches. We have had a lot of folks come in, and every time, they have something to say about those guys, as well as all of our other guys. They talk about how good a people they are.
When people want to talk about turn-arounds and those kinds of things, it is all about character qualities and eliminating distractions. And these guys put their hard hat on every day and they eliminate distractions such as missing -- they don't miss class. I am talking about our entire team.
Now you can get down to the work, okay? Now we are going to work to get better because we don't have any distractions. And those two guys provide so much leadership for us, they won't let anybody mess up. It is really, really nice to have that on your team.
This is the first year, John, we have really had any older leadership -- I mean, experienced leadership. These guys were young and they were forced to do it at an early age, but now we have some guys that have been around for two or three years and that experienced leadership is even better than any other kind.

Q. Billy, the Big 12 has won national championships in just about everything but basketball. Does the league need to win a NCAA basketball championship to stop that from becoming an issue?
COACH GILLISPIE: I didn't know that we hadn't, and I didn't know it was an issue.

Q. I am not saying it is. The people are starting to wonder. Do you think, Stop it before it becomes an issue?
COACH GILLISPIE: I don't know. I don't know how those things go or whatever. I know that the Big 12 is very, very, very highly respected in every basketball circle, and so I know it is with fans. I know it is with media. I know it is with players. Players really want to play in the Big 12. As we evolve into, I guess, our 11th year, is that right, I think it will continue to get better and better and better.
10 or 15 years ago, guys would leave the state at a much higher rate. In our particular state, guys would leave the region, the Big 12 corridor or whatever up I-35, I think they probably looked for different outlets to be exposed more or whatever.
I think now they say, Well, the Big 12 is good enough. You don't have to go anywhere else, and why would they? The more good players you have and the more high-quality coaches that you have, and they have always had great coaches, but it continues to get better and better.
Somebody will win a national championship before too long, and it could be this year. We are always in the final -- I don't know all the details of it. But I know that somebody is always in the Final 4 or Elite 8 every single year. We get a lot of exposure.
It would be nice to have that crown.

Q. Billy, can you talk a little bit about the atmosphere at A&M now, the basketball atmosphere, how that has changed since have you been there?
COACH GILLISPIE: I think everyone was willing to give us a chance when we first started, but they didn't really know what to expect. And so we kind of hit it like a tornado in there and came hard and just going and going.
And I think people kind of -- they have embraced us from day one. But I think that they were thinking, Man alive, what's going on over here?
So when we started to win, I think that people started to get excited, but I think it was kind of cautious a little bit. Again, they still didn't know what to expect.
I think now people have really started to believe. I am talking about on campus, I am talking about in the community and I am talking about all the Aggies everywhere. And I think they are all really excited. I feel a real certain buzz everywhere you go.
People are excited about our basketball program and our team in particular. It has been fun to watch that. It has been fun for me as a coach to see how our players react to the buzz. And it has also been fun for me to see a lot of old Aggies out there all over the place that are really excited about basketball, maybe for the first time in a long, long time.
It has been fun to see their excitement grow.

Q. Why don't you talk a little bit about the upgrade and the schedule, and obviously you feel this team is ready for that, if you have got those teams on the schedule like LSU and UCLA.
COACH GILLISPIE: Yeah. I was going to scold you all for not asking that question because you all got after us pretty good the last two years about the schedule - and rightfully so, though. You all are always right. I am saying it is rightfully so.
Just about that, Richard, our philosophy is exactly the same as it was on the schedule. Our philosophy was, Let's try to do what we can to prepare our team to play in conference.
That's what we did two years ago. That's what we did last year and that's what we did this year. And the names of the teams have changed quite drastically, but the philosophy I think will always remain the same, Let's try to get ready to play in conference.
I think we have a very, very dangerous schedule. I think we have too many hard games on our schedule and I think the two teams that you mentioned, I think that's -- quite obvious that's what everyone would kind of want to focus on when we talk about our schedule, is UCLA and LSU in the same week.
And the danger is your first game is always hard. Then you are playing Lamar and Louisiana Tech and St. Louis and our first Shelby Metcalf Classic, and then you are playing Ohio State, he is a new coach and brings a lot of excitement. He has won three national championships in the junior college ranks.
And then you are playing Arkansas, Little Rock which has the rebounding leader in the NCAA returning. And then you are playing Pacific who whipped us last year. And then you got Fordham and Winthrop who had Tennessee knocked out as a two-seed last year and they have five of their top guys coming back.
Auburn was a freshman and sophomore team last year. Now they are sophomores and juniors and we had to barely scrape by at home. I think it is easy to focus on two games, but I think we would be foolish to do so.
The entire 14-game schedule will be very difficult for us. Even though we do have some experience, it is going to be very, very, very difficult for us to come through it the right way, I would think.
PETER IRWIN: Coach, thank you very much. We wish you the best of luck for the season.
COACH GILLISPIE: Thanks, everybody. Good to see everybody again.

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