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March 25, 2009
THE MODERATOR: We have been joined by the UConn student-athletes. I would ask Jeff to offer a few general comments, and then we'll ask A.J. to do the same thing. And then we'll go to questions. Jeff?
JEFF ADRIEN: We are excited to be here. It is an honor to get out to Glendale, Arizona, and represent our school and ourselves and our families.
A.J. PRICE: Just happy to be here.
Q. A.J., Purdue, I'm sure, just like you guys, you pride yourself on getting up into people playing good, hard, man-to-man defense. In watching Purdue, what impresses you about the way they play defense, A.J.?
A.J. PRICE: They just play real hard, solid defensively. Don't gamble too much. Stay within their selves and try to make you work for everything, sort of like what we do on the defensive end.
Q. For both players, you guys have had distractions all year. You lost Dyson. Your coach missed a tournament game. Now there are some Internet reports about recruiting and so forth. How has this team been able to go about its business? It doesn't seem like it affects you guys, but why does it not affect you guys when there are all these things going on?
JEFF ADRIEN: We are just mentally tough. It starts with our coach. We don't let stuff like that bother us or whatever. We have been through a lot of ups and downs in our lives and everything. We just know how to block it off. We are mentally tough.
A.J. PRICE: Yeah, we just focus on the things we know how to do which is play basketball. We just go out there and take it one game at a time.
Everything else will eventually come out of the wash and take care of itself.
Q. Jeff, can you talk about what you have seen of Robbie Hummel and what kind of a matchup it will be for you guys.
JEFF ADRIEN: He is a tough kid. He keeps moving around and shoots the ball pretty well and he is pretty good defensively. He is a challenge for myself and our team to contain Robbie Hummel.
Q. A.J., have you made a conscious effort to make more jump shots or has that been what the defense has been giving you? Has your confidence increased in terms of shooting 3s lately?
A.J. PRICE: Personally I feel like I'm a good shooter. If I get an open look, I will not hesitate to take it.
I think the team isn't worrying about my job and ability so they are giving me more room. So I will take the jump shots. Confidence has been growing for me as the tournament goes on. The more shots I take, the more I work and the more I can hit in the game, my confidence with the team will grow.
Q. A.J., when the story comes out today as it did, do you guys as a group talk about it? Ignore it? It is out there. Obviously everyone else is talking about it. How do you guys handle it?
A.J. PRICE: We really don't pay any attention to it. We don't really know anything about it, have nothing to say about it.
All we can do is, like I said, worry about the things we know how to do which is play basketball. We have come here and are focused on Purdue and take it one game at a time. Everything else is just talk right now. So we don't really know anything about it.
Q. Coming off two really good wins last weekend, was it tough to wait around to play another game until Thursday or did you want to get right out there and play again?
JEFF ADRIEN: Definitely. We feel like we are in a great rhythm. We want to get out there and play basketball. We have been practicing real well. Hopefully we can translate it to the court tomorrow.
Q. The way you are scoring, A.J. and Jeff, and Stanley started scoring now, is it not imperative that Hasheem get going offensively anymore?
JEFF ADRIEN: It is always a big -- if we get Hasheem going, it opens up the floor for all of us. A.J.'s 3-point shooting, hopefully get Stanley going and slashing the basket, if Hasheem gets going. The game will be easier. If they want to take Hasheem out of the game, we have players that can step up.
Q. A.J., do you care which team you meet in the next game if you advance? And which team do you expect to meet?
A.J. PRICE: It doesn't really matter. I think we have to win tomorrow first before we worry about Saturday. But like I said, we are going to take it one game at a time. Whoever our opponent is in front of us really doesn't matter. We just need to focus on the task at hand, worry about what we know how to do as a team. And I think we match up well with anybody in the country.
We will take it one game at a time and see where it takes us.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.
We are being joined by UConn head coach, Jim Calhoun. Coach, I will ask you for a few opening comments and then we will go to questions.
COACH CALHOUN: The best thing to do is really to address any situation that came to light. I heard about something last night about 11:00, 12:00.
The points I put down, the University is taking any allegations towards its program or newspaper reports or anything else very responsible and tries to live under the responsibility of the NCAA rules.
I have been in touch with our athletic director at 5:30 Phoenix time, around 8:00, and then right before we left for practice. We are going to -- the University is going to look into any matter, as we would, when we hear light of something with regards to we think it still falls under the guidelines of making sure that we are being compliant.
Secondly, there are no current student-athletes involved in this story.
Third, the University worked very closely with our compliance people, with an outside agency -- legal agency and obviously with the NCAA eligibility center. And it was determined that the student-athlete was fully eligible for his freshman year, ready to go and passed all those various tests that they ask you to pass.
The student-athlete departed UConn. And the reason I mention this prior to any competition because there is no problem now with games or what happened during those particular games, nor should there be. At least I don't think so. Beyond that, I really don't have any other comment about it.
It is a newspaper story that -- it wasn't the newspaper. It was a blog story, I guess, that appeared on something that I probably can't get ahold of which is Yahoo!. Very simply, my comments are just what I said. Student-athlete is not involved with our program, he was cleared by the compliance people, an outside source -- legal source and the NCAA. So something was written. We take very seriously our responsibility as NCAA members. And as we speak and as of 5:30 this morning, 8:30 back Boston time, Jeff was working to look into whatever was put forward on that blog, I guess.
Beyond that, I don't really have any other questions. That's it. It is that simple. We sent something out to give you an idea of what we are doing now, and there won't be updates because we are going to look into it and decide exactly what parts of those things, do they or do they not affect us and we will take it from there.
I want to talk about Purdue because that's really the only thing right now that I can control. I can't control what people say, do or act to us or say about us. All I can do is really just control about how we play basketball on the court against Purdue tomorrow at roughly 4:00, 4:10. We are looking forward to that.
I'm glad to be back in the West. There seems to be something about being out here in the warm weather. We will go back right to the -- leave Chase Stadium to eat and overlook the field and do the same -- actually try to do the exact same thing to be very honest with you. We already practiced this morning, and we will go out and do our shoot-around.
Q. You just talked about it, but is there something about being out West that you particularly enjoy and that has led to your success out here?
COACH CALHOUN: As a Bostonian, would I like to be back in Boston, certainly possibly do. But it seems to me over the years that we have been able to get our kids and get them away, you don't know what's going to happen and something didn't happen, at least from a sense of possibly causing some lack in focus. And I think they worry about tickets. They worry about a lot more things than maybe they need to.
What they need to worry about right now is enjoying themselves on this ride, taking advantage of the opportunity that we have been given to play a game, and if after 40 minutes we are good enough, to advance. That's a great opportunity.
I like in many ways having them -- their undivided attention. I think you get that a lot more on the road. If you look back, except for Pittsburgh, I think, counting neutral games we were 14 or 15-1. Over the last 20 years, we have had the best road record in the Big East. We are a team that has flourished over the years on the road.
Phoenix, it is warm. It is different from what we had. I do think we get better concentration.
Q. Just the situation that came out this morning, could that be a distraction to you or the players at all? How do you guard against it?
COACH CALHOUN: I can't tell you anything about it. I can only control the things I can control. I do try to control the officials. That's different, they are part of the game.
I'm really much more worried that I think Moore is a terrific player. I think Johnson has got a chance to be a very special player. And then everybody -- I don't even like to -- Robbie Hummel and Chris Kramer, are Chip Hilton Jr. and Sr., and they play like that. Hummel is a terrific, terrific basketball player. And Kramer plays five points a game until you watch the tape. Every loose ball, it is his. Every tip, it is his. He is a great defensive basketball player.
So I worry much more about that than I do about the other things. I think every time, even in Philadelphia there was a distraction of me not being there to some degree. And our kids, once again, we talked this morning at breakfast about what opportunity we have. We don't want to ever look back upon this and say we didn't give it our best.
Purdue is an enough of a team to handle. I think Moore is terrific, one of the best guys we will play against all year. The other thing about them is that you are in for a fight. You are in for a very physical fight. There are no score, it appears, to Purdue. They just play and they play exceptionally hard.
They are one of the better teams you face. We may have played -- may have, I don't know this -- more talented teams. We will find this out tomorrow. I don't know if we have played more united teams in a single style of basketball, which is to come at you for 40 minutes both defensively and offensively.
Q. You were so focused last weekend as a team. Did you see that carry over in practice this week and coming here?
COACH CALHOUN: It really has. We had to leave a little bit later than we normally would by five or six hours. We didn't leave until almost 4:00 in the afternoon in Connecticut because of class and we were closing in on three weeks to go in the semester.
On the plane, on the ride out here, the kids seemed very focused and very relaxed and ready to go. I think they have confidence. They should. They played terrific this past weekend. Whether we were better or not better than the two opponents, I think we probably were, that's why we were the 1 seed, nevertheless we were great basketball. The tape breakdown, we had a lot of pluses on hedges. There were a lot of good things besides scoring points and some of the other things.
I think the focus was there. Once again, we will find that out tomorrow when we face for the first time, and the closest team I can think to is West Virginia who we beat by five in their place, is pure motion offense. It is so different than a lot of the pro sets we face in the Big East where we have to negotiate over the pick-and-roll and that type of thing. This is going to be a lot more constant motion. You get back-picked a lot more and pick and pops. I think you still remember Hasheem shock against San Diego on the pick and pop. We will see 40 minutes of that from almost everybody on the team. Hummel's best move is to come in, set a screen and pop back. He is a terrific player. If you didn't have -- his back hasn't hurt him, he would be in the running for all-American. I love the way he plays.
Q. Gavin Edwards was a local player. He was planning to go to the junior colleges here when you offered him a scholarship. What did you see in him that a lot of other schools didn't? How did that come about?
COACH CALHOUN: I thought he was an incredible athlete, shot blocker. We could have led the country in seven or eight -- eight this year, I guess seven now and Gavin is getting -- at times has had six in the game.
Secondly, he is an incredible kid. Very good student. He brings a package to you. It won't surprise me a bit if he is one of our co-captains next year. He has been a breath of fresh air in the sense that he never is one of those kids that's so easily -- he has six minutes. He was the star really after A.J. in the Gonzaga game. Yet, he played eight minutes the next game. That's Gavin Edwards. He is a terrific athlete.
I just have to convince him how good he is. He doesn't truly believe it yet. Maybe the large size of his father in the sense of his accomplishments athletically would lend to that. But he has been an invaluable for us.
Q. You have had so many guys go on to the NBA. I'm wondering, have you found this experience of the NCAA tournament, how it tends to affect their draft status? Does it much? And, also, is that ever a conversation you have to have with guys about not wanting to showcase too much?
COACH CALHOUN: The showcase part, I usually take care of with my loud voice. I think that more kids -- we had a kid named Tate George who hit a shot and he was projected to second round. He was the 21st draft choice to the New York Nets -- New Jersey Nets at the time. We do tell those stories. We tell the stories that the team wins, people have to find a reason why they are winning. If you are going to be one of the better teams in the country, there has got to be reasons for that.
But, you know, teams that are champions, those are the teams that once again get scrutinized the most in a positive sense because there must be reasons they are winning. We try to make sure the kids understand the great opportunity they have for us and them, but they go hand in hand.
As I said, do we always talk -- I have no problem in this with 2006, I had a problem when it was happening -- that we couldn't keep the team focused on the goal at hand which was to win the national championship and we got beat in the final eight.
Q. Jim, I know you can't control the Yahoo! story, but can you tell me out how you addressed it with your team, basically what you said.
COACH CALHOUN: Yeah, basically I said to them, simply, fellows, you probably are going to see something on TV, a couple different things. It is something that occurred a year or two ago, whatever it may be.
Just to let you know very simply, the University is taking very good care of it. They will look into it. As far as we're concerned and I'm concerned, we are here to beat Purdue and I want you to know that. If you vary from that, like I said before with opportunity, you will look back and say "I was worried about something that didn't really affect me one way or the other" and yet we let opportunities slip by.
The one thing in life all of us shall I think we have experienced this -- you only get so many opportunities, you only get so many times. You get beat by a buzzer beater and you go home. You play them well, you advance and your team appears to be getting better, it is a great opportunity for us.
And so that's basically the kind of things that we talk to the kids about, and then we shut it off. I think the kids right now, they are talking about can we go to the Phoenix Suns game tonight. I think they are really looking at other things, where are we going to eat, all of those type of things. I think they are focused on what they have to do tomorrow to get to Saturday. That will be hard to do.
I have a great deal of respect for Matt. I have coached against him at the Springfield Civic Center in Glenn Robinson's opening game. Donyell got hurt and taken to the hospital. Glenn led us up to 30. Matt led a solid floor game, I told him. That's the old expression when you don't get a lot of points if you played pretty well.
Q. It is one thing what you said there, but these are 19-, 20-, 21-year-old kids. How exactly do you keep that from being a distraction?
COACH CALHOUN: You do the best you can. I think the one reason I have been able to coach for 37 years and a lot of things have happened. When you coach -- you start coaching in college in 1972 and you start thinking about all the various things culturally that are going on in the city of Boston, for example, at that time, a lot of things happen, sit-ins and you go right through all the various things that we've had, an awful lot of things that I didn't have control over at that point in time we had to handle.
I think that hopefully those years of experience would come to the front here that we can keep our kids focused on what we are going to do and let them understand that the University led by Jeff Hathaway would handle anything else that needs to be handled. We can't do anything about it.
The only thing we can do is play basketball and hopefully advance our way to Saturday.
Q. I was wondering if you could characterize your relationship at all with Josh, the former team manager.
COACH CALHOUN: I'm not going to speak about any individual. He was with our program for six years, got his master's degree. Beyond that, while he was in our program, he was a good kid, worked hard, et cetera. That was my relationship with him during that particular point in time. I have a very close relationship with Rip, going to Rip's wedding in June as a matter of fact. But that's basically my characterization. I don't want to go into detail as far as anything else.
Q. Obviously guarding against your players is one thing, but for you, getting that message last night at 11:00 at night, it is obviously very serious allegations that reflect, fairly or not, on you. How do you handle this?
COACH CALHOUN: The best way I can. Do you like getting that message? No. Do you like having someone just say -- just talking to your athletic director at 5:30 in the morning. I want to talk to him about other things. I want to talk to George really about should we use the pick-and-roll.
Hopefully, once again, I have been through a couple things in my life, I have learned how to stand up to those. Once again, I have no control over some things that have happened to me from my father's death to -- once again, this is nothing like that -- but all various things that have happened in my lifetime.
All I know is to go forward, stand up and be counted. That's exactly what I plan to do and get my team as ready as I possibly can to play Purdue tomorrow night. That's what I know how to do. That's what I have been taught by my dad, by my mom. My family has been taught that. My two sons have been taught the exact same thing. We got to go forward. We can't dwell on anything that was said, not said, make any evaluation of it except let other people who can at this particular point in time look into what they need look into.
Q. I know you probably dealt with this question last week, but those of us who watched the six overtime game couldn't help but wonder how your team and Syracuse were able to get your legs back and were you worried about any reoccurring residual weariness you might have had for the NCAA tournament?
COACH CALHOUN: It was mentally weary more than physically. I think Syracuse proved that. I think Syracuse is one of the two, three most talented teams in the league. The big kid went down and they lost four out of five games. Beyond that, I think both teams mentally needed to recover.
I didn't put the game in perspective until either late Friday or Saturday down on the Connecticut shoreline where I was able to kind of say, that was pretty special. Paul Harris and A.J. and those guys, what they did was really, really special. The loss hurt. Just the whole process, all the various things you did.
But then I realized just what I had been a part of in an athletic term and just the grit that everybody showed and the courage the team showed, athletic courage. It doesn't compare to life courage, but it does -- athletic courage, it was a great deal of athletic courage that was shown.
Q. A lot of us watch you from afar in the Big Ten country in the Big East and marvel at how good your bigs are. It also appears that A.J. Price is kind of the ringleader, the head of the monster, so to speak. Can you just talk about how valuable he is and what he does to make those big guys even more special than they are?
COACH CALHOUN: That's a great point because when I was asked -- two things have happened to us since Jerome Dyson went down. A, we probably had a little question of our -- how good we were because you lose one of the -- maybe second best all-around player, maybe the best all-around player. Maybe Hasheem is the most important, and A.J., that's hard to say which one.
Anyways, two things have happened. A.J. turns around the next week, gets 36 at Marquette, A.J. has been great in the tournament and the biggest thing he took over the true leadership role of a team. You can hear him when you playing back the tape calling people out, screen here and that type of thing.
Along with Stanley Robinson who has picked it up since Jerome has been down, particularly over the last two weeks, I mean, I think A.J. is playing as well as any point guard in America. He can get you big points, eight, ten assists. He has really been invaluable really.
Q. The question on just looking at the two teams that you might play, if you beat Purdue, Missouri was picked seventh by the coaches in the Big 12. And there are some that look at Conference USA with Memphis there and say "well, who have they beaten?" What's your view on those two teams and do they have something to prove?
COACH CALHOUN: Firstly, Missouri, 40 minutes of hell and they come at you and attack you. If you can't stand it, you are going to get beat. Anyone can win 30 games four years in a row. I don't care what sport they are coaching. I don't care what league they are in. And they are already 13-4 or 13-2 or 3 in Top 100 play. If you can win 30 four years in a row, you must be a terrific basketball coach and have a terrific team, and John Calipari is a good basketball coach and certainly has a terrific team. That's a terrific matchup, as I think ours is.
I'm really worried about the physicality on the perimeter and the constant motion and physical defense, good physical defense, by the way, that Purdue plays. I think you are going to see some unique kind of matchups.
But every team we try -- it is a little more difficult at times. I used to love it playing the underdog, but it is hard to get the underdog role sometime when you are the 1 seed. It is real hard. I have tried.
Q. You talked about E'Twaun Moore. What do you really like specifically about his game and who maybe you will match up with him tomorrow.
COACH CALHOUN: He is a terrific player because he can do so many things. He can beat you off the dribble. He is very strong. He posts you up. He can make jump shots. He defends exceptionally well on a team, by the way, with Kramer, et cetera, with terrific defenders. I think he is one of the better all-around guys.
Honestly, until I started watching, I think we have watched probably six games of tape, I never realized how good he was. Because the team is so balanced, on some teams he would be a 20-point scorer in the Big Ten or anyplace. He is really a terrific basketball player. Hummel is wonderful and you love the way he plays and sacrifices his body, literally he sacrifices his body. But Moore is a talent and plays exceptionally hard. He is a really, really good basketball player. He would be big time in Big East, Big Ten, anyplace. He is really good.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you for your time.
End of FastScripts