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March 21, 2009
LARRY WAHL: I'm going to open up with a question that was called in by Mr. Craig Barnes. For Cedric, what kind of physical drain did a game like last night take on you?
CEDRIC JACKSON: It was tough last night. You know, I was cramping up pretty bad. But I got some IVs in me, so I'm good to go for tomorrow.
Q. Jordan Hill of Arizona just told us he was watching TV late last night, scores were showing on the screen, he saw the result of your game, and he said he was shocked, and he meant it in a nice way. How do you guys react when you hear something like that? Does it kind of amuse you to be able to surprise people the way you have been?
J'NATHAN BULLOCK: We just got blessed last night. Wake Forest is a great team. We came out with a purpose and a plan that worked. Right now we're just trying to prepare, and we've got another tough game in Arizona tomorrow.
Q. Cedric, how did you get to Cleveland State from St. John's?
CEDRIC JACKSON: You know, I followed Coach Waters. When I went St. John's I didn't know where I was going to go, and then got the word that he was leaving Rutgers. So everything just fell into place and I was going to go wherever he went.
I just felt that it was time to go, and I always wanted to play for him, so everything happens for a reason. So as soon as I got the opportunity to play for him, I jumped right on it.
Q. For either of the guards: Just your thoughts on Nic Wise and what he does for Arizona and how you are able to stop him or try to stop him.
NORRIS COLE: Well, we know he's a quick guard and he's their quarterback for their team, runs their show. We're going to have to try to limit penetration, keep him out of the middle so he can't create play opportunities for their play makers like Budinger and the big fella inside.
Q. At what point, because the start of your season was a little bit up and down and you struggled at times, but when do you think you really got into this groove? Because the last month you've played your best ball.
CEDRIC JACKSON: I'm not really sure, but you know, we had a few meetings with our coach, and it was time for us, the seniors as well as the upper-classmen, to step up when our tournament time came, our Horizon League Tournament, and just coming into the NCAA, just it's time for us to step up, make plays and get each other involved and just execute on the things we need to do to be successful.
Q. The shot that you made in Syracuse, how much attention did you get from that? And what did that game show you guys as far as being able to play against that level of competition, particularly in that kind of environment?
CEDRIC JACKSON: Well, we got a lot of attention for that. We were very humble about it, and I always said the real true hero of that game was J'Nathan Bullock because he was the one that did all the dirty work inside and then hit that big three-pointer, and then I was just fortunate enough to hit a half-court shot. But just opened a lot of people's eyes to let them know that we're a tough team and we're a good team, too, and we're here to play.
Q. How much of a jumping-off point was that game for you in terms of confidence, that you could go into a place like that and play with teams like that? Obviously you believe that in yourself, but to actually go out and do it?
J'NATHAN BULLOCK: You're talking about the game against Syracuse? It gives us confidence in our defense. Our defense is our identity, and that just let us know that we can play with pretty much anybody in the country.
Q. Norris, you've been on a roll here, too, the last month, but how much have you fed off Cedric? And Cedric, how much have you fed off Norris?
CEDRIC JACKSON: You know, Norris is an active player, and I have to try to find him every time I try to penetrate because a lot of people try to get the ball out of my hands, so I try to make plays for other people. But you know, Norris is a hard player to guard. He keeps constantly moving, so he's just a threat at all times. So I try to get him the ball as much as possible, and you know, then he just goes to work and he helps us out tremendously.
NORRIS COLE: I feed off Ced's energy. He's a singer, and as a captain and as a leader I can learn from him, learn from the things that he does that makes himself, and it gives energy to me and to the team that know that he's a very unselfish player when he gets in the lane and passes the ball to the open man and makes plays on defense. His energy alone just makes me want to play harder and play better for the team.
Q. Cedric, did Coach Waters recruit you at all out of high school?
CEDRIC JACKSON: Yeah, he recruited me my sophomore year. I ended up taking my SATs too late and he had to recruit another guard, so I ended up going to St. John's on a last-second thing. I kind of missed the opportunity to play for him then.
Q. How much awareness do you have as to how much you surprised people around the country last night? Do you have a sense of that?
NORRIS COLE: Well, we know that coming from a mid-level Division I program, we know at that we're going to be the underdogs and we understand that and we can accept that. But at the same time we're going to come in, we're going to be confident, we're going to believe in our system, and we're going to come in to play. We know we're going to be underdogs probably in every game from here on out. And taking it one game at a time, we know against Arizona we're underdogs, so we're going to accept that and move on. We don't look at us playing against high major, we just look at it as us basketball players against Arizona's basketball players and that's how we're going to do it.
Q. Did you hear from any family, friends, text messages, phone calls, anything like that the last 15 hours?
J'NATHAN BULLOCK: Yeah, tons of text messages and missed phone calls, but that comes with it.
Q. What are they saying?
J'NATHAN BULLOCK: Just congratulating us for the victory. They didn't really expect it, but keep up the good work.
Q. Cedric, last night the Wake Forest coach said that in their scouting report of you, you're a 30-percent three-point shooter, something like that, so they were more comfortable I think letting you shoot, and he was remarking that of course you come out and make four of your first six or something like that. Were you feeling the jump shot early? Was there any difference between that and kind of what their perception of you was?
CEDRIC JACKSON: Well, it's just all about me staying confident. I recognized that I was wide open in the corner, so I just had the confidence to step up and do my best and make the shot. After I made that one, my confidence started to build up, and then they started going under the screen again, so I took the second shot, and luckily it went in. So then they tried to go over the top, and I was able to penetrate and try to dish off or shoot the low floater, get other guys the ball for open shots.
Q. Cedric, did you leave St. John's primarily over a playing-time issue? And what did you know about Cleveland State other than Coach Waters was there? Did you know anything about the program?
CEDRIC JACKSON: No, I didn't know anything about the program. I just came into their -- Coach told me he wanted me to come on a visit. He told me about the weather, how cold it was in Cleveland, so I was just getting prepared for that. So I didn't know anything about Cleveland State.
I just felt like it was time to go, and we parted ways. I still talk to some of the guys from St. John's every now and then, so you know, it was a good blessing leaving there. So I just felt like it was time for me to move on.
Q. Just wondering, any one of the three guys: Did you know about the history of the '86 team before you got to Cleveland State?
NORRIS COLE: I didn't. I didn't know anything about it. I'm not really from the northeastern area, so I didn't know anything about Cleveland State really except for the fact of coach and his track record and coaching staff. I didn't know anything about the '86 team.
J'NATHAN BULLOCK: Before I came to Cleveland State I didn't know nothing about Cleveland State. Of course when you come you hear about it, and the goals. They try to get back to what they did in '86. But as far as that, no.
Q. Cedric, when you said you didn't know anything about Cleveland State, did you know colors, mascot, what conference they were in, anything like that?
CEDRIC JACKSON: No, I didn't know, so I looked at it online, and it was a tough adjustment for me because I'd been red and white for those two years at St. John's. So it was kind of hard to get used to a green and white color. But you know, I just got into it. So you know, it was time to move on and move on to what I had facing in front of me.
Q. So you just went online?
CEDRIC JACKSON: Yeah, when I was at St. John's close to the end of the year I wanted to look up Cleveland State and look what it had to offer. I was like maybe, if it was a bigger campus, but St. John's is bigger. But being in the city is really fun for us, too. So there's a lot of things to do in there. So it's a great move for me.
Q. I'm doing a national story on the economy, and I'm just wondering if any of you have family and friends who might ordinarily have made this trip down here that did not come because of the tough economic times.
CEDRIC JACKSON: Well, my father and my brother are up here, and my mom, she has to work, so she couldn't come out here. But I have family here in Fort Lauderdale. They came. But most of them, they just work, so they couldn't come out just due to that.
J'NATHAN BULLOCK: My parents made the trip. Both work at GM, so that's surprising (laughter).
NORRIS COLE: My mother and my father both made the trip, and my three cousins and my uncle from Arizona, he came and made the trip.
LARRY WAHL: We'll let the student-athletes get back to their locker room so they can prepare, and Coach Waters is here.
Questions for Coach Waters?
Q. Coach, Cedric struggled maybe the first third half of the season. He had his shooting problems here and there. But obviously in the last month he has really clicked and made you guys go. What got him over the edge there? Obviously being a senior, but he said you guys had some talks.
COACH GARY WATERS: Yeah, you know, Cedric is a very coachable player. You know, you sit down with him, you communicate with him, and he accepts exactly what you're saying.
What I had to express to him is he can't pressure himself and beat himself up, because he was beating himself up very, very hard, thinking that he's not the shooter that he is in the early part of the season, and I think he was pressing. You know, his senior year, and he thinks he's got a chance to go to the next level, and he wanted to show them something, that he could shoot the basketball, and I think he overreacted to that.
I think another person helped him a little bit, I'll mention a name, Quincy Douby, who played for me at Rutgers. Quincy is in the NBA and he came when they were playing the Cleveland Cavaliers, and he came to meet with me and we went to dinner and he came to practice. When he came to practice, he sat down and talked to Cedric for about a couple hours and let him know that he can't be pressing, and he's got to take it easy. And he also told him one thing I thought was very unique - he said, "Cedric, if you want to shoot the ball better, it has nothing to do with your skill level. It has to do with the time and effort you put into something." And that was good coming from Quincy because Quincy is a pure shooter. And when Quincy -- people don't realize it, the boy can really shoot the basketball, but he put in a lot of hours into shooting, and he told Cedric, "When you make that commitment, you can't do it on your regular hours." And Cedric said, "What do you mean by that?" He says, "Well, everyone thinks regular hours is right before practice or right after practice." He said, "Your regular hours is 7:00 o'clock in the morning. You've got to get up at 7:00 o'clock and make a commitment, and then you're really letting everyone know that this is what you want to get better at." Cedric started doing that, and all of a sudden he started hitting a few more shots.
Q. With regard to Cedric, can you talk a little bit about bringing us back a little bit, he was talking about how he wanted to play for you, and leaving St. John's was all about following you to Cleveland State.
COACH GARY WATERS: Funny thing, and I'll mention it again, the player I recruited over Cedric was Quincy Douby. I took him instead. And then he went to St. John's, and I'd always loved Cedric. Cedric was from New Jersey, right in our backyard, and I had a chance to watch him for a long time and his parents were close and his coach, and it just didn't work out.
He came to me after I had accepted the Cleveland State job and said he wanted to transfer. Once he got all the paperwork done, I thought it would be a great move for him. I thought at that level they didn't really see what was in him. You know, they seen his athleticism, they seen how tough he was, and let's make him a defender. You know, I had watch him through high school where the boy averaged 28 points a game, and I knew he had the potential to score that, and I also watched him handle the watch when he played AAU like a point guard for two years. So I knew there was some things inside of Cedric that could come out, that if I could bring them out would be very good.
Q. You've coached a lot of games, yet this is the big stage. Where does last night's game rank for you personally as far as satisfaction?
COACH GARY WATERS: You know what, everyone thinks that this was really, really big for us. This game was really a game we just played. If you see our guys, they're not really emotional about this game because this wasn't the goal. We started way back when we went to Spain, and we set a goal, and we had many meetings. The funny thing is one night we had a meeting, it had to be about 12:00 o'clock at night and the stars were out in a beautiful setting and all the music playing and everyone was excited out there and we talked about goals we wanted to set for ourselves, and each day we took a step toward that. When we weren't doing as well at parts during the season, we had to say don't worry about it because there's still a big picture and understand what the big picture is.
For me I've coached a lot of games, so this game was important, but just another game for me.
Q. Cedric was saying that he didn't know anything about Cleveland State, didn't know colors, mascot, anything, and that he went online and just kind of looked at it. He said you warned him about the weather.
COACH GARY WATERS: Oh, yeah, it gets cold there in Cleveland, I'll tell you that.
I'm going to tell you another story pretty unique: I was playing my last game during the regular season at Rutgers, and we were playing at St. John's, and we ended up winning the game. And I'm in the locker room, and my manager comes in and says, "Hey, there's two people outside waiting for you." I said, "Let me finish with the players." He said, "No, they need to see you right now." So I went out there and it was Cedric's dad and his high school coach.
And I thought they were there to greet me on great win and so on, and then they said, we were talking, and I said a few words to him, and up came, he said, "Coach, wherever you go, we're going." I said, "Whoa, first of all, I can't talk to you about that. And secondly, I don't even have a job yet. I mean, I'm here at Rutgers."
And then they said, "Well, okay, we'll get back to you when you do get a job." Lo and behold, two days after I got a job, they called, and they said, "Hey, we've got the paperwork, we want to transfer." And I got on the phone with Cedric, and I said, Cedric, "Is this really what you want to do?" And Cedric said, "I want to get out of St. John's because I want to have a bigger role." And that was the primary reason why he was leaving. I said, "Okay."
I said, "Do you know anything about Cleveland?" He said, "No, I don't know anything about it, what it looks like." I said, "Do you know anything about this school?" And he said, "No, I don't care. I'm ready to come." I mentioned to him, it gets very cold here, understand that. Number one. And number two, "They haven't won a lot of games and you come from a program that's not winning. Is that what you really want to get involved in?"
We talked some more and he made that decision.
Q. Do you see tomorrow's game as similar to the Wake Forest match-up?
COACH GARY WATERS: No, a little different. You know, Wake Forest, they're a very talented group, and I think they were younger, and I think there were things that we could exploit because of their youth.
When I look at Arizona this is an experienced group. They know what they're trying to do, and I think they're a little bit more hungrier than Wake Forest was. I think they're playing for something. People are saying they don't belong, and I think they're trying to show the world they belong, and they're on the elite part of this basketball program.
It's going to be much tougher to me, and I think they have some players that are pretty unique. You know, Budinger is as good a player as I've seen at the college level right now. I mean, this comes easy. This game comes easy to him. It's not a difficult game for him. You know, we play some players that are similar to him in our league, but not as talented as he is. He's going to come out and do his thing, and that point guard, if you let him do what he can do, watch out, you're in deep, deep trouble.
Q. I was wondering just how personally gratifying this is for you? And do you ever feel like saying, Rutgers, look at us, look at me?
COACH GARY WATERS: You know, I've heard that a thousand times. I really never even think about that because every place I go is a learning experience for me, and that was a great learning experience. What I'm doing here on the stage at Cleveland State, I gained a lot of that, and I want to say honestly, from Rutgers. I mean, the Big East is a difficult league to play in and coach in, and being able to do those kind of things really helped me do the job I'm doing now at Cleveland State more effectively.
Q. I guess the reality being had you not won your conference, you probably wouldn't have made the tournament. With the win that you picked up yesterday, what does that kind of tell you or maybe what's your feeling then on mid-majors and the lack of automatic bids going to mid-majors, especially this year?
COACH GARY WATERS: Well, you know, I was really happy that we won, to be honest with you, because I wanted to carry the torch for the mid-majors, to make them realize that there's some good, good basketball in that league. It's unfortunate because if you don't win your conference championship, it's unlikely you're going to have a chance to play on this stage, and I really hate that because there's some very good teams. In our league alone, when you think about it, we had four teams that won 20 games, and they were pretty -- or more, and they were pretty good teams. And even in our conference, you know, over the last five years, we have had at least a team win a game in the Tournament every odd year, and I hate to tell you this, every odd year they've made it to the Sweet 16. That tells you how good our conference has been, and there's been better conferences than ours, and they just don't get the accreditation that I think it deserves.
I try to tell our team the same thing. In many cases this Tournament don't belong to you. You've got to break in the door and let people know who you are. And you've got to do it by going out there and performing well on a big stage.
Funny thing you ask that question, we really struggled against Butler. Butler is a very good team, and they were ranked all year. Now, we played great games. Each game went down the tubes, but we couldn't get over the hump. Last year we beat them at our place, but I told our team that means nothing because you're in your own facility and everybody is happy and jumping up and down and they're excited. I said the only time you can show they belong on the same stage they belong on, you've got to beat them on the big stage. And when we went to that championship game I told them that, in order for us to show we belong with this team we've got to beat them on the big stage. Forget about where it's at. This is the NCAA, so forget if it's at Butler, we have to beat them on that stage, and that's what they went out there and did, and now they're carrying this on through the NCAA.
Q. You talked about your kids' even keel demeanor in the wake of last night's win. Will it be the same after every game no matter how deep you go into this tournament? Is that just a personality you want your team to have?
COACH GARY WATERS: Yes, because that's the personality. When you have veterans, the positive thing is our senior leadership. A person like Cedric Jackson, J'Nathan Bullock, George Tandy and even Chris Moore, these young men are mature guys. All five are graduating so they understand. They understand what this is all about. And they want to move forward because they're carrying a torch they think, and with that they're going to be confident and they're going to take it easy and go on that stage.
You know, funny thing, we're in the locker room before this game, and I'm giving a speech and all this, and then Chris Moore jumps up and says, "Coach, can I say something to the guys?" He says, "Hey, guys, after we win this game, I don't want anybody jumping up and running all over the place. We're going to shake their hands and that's it." I said, "Whoa, we're going to win this game? I like that."
The issue is they understand where they're at.
Q. Playing the frenetic pace that you play and maybe not being able to get the very best players in the country, I wonder what kind of players do you go after when you recruit? What are you looking for?
COACH GARY WATERS: That's a good question. There's a couple things that we identify in players that are very -- I'm going to give you something that's going to shock you. The first and foremost thing we look at players that play hard, so I don't have to deal with all that issue. We want players that's going to dive on the floor, go for loose balls, all those things.
The second thing in our philosophy, if you don't average 20 points we don't recruit you. The reason being is if a kid averaged 20, coming into college you're going to cut that in half, so it's going to be 10. If I get a kid that averages 10, all they're going to score for me is five points. So I've got to get him better to score over five points. So we look for players that can really score the basketball, then we teach them the other parts of the game to help them in that area.
And the third and final thing is we look for winners. If a player hasn't won 80 percent of his games, we don't even touch him. People say, Coach, why don't you recruit this kid because he's a great player? I say, hey, if he's a great player he's going to make everyone else around him better and they're going to win some basketball games. And I've always found the player that runs around and loses half his games, he's going to blame somebody else for why he loses.
Q. Do you always recruit guys who have never heard of Cleveland, Ohio, or Cleveland State University?
COACH GARY WATERS: I try not to, no. I'll tell you, I want people that -- one of the things I said when I came to Cleveland is that I was going to recruit the northeast of Ohio area, and I was going to recruit it strong, and that's what we're doing.
We're bringing in a couple of kids from there this year because I want people when they come to that gym and that arena, they'll be rooting for their players. At the same time, if a player can play that's some distance away, then I've got to tell him about Cleveland.
LARRY WAHL: Thank you, Coach.
End of FastScripts