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March 19, 2009
MODERATOR: We are being joined on the dais by USC student-athletes. From my far left, DeMar DeRozan, Daniel Hackett, Dwight Lewis and Taj Gibson.
Q. Guys, coming in here, you know, what you've done these last five games. I mean, do you feel like you're a pretty dangerous team just coming in on the right note?
TAJ GIBSON: I feel we're coming in with a lot of confidence. Guys that are healthy this time of year, throughout the years, guys have been really banged up and injuries played a key role in a lot of our games, losing one point at Oklahoma, a lot of tough road games in the Pac-10.
DANIEL HACKETT: We feel good about ourselves. But we learned a hard lesson last year. Losing to Kansas State in the first round, so we don't want to get our hopes too high. Stay humble and keep playing our basketball.
Q. Hey, Taj, how does last year's experience and the previous years help you guys, with you, Daniel and Dwight and Keith Wilkinson all being here before?
TAJ GIBSON: It has its ups and its downs. My freshman year we went pretty far, then the mishap last year we lost to a tough Kansas State team.
Just a lot of experience. I hope we can use it to our advantage. But, once again, we have a lot of young guys coming around at the right part of the season, so the sky's the limit. But I know Boston College is a really skilled team, a lot of veterans on that team, so just looking forward to getting back out there and playing.
Q. DeMar, could you discuss your development through the season? Tell us about how you have come -- how far you have come from the beginning of the season to the point where you were the MVP in the Pac-10 tournament, and how did it feel to break through and have three great games in a row?
DEMAR DEROZAN: You know, all season I have been in the gym working, trying to get better day in and day out. And that's one thing I try to take from it, just to learn from these guys. And learn from the coach. Taking in everything that was shown to me and use it, you know.
So every game I try to use that to my advantage. And the Pac-10 tournament was a big, big step for us, and I just felt comfortable from all the stuff that I learned all season.
Q. Hi guys. What do you know about Boston College? And what concerns you about them?
DWIGHT LEWIS: We know they are real physical team. They like to crash the boards a lot. They have a great guard in Tyrese Rice, as everybody knows. And also has a good supporting cast. We have to get really physical with them and try to match their intensity.
DANIEL HACKETT: They come from a power conference like the ACC. They beat Carolina and Duke and played Wake Forest tough, I think. So they are a pretty good team. We respect them. And hopefully we'll give them a good battle.
Q. A lot of guys, a lot of media and even Vegas picking you guys as favorites in the game even though you are a 10 seed. How do you feel about that? What makes -- what do you think makes you look so dangerous to pull off an upset? And is it kind of surprising that you're in a position as a favorite as a 10 seed?
DEMAR DEROZAN: I think a lot of people is betting on us, but we really aren't going to pay no mind to it. We just try to go out, go out there and put in work and just come out tomorrow and give a great game, you know. Everybody is healthy, like Taj said. And we're just going to go out and give it our all.
Q. For Taj and Dwight, could you talk about what DeMar brings to your team? And what have you seen in him this season as far as his development as a player and as a teammate?
DWIGHT LEWIS: He brings a lot of athleticism to our team. He does a lot for us. He can score, he can rebound, he can defend. Like he said, he has been in the gym since the season started just developing. I think he is getting more confidence and he showed it in the Pac-10 tournament.
TAJ GIBSON: Just brings a lot of effort. Real strong leader. You don't see that much in a lot of freshman, but he stepped up to the plate. As you can see in the Pac-10 tournament, he made key plays late in the championship game. And his development, there's more to come.
Q. For Daniel. I am interested in your thoughts on Tyrese Rice and does he remind you of anybody that you've gone up against in the Pac-10 conference?
DANIEL HACKETT: Not really, because we -- well, maybe Taylor Rochestie from Washington State. But Tyrese, I think he has more talent them him. It kind of reminds me of my AAU teammate Brandon Jennings a little bit, playing overseas right now.
As I said, I've seen him on tape. And of course he is a lead player. He is a senior. And, you know, he's got a lot of pressure on him. And we're going to pay a lot of attention to what he does on the court.
Q. For Daniel, Taj and Dwight. How has it helped this team that you've had this junior core together, three years now you guys have played together? It is a little bit unusual in this era of college basketball to have this kind of togetherness for such a long period of time. How has that helped out?
DANIEL HACKETT: We have been through a lot. We have been through a lot. Practicing has been tough this past three years, and you know with a coach like Tim Floyd who demands a lot, it has been challenging for us. But at the same time we have been able to grow up and stick together.
You know, it's good. It's good to have all the guys on the team. The talented young players like Leonard Washington, DeMar. You know, it helps. So I'm going to look forward to this run, and hopefully we'll go deep.
DWIGHT LEWIS: I think us being together so long we've been able to help each other out and our team with all the ups and downs we had this season. We've been through a lot together and we have been able to guide all the young players, like Nikola Vucevic and Leonard and DeMar and Donte Smith, and what to expect when things go wrong that it will be a light at the end of the tunnel.
TAJ GIBSON: It's just a great experience. Coming into college. It's being a freshman and meeting guys and then being a bond on the court, and our three years, getting better and better. And guys just maturing as adults. And on the court and off the court it's been great. And just looking forward to seeing how we're going to play, and my first-round game as really the leaders on this team. The last couple of years we had Nick Young, Gabe Pruitt, O.J. last year. It is going to be something different this year. So I'm looking forward to it.
Q. For any of the guys. Boston College players are talking about playing in a city where they don't get a lot of attention, a lot of pro teams. Do you guys feel that way playing in L.A. and maybe wish you had more attention? Is the NCAA tournament a chance for you to make a bigger name for USC basketball?
DANIEL HACKETT: We're in L.A. It's Los Angeles, man. We don't really care about attention. It's there, so I will let the other guys talk. But Los Angeles is basically a media city. I don't know how Boston is.
TAJ GIBSON: I feel that we have all the attention in the world. ESPN, all the time. We're just -- we're in California. We're in one of the most popular cities in America. So it just comes down to who wins. Everybody wants a winner. But at this time of the year, everybody's going to be watching, so it's not really about who watches who, it's about how well you play. And if you're gonna win, you get more attention.
Q. For Dwight, do you feel that you guys are peaking right now? Was there ever a concern that you wouldn't peak, that it just wouldn't happen for you guys this year? Was that ever in the back of your mind at all?
DWIGHT LEWIS: No, I wasn't worried at all. We had a lot of injuries throughout this season. And we are getting healthy at the right time and clicking at the right time. And going into the Pac-10 tournament, everybody got healthy. We had great days.
And we have been able to put it together and make a great run. And we're just trying to ride this run as far as we can.
Q. DeMar, what have you enjoyed most about your first year in college? And what have you gotten out of a year of playing Pac-10 basketball?
DEMAR DEROZAN: One thing that I really enjoyed was the camaraderie of everybody on the team. You know, just how close everybody is with the team and how fun they make the game come. And being my first year, these guys taught me a lot, you know. Listening to the older guys, taking advice from them has been great.
You know, that's one thing I will never forget. And I credit them for a lot of my success, because they're the ones that helped me out through my whole year.
Q. You mentioned injuries a couple of times. But I mean, did you notice anything else that changed from when you guys were struggling in February to these last five games where you've really turned it on?
TAJ GIBSON: I would say our intensity I believe has jumped out on teams. The last three games we had in the Pac-10, we just came out with nothing to lose, just played our game. With Marcus Simmons coming in, just basically a whole year of his injuries, he just came in and attacked every point guard he's guarded and just guarded them well, and three straight nights he has just been going at it and guys responded behind him, bringing a lot of energy off the bench. And the coaches just kept -- just kept teaching us more new things. And it has been working so far.
MODERATOR: Okay, if there is no more questions, we will go ahead and excuse you guys back to your locker room.
Joined on the dais by USC head coach, Tim Floyd. We will go ahead and begin with questions. If you would like to raise your hand, we will --
Q. Hi, Coach. What do you know about B.C. by now? And what concerns you most about them?
COACH FLOYD: Well, from the coaching standpoint I think he is the best coach that nobody ever talks about. The job he's done there with seven NCAA tournaments in 12 years. A young team this year that obviously believes in what they're doing. Great shot selection, great conviction to what they run offensively. Play with a physicality, terrific offensive rebounding team. And great role definition with their players in terms of knowing what they should do and when they should do it.
And they have a star caliber with Rice. You know, a developmental big guy in Southern who is getting better and better. The 2 guard is outstanding, maybe could have been an All-ACC player with a little bit more attention paid to him because he has been terrific the last five games. Just very good basketball team.
Q. Coach, a lot of people are, you know, picking you as, you know -- a lot of people are saying that you guys are going to be a good upset pick. What do you think makes you such a dangerous 10 seed in this tournament?
COACH FLOYD: Well, I just hope the people that are picking them are the same people that didn't -- or not the same people that picked the upsets in the first round today because there haven't been any.
You know, I think that those things don't mean anything. They really don't. If these guys were such great predictors, we ought to let them do the economy and get them out of basketball games and get them to turn that around.
It's going to get down to players playing, players making plays. Typically, I think these games get down to who gets the easy baskets. The free-throw line, offensive rebound baskets, transition baskets, scoring on inbounds plays. All of those things.
Q. DeMar came in with such tremendous expectations hanging over his head. How has he developed from the time that he came into your program? And what does he bring to your program now that he's got a year of playing experience behind him?
COACH FLOYD: Well, I remember the first day of practice he told me, Coach, you're going to have to be very patient with me. I've never been taught on the defensive end. And as far as running set offenses, I have never done any of that either, screening and all that kind of thing. So he came in very humble. He came in as a listener.
But he came in hungry. And he has just grown with the process, every game. Gets a little better, learns, asks questions, goes back utilizes the experience garnered in that game and gets a little better the next game. He is blessed with so much talent, so much God-given talent.
And he's got a nice touch. And he's learned when to, when not to. How to play off the dribble. How to pass off the dribble. How far to go. When to go. All those things. And, you know, he played a lot of AAU ball, he played high school that was a very loose system. He never really had to play in any half-court games which you see in the ACC and the Big Ten and the Big East and college basketball. But, also, that's what you see in the NBA. It's not 94 feet. And the great players can play half and play full.
And you play Washington State and UCLA and Arizona State and Cal, and Arizona, these teams get back on defense, and he's had to learn how to play in a half-court set, in addition to full-court. And I think it's really to his credit, he came in without ego and is a listener and has just gotten better and better.
Q. Well, Coach, you brought it up. One of the guys who picked against you is dealing with the economy, President Obama. He took Boston College to go to the second round, though. Your comments?
COACH FLOYD: Well, as you know, President Obama is a former basketball player and athlete. And he played out west in Hawaii. And any kid that grows up west of the Rocky Mountains grows up wanting to play in the Pac-10. And he was not recruited by the Pac-10 level and I think he is still dealing with that. There is still some bitterness (laughter).
Q. Coach, interested in your assessment of Tyrese Rice. And is there anybody that you can compare him to that you compete against in the Pac-10 conference?
COACH FLOYD: Well, he's terrific. He's absolutely terrific. You don't see many guys go over to Carolina and get 46 in a game. And what we've seen is a guy that's deferred more this year and made his team better. There's an understanding that point guards are measured by winning versus points scored, which is a credit to Al and what he has imparted on this young man.
I think that as far as comparatives, I guess Rochestie at Washington State, the speed of a Collison maybe at UCLA, which for people out west that's a pretty good combination of talent.
Q. Coach, you certainly know the challenge of having players leave early for the NBA and how much it can upset things. What has it meant to your team this year to have a core of experienced upperclassmen that have stuck with you?
COACH FLOYD: Well, it's really helped us. This is the first time since we have been there -- this is our fourth year -- and, by the way, we only have one senior still, Keith Wilkinson, who is a senior on the team. But we're just thrilled because we have three guys in the junior class which we haven't had. It is great to have a core of three guys together for three years that have played minutes. Because early we weren't having to teach every drill ourselves and get out and slide around on the floor and show them how we are supposed to do it. I don't do that very well anymore.
And these guys could do that. And they also could lift players that were young and get them through the process of the commands of pre-season practice, in terms of understanding that that is a period of growth and that they're going to hear their name a lot. And understand that that's a good thing and not a bad thing.
Q. Coach, what is -- what have you seen changed in the team from, you know, the string of losses that you had in February until now when you are on the winning streak?
COACH FLOYD: People wrote us off in February and I can understand why. We lost six out of seven. Let's look at who we played and where we played, and I don't think enough attention was spent on that. At UCLA, not many people have won there in the last four years. At Arizona. Not many people have won there in the last 20 years. At Arizona State, we came back home and got a great win against Washington State. Very good Washington State team and then lost to Washington. They won our league and then we went on the road at Cal and at Stanford. Very good basketball teams.
I thought we played well with the exception of the UCLA game. But we played without key people. Simmons was still nursing injuries, Marcus Johnson was out, Leonard Washington was still nursing injuries and Dwight Lewis was just coming back off a high ankle sprain where he didn't play at Washington and Washington State. We got healthy and we played better and we were able to insert Marcus Simmons into our rotation and he has been outstanding.
The stats won't reflect anything about what he does for our basketball team. He has got us into a defense out front, and we have been much better on the defensive end with him in the lineup.
Q. Tim, you mentioned injuries. Give us the update on how your club is healthy. And I noticed from following your club from afar when you have all hands healthy you are 8-0. I certainly hope everybody is healthy and ready to go. And talk about your rotation. You leaned on your core guys to play a lot of minutes for you.
COACH FLOYD: Yeah, we have. Well, we're in great health right now and feel terrific about that. We lost a young man that we won't get back this year, the sixth game of the year, Kasey Cunningham. In 14 minutes against Missouri -- we were up 9 at half, and he went down with an ACL. 14 minutes, he had 14 points and 11 rebounds. And we lost him for the year. Hopefully we'll have him back. But everybody else is in the best shape that they have been in all year long.
The second question, I'm sorry.
Q. On your rotation and your tendency to lean on the core guys.
COACH FLOYD: Heavy minutes. Hackett is a guy we feel we can't win without. He's the heart and soul of who we are. He is our best driver. He's our best 3-point shooter. He is our grittiest defender, along with Marcus Simmons now that he is in the rotation. He is the best post feeder. He is a guy that is our best free-throw shooter late in games, the whole thing. We have a very difficult time playing without him. So we played him every minute in the Pac-10 tournament, 120 minutes.
But we have been able to get some breathers for Lewis and DeMar DeRozan. The guy I am excited about tomorrow night is Leonard Washington, and I think he will play well. He is as healthy as he has been and he played very well at Oklahoma early before he got hurt. Nikola Vucevic at 6-10 1/2, 6-11, has done great things. If Taj is out of foul trouble, we will play him. And Vucevic is a guy we have grown to trust with the minutes that he has received.
MODERATOR: Okay, Coach, thank you very much.
COACH FLOYD: Thank you.
End of FastScripts