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March 13, 2010
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA
San Diego State – 55
UNLV - 45
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by San Diego State head Coach Fisher and student-athletes. Coach, if we could start with you with some comments on today's game and your tournament overall.
COACH FISHER: This was a wonderful team victory, and we savor and underline 'team'. The individual accolades are nice, but you don't win unless you have a team. And I can look to my left, and Malcolm was a warrior for three straight games with how he guarded, the toughness he displayed. Found ways to make plays.
Billy was Billy. He had maybe his best game as an Aztec in a very important game against New Mexico.
KD, well-documented what he's gone through, what he's had to deal with. He was sensational for us all season. Was in a terrible shooting slump and stepped up at this tournament and made some baskets that if he doesn't get them, we're not up here.
And then D.J., I made the comment well before the tournament that he is our most important player, and he is. Has the ball, plays 40 minutes, has to make the decisions, and he's done that.
And Kawhi is Kawhi. Every ball that comes off the board is his and he goes and gets it. Plays unafraid and was sensational from the moment he walked on campus. That's what he expected and that's what we expected.
Really, really good team victory. We're very proud to represent our conference as conference tournament champions.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for the student-athletes.
Q. D.J., how relaxing is it now to know there's no more guesswork, that you are in no matter what?
D.J. GAY: I can finally take a deep breath. This is something I've been waiting for the last two years, something growing up as a little kid I always wanted to play with, and now the opportunity to do so. So it feels great.
Q. Kelvin, you brought in the trophy. How does that feel? Is it heavy?
KELVIN DAVIS: It was great. We played hard and coach told us all season, you play hard, win games, you have an opportunity to play for a championship. We did. We won.
Just happy. All three us of on this stage, all 10 of us that work every day hard in practice. We give it to our star players, but the rest of the team won us this game, too.
Q. Kawhi, can you talk about what it was like to grab a career-best 21 boards and the free throws you hit in the final 54 seconds there?
KAWHI LEONARD: Uhm, I just came out wanting to win, so just crashed every board and just got the opportunity to get the rebound. And when I just stepped up to the free-throw line, I was just thinking, Just win. So I just had to make all my free throws for us to win. Then my team just did a good job by helping me, patting me on my back, telling me to hit the free throws. I just got confidence, like sink 'em down.
Q. Billy, what was it like early on when nothing was going down for basically either team?
BILLY WHITE: It was hard, you know. Both of the teams were fighting. We couldn't buy a basket, they couldn't buy a basket. We was just fighting. It was a fight all through the game. Finally we started making shots and they started making shots. It came down to who wanted it more.
Our team just stepped up. We just wanted to win.
Q. Billy and D.J., can you talk about Kawhi's work inside on the offensive and defensive glass.
BILLY WHITE: He's a warrior down there. Really no way you can keep him off the boards. That's what he likes to do. He helps us a lot. He tries to get every rebound he can. Sometimes I think it's impossible to make a rebound, he's just there. So, you know, I'm just proud of him. He works out, he works hard every day. It pays off.
D.J. GAY: Kawhi has been a workhorse since he stepped on campus, always in the gym. It shows tonight. Him being able to grab rebounds like that, I don't know if that's just natural or if that's something he worked at. But, like I said before, I thank God he's on our team, we're not playing against him.
Q. D.J., what was the press like? It was pretty effective for a while. Exhausting or what?
D.J. GAY: Yeah, it took us a while to get into rhythm. They did a good job with their pressure, making it uncomfortable to bring the ball up. Had us second-guessing ourselves for a little bit.
But we finally got in a rhythm, was able to break the press effectively.
Q. D.J., you didn't have the best shooting day, but made the biggest shot of the day. Talk us through that bucket.
D.J. GAY: Uhm, yes, it's been a rough tournament all around for us shooting-wise. But Coach Fisher, he pulled me aside in a timeout and said, D.J., I need you to hit a three for me, I need you to carry us to this victory. The opportunity came. The play was called for me. I saw an opening and just took the shot.
Q. Kawhi, you're not necessarily the biggest guy on the court. What does it take to go out and get 21 rebounds in this type of game?
KAWHI LEONARD: You just got to be fearless and just have heart and just crash, just crash every board that goes up, try to hit a body. Coach is telling me, Just hit a body. They helping me out by getting rebounds, too. My team's crashing boards, too. It's just easier for me to get the rebound if my whole team crashes.
Q. Is there any question about your plans for next season?
KAWHI LEONARD: No.
Q. So what are those plans?
KAWHI LEONARD: Uhm, I'm just looking forward to coming back to school, trying to get another tournament championship, league championship, go to the NCAA. So I'm just focused on school right now.
Q. Kawhi, could you talk a little bit about your ability to play with high energy on short rest.
KAWHI LEONARD: Well, in the beginning of the game, I just came out with high energy. The whole team did. They gave me energy. So we all just had energy on the court, just playing real hard. My coaches taking me out at times when they know I'm tired and telling me on the bench to come in with energy.
It's kind of easy if my team is just, uhm, intense and telling me to pick it up and I see them picking it up.
Q. Billy, I know you have a couple games left. Can you talk about what did it mean to you to get this victory here in your senior year in your hometown.
BILLY WHITE: It means a lot to me. You know, I never won anything like this ever in my life. So, you know, I'm just happy right now. And I'm just looking forward to coming back next year and trying to get another one.
Q. Kawhi, thinking back to maybe just a year or two ago in high school, if you could have envisioned any of this for you personally or for your team as well, even up until last year I don't think a lot of people expected you to end up in the Mountain West, maybe at a PAC-10 school somewhere.
KAWHI LEONARD: Uhm, say that again.
Q. Could you have envisioned any of this, I guess?
KAWHI LEONARD: No. I just was ready to come into school and just play hard. Like I said, we just like set team goals. So I was just trying to do everything for the team and just go out and play hard.
Q. What were your thoughts when coach pulled you today?
D.J. GAY: I was actually surprised (laughter). But, you know, that was something that was well needed. Since the game started, you know, my body could feel just the energy loss that I had from the past couple games. So, you know, Coach Fisher, he knows what he's doing. I'm happy he gave me that two-minute rest or whatever it was. You know, it gave me the rest I needed to contribute.
Q. (No microphone.)
D.J. GAY: It hurts. It hurts. I'll be fine, though.
THE MODERATOR: We'll dismiss the student-athletes at this time and continue with questions for Coach Fisher.
Q. Coach, this is a pretty rare occurrence. What does it mean to the program on both sides, for the men and women, to both win on the same day here?
COACH FISHER: We were so happy for Beth and her team. We got here, there was about three minutes to go, and we were in the locker room. I'm getting ready to do the normal routine. We have the TV in there. And I said, Anybody want to go out and watch the finish of this game? It had just gone to overtime. So they all ran out to be a part of it.
I think that says something about the feeling we have for one another, the respect we have for one another, and the pride we have in one another.
Nobody deserves it better than Beth Burns and her team. And we are proud to be there with them.
I walked in their locker room thinking it was our locker room. I looked at all the stuff on the board. I'm thinking, Am I in the right universe at this time? They were right next to us. I went in as they were celebrating. And they were going crazy. And Beth made the comment, We put tape on the scissors for you guys. I told our team that when I went back to talk to them.
It's a great feeling and a great accomplishment.
Q. How has it been to get this group of guys to come together? You obviously have some young players, guys who transferred in? How has it been to bring these guys together?
COACH FISHER: I have said to many people that this is a great group of guys to be with. They're respectful. We've had more compliments this year on airplanes and hotels and in airports about that with our kids. And I think that wears well on them. They respect one another. They trust one another. They have pride in one another. And that wins.
A lot of new faces. But a lot of talented new faces. We got beat last year by Utah by two, and we lost four starters and five of our top eight guys. This group, we knew we were going to be good, we didn't know how good. And we were thinking, Well, maybe we're not going to be as good as we thought at Saint Mary's after we got lit up and played selfishly. Then we had a reoccurrence at Pacific. Gradually we accepted suggestions this is what we have to do and we got better. I think that's a direct result of having good people who are very, very talented.
Q. Kawhi is the first freshman to win the Mountain West tournament MVP in conference history. What does that say about his potential?
COACH FISHER: Kawhi is very talented. Everybody knows that. He was Mr. Basketball in the state of California. And the question was asked, you know, he couldn't quite hear, about why are you here instead of a PAC-10 school. He's at San Diego State for this, for this.
He knew where he belonged. He knew where people would care for him. He knew where we would be true to helping him grow his game, grow him as a person. And he trusted in us.
We don't have to get on knee pads to recruit against the PAC-10. We don't beat 'em often. But we got a guy that right now they would all love a mulligan to try to get involved with him. He's a San Diego State Aztec and will be forever.
Q. How much of a relief is it after you've been fending off bubble questions for the last three weeks, especially what you went through last year, being so close, just to know that you are in?
COACH FISHER: Well, the question was asked of me yesterday, What do you think after beating New Mexico? Had we not been successful today and not been picked tomorrow, we'd have gotten on a plane and gone someplace and say, We're going to play somebody because we deserved to be in yesterday. Now we know we're in.
It feels great to be in. Last year, you know, everything that could happen on the negative side did with the upsets and this and that. This year, as it was coming down, good things happened for us as we were looking at ourselves as a bubble team.
We're where we belong. I thought we were going to get in yesterday. But now I know we're in.
Q. Just about every game during this tournament was really competitive and really close. A lot of upsets as far as seeding goes. What does that tell you about the quality of the Mountain West Conference, how far it's come since you've been here?
COACH FISHER: This is high-level basketball. I said that yesterday. Anybody that watched the New Mexico/San Diego State game, if there were no labels on the jersey, they would say, This is as good as it gets anywhere. And it was.
I think we displayed that. BYU and Vegas was more of the same.
This is a really good league that has nine teams in it, and four of us are going to go to the NCAA tournament. That's representing your league well.
Now what we need to do is step up and win a few games. That's the challenge we will all face. I think New Mexico will get the highest seed that we've ever had. That will help. I don't know about the rest of us. But we need to roll up our sleeves and find a way to win some games now.
Q. When that clock hit zeros, what were you personally feeling?
COACH FISHER: You know, probably relief. I hate to bring up the dark side, but I know some of you have. We had a 10-point lead on these guys with 35 seconds to go. I'm saying, Get that clock down, let's get it over with so we know we're in.
I felt great pride for our university, and particularly our men's basketball team and our athletic program. We've done a lot of things in our 11 years there. And we've savored, Angie and I, who is here, we've learned to savor the moment, not get so caught up in what's next. If you don't do that, you don't last. And it took a while, but we've learned to be able to do that.
I told our team, Enjoy that bus ride home, hug that trophy, and savor this moment, make it an indelible mark you'll never forget because it doesn't happen often. You know, you think, Well, it's going to happen every year. I told our freshmen, I hope your parents don't think it's automatic, it's going to happen all the time.
So all those feelings.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much, coach.
COACH FISHER: Thank you.
End of FastScripts