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March 18, 2009

John Beilein

Manny Harris

C.J. Lee

David Merritt

Deshawn Sims


KEVIN KLINTWORTH: Joined now by student athletes from the University of Michigan, C.J. Lee, Manny Harris, David Merritt, and Deshawn Sims.

Q. With everything that this program has been through, for any of you, how big of a step is this for you to get to the NCAA Tournament?
DAVID MERRITT: I don't think you really put into words how big a step this has been. You know, not making the tournament the last 10, 11 years, you know, we all set a goal this year to get us back, coming off a 10 and 22 season last year, you know. So these guys came back, came to the school to turn around a program, and that's been the focus this year.
Coach Beilein has done a great job, you know, building a culture where we come into the gym {area}, work as hard as we can to reach that goal. This is great for the University and the Ann Arbor community.

Q. For Deshawn. Since C.J. got in the starting lineup, what has {changed} for you guys offensively and defensively. Maybe a little more efficient than you were before?
DESHAWN SIMS: C.J. has been a great vocal leader. He makes sure we run the plays and run them efficiently. Since he's been in the starting lineup, he's brung a lot of energy and keeps most of us focused during the course of a ballgame.

Q. This question is for C.J. and for Manny. Clemson guys talked about last year getting caught up in some of the hoopla of the NCAA Tournament and when they bowed out in the first round. What has taken place this week that might insure that doesn't happen to your team?
MANNY HARRIS: Our players and coaches, everyone staying focused, knowing it was a great accomplishment to get to the tournament, but knowing it's {not} enough. We've got to continue working hard and {come} into the tournament and make things happen, don't just be happy to be here.
C.J. LEE: I echo what Manny says. It starts with our leader, Coach Beilein. He's been here before and talking about us all week, staying focused, kind of simplifying everything and worry about the game, worry what you can do. Obviously it's a big stage, but nothing has changed in terms of like the game and stuff. Just do what we've always done.

Q. Manny, I know you guys have tried to look at this as just another game, but, I mean, now that you're in the city, getting in last night, what's been -- what's today been like for you and just kind of being here and knowing you're in the tournament?
MANNY HARRIS: It's just a different feel than a normal game. It's just like we're happy to be here, but we want to just make noise in this tournament and just like a different feel for us and as players and for our coaches, also.

Q. C.J., for you, fans have described this as a relief, just something that's kind of a fresh start for the program. Do you run into fans out there, do you have a sense whatever this means, kind of community, people have been through a lot the last 11 years?
C.J. LEE: I think we have a sense of what this means to people who thought our program -- they're obviously very excited about where we are and potential of where we could go. There is a stepping stone for our program in terms of the players that are here, the coaches that are here, but we definitely try to stay away, concentrate on what the fans are saying. We realize we have to play the {game}, but it's great and just trying to put Michigan back in the national picture. So that's gratifying.

Q. Have you run into people who have said things, like maybe an encounter you've had with fans?
C.J. LEE: Just walking in between classes, people saying thanks for getting us back in the tournament, stuff like that.
KEVIN KLINTWORTH: Any other questions for the student athletes.
Thanks, guys.
Now up, Michigan head coach, John Beilein.
COACH JOHN BEILEIN: We're thrilled to be here. We're looking forward to shooting in a few minutes out on the court, and, you know, our kids are -- we've been fired up obviously since the announcement Sunday night. But we do know we're playing a very, very good Clemson team, and it's going to be a great game.

Q. John, can you just talk about what C.J. has brought to the lineup since he came in offensively?
COACH JOHN BEILEIN: I wanted to -- I just noticed that the final stat on his assists/turnover is 38 assists and 8 turnovers. That's one thing, but the other thing is, you know, as the game has evolved over the years, the dribble drive, especially the high ball screen with a point guard on him is a really hard thing to defend. You see it in the NBA. It's hard to defend. He's been great at defending that for us, just staying in {front} of people, and really it's helped things like actually our rebounding, because people -- people don't have to give help, then they're more attached to their man and the residual effect, we're a better rebounding team as well.

Q. John, you've been through all this before, but your players have not. Clemson talked about coming in last year and getting caught up in the hoopla on the first round game. Have you done anything specific to try and avoid that with your team?
COACH JOHN BEILEIN: Yes. We tried to get that media done back in Ann Arbor early and really shelter the kids right now from hoopla, I guess. There still is going to be -- you don't want to go in and say this is just like any other game. No, you worked hard for this, enjoy it, embrace it. But once that ball goes up, it's the same old thing.
Like I said, that ball goes up and see that Clemson offense and defense, they'll understand right away that thing is all about, and hopefully we adjust very quickly to the -- their length, their outstanding athleticism, their game plan.

Q. Coach, you remember this style from a couple years ago in the NIT. How different is it from what you played against this year, and how do you prepare for it?
COACH JOHN BEILEIN: It's very similar in many respects. Now, I don't think we're as long a team as we were back then, but at the same time, I think that we might have more of a parity to our game a little bit. We were basically a 3-point jump shooting team only at that point, and, like I said, we were longer.
So I think that -- I watched that game just to see some things, obviously, but it's two years later, and we've {changed} some things, and the personnel has changed at our place a hundred percent. Clemson still has Rivers and Booker and a few other guys out there.
You'd be crazy not to see the parallels between the games, but at the same time, they are -- they're a much improved team from that or they'd be in the NIT again.

Q. I'm interested in hearing, because of your background, what your take was on the way that the Big East was treated come seeding and if you're interested at all in seeing, how that pans out?
COACH JOHN BEILEIN: No, I'm not. The seeding thing now has become a new thing. Where people are seeded, and I know it's probably -- I've never been a 1, 2 or a 3 seed. We've always been in that battle of the 7, 10. One time I was a 13 seed, and, you know, it was all the same.
I didn't get into how -- who is seeded 1, and I guess they've done a better job of making sure that there's equity in those very top teams, but the Big East is a terrific conference, especially at the top they had great, great teams. I think the Big 10 was more parity throughout the league, and we had nine teams on any given night could beat anybody in the country, and that includes the team that didn't get in, Penn State and Northwestern who couldn't get in. We had nine of those teams that were very good.
Big East certainly had teams that could win the national championship. They had four -- three, four that could really win the national championship as well, and perhaps one of our teams can as well. Michigan State is awfully good. Purdue is good. We have some other ones.

Q. You talked about how you know this is different than a normal game, but have you tried to stay -- especially since you've gotten into town, have you tried to stay on a normal routine, or because it's the tournament, do you let them -- allow them to enjoy the a little bit more?
COACH JOHN BEILEIN: We came in a day early because of these type of things. But no, we're going -- I think tomorrow we're not going -- we think we're prepared enough, and you can't shoot around here during the day unless you want to get up at 8 in the morning.
Tomorrow the only thing different, we're going to take them over to the Hall of Fame, the College Hall of Fame to see that in lieu of a shoot-around. We feel we're prepared. We're ready to go. We'll take them for a walk outside, where normally we would go somewhere. It's been pretty much a road game type of experience. Tonight we're going to go out to eat in a restaurant. Normally we stay in the hotel.

Q. John, stats don't always tell the whole story. The common thread in you guy's losses, you haven't shot the ball real well. Is it that simplistic?
COACH JOHN BEILEIN: Defense are varied and who we've played and things like that. I know one thing, when we've won, we shot the ball well and our turnover numbers have been very low with all our wins. So that's -- that's been pretty consistent.
We got to do that certainly against Clemson. The way they pressure the turnover numbers could be very high. If we can get out in the open court, get into some space, you know, who knows. That could change the momentum out of our favor or give us wide-open shots. That's that fine line we've got to play with tomorrow.

Q. John, just wanted to ask, talk about this being a fresh start and sense of relief, kind of putting the last 11 years behind. Do you sense that when you're out in the community and stuff?
COACH JOHN BEILEIN: I should certainly sense that Sunday night there it was a lot of relief in Chrysler Center Sunday night when the black M came up on the board. I've only had a couple conversations with recruits since we were in. But I think that's probably been with us, has been always, until we got into the NCAA Tournament. Can Michigan -- will Michigan win again? The fact we got in certainly helps. It doesn't say okay, you're going to be able to get any player in the country, but I think, at the same time, you're going to be able to -- it's another step in the right direction to get involved with the right players.

Q. Clemson struggled for years and got in the tournament last year. You've done something similar this year. What's the key to turning around that mindset within the program?
COACH JOHN BEILEIN: I think now, establishing the culture that this is how we do it and now you have proof this is what we've done, I think. I think in our last years at West Virginia, as we recruited, you know, there. It wasn't hard to sell kids on the idea how -- you tell them how hard "Ganzy" is going work.
Now, you have Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims and knowing what hard work paid off. Once you can establish that, I think you can get some consistency. I talk a lot about right up the road at Michigan State and at Wisconsin, those guys don't know what it's like not to go to the tournament, and that's the culture you're trying to establish, and certainly you just got to be persistent and stay with what you're doing.

Q. What was it about the culture that needed change? There's a whole generation of people that just remember great Michigan basketball and it went dark for a decade.
COACH JOHN BEILEIN: I'm not going to pinpoint anything. I think what we need, we just had such a young team. They won 22 {games} the year before, and they were this close to the NCAA Tournament. A win over Ohio State might have put Tommy Amaker in. Now, all of a sudden we inherited young people and an unexpected attrition of four players. Let's go. But you have to -- we just sort of had to start all over again, this is what we're going to do and this is that has work in the past.
I don't know -- we didn't invent the game. This is what worked in the past. This is how we're going to play. Gradually everybody sort of adapted to it.

Q. Coach, have you seen anybody in the Big 10 that will approximate the pressure that you're going to see from Clemson tomorrow, and what can you say about that aspect of the game? You touched on it earlier.
COACH JOHN BEILEIN: I think in the half court it would be the Purdues and the Illinois type, Minnesota. In the full court, Minnesota is one of the few that get out and extend more. Northwestern doesn't extend full, but they'll make you, you know, take some time to get in your offense. We've seen a little bit of that.
I think we saw it early in the year, the press from Oakland and a few others. We have to adjust. We haven't seen a lot of it, and the other side is that hopefully Clemson hasn't seen a lot of the way we play.
So they just have a more experienced team right now. Once that ball goes up, you just never know how people are going to react.
KEVIN KLINTWORTH: Any more questions for coach?
Thank you, Coach.

End of FastScripts

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