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March 15, 2007
THE MODERATOR: We have from your left to right A. J. Abrams, D.J. Augustin and Kevin Durant. Let's go ahead and open it to questions for University of Texas student athletes.
Q. Kevin, would you mind talking about what Craig Winder's presence last week has done to energize this team.
KEVIN DURANT: Craig has came off the bench to provide a lot of energy. When we need a basket he comes in and scores and gets the rebound for us. He has helped us out the last three games?
Q. For any of you guys, just your thoughts on New Mexico State. A.J., do you want to take this one?
A.J. ABRAMS: Just watching on film, New Mexico State, they're a pretty good team. They've got big guys inside and a couple of guards they can shoot as well as -- we've got our hands full. I think coach has done a good job of preparing it for us right now.
Q. D. J?
D.J. AUGUSTIN: Like A.J. said, we have to defend well. They have a pretty good team. They have a lot of great guards and a great player in Justin Hawkins and we have to contain him.
KEVIN DURANT: They've got great guards, Justin Hawkins is a great player. We've got to watch out for him. They rebound the ball, too. We have to come in with a mindset to box them out and score points.
Q. For D.J. and Kevin. Can you guys talk about at what point this season did you not feel like a team that was starting four freshmen?
D.J. AUGUSTIN: For me it felt like that the whole season. We started off we had a couple of tight games that prepared us for what we're doing now. The whole team, we play hard every night and we stay focused. We grew up this year and we don't play like freshmen. We just keep getting better every practice and every game.
KEVIN DURANT: Just like D.J. said, ever since the beginning of the season, we've been through tight games. So it's prepared us for this level right here. We've never seen ourselves as freshmen. We just played well?
Q. A.J. you were the veteran, you all had a veteran team last year and this year seven freshman. Did you notice any difference with Coach Barnes this season as opposed to last year? Does he yell less?
A.J. ABRAMS: We had to take it slow for the first couple of weeks and adjust them to college life. Once they hit stride, it didn't take them long to figure it out. I think once they did figure it out, we moved on pretty quick.
Q. Kevin, how dangerous do you think you guys are in this tournament? Can you play with anybody do you feel like?
KEVIN DURANT: I think we're a good team. We can get up and down the floor. We can score points. We can defend. We can rebound. We're just worrying about the next game. We're not worried about going too far down the line. We're just worried about New Mexico State?
Q. Kevin, I'm sure this question gets old. What is your thought process about next year, and how much does the next game or six games going to affect what you do?
KEVIN DURANT: I'm just trying to win games. I'm not worried about next year right now. We're just worried about our next game like I said. Whenever the time comes I make my decision about next year. I'm just worried about winning games in the tournament.
Q. Kevin, and D.J. and A.J. can address this, too. There's a lot of talk that you guys can make a deep run and you're only going to go as far as you take them. Do you feel pressure to take your team and put them on your back and take them?
KEVIN DURANT: It hasn't been a one man team throughout this whole year. A.J. and D.J. have been great this whole year. It's far from a one man team. It goes as far as everybody takes it. There's not a lot of pressure on my back.
D.J. AUGUSTIN: Like Kevin said, the whole team, it's up to us doing this tournament. We have to play hard every night and don't take anything lightly. We play every game like it's our last.
Q. Quick question, Kevin. Is New Mexico State a team that's going to pull you inside more with their height and depth, big men.
KEVIN DURANT: We're going to play like we always play. We're never going to change up our game plan. They have a great offensive rebounding team, defensive rebounding team. We're not going to change up our game plan at all?
Q. D.J., you guys shot 37 percent in the Big-12 Tournament. How much of that was fatigue?
D.J. AUGUSTIN: We got tired during that tournament. It was three tough games we had to play in. Our shots wasn't falling for either of the games. Like I said, at the Big-12 tournament we tried to do other things.
I tried to get my teammates more involved. We all tried to do something different. Our shots wasn't falling. It didn't have nothing to do with being tired. We were pretty tired from those three tough games. It was three great teams we played.
Q. D.J., how much is your running in the offense change as defenses have come on to Kevin later in the year?
D.J. AUGUSTIN: When defenses, they double team Kevin, I have to be ready to attack. They try to score more, and I'm always looking for A.J., too. We have guys who can score, Justin, Harrison, and Damion. Kevin, even when he gets the ball, he's double teamed. You've got to be ready for his passing. We have a lot of rebounders on our team?
Q. Kevin and D.J. with you all being freshmen, has there been anything that Coach Barnes has stressed all week long to try to keep you guys loose?
KEVIN DURANT: He's saying it's a regular game. It's tournament time. Any time this could be our last game. We want to play like our last and keep on doing the things we have throughout the year. We've got to focus on our game plan and hopefully go far.
Q. Kevin, how have you approached big games this season personally and how do you feel like playing on this big stage?
KEVIN DURANT: It's just a game. I've got four other players on the court helping me out. So I don't feel like there's any pressure on my back because other guys do a great job of picking me up and helping me out?
Q. This question is for Kevin or A.J. Coach talked about D.J. and how he felt he was the guy that got you guys going during this time. Can either of you talk about his improvement over the season?
KEVIN DURANT: D.J., he's the engine of our team. He gets us going, like Coach Barnes said, once we see him, we kind of follow him. He does other little things on the court as well. We just follow him after that.
A.J. ABRAMS: Like Kevin said, D.J. gets our offense started with him pushing the ball up the court. Once we see him pushing it, we all follow him because we know if we get spotted up, with the type of player he is, he'll find it and get us the open shot. On offense he does a lot for us and on defense. He plays hard for possession and plays great defense.
Q. For all you guys, you guys have been in a lot of close games this year. When you're in the huddle in a last second situation deciding who's going to take the shot, what are those conversations like? Are you guys fighting each other to get the play called for you? How is that going?
A.J. ABRAMS: No, we're not really fighting to see who gets the last shot or anything. Our offense is pretty much for everyone on the court, but we've just got to listen to the coach to see what's up, what play he draws up. You've got to get it to the right guy at the right time.
If someone is feeling, it then we've got to get that person the ball.
D.J. AUGUSTIN: Like A.J. says, usually the coach will draw up the play and we've got to execute the play. We've got so many guys who can step up and take a big shot. We've got to pay attention in the huddles.
KEVIN DURANT: Like the other two guys said, Coach does draw up great plays. We don't care who takes the shots. We all have confidence in whoever takes it. If A.J. takes the shot or D.J. or myself, we all have confidence in each other.
Q. A.J., asking you about the game on Sunday. I was wondering if there was anything you can learn from that game that you can share with these guys so they don't go scoreless tomorrow?
A.J. ABRAMS: You've got to approach it like another game. It's the NCAA tournament. You also have in the back of your mind if you lose you go home. That's the motivating factor.
We don't want to go home right now. If we want to keep on, we've got to keep playing hard and like it's our last.
Q. For you three, does Rick ever as far as motivational or just going over past teams like maybe Syracuse or Michigan what they were able to do, their years that they had some young guys?
KEVIN DURANT: He did earlier in the year because he just wanted to show us seven freshmen, how they played during this time of year. I think he already know what we have to do and we already know what we have to do. So we're going to go on the floor and do it.
D.J. AUGUSTIN: Like Kevin said coach showed us -- coach is always trying to motivate us with different kind of movie clips before games and things like that.
A.J. ABRAMS: Coach is all about watching film and getting mentally prepared for the game. He did a lot of stuff at the beginning of the year, letting us watch film on other teams like Syracuse, seeing what they did as a young team. And like D.J. said, we watched a lot of Phoenix Suns just to get our offensive game, not just running. We do watch some motivating films before the games just to get us going.
Q. A.J., were you wondering how this whole freshman thing was going to work and wondering, hey, this might be a rough season?
A.J. ABRAMS: Not really. The group of guys that came in, I think that they came in with the mindset that they wanted to get better and work on their game. I think everybody put their ego aside and concentrated on winning. I think that's what you have to do when you have a group of guys come in that are young.
Q. This is for Kevin. How have you managed to keep a level head and have fun this year when everybody is trying to rush you through to the NBA?
KEVIN DURANT: The guys on my team keep me level headed, man, because they're always joking around and things like that. It's all fun. I love being at Texas. This is the best place. This is the greatest decision I ever made by coming here.
My parents keep me level headed as well. I know I'm not ready yet. When that time comes, I'll make the right decision. I love being at Texas. That keeps me level headed.
Q. Question for A.J. You mentioned films the coach shows you before games. Besides basketball game films, what other kinds of movies has he showed you that help motivate you?
A.J. ABRAMS: I think the film -- what's it called, Gladiator. And we watched some film On Any Given Sunday where he's giving the big speech in the locker room. I think that's his favorite one, because we watched that one quite a bit.
After watching that kind of film, it kind of gets you motivated to get out there and pull for your teammates and play hard.
Q. Do you feel like a gladiator? Does that movie inspire you?
A.J. ABRAMS: When we step on the court, we want to go to war with our opponent. I don't mean disrespect or anything by that. Once we step between those lines, we play hard. I guess we do kind of feel like warriors when we get on the court.
Q. Kevin, when Sports Illustrated had you on the cover and talked to you about being maybe the Player of the Year, I came in here a little late, I don't know if you talked about this already. What goes through a young player's mind when you see all that and the accolades you're given?
KEVIN DURANT: It's great, but I came here to win games. That's what I'm trying to do for my team. Anything to help my team out, that's what I'm trying to do. Those accolades and things is always good, but like I said, I want to win?
Q. A.J., you guys have been in a lot more close games this year than you were last year. Do you think this team is more prepared for the NCAA tournament than the team was last year?
A.J. ABRAMS: I don't want to say we're more prepared, but like I said we've been in a lot of close games. So I think that prepared us this season for this tournament. Going into tournament times and having late games go down to the last minute kind of prepares you and gets your mind ready for games like this.
THE MODERATOR: We have University of Texas Coach Rick Barnes with us. Coach, we'll ask you to make a brief opening statement and then turn it open to questions.
COACH RICK BARNES: I'm ready for questions.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for coach.
Q. With such a young team, are you approaching this week differently than you did last year when you had such a veteran team?
COACH RICK BARNES: Not really. We're not going to change anything what we've done up to this point. I've said all along I think that the innocence that this team has approached this season, they've been a loose group of guys. I don't know if I've ever been around a team that's as loose in terms of their preparation.
We haven't always played smart, but we've always played, and we've played with a lot of energy. We won't change it. We haven't changed anything in terms of our preparation coming into this tournament.
Q. Your players were talking about motivational films that you show them before games, little clips of movies that aren't basketball games. What are your favorites? Do you have any new ones up your sleeve for this tournament?
COACH RICK BARNES: Really Todd, our strength coach is a guy who really knows these guys very well. Over the years we've had a bunch that we've looked at. He's always coming up with something funny. We've used a lot of Braveheart, different scenes if that, the Gladiator, those type things.
It's all about playing as one. Everything goes back to that regardless of what it is. We show them different things. He came up with one yesterday, it was a pretty good one. Again it's all about -- he knows those guys so well that he puts different scenes with it.
It all goes back again trying to keep them loose, trying to -- this time of year because you're together so long, you want to try to keep them interested and excited and eager to play. And I think they enjoy that.
Q. What is your favorite movie of all time?
COACH RICK BARNES: I've got a bunch of them. But I kind of like Forrest Gump. We've got a few writers in Austin that kind of act like Forrest Gump. It's like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're going to get.
Q. Can you talk about your team's rest. You guys shot 37 percent in the Big-12 Tournament. How much of that had to do with fatigue?
COACH RICK BARNES: I don't know so much fatigue. The first game we weren't very good in the Big-12 Tournament, but the last two games were really hard-fought games defensively. Both teams that we played obviously are outstanding defensive teams. I'm not sure we're set up for a three-day straight tournament.
This is different now. You play and have a day off, if you're fortunate enough to win. It's something that really helps you. Again I think we're ready to play. We've had some time off. And again our preparation has been the same. We do what we would normally do. Got back from the tournament, took our days off, and gone about trying to get prepared for this game.
Q. Rick, you talked to us about keeping the tough non-conference schedule where you could have, I guess, backed off on it because of the young kids. What did you learn early on about the team since they were so young? Particularly the trip to Madison Square Garden where it didn't look like they got caught up in any of the hoop-la there.
COACH RICK BARNES: I do think that was a big point for us in the fact that when we played our way in to get there, and then we lost a really tough game against Michigan State. But then the way we came back the next day against St. John's team that had gotten blown out earlier -- I mean, got really embarrassed that day. We knew they would come out and they came out on fire against us.
The way we handled that and again what goes along with the mystique of playing in the Garden. I just really liked the way our team didn't flinch. It's been a team that hasn't been too up or too down all year. They bounce back quickly from losses. They win. They put it behind them quickly. They don't hold onto things very long.
It's kind of like that during the games, too. We get down. They'll work their way back. Often times we get up and get a little bit too loose probably. Overall, I applaud these guys for what they've done with the lack of experience and know-how and what they've gone through this year for them to blend like they have, it's been a really good year for them.
Q. Talk about New Mexico State and the challenge their size inside poses for you guys.
COACH RICK BARNES: I'm sure they look at that as where they're really going to work to attack us in there with their size and their strength. Great offensive rebounding team. They do a tremendous job of when they shoot it going to get it, running it down. They do run. And they get out in the open court. They'll extend their defense. They'll show you some different defenses. But I'm sure there's no doubt that they're looking at our team, and their plan will really be to go at us hard inside.
Q. Coach, every time someone mentions Texas, we hear the name Kevin Durant. Talk about how important D.J. Augustin is to you and how he's matured during the season?
COACH RICK BARNES: They're all important. I was asked earlier today about how we started out the season thinking about how we were going to use Kevin. Believe it or not, our thought process wasn't like that at all. We had seven new players. We were just trying to figure out early how we could play and how we should play. We weren't just trying to figure out what he could do, but we were trying to figure out D.J. and -- and D.J. was probably the first guy of the new guys that we felt really understood the type of intensity that you needed on the defensive end. He bought into it quickly. And then Justin Mason, they were far and away the freshmen who picked it up really good.
As Kevin kept going, he kept getting better on that end. Again we did a lot of different things trying to show them how hard we needed to play. D.J., once we played LSU in Houston, that was the game that really turned it on for him. That was his turning point where he's playing against his home state university. He had a great game that night. Everybody talks about the offensive game, but it's what he did on the defensive end that really got us all going a little bit.
Q. Rick, what was the movie clip you showed these guys last night?
COACH RICK BARNES: I don't know. I've never seen it before. It's funny. I can only tell you that. I've never seen it before. It was kind of hilarious to be honest. Really I don't know it. You ask those guys. I've watched it twice and laughed about -- I'm not sure what bearing it had on our team other than it was funny. You'll have to ask them. As far as the movie. I will tell you this, I've never seen the movie. It was all about basketball and two different guys talking about getting ready to play.
Q. To elaborate further on New Mexico State, what are the keys for you guys to succeed against them, to beat them?
COACH RICK BARNES: We need obviously to get back in transition. They do a great job of when they get out in the open court, they can run, obviously. So we're going to have to make sure we get back and take care of the basketball; that we don't turn it over against their pressure.
They're going to extend it. I'm sure they'll again try to use that, not only to slow us down, but in some ways to speed us up as well. We'll play fast, but we'll have to take care of the ball. No question again I think rebounding is going to be the single most important thing.
Q. Rick, previously about the best thing you've been able to say about Craig Winder is that he's a great team-mate. What has kept him from being a bigger contributor while he's been there?
COACH RICK BARNES: Mike, that's a great question. Early in the year, Craig, this is only his second year -- you know, I kept telling Craig because, one, he's full of energy, and I told him earlier in the year if you'll play and buy into your role, you can really, really help us.
Craig came out of a junior college program where he scored a lot of points. That's something we've never asked him to do. I think it took him a while to want to give that side of it up. And then again playing with so many young guys in practice because he plays -- the way you see him play, he plays like that in practice. He'd have some days where he'd turn the ball over a lot. But the one thing I will say about him is that -- he would come to practice every day. He would go up against whoever we asked him to go against. As we got going, Justin Mason out played him or else he wouldn't have been out there. Again Craig just kept going.
Then he got the opportunity this past week, and he went in and played great. And Justin hasn't been playing as well for various reasons, but the great thing about Craig, when he was called on, he got it done.
For that reason, I think -- and his teammates pull for him. They were really happy for him because they watch him every day. They know that he plays with a free spirit about himself in practice, and he did at the game. So I think when he went out and just let it go the way he did, I think they were really excited for him. I've asked myself that question some, too. Maybe we should have put him out there earlier.
Q. Does he give you some different options now?
COACH RICK BARNES: Well, we get more athletic. He brings a bunch of energy now. He's stronger. Justin is stronger, too, in that position. Craig -- you know, Craig, and I pointed out to our team, Craig now has been with us two years. He really does a lot of little things, or he did this past week where in the zone he was very good. He was just kind of playing kamikaze, and that's what we need from him. Him going to the offensive board, what he did, he gave us a big lift when he did that. He came into the game and his energy really carried over. If he will do that, there's no doubt that that alone will help us.
Q. Coach, when you recruited Kevin Durant, was this what you saw he may become? Or is this maybe a little above that?
COACH RICK BARNES: He hasn't become what we thought yet. He hasn't had the kind of year we thought he would have. We thought he would be a guy that would probably score 45 a night and block 10 shots and guard people. So he's not -- he hasn't lived up to his potential yet in terms of what we thought.
I don't know what we thought. We knew he was a great talent. We knew he loved to play. And we knew he had great passion for it. But we didn't go into the season saying he had to score this, he had to do this. All I do know is we talked to him about our program, and we talked about being back in this tournament and we said, hey, we've lost our entire team. We've got four guys coming back. If we want to really be a special team, you're going to have to come in and want to have a Player of the Year-type year. You'll have to put that together for us.
We actually said to him, you're going to have the chance to do it because you're going to get the minutes. When he came in, we knew he could stand out and shoot 3's. He'd always done that. But since that time he's added a mid range game. He's added a back to the basket game where he's gotten stronger. He's gotten so much better on the defensive end.
With all that said, he's just getting started. The thing that makes him what he is, is he's so unselfish. He doesn't have an ego. And that in itself, too, I think from the time he walked on this campus -- on our campus, that people loved him because he didn't want to be treated any different. He wants to be coached like anybody else. The guys love him for that. I think with all the attention that he's gotten, he's really -- it hasn't changed him one bit. And that's probably what makes him really special.
Q. Did you know that about him, too?
COACH RICK BARNES: I don't know if you ever know truly what you're totally going to get until you live with it every day. The thing about him, we knew he loved to play. That was obvious from the people that were around him, his support people. We knew that he understood high expectations. So that didn't concern us.
But in terms of -- he doesn't -- the first time we took him to the Big-12 Media Day, we got ready to leave, and he thought the whole team was going. He didn't know he was it was going to be one or two guys going. He's come a long way there, too. He early didn't particularly like all the attention, the interviews, but he's gotten so much better with that. He's great if you could watch him. Now when we go out, everywhere we go, people are waiting to get his autograph. He has a really hard time turning anybody down. So we have to kind of shelter him because if it were up to him, he would sign everything that people put in front of him and talk to everybody that wanted to talk to him. Again he's a special kid. He really is.
Q. Do people ask for your autograph, too?
COACH RICK BARNES: We were in a restaurant, and a lady came up and asked me -- I was with Kevin and D.J., and she said, are you guys famous. And I said, no, I just drive the bus. And that's kind of what I do. I'm not even driving it. I'm just riding. D.J. is driving. Kevin is playing. I guess the rest of us guys, we're trying to do our part.
It's really neat watching these guys because they're kids, and they really -- they're so unassuming. There's no ego with them. I've been around teams where they thought they were probably bigger than they were. But this team definitely goes the other way. They just take it all in stride. I think they love what they do right now. And I think they love to play. Not many people ask for mine. When you're from Hickory, North Carolina, you give it to anybody who wants it. If they want it, you give it to them.
Q. Would you say this team has exceeded your expectations?
COACH RICK BARNES: Again, I'm not sure if I knew what to expect. I'm not sure when we started. We just knew we wanted to get back to this tournament in some way, some how. We certainly didn't say we couldn't do this or couldn't do that. We've approached this team like we can be as good as we want to be, and we'll keep getting better. That was our theme all year long was let's find ways to get better.
And I told them heading into February, I said, now, the teams that really separate themselves right now, if it's just one thing, they'll find one thing they're going to get better with. And I told them, I've been telling you from day one what our one thing better be, and it better be defense. And then they really started focusing on that a little bit. That's happened.
Offensively, we're pretty simple, I think, in terms of what we do. I think that they play with a little bit of a reckless abandonment, which I think is good. They're confident. They're not afraid to shoot the ball. Defensively will be the key. It will be the key from here on out. If we defend and rebound, we'll have a chance. Thank you.
End of FastScripts