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March 26, 2008

Stanley Burrell

Josh Duncan

Drew Lavender

Sean Miller

B.J. Raymond


THE MODERATOR: We're being joined by the Xavier players.

Q. When you see West Virginia on tape, what are your thoughts? What do you see out of them that maybe you haven't seen from other teams?
STANLEY BURRELL: All Huggins' teams are real physical and crash the glass and play hard and stuff, so we know they will bring that tomorrow and they have really good players.
Joe Alexander, he can go for 30 in any given night and we have to do a really good job on him.
The other guys do a great job of moving the ball. Our level of intensity will have to be at a high level if we want to advance to the Elite Eight, and looking forward to the challenge.
DREW LAVENDER: They have four, five players that can have 20 points on any given night. They play hard on defense. They rebound, like Stan said, and they have a great player in Joe Alexander who could have 30, like Stan said, too. We have to be ready for the challenge and go out there and play good.
JOSH DUNCAN: Just like Stan and Drew said, obviously they're a great team. They made it to the Sweet 16. Obviously they're a good team. They play good defense, denying. We got to be strong, trying to get open. We got to come ready, ready to play.
B.J. RAYMOND: Just like the three seniors said, they're very skilled. They play great defense and they have a great player in Joe Alexander and it's going to be a good matchup.

Q. West Virginia's players talked about how important it is to kind of stop you or slow you down or throw you off your game because you drive Xavier. Have you seen a lot of those different kinds of defenses? What have teams tried to do to take you out of it and to stop you? And what do you anticipate West Virginia trying to do?
DREW LAVENDER: They're going to play just like they have been playing all year. Hard on defense. I'm pretty sure that they are going to try to stop Josh and B.J. I am not the only one they will try to stop. I have all the trust in the world with my teammates. If they try to stop me, they do stop me, other teammates will step up.

Q. Stanley, I wanted to ask you a question about Sean Miller. He was a pretty well-known player at Pitt, as we all know, was a guard, same position you are. Could you talk a little bit about what his influence has been on the team as far as maybe playing a lock-down defense and becoming a team that a lot of people say may be the best team at Xavier in quite a long time?
STANLEY BURRELL: Coach's influence on us has been tremendous. Everything that he says, I think everybody from the first guy to the last guy believes in. He has never lied to us. He is always honest about what he's saying. When teaches something, everybody really listens. He has been practicing and teaching the defensive philosophy since day one.
We weren't as good the first year he was get here because we were getting used to it. He has stayed consistent and never changed the strategies. When we come to practice, we know it is more of the same thing. After a while you get used to the same schemes, you get used to the same defensive principles and you grow and you get better at it.
Coach, he stays with it no matter we have bad times. Like my first year, he stays consistent. All of a sudden we don't turn into a full-court pressing team or a zone team. We stay doing what we are doing. It is great he has stayed consistent throughout the tough times and it is paying off for us.

Q. When Sean was a player, he shot 90% from the free-throw line. And I see your team, you got four guys shooting over 80%, shooting 76% from the free-throw line. Is that a big point of emphasis? Have any of you ever challenged him to a free-throw shooting contest?
JOSH DUNCAN: No one has challenged him. He is still a good free-throw shooter. He will come in and practice and shoot a free throw for the sake of a drill and make them.
But like you said, that's a big emphasis for our team to concentrate. Every time in practice when we break down into free-throw shooting, he says no talking, concentrate on shooting free throws because it is one of the most important things for our team. As you can see, it has been playing off in big situations for us.
B.J. RAYMOND: He always preaches that free throws can win or lose games. We had some close games this year where we could have won or lost a game on one free throw or two free throws. Just being ready and focusing and practicing and putting ourselves in that position in practice helped us in the game.
He's helped us by making sure we were focused on free throws.
DREW LAVENDER: Like them two said, practice, he stresses it all the time. There is no talking when we break up into groups and everything. So I think our guys have bought into that, too, because like Josh said, we had free throws that could have won or lost us our game. So it is a big thing to practice.
STANLEY BURRELL: Coach says every day to take it serious. We're going to want to make them when the game is on the line. Put yourself in that situation when you are practicing and try to lock in and guys did a great job of stepping up and making them when they needed them most. Hopefully if we hit that point again, we can knock them down tomorrow, too.
THE MODERATOR: We have been joined by Coach Miller from Xavier. Do you have a few opening remarks before we go to questions?
COACH MILLER: We're obviously very excited to be here in Phoenix in the Sweet 16. Our team had a goal a long time ago to advance beyond the first weekend of the tournament. It doesn't always happen because you have it as a goal. But in our case we have really been led by great experience and togetherness and we're also hungry to continue to play. I think we all recognize that getting here is one thing but being able to stay here enters our team in a completely different category.
So we're excited about the challenge of playing against a very difficult West Virginia team in hopes that we can play our best tomorrow night.

Q. Can you just talk about the influence Herb Sendek has had on you, did you have a chance to go to the game last night?
COACH MILLER: I watched the game just briefly. Herb Sendek had a very, very strong influence on me, number one. I worked for him for seven years. We're from the same area of the country in Pittsburgh.
I don't know if I could have ever been around a person more organized or a better teacher for being able to run a total program. You know, he obviously learned from someone who is very special in his own right, Rick Pitino. I have learned a lot from Herb. And I would think a lot of things that we do on a daily basis have stemmed from the philosophies that he has even to this day.

Q. When you look at this West Virginia team, they don't look like a stereotypical Bob Huggins team from the outside. What do you see about them now that -- how they've possibly taken on his personality?
COACH MILLER: Well, I think a couple things. Bob Huggins' teams defend with great purpose. That's really important to his teams. They're very successful. Many times, as you know, his teams have been among the best in the country in field goal percentage defense and the stats back that up.
His team is very solid. In a tough Big East conference in a field goal percentage defense and points allowed and all the things that you look at are in play.
They are maybe not as big physically. But to his credit and their credit, they more than make up for that on offense because they're a tough team to guard. They put Joe Alexander in matchup difficulty. And Joe Alexander is surrounded by three other double-figure scorers who can really think the game, can pass the ball, can shoot the basketball.
It is that combination of their skill level on offense with Joe Alexander, and to me, their toughness on defense that they have in place that make them a tough team to beat. And I also think their record is deceiving because they had three incredibly heart-breaking losses to great teams. For example, Georgetown at home, at Pittsburgh, that could have taken them from the seed that they received in the NCAA tournament to even, I think, a much more high-profile team coming in.
But to me, they're more like that team right now as we play them.

Q. How has a small Jesuit school become so successful in big-time college basketball?
COACH MILLER: That's a great question. There has been different coaches. There has been a lot of different players, but the one constant has been, to me, the incredible cooperation that exists on our campus. And a unique relationship between our basketball program and the university where we can benefit the university and certainly the university can really benefit us.
We have a family atmosphere. Our professors to Father Graham, who is our president, to Mike Bobinski, who is our athletic director, there has never been one thing that I've felt as a coach at Xavier that we don't have to be the best we can be. That's in place because of the importance our program has, and I also think that the one common thread at Xavier is the student-athletes' interests are always first and foremost, as is our students'.
There can be a real positive going to a school that has 4,000 undergraduate students. Everybody knows who you are and you really can have a unique education. It is that family atmosphere and cooperation that makes Xavier the special place that it is.

Q. Did you ever doubt that Bob would come back from the heart attack? And have you seen it change him in any way?
COACH MILLER: You know, I don't talk to him enough in terms of my relationship. My relationship is more out of great respect for him and a familiarity when I see him. I hoped that he would come back because he loves coaching the game and he is one of our best coaches in the game.
But he is such a survivor. He is so strong-willed. I don't know if it surprised anybody that not only is he back as a coach but better than ever.

Q. You obviously know a thing or two about what it takes to be a good point guard. Can you talk about your point guard and how he's developed and how you've watched him mature and just his basketball IQ and court awareness and everything.
COACH MILLER: Well, so much of a point guard is to pick the right style of play, to pick a coach that, I think you can really flourish under in an environment off the court that can bring out the best in you.
To me, Xavier really fits Drew. Our style of play allows for him to use his strengths. He is surrounded by some players that to me make him harder to deal with. And to Drew's credit, he has really grown on and off the court since he's come to Xavier. Going away to college, to that huge state university sometimes sounds better than it really is.
For him, returning back to his roots in Ohio, in a smaller environment off the court, and I think playing in a style that he's comfortable with on the court has really allowed him to be the best he can be. That's really what he's done for us. In his two years, he has led us to the tournament. He has helped us advance in the tournament.
He has won two conference championships. And if you really follow him, he won a state high school championship. And in his time at Oklahoma he won a Big 12 championship. In terms of a quarterback, a point guard who's a winner, not too many have won more than him.
As a matter of fact, one guy that comes to mind is the guy he is going to play against tomorrow at West Virginia, Nichols. That guy has been to the Elite Eight, Sweet 16, NIT championship and now he is back in the Sweet 16 this year. It is a great story line when you think about him being their point guard and Drew Lavender being ours.

Q. Your success means schools with bigger budgets and bigger opportunities will probably come after you. How do you balance the opportunities there with what you already have at Xavier and what you talked about before with your family atmosphere and everything going on there.
COACH MILLER: First and foremost, I am really focused on doing what's right right now. We're just, to me, completely consumed with being really good tomorrow night against West Virginia. Our team, our team owes our staff, we owe Xavier University to come out tomorrow night and be at our best.
Our preparation and mind-set, it is more of the same. This just happens to be game 36. You know, the other thing is for me Xavier has been great and I look forward to being that guy who can stay at a place like Xavier and take pride in not having a good season or a good run but can continue to develop the program into the future year in, year out, where we're good.
That right now is more my focus than any other thing.

Q. I noticed looking at your stats, you have four guys shooting 83% or better from the free-throw line. That was obviously a strength when you were a player. Can you talk about how you have made that a point of emphasis and -- I mean, is there a way you can teach guys to shoot free throws better? The last thing is, are any of them better free-throw shooters than you?
COACH MILLER: Well, I think free-throw shooting is a lot like rebounding. When you have a great rebounding team, a lot of questions are pointed towards the coach, what do you do to make your team rebound. That particular coach, I'm sure, emphasizes it a great deal but it comes down to recruiting. Who do you have in your program that can rebound?
In a unique way, free-throw shooting is the same way. When you have a skilled team, pretty much coming in the door, although players can improve, you've recruited your free-throw talent. For us, we have a skilled team. We have some guys who have clearly gotten better. I think that's where it starts.
I emphasize it a great deal every day in practice. We shoot 100 on game day when we are at home. We talk about getting to the foul line and making them. If you look at our first two rounds of the NCAA tournament, we shot 30 or more free throws and shot over 75% in both games. That's a strength of our team.
But I think it has more to do with our talent level in that area than me. Is anybody a better free-throw player than me? No. I don't think that's close. (Smiling).
If I can do one thing in life, I can shoot free throws. So I'll bet you anything on that, that I will hold serve against my team.

Q. Sean, you have been asked many times about Bob Huggins because of your coaching relationship against him and being in the same city. But just quite simply, do you coach like him at all? Do you look at him and think maybe you're somewhat like him or can be like him at some point?
COACH MILLER: He has a different style. The one thing that you learn from Bob Huggins and you learn from all great coaches, as you get older as a coach, you have to be who you are. You can steal different things from other coaches, but at the end of the day when a coach tries to be something he's not or plays a style that he deep-down doesn't believe in, it is not going to work.
I would say the one common thread that I have with him, because of his love for the game growing up in a basketball family like he did, I'm equal to him in that. I grew up in a basketball family just like him, and the love of the game that I have would be similar.
With that, I think you then go on a quest to being true to who you are, what you believe in, what you really know. If there is a similarity, it would be more in our background as opposed to anything else.

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