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March 19, 2008
THE MODERATOR: This session features the student athletes from UNLV.
Q. Wink, how are you feeling today?
WINK ADAMS: Feeling a lot better right now. I practiced, worked out this morning. Feeling really good. Got my stamina up and shots up. I'm sweating it off. I'm feeling a lot better right now.
Q. Wink, can you talk a little bit about last year you got a Sweet 16 trip. But this is pretty much a new team now. So, you know, there really isn't a whole lot for all these guys to play off of as far as memories of last year. Could you maybe talk about the mind-set, is it like a fresh start?
WINK ADAMS: Yeah, I'd say it's a fresh start. Our whole season this year is based on the same thing, what we did last year. I think we're doing a great job, doing that and Curtis and Corey Bailey, our seniors, have been doing a great job leading us. We want to see how far we can go from this point.
Q. Wink, getting back to the health thing. Just how bad was it Sunday and Saturday night?
WINK ADAMS: Saturday, I mean, it was just real bad. My body was aching. I couldn't really eat. And I think I had my first meal probably from Saturday morning, my next meal after that was Monday. And just taking a meal after that long, it just wears on your body and takes a lot of your strength away.
But right now I'm drinking a lot of water and eating a lot of food, so kind of getting my strength back and getting ready for the game.
Q. After matching up against Utah and Brigham Young, now you're playing a team that's more along your guys' size. What's that contribute to your mind-set going into this game?
RENÉ ROUGEAU: I think, you know, that's a good thing for us. We're kind of glad we don't have to battle a big man down low and we'll be able to fly around a lot more and be able to pressure just as much as we're used to. And we're definitely looking forward to that.
Q. Curtis, can you give me a scouting report on Kent State and what do you think will make the difference in this game?
CURTIS TERRY: Let's see, from what we know so far about them, what the coaches have shared with us and watching film, their team is very similar to us in size. We feel that Quaintance inside is their big guy. He really makes them go. He's very active. And he even gets out and pressures on the wing on the big guys. Fisher is their lead guard, and he puts the ball in the hole for them and dishes the rock and also plays solid defense on the perimeter.
And they've got some guys that can shoot the ball fairly well. Woods and Scott. But they're very active and athletic, we think we match up very good with them.
We think it's going to be a very competitive game. It should be a fun game as far as teams running up and down the court and flying around on defense and offense. It should be something fun to watch and hopefully we can execute well enough on offense and defense to get the win.
Q. Wink, you grew up with Rashad Woods from Kent State. What do you remember from him and from growing up, what's it like now playing him in this setting?
WINK ADAMS: I got a chance to see him today before we went to practice. And just growing up with him, I mean, I know he can shoot. He's a strong player. Really athletic. He blocks shots. Rashad can do a lot of things play a lot of different positions very effective for Kent State. He's somebody very difficult to guard.
Q. What was he like as a kid? Who won when you played horse?
WINK ADAMS: We was young. I used to always beat him. We was young. But his shot wasn't that good like it was now. But I see he's working on it on film, he's knocking it down from five feet behind the 3-point line. Haven't seen him play in a while, but on film he's looking good. Looking strong and we're just going to have to guard him.
Q. Curtis, what have been the last couple of weeks been like for you and the emotions or thoughts you have coming down knowing that you're playing the last few games of your career?
CURTIS TERRY: Definitely has been very emotional. I've been trying to hold it back, not worry about it too much. But for me and Corey, this is our last time through it. And we're just ecstatic right now we're back in the NCAA tournament and we have a chance to win more games here and keep our careers going as long as we have. And we're having a great time playing with these guys. The season has been special for us so far.
But from now on every game could be our last game so we're going to leave it on the court as a team and do everything we can to move on and keep fighting another day. And I think our chances are good with the guys that we have and the coaches, they're going to have us prepared.
So we just can't wait until tomorrow.
Q. Wink, and for the rest of the players, how much have you guys connected with other guys that you've played with before that are in the tournament? That seems to be -- you mentioned earlier about Rashad. Anybody else, any other teams that, hey, congratulations, hey, saw you in the tournament, that you guys kind of either played with in high school or junior college or whatever?
CURTIS TERRY: Off the top of my head, I can't think of any right now. The assistant coach at Portland State, Curtis Allen, he's from where I'm from in Washington, and he played at the University of Washington. I saw him today when we left practice. They were going into practice. Got to share some thoughts with him and how their season is going and he wished me well also.
But it's always good to see people you know from back home or from when you were younger and seeing they're successful and they're experiencing the same thing you are and having fun and being able to play in the NCAA tournament.
WINK ADAMS: For me Rashad Woods and I have a friend from George Mason. Those are all two guys, I haven't talked to these guys in a while. Got Rashad couple of nights ago started talking to him. So just those two guys.
RENÉ ROUGEAU: Probably for me my teammate from high school, Darren Collison, plays for UCLA. Good friends. Went to junior high with Josh Shipp, who also plays for them. Haven't talked to them, but keep in touch and real proud of how they're doing right now.
Q. Anyone who wants to tackle this one: When you think about UNLV, a lot of people still conjure up the images of the '80s and '90s, some of those flashy teams. You like to hit the floor and get the floor burns and that kind of thing. How much distance is there between that aura of the old UNLV and modern day UNLV?
RENÉ ROUGEAU: Definitely trying to bring it back, definitely the glory days. People always talk to us about that and them hustling, getting on the ground and stuff. That's definitely something we try to do. And, you know, not as flashy as they were, but we definitely like to run and gun, definitely like how they did, just run the floor and outrun the opponent.
Q. Wink, obviously your focus is on Kent State and your team. But you were part of a team that beat Wisconsin last year and Wisconsin is here. How big was that win for you guys last year? How much did that mean to you, and do you have any advice for Fullerton or any of the teams that have to face them?
WINK ADAMS: When it comes to tournament time, anybody can be beat. I think last year we just came in with the attitude we just want to play our hardest game, leave everything on the court. And we went through two tough teams. Georgia Tech. That was a very athletic team and we got past them. Came across Wisconsin, who we've been watching all last year, you know, on ESPN. Some of the guys on the team, they was the favorite team.
But we ended up playing them we beat them. So that was a really big team and it was good for experience for the guys that was coming back this year. So we just kind of learned from it and tried taking it into this year.
Q. Curtis, after losing four of your starting seniors last year, what kind of advice are you giving the new guys about getting into the tournament and what kind of mentality they should have?
CURTIS TERRY: Well, for us right now we're fortunate that the eight guys -- eight of the ten guys on the team this year were on the team last year Kendall and Mareceo were the only ones that didn't experience the NCAA tournament. From that factor, everybody else has been here and knows what we're going through these past couple days in preparation. But for those guys we told them. It's going to hit you quick.
We're going to have a lot to do before we even get to the game. We gotta practice, the media stuff. Get to shoot around here for a little bit here today. But we've got to go in there focused. Another game of basketball. There's more people. Brighter lights. We're on the big stage now. And if you lose you go home. So everything is more important. There's more a sense of urgency right now. And they're doing a good job. They're coming along.
And we're going to definitely need them to step up tomorrow and this weekend if we're going to continue on playing this year.
Q. Following up on that, Curtis, so then the fact a lot of people are talking about four starters are gone, five seniors from last year. Is that overblown because, like you said, you have a lot of guys that have been here before?
CURTIS TERRY: I mean, from the standpoint of to where we've lost all our guys from last year, we obviously lost five seniors from last year, four of them started and Joel was the defensive player of the year for us in the conference. But we've been through 33 games so far this year, and we feel like that's not a factor for us anymore.
And the guys that are here, we're doing a great job of coming together as a team and playing together and leaving it on the court and doing what the coaches ask of us and helping us to be successful.
With the guys that were here last year and experienced the tournament and the bright lights and being on the big stage, it's just like another day for us. We're just here, we're ready to play. We're handling our business and being responsible with what we're doing.
And now it just comes down to tomorrow playing basketball and going out there and having fun.
Q. Following up on that, you mentioned the big stage and the bright lights several times. Is there a way to block any of that out at any point? Can you kind of reduce that a little bit?
CURTIS TERRY: Sometimes you can. Definitely right now I know the guys in the locker room it's the media session right now. That's obviously a thing you don't experience every day during the regular season, except for post game. And after practice every once in a while.
But when we get on the court, just gotta go out there play basketball. There's going to be a lot more people than there normally is at a game. The atmosphere is different because it's not just your game, it's not a home game, it's a neutral game. There's six other teams in the building and waiting to play and the atmosphere is different about the fans are for you or against you.
But I think the guys are understanding that we just gotta go out there and play together and do the same things we've been doing all year to help us be successful. We can't rely on trying to do something different and do something out of character that we haven't done all season because that's not going to help us continue to win games.
Q. Just talk a little bit Coach Kruger and what's his biggest asset as a head coach?
RENÉ ROUGEAU: Probably the most biggest asset is him just being positive and really sticking with us. I mean, he'll get on us from time to time. But he's just so positive. I think that really helps us. I'm sure these guys in high school, they had some tough coaches also. I know I did.
And so coming to a college, you are kind of thinking your college coach is going to be a lot more stricter than your high school coach. And when we make a mistake, if anything, he just picks us up more than anything. He always gives us a chance.
If anything, more than anything else, he has so much confidence in all of us. Especially the three of us up here and the guys in the locker room as well.
THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, thank you very much. Best of luck.
Head coach of the Running Rebels, Lon Kruger. Opening statement.
COACH KRUGER: Delighted for this group that they're here. I think earlier in the year a lot was unknown, not -- maybe not knowing what to expect of this group with the graduation of five seniors last year, and this group from day one they've really worked hard. They've meshed together very well. They've been very unselfish and really genuinely not caring too much about who got the credit. Wink has been at the core of everything, but then Curtis steps up to the point, does a terrific job.
And René comes on and does a great job and Corey Bailey all year. And Joe Darger and others. To see them do it together as a team, I'm happy for them. It's resulted in an opportunity to play in the tournament.
Q. Lon, Wink says he's feeling better. Do you expect him to be full strength tomorrow and he looks okay to you?
COACH KRUGER: He does. He didn't feel real good on Saturday in the finals. And Sunday a little worse. Then yesterday, I guess Monday, a little better, and Tuesday better and then today he looked pretty normal even. I think he'll be full speed tomorrow.
Q. When you look at Kent State, a team that looks a lot like yours. Very strong defensively. They like to shoot the 3 and they don't have a predominant big man. How does that play into your matchup with them?
COACH KRUGER: We haven't seen much of that on the year because typically we've lined up against a really big post man. To look across the court see a team of similar size in general is unusual for us.
But doesn't change too much of what we're going to try to do. I think again like you say Kent does a great job of covering. They're very physical on their defensive end. They move the ball well. They execute things very well. They've got a lot of different guys that can shoot it. A lot of things to worry about. But, again, that's not unusual when you get to this point in the tournament.
Q. What are your thoughts on a couple of the individual players that you see from Kent State, if you could elaborate on Al Fisher and some of the other people that you've known and what you're telling your players specifically how to defend against them?
COACH KRUGER: Fisher, you see a guy that can do a lot of things. Very good player. He can beat you off the dribble. Can shoot the 3. Makes players around him better because he can drive and distribute. Just a really good all-around player. So we've got our hands full there. And Singletary, a big strong guard that will get into the post and he does a very good job in there. They've got a lot of guys that shoot it very well. Rashad Woods, a lot of guys that can really stroke it from 3.
Quaintance is a big, strong, active guy on the interior, along with some other guys.
Again, they've got a lot of good players that play well together.
Q. One of the things that is kind of well known about your team is you start two walk-ons, a lot of nontraditional players on your team. A lot of their players, obviously Al Fisher, this is his third college he's at. What do you feel about the stories that are almost similar to that, not to mention in the playing style?
COACH KRUGER: I think this time of year you get a lot of good stories, whether it be guys that have walked on and played well or guys that have bounced around a little bit and has landed in the spot where they can be successful. So it's good time of year to have a lot of good stories come out.
Q. Staying on that theme of Fisher, you had kids that maybe weren't recruited high and weren't offered by a lot of schools. But in the difference of how good they are compared to kids that were, what is the real difference between these kids at this level? Is it closer than people think, or when you get to very elite teams is it very far?
COACH KRUGER: I think in some ways it's closer, because say if you take a guy, the top 50 kid coming out of high school, and you take another guy that you know starts, wasn't highly recruited but starts and averages 14 points and seven boards, those top 50 guys, there aren't a lot of them doing a lot more than that. So statistically it's not as big a gap.
I think what you have is maybe the depth of those quality players on those top 10 teams is probably greater. And I think that's probably where the difference comes in and just how many of them can go out and score on given nights.
Q. Lon, I realize you wear red now, but as a K State alum, can you share your thoughts when you saw that K State is part of the NCAA tournament field again?
COACH KRUGER: Very happy for them. Coach Martin has done just a terrific job. They've had a good year. I think Beasley, I marvel at how efficient and how effective he is every time I watch him play. He just seems to get so much done without any wasted motion, any wasted energy and just a delight to watch a kid like that play and get the results he gets.
So very happy. Not only for the team, but also for the fans. They love getting back to the tournament, I know. Happy for them as well.
Q. Obviously your focus is on this year, but your win over Wisconsin last year in Chicago was awfully big and Wisconsin is here now. When you look at the way the Badgers play and their style, what are some of the challenges and what are the keys to beating them other than maybe having your son play extremely well?
COACH KRUGER: Well, Wisconsin is great at doing the little things very well. Coach Ryan does a terrific job of getting the most out of his players. I think they get good shots every time down the floor. They're very sound defensively. You just have to battle like crazy because you know Wisconsin is going to.
And just can't give away possessions. You have to be very efficient on your end because, again, you know Wisconsin is going to be. And they're just hard to beat. They've had a terrific run and Coach Ryan has done a great job.
Q. Can you talk about the mental preparation for the NCAA tournament? You've been to a lot of these and some of the guys we're talking about the bright lights and some distractions. Is it possible to normalize that, pretend it's not such a big stage? Can you make a little bit of a smaller stage?
COACH KRUGER: I think a lot of our players having been here last year helps to some degree, but still it's an exciting time for them. It should be. I think it's a little different stage for everyone that played in the tournament. It's the only time of the year that you're playing lose-go-home type mentality. So that enters in as well. And the players know that.
So you get a little nervousness, perhaps, early in the ball game, but you hope to get through that quickly and get on to doing the things you've done to get here.
How long that takes varies from time to time, but hopefully we'll move through that early stage quickly and get on into playing good basketball.
Q. How different is this team? A lot's been made of losing the four starters and five seniors. How much different is this team from the Sweet 16 team?
COACH KRUGER: In some ways personnel-wise it's a lot different, of course, because just different people playing the big roles this year.
A lot of the guys playing those big roles now were here last year. But in much different capacity. I think from an attitude standpoint, from an effort standpoint, all the intangibles, a lot of similarities.
But, again, different people, different size. Last year we had a couple of big guys on the inside. We blocked a lot of shots. This year we don't block many shots. But our big guys move to the perimeter and shoot jumpers. So different styles. Different way of going about it. But similar in terms of again focus and attitude and being able to play well together.
Q. Coach, wanted to ask you about being a rookie coach, first signed with K State and what Martin has to go through, talk about the importance of that, whether it means anything with the NCAA tournament when you do that for the first time as a rookie?
COACH KRUGER: Surely it does. It's a great time. It was a long time ago. We did that for the first time. But it's exciting I think for coaches. Even now it's not just exciting for the players. The coaches are here. It's exciting. You see other people that you've watched all year.
You're at the same venue, able to watch the teams. It's a great time. Especially for first-time appearance, I think it adds to that even a little bit more.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach.
End of FastScripts