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March 17, 2010
SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA
ROGER ROSS: Hello everyone, and thank you for being here, we have the Murray State Racers with us and Coach Bill Kennedy, Danero Thomas, Tony Easley and Isacc Miles.
Quickly, before we get started out of respect to the players with the scenario they have going on, we would like to keep questions related to basketball not to the personal side of things. They have a player dealing with an issue, and out of respect to him he would like it focused on basketball. Thank you very much, we'll turn it over to questions for the players.
Q. You guys have almost impossible statistical balance in scoring, is that something that's just happened or is that something you strive for?
DANERO THOMAS: I think it's something that just happened. Coach Kennedy wanted people to come in and defend but I knew we had a special group in the summer when we first got together in July, and there was a whole bunch of guards put the ball in the basket. So it's probably something that just happened.
ISACC MILES: Like Danero was saying, we were coming in working hard, and I think we're unselfish as a team and as a unit. We rely on our defense and offense will come, but it's really our defense that makes plays. It's always great when you have 6 players averaging 10 points a game because you never depend on one star, we just got a whole team that can do that. We real estate lie on our defense and the offense comes around.
Q. For any of the players, do you remember either attending or watching any tournament games when you were kids and any upsets that stick in your minds from the tournament that you remember watching as kids or attending in person?
TONY EASLEY: In '05 we actually went to the tournament, and we lost to North Carolina by four, and before we played actually George Mason had just knocked off somebody. I can't remember who it was --
Q. Michigan State?
TONY EASLEY: Yeah, and they were coming in the locker room saying I just need to go out there and beat them so that would be mine.
ISACC MILES: My freshman year I made it to the tournament as a transfer from Creighton, so I got to experience an almost upset of Nevada and it didn't come along. But I've been watching the tournament all my life and it's a great atmosphere. It's what the best of the best play in, and we're glad to be here and ready to play.
Q. Hey, guys, you guys are the underdog. But a lot of media outlets are picking you to pull the upset in the tournament. How do you feel about that pressure?
DANERO THOMAS: Everybody got their own opinion, we have to go out and do what we do best, just take care of business.
Q. Danero can you talk about the first game of the season against California? What do you remember from that game and how far have you guys come? How have you improved?
DANERO THOMAS: We improved a lot from that game. I don't think we knew we were going to have the season we had, but it was a tough crowd, different atmosphere but we came a long way. We had a great season.
Q. Isacc, you have tournament experience and Tony a little bit as well, but you have a lot of players that don't. What have you guys talked to them about the atmosphere?
ISACC MILES: Like Coach says, another game in the stage. All year long we've been working hard and trying to get better and get to this level and we're here now, we aren't taking anything for granted. We are supposed to be in this situation. Coach said this summer this is what we were working for. The difference is you're on a big stage and it's nothing like we haven't did before, we played Cal when they were a top-ranked team, and Vanderbilt, they're a good team and we've been watchin' them play all year long. They're only two hours away. We know them and they know us. It's just another game.
TONY EASLEY: I've been telling the guys to have poise. When you get in games like this you can speed up and get outside yourself. So I've just been telling them keep balance to themselves, be quick but don't hurry it down the floor. That's basically it, everything else should hopefully fall in line, we've been playing ball the whole season and besides letting emotions creep into it we should be fine.
Q. Tony, with Vanderbilt's big guys do you consider this a personal challenge with your defensive game?
TONY EASLEY: Definitely, I think of every game as a challenge, me being not so much as a big guy, I take it upon myself to use it as motivation to actual go harder. Definitely is a challenge, another team effort once again. That's really about it.
Q. Bill, can you give us an update on Jenkins' status and talk about whether or not you've ever seen that happen before?
COACH KENNEDY: He cut his hand cutting a net down, and I don't understand how it happened. But he was at practice yesterday and was full go and looked good and he practiced Monday.
I think he's near -- he's 100%, I would say he's ready to go and should be -- play well hopefully tomorrow.
Q. Cut it with the scissors?
COACH KENNEDY: He said he did. I think he was embarrassed, he hid it. I didn't know about it until the next day but it was a pretty good gash and I wasn't aware it was as bad as it was in the hype of winning the tournament.
Q. Guys, could y'all talk about John B.J. Jenkins and whether or not you've been told to help off him?
ISACC MILES: When you shoot 48% you're a great shooter and we play a lot of great shooters, but only thing you can do is not let him catch the ball. So he can't score. The scouting report not letting him catch it and put it on the floor like any other good shooter. That's what we got to do.
Q. Coach, can you talk about your time here in the Bay Area when you were coaching at Cal and how everything unfolded with your career since then?
COACH KENNEDY: It's very interesting that the coaches that were on that staff, Curtis Townsend is in the tournament, he was on the staff. Todd Bozeman won his league, and we actually played them this year. Three of the four coaches are all in the NCAA Tournament this year and have had blessed seasons.
I learned a lot about basketball here, had a chance to be around Coach Newell some, great players with Jason Kidd, Tony Gonzalez, we had fun, played a lot of games, always something that kept the Bay Area talk bug us, whether it was good or bad we kept it stirred up and probably hasn't been the same since we left.
But we had fun and played a won a lot of games and it was fun to be part of the Pac 10, and it was fun because it's different than being in the rest of the country.
Q. Were you expecting to be the head coach?
COACH KENNEDY: Had a chance, I was the interim head coach for about three weeks, and Steve Lavin went through the same thing. He got the job and went through that process of -- was on the committee that helped choose Ben Braun, and Ben took the job and did a good job here but it was a good experience for me to go through in a tough situation. But we were a Sweet 16 team, very talented senior-laden team, but we had a good time here.
ROGER ROSS: Anymore questions for the athletes?
Q. Guys, can you talk about what presence Tony has in the paint as a shot blocker and what that's like once in a while in practice what he does and what other teams should expect?
DANERO THOMAS: It's good to have a shot blocker on there if you get beat off the dribble as you know you got back-up down there. We go so hard on defense sometimes you will never know. He's coming out of nowhere blocking shots but, that's a good advantage.
ISACC MILES: It's a great advantage to have one of the best defensive players in our league and probably in the country because, you know, like Nero said, if we get beat off the dribble we rely on him to help us and we're supposed to have his back if he gets beat but it's a team effort and it's always good when you have Tony behind you.
Q. Can you talk about whether you look back on Murray State's history and how that impacts you going forward?
TONY EASLEY: I think the last time we actually made it past the first round was '96, maybe, or farther than that.
TONY EASLEY: So even farther than that. We take it as motivation, hopefully this is our year to do that, to get past that. This whole season we've had a blessed season, knocked off a lot of records at our school and this is one more we want to add on to it so I think we take it as motivation.
Q. Given the schools are so disclose do any of you have Vanderbilt connections?
TONY EASLEY: Tyler Holloway played at our school, what, two years ago? And he's a grad assistant at Belmont and through a promise he works Vanderbilt games for the media so he always calls and talks to us about the games and whatnot and one of the players is from Cameroon, too, just like George, and he always talked about how big the players are.
ISACC MILES: I know the point guard for Vanderbilt, and we go way back for AAU ball, always keep in contact on Facebook, ready to play each other again and we know both teams are good so ready for the match-up.
Q. Isacc how often do you guys talk and has he defriended you?
ISACC MILES: We've been talking since I got to Murray State, and we stay in contact and never visited him because I don't have time, but we always said if we get the chance to play each other we'll see the best of the best, and we get the chance to play.
ROGER ROSS: Thank you, gentlemen. We'll take more questions for the coach.
Q. Coach, with Jenkins injury were you surprised that he hid it from you, were you angry?
COACH KENNEDY: I don't think he hid it from us, there was so much going on after the game and we got on the bus and came back and he had it taped, and nobody knew how severe it was until they got a chance to look at it the next day.
It's on his index finger in the bending area, so it's an awkward -- in an awkward spot when you're handling the basketball and catching the ball it caused him some problems the first few days.
Q. Do you anticipate problems tomorrow?
COACH KENNEDY: No, he was good the last two days, it's healed up, he had staples in it to try and heal it up, but it was hard for him to maneuver with it but once the staples came out it's healed up pretty good.
Q. What hand was it?
COACH KENNEDY: His left hand, so it wasn't his shooting hand. So that's a positive for sure.
Q. Could you talk about the emotions of the last week, very highs and obviously a serious tragedy, can you talk about that?
COACH KENNEDY: It's been -- it seems like we haven't played forever, that's the only thing that is somewhat of a concern now, when you haven't played in a game almost in two weeks and that had been the case for us -- that hasn't been the case for us all year except probably the Christmas break.
But it's been nice to enjoy the season because when you're picked favorite in your league and in your tournament so to speak, at our level you have to win the tournament to get in so the last six or seven weeks we had a winning streak, and obviously we didn't want to lose but we ended up losing but we had the longest winning streak in the country. So you hear that all the time so every game was so much pressure it seemed like.
When you get to the conference tournament it's life or death, you know? We're 29-5 we're not sittin' here today, and it is what it is, there are talks about the conference tournament, I'm not a big fan of it but I'm thankful that we were able to win and get in. This last week has been good to take a couple of days off, enjoy the season a little bit and just the emotions of gettin' away from it a little bit and the urgency Sunday coming, selection Sunday and gettin' right back in it has been tremendous. Our guys are excited to play, I'm a little concerned because it seems like it's been forever since we played a game.
Q. Coach, president Obama picked you all to beat Vanderbilt this morning, how do you feel about that?
COACH KENNEDY: I told our assistant coaches we probably had more guys vote for him -- I don't know, I'll leave that alone. He's a basketball fan, he knows what's going on, you know, we're thankful, but I've watched a lot of tape and I see Vanderbilt in a different perspective and they're difficult and they're good but it's always nice when somebody like that in a great position like he is and being a true basketball fan, it's a nice thing and I'll leave it at that, that's about all.
Q. Coach, what do you see as the key match-up as far as what you guys have to do to give yourself a decent chance in this?
COACH KENNEDY: We have to do a good job on interior defense. They're big, they rebound the ball extremely well, we're going to have to do a good job of limiting them to one shot and keeping their size from being a huge advantage that it presents itself as. They're physical, they're an SEC team finishing second in the SEC in a power conference means they've been battle tested. It will be the best team we've played so far.
Q. And also a lot of them majors, obviously they get their conference tournaments done early and you mentioned not having played in a while. How big of a concern is conditioning? I remember Jeff Neubauer playing North Carolina a few years ago. How concerned are you?
COACH KENNEDY: We play very deep and we're conditioned, I don't think that's going to be an issue. The biggest thing is being razor sharp. You play in a pressure atmosphere and not having that experience for two weeks and all of the sudden jumping into an experienced game -- to an experience is my concern.
But from a mental and physical standpoint of being able to play we've got an experienced team, nine guys back from last year and being the coach and playing at Murray State there is pressure on you, our guys are pressure tested because the expectations of being at Murray State and winning is on our guys all the time so I don't think that will be a factor, either. It's just the layoff is the concern.
Q. Coach, did Picasso make the trip out? Did he make the team?
COACH KENNEDY: He's here and he doesn't want it to be about him and his situation. So that's all we'll comment on.
ROGER ROSS: Coach, thanks you very much.
End of FastScripts