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March 17, 2010
SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA
ROGER ROSS: Hello, everyone. We're now here with UTEP's players. We have Randy Culpepper, Derrick Caracter and Julyan Stone. Coach will be joining us shortly, but right now we will start with the athletes.
Q. Derrick, you've been here in the NCAA Tournament before. The program you're with right now hasn't been in a while. Have you had a chance to talk to your teammates about the experience, and if you have what have you told them to expect?
DERRICK CARACTER: Yeah, I've been telling them that the experience is an experience of your lifetime, the light is shining brighter, one loss and you go home. So really just explaining and focusing on, you know, shutting down defense, lock-up defense and executing on offense.
Q. On a personal level your last NCAA Tournament there was uncertainty and turmoil involved with your last situation. Can you contrast the experience now and how different it is this year for you?
DERRICK CARACTER: I talk about wearing my Elite Eight ring around, and I want to pass that goal. The Elite Eight when we lost to North Carolina, I didn't play as well as I wanted to, and as much as I want to and this time around I have an opportunity to be a major contributor to my team and hopefully keep leading and taking steps forward.
Q. You guys had a tough loss in the Conference Tournament. Do you guys feel you're mentally and physically ready for this match-up?
JULYAN STONE: I don't believe so. We're a mature team. All of us have grown as players throughout our college career and I think we're focused on the other team, and they're a good team and with everything we put forth and all the effort we put forth we're going to play to the best of our ability and we're ready for it.
RANDY CULPEPPER: It was a bad loss, but we can't dwell on the past and we've got to look forward to the future and what's happening now. Like Ju say, we have to worry about ourselves and do what we have to do and we're prepared for this game. We should be all right.
Q. Derrick, just curious to know your success in getting to the tournament, how much does this take the sting out of how things ended with U of L?
DERRICK CARACTER: I never focus on my past, but it does drive me to keep succeeding and doing better. But I'm just focused on now, my teammates here at UTEP, and trying to make a run in this tournament.
Q. Randy, the loss to Houston, did it humble you? What did you learn from it? It's never good to lose a game, but did you learn from it and what are you going to do to grow from that?
RANDY CULPEPPER: Most definitely we learned from that loss and learned never to look past a team, even though Houston's wasn't that good. Like Coach said, they weren't going to back down from us, but that's exactly what happened But you can always learn from each game and there's always room for improvement.
Q. What's the experience like?
RANDY CULPEPPER: It's a great experience. My freshman year and sophomore year we had good seasons, but this season is a great season, and for us to make it to the NCAA Tournament is a big accomplishment for me and also the team, and it's a great feeling right now.
Like this is not a vacation, you know, California is a great state, but it's a business trip. We come here for one thing and that's to win games.
Q. You were a little banged up in that last game. You healthy, feeling good now?
RANDY CULPEPPER: Most definitely. I've been getting a lot of treatment from my trainer, so I'm back to 100% right now.
Q. For any of you, were you guys at all disappointed with your seating? Almost all rankings, you and Butler are almost identical. Are you surprised that so many analysts are picking the Miners to win this game?
RANDY CULPEPPER: This is the NCAA, no matter what seed you get you're going to have to come out and play regardless, it's all good teams in the tournament, so I wasn't worried about the seeding, because each day we come out we have to play, each day it's do or die, win or go home. The seeding didn't matter to me.
JULYAN STONE: Like Randy said, we just happen to be in the tournament. Seeding is not a problem for us, we're not worried about that. Every game you have to come out and play your best basketball because anything can happen in any given day.
We're excited to be here and anticipating the game and can't wait to play. We weren't disappointed in our seeding. We're happy to be here and Derrick has been here, but me and Randy came in our freshman year. We've always dreamed at being at this level and for us to accomplish that we're proud to be a part of something like this. Kind of be in the history books that we would always be able to say we were in the NCAA Tournament, and we're proud to be here regardless of the seeding.
Q. Can you just talk a little bit about Butler, what you guys know about them, and what you're going to have to do to stop their offense and their solid defense?
JULYAN STONE: We know they're a real good team. They have a lot of good players, their big man is good, they have Gordon Hayward who is able to do everything on the court and Shelvin Mack who is a great shooter, and they're a great team and really fundamental.
So we have to go out and play our type of game. To be successful we have to worry about what we do rather than what the next team does. So we need to go out there and play our game and hopefully it bothers them a little bit.
ROGER ROSS: I would like to thank the student athletes. Appreciate your time.
We're now joined by the UTEP Coach, Tony Barbee, and we'll open it up for questions.
Q. Coach, I was wondering if you were at all disappointed with your seeding in this tournament. It looked like almost every statistical or computer ranking, Butler and UTEP were close, if not identical and yet the difference in the seed is pretty extreme, although maybe that's why so many analysts are picking UTEP to win this game.
COACH BARBEE: I was shocked to see the seed that we got. Those guys don't pick the tournament seeds, but when you see the prognostication two weeks up from all the bracketologists, all the talk had us in the 7, 8, 9 range. There was never any talk of us over the last two weeks being on the bubble or one of the first -- last four in, first four out any of that talk.
So I was surprised when the 12 seed did come up, because that meant we were one of the last few teams in if not the last team in. So I was a little shocked by that. I thought we had a season that deserved a little more respect in terms of the seeding, but at the end of the day we're fortunate to be in, excited to be in, and we're going to have to make the most of it.
Q. I know El Paso is a long way from a lot of places and you've got the natural connection to Memphis, but I wonder even then how much did it take to get some of those guys to come?
COACH BARBEE: If you've ever been to El Paso or UTEP you know the rich history story tradition that is UTEP basketball. You've got a Hall of Fame coach in Coach Haskins, who I was fortunate to be around through my first two and a half seasons and spent time with him.
If you know the great teams that have played there, obviously the 66 team there, the glory road team that won the national title, talking about players, Jim Barnes, a number one draft pick. Tiny Archibald, top 15 NBA player of all time. The Tim Hardaways, Antonio Davis, Greg Foster, those guys.
When you're trying to sell to a recruit why UTEP is the place for you, you say it's been done there before. So why can't you come in here and do it? This is a team that's been to the NCAA and won a national title, they've had the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft before, they have had one of the top 15 players in the NBA of all time, and you've got a beautiful community in El Paso that's so supportive.
We are the franchise. There is no professional sports organizations in the general vicinity, so UTEP athletics, UTEP basketball is what people get excited about. So it was an easy sell.
Q. Coach, Derrick Caracter left Louisville with the reputation, at least in the eyes of some, as being lazy and selfish as a player or teammate. Can you talk about what your expectations were as he came in as a transfer, and then also talk about his development since he got to UTEP?
COACH BARBEE: My expectations for Derrick were very high. Having recruited Derrick when I was an assistant at Memphis and knowing him since he was a 15 -- 16 year old kid in high school, we all see 6'9" 275 pounds, and we assume right away, grown man.
Derrick, coming out of high school, was immature, spoiled and always a little bit lazy. You're pretty accurate on that assessment. When he went to Louisville at 17 years old, you think about some of the decisions we all made when we were 17 that did not get covered by the national media that we wouldn't have been so proud of. Derrick is a great kid, that was never in question.
The fact that he was painted in that light as being a "bad kid" never a bad kid. Just always a little immature, always a little lazy, always a little spoiled, and he made some bad decisions.
Now, for me having known Derrick and recruited him, knowing his mom, she is a great lady, Miss Terri, he's got a great support system around him. When we were first contacted by Derrick after he left Louisville, my first question was why, because I knew he would have options to go other places.
His size, his skill level and ability he could have easily went to Europe and commanded a 6-figure salary. Why would you want to come back to college, and I got all the right answers. He understood that all the wounds that were inflicted upon him at his previous stop were self-inflicted. He didn't point fingers or blame anybody else. He understood that he made bad decisions which affected his chances to help that Louisville program.
Once I heard that he wasn't blaming anybody else, he knew it was his fault, and he knew he had to change. Knowing he was a good kid from recruiting him from before, I thought he had a chance to turn a corner. He's grown up. He's matured. He's shaken that lazy label since being around me. Everything I've seen, he's been one of the hardest workers on our team.
You will constantly see him -- we'll go through a two-hour practice today, and when we get back to the hotel today he will be in the workout room getting on the cardio machine, on the weights. He's done that at home, and when we are on the road, and he understands he had to change and he's made those changes. That's why he's had such a positive impact on our program this year.
Q. One of the story lines that you've had all season is to always take steps forward. Took a couple steps back at Houston. Do you feel you have done enough in the last couple of days leading up to today's practice to make those steps forward again?
COACH BARBEE: Oh, yeah. You don't win the amount of games we won in a row through a difficult Conference USA season. There was a lot of teams that could have been in the spot that we were in, you don't win that many in a row and have a blip like we did in the championship game and all of the sudden the sky has fallen in.
There are too many things we've got going, we have a an outstanding team, and we're not going to let the fact that we uncharacteristic ly made some mistakes in that championship game. We're not going to let that affect where we are now.
It's a new season, can't worry about the past, you've got to keep looking forward and these guys -- this team has been very resilient all year long and through some adversity early in the year. This team has always had each other's back and keep looking forward, and you know our theme is to keep taking steps forward, don't keep looking back, and that's been one of the best things about this team they don't dwell on the negative. We keep moving forward and keep trying to get better.
Q. You said Derrick Caracter has made some changes. Can you talk about his leadership role coming into the Tournament being the only guy who has played in the Tournament?
COACH BARBEE: I think that's a positive for Derrick. You know, I played in the Tournament a couple times as a player. I've been here, obviously, as an assistant a bunch. Those experiences are only going to help our team so much. Derrick Caracter playing in two NCAA tournaments and advancing two times pretty far, he's going to share that with our team, and that's only going to help them so much.
Until you go through it, and until you're out on there on the court and feel the butterflies and the nerves of being on this stage, it's like anything. Until you get the actual experience, I don't know how much anybody else telling you about it is going to help you.
I know our guys are excited to be here. I've had to reel 'em back in a little bit, because they are -- for all of 'em except for Derrick, this is a brand new experience for all of 'em, and you can understand their excitement and the nerves in general.
So I've had to -- what we've done all year to curtail that with some of the success we've had is just focus on the next step, not looking ahead, not getting caught up in everything that goes with it, focusing on Butler and preparing the right way and not worrying about winning the game or any of the other things. Just focus on preparing, and usually if you do that, then you'll be okay at the end of the day.
Q. Coach, Butler has some skilled players, but doesn't have the kind of size that you have. Do you expect the game to be decided in the paint and with your size advantage is that a big edge for UTEP?
COACH BARBEE: It could be if we go to it. If we use it the right way. I think it's a little -- even though Butler doesn't have the Derrick Caracter size guys at 6'9" 275 or Claude Britten at 6'11" 270 or Arnett Moultrie at 6'7" 235. It's not how big you are, it's how you play; and when you watch Butler on tape they all play bigger than listed, Matt Howard plays like he's 7'4" and that's the guys I like to recruit. You get a lot of guys recruiting that are 6'10" and they play like they're 6 foot.
You've got Hahn coming in the game. Those guys play the game like they deserve to win. When you watch 'em on tape we have a size advantage there. They've struggled with some of the bigger teams that they've played this year. Hopefully we can take advantage of it.
They're not going to be outtoughed or outphysicaled by anybody, and that should be an interesting match-up.
Q. Coach, speaking of tradition you probably know about Butler and everything they bring to the table. Does it matter to your players -- some of them haven't seen Hoosiers or anything like that, do you discuss that before a game like this?
COACH BARBEE: Not with the guys, they could care less where I'm from and where I played and those things. I'm not excited to play Butler because of how good they are and what a good job Brad has done there, and I've known him for a long time and happy for his success. Growing up in Indianapolis I've always had a great affinity for that program. My parents used to take me to the games a lot. They recruited me coming out of high school.
Now the head coach who is at my high school now was the assistant at the time, Doug Mitchell, and I didn't give him a whole lot of time when I was being recruited by him. So maybe that's why I can't get a player out of my old high school now, I'm just joking, he's done a great job at Butler.
All the recent success they've had, it's been fun to watch a place like Butler that I've been connected with in some sort of way have the success they've had, for me it's kind of special, it's neat to be playin' against them but it doesn't affect my guys. They don't get into all of that. Maybe I should show them Hoosiers, I got to play in Hinkle a few times, it's a great place to play in.
Q. Randy talked about how this is a business trip for you guys, have you guys done anything practicewise or travel to make sure you keep it a business atmosphere while you're here?
COACH BARBEE: No, and trying to control the nerves and the jitters that these guys might have, I don't think you change from the routine you've done all year long. If you start changing and trying to add or reinvent or do something different than you do all year long, they notice it.
So the biggest thing we have tried to do is stay consistent and how we've prepared for every game and every opponent and hopefully they'll recognize for a lot of these first-time guys all right, maybe this isn't different than any of the other games that we've played in all year long. So that's why I tried to do with this group.
ROGER ROSS: Thanks, Coach.
End of FastScripts