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March 10, 2010
THE MODERATOR: We're ready to continue on with Georgia. We'll ask Coach Fox for some opening remarks, his thoughts on the Georgia team headed into the Tournament. Then we'll take your questions for the two student-athletes. And then finish up with questions for Coach Fox.
COACH FOX: We're very excited to be here in Nashville for the Tournament.
This team has been one, when we started, really accepted, you know, a new philosophy and has been the team I've really enjoyed coaching. One of the things that we talked about all year long was trying to get better from game to game and from week to week, and we felt like, if we could do that, towards the end of the year, we'd be playing our best basketball.
I think that over the last month, we've played as well as we've played all year. We didn't have a great week last week, but I do think we enter the Tournament with a team that's playing and, I think, has peaked at the right time.
It's been a team I've really enjoyed coaching, and hopefully I get to coach them for an extended period of time here in Nashville.
THE MODERATOR: We'll take questions for the two student-athletes.
Q. Ricky, I know you weren't playing two years ago when Georgia won the SEC Tournament, but were you there? What do you remember about that? Is there like a lesson in what happened then?
RICKY MCPHEE: That was my redshirt year. I wasn't able to be on the bench, but definitely an exciting time for our program. They went on a magical run.
We're just really excited to be playing Arkansas tomorrow, and hopefully we'll just get on a run like that.
Q. Were you in the building for that tournament?
RICKY MCPHEE: No, sir.
Q. What do you guys remember about the first game with Arkansas and them coming back from 15 down?
TREY THOMPKINS: Well, Arkansas is a great team, and they have a group of talented guys who can score the ball.
We broke down defensively, and we didn't take care of our jobs and do what we were supposed to do.
So hopefully we've matured as a team to be able to take care of those things and have a great game.
RICKY MCPHEE: I mean, we had an early halftime lead, and they went on a little run in the second half, and we just weren't able to bounce back from that.
Hopefully we can learn from that, and we've grown as a team since that game. So we're just really looking forward to playing against them.
Q. Trey, we'll start with you. What's the difference now -- Coach said you're playing your best basketball here the last month. What's the difference now in doing that?
TREY THOMPKINS: There's been games where we haven't been able to execute down the stretch. And we've been in close, tight games that we feel like we've competed in that we could have won.
We feel like in the past couple of games we've been there, but we just have another level of maturity that we have to reach.
We've been playing great. We've been playing together. Everybody's been having high spirits and a lot of confidence coming into the Tournament.
Q. This is for Trey. I guess you were a Georgia signee when they won the Tournament, right? You signed early. Did you attend those games or watch them, or what do you remember about Georgia being a six seed and winning that tournament and having to win three games in two days with the tornado and all that?
TREY THOMPKINS: Well, I was at home watching. Unfortunately, I couldn't get a ticket to the game. But it was a great experience for me knowing that the group of guys that won it would be a few guys that I would be playing with.
And just knowing that they were warriors during that tournament, through all the storm and all the problems that were going on, that they were able to take care of business and stay strong.
Q. Does that give you hope you guys could do something similar?
TREY THOMPKINS: Hopefully, we can make a run in the tournament. I'm confident in my teammates and their abilities, and hopefully they're confident in me also. We'll just have to wait and see what happens.
Q. For both players. Do you sense a difference as a team, either this team you've been on or any other team you've played on when guys are together and there's a cohesiveness and there's good team chemistry versus when there's not? Have you been able to notice a difference throughout your careers?
TREY THOMPKINS: Well, I've been on teams that have won without being a cohesive unit, and I've also been on teams who have won, who are very tight and close-knit. It definitely makes a difference when it comes down to making that last play, or depending on your teammate to make a shot. You know he's going to make it because you have faith in him when your team is close-knit.
So there is definitely a difference between the two.
RICKY MCPHEE: Can you repeat that question, please?
Q. Just can you explain the difference when you feel like you're close as a team versus when you're not?
RICKY MCPHEE: Yeah, just coming into this year with a new system and just new staff, it just brings a whole different approach to our team. I mean, it's been just real exciting just to get close to these guys and just learn a new system.
I mean, it's been fun for us. I can definitely tell we've just grown over the past season. So I mean, it's just exciting when you see players just grow on the court and just build stronger relationships on and off the court.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you. We'll continue on with Coach Fox.
Q. Coach, just wondering, Arkansas, when they beat you guys the first game, they were in a five-game winning streak. Now they're in a five-game losing streak. Just kind of a streaky team all year. What's your take on their up and down season?
COACH FOX: Well, I've always operated under the philosophy that every game is independent of the previous one or the next one.
I think with any team you do go through ups and downs. Whether you're on an upward swing or a downward one, those things often change. There's peaks and valleys.
So I'm sure that Arkansas will be excited for a fresh start in the SEC Tournament, just like we are. Both teams are probably hungry for a new beginning and need to play well.
Q. Coach, it's been said a lot that you guys are the team that no one wants to play in the first round of this tournament. Can you tell us when the light bulbs kind of came on for your kids as they've gone down the stretch here a little bit and played so much better?
COACH FOX: You know, I think that this team -- you know, I think early back when we played Illinois was a big step for us because I think it was the first time when our team was -- they really felt their confidence in themselves was challenged. And they had had a good opponent, and they had to rally and come together and win.
And I think that really allowed us to -- you know, these kids to see that they could accomplish some things. But we weren't a finished product, and we're not now.
I do think that we had some tough games early. We played some people very closely, and I think that they realized that some of the things that were costing us some of those games early were errors that we could correct and if they took responsibility for them, they could mature as people.
Part of it was just getting experience in close games too. I think we've had some of those experiences and been able to grow from them.
So certainly February, we were a much better team.
Q. Mark, I'm wondering if you feel like the challenges presented by the various SEC teams are enough to get any team prepared for the NCAA Tournament?
COACH FOX: Well, I do think that in this league there's enough diversity in the styles of play. You know, Vanderbilt doesn't play like Kentucky plays, and Arkansas plays different than both of those two.
So I do think that there's enough diversity in this league that whomever reaches the NCAA Tournament should have -- should be able to rely on some experience versus different styles of play and hopefully use that to their advantage in the tournament.
Q. Coach, could you explain maybe some of your philosophy or what you do in terms of building team chemistry, where you get guys to care about each other and sacrifice maybe their individual goals for the team goal and how you go about building that in your team.
COACH FOX: Well, that's a long process. I think it has to start with the relationship with each player. You know, I think that they're recruited as individuals, and certainly in this season for me, many of these kids I inherited.
But they're recruited as individuals, and I think you have to recruit them with the understanding that they're joining a team, the team's not joining them.
I think sometimes it's -- you know, for young people of that age, so much is thrown at these kids, and it's easy to look at yourself first and maybe not think outside the box.
You have to establish relationships with each kid, and you have to show how coming together and working as a group can certainly make life better for all of us. And that's one thing I'm grateful about with this team. We don't have any selfishness. I haven't had to fight selfishness all year, and that's a credit to these kids.
Q. Mark, have you mentioned, or do you plan to try to use in any way what happened two years ago as like a motivating thing this week?
COACH FOX: Well, I'm not going to pray for a tornado, but, you know, we have -- Albert Jackson was here in Atlanta when they won the championship. We have a picture of their team holding a trophy that's in their locker room, and they see it every day.
I think that for us, our focus is not on the entire week, our focus is on Arkansas. We have to take this one day at a time, one game at a time.
And outside of telling them to pack for a week, our complete focus has been on just playing well on Thursday night.
Q. Just wonder what you remember about that first game because everything seemed to be going so well for you guys in the first half and then turned around in the second half. Just wondering what you remember about that game, what stands out.
COACH FOX: Earlier in the year, and even still sometimes in the last half of conference play, we've been a much better defensive team when our team's right in front of our bench.
And certainly in that first game -- and we went to the other end and had to play defense away from our bench, we had not yet matured to be an effective defensive team when we were out of earshot of the coaching staff. And I don't think we've completely matured there yet either, but we've made some progress.
And I know that in the first game, it was certainly partly our defense. Also, Fortson had a great second half, and they played very good offensively in the second half, and we just couldn't find a way to slow them down.
THE MODERATOR: Okay. Thank you very much.
End of FastScripts