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March 17, 2010

Steve Fisher

D.J. Gay

Kawhi Leonard

Malcolm Thomas

Billy White


THE MODERATOR: We're joined now by San Diego State student-athletes, Malcolm Thomas, Kawhi Leonard, D.J. Gay and Billy White.

Q. D.J., how good does it feel for you guys to get on the court and practice this morning, after the long flight yesterday and all the excitement that's happened the last couple of days?
D.J. GAY: Like you said, it's very exciting, just the opportunity to be here. We haven't been here before and just to be on the court and knowing that we're playing in the NCAA Tournament is amazing, all the excitement, all the joy that we have. We're going to be able to take it on the court and show that.

Q. D.J., when you look at coaches experience in the NCAA Tournament, how much has he helped prepare you guys for this moment since you haven't been here?
D.J. GAY: Just knowing his history, you never second guess what he tells you. He's our leader. He's our coach. So whatever he says we're all ears, our attention is always on him. When he has something to say you have to listen because he's been here before, none of us have.

Q. Malcolm, can you follow up on that?
MALCOLM THOMAS: Like D.J. said, we just listen to what he has to say. We believe what he has to say and we buy into what he's trying to do here, and everybody works hard in practice. We're just excited to be here. Everybody is excited.

Q. D.J., does coach Fisher ever talk to you guys or do you ever ask him about the Michigan team that won a National Championship?
D.J. GAY: He brings it up often. He brings it up often but we're a completely different team. They had an amazing team at Michigan. And like I said, we have a brand new team, brand new players, and we put it together in one season. The teams are completely different but we're trying to achieve the same things.

Q. Billy, from when you first found out on Sunday that it was going to be Tennessee, the initial instincts was they're like UNLV, they like to run. What have you learned about them since then?
BILLY WHITE: Like you said, they like to run. They like to get into the paint. They're athletic. They like to make stops. They go off the defense. That's what gives them energy. So by looking at tape that's what we learned about them.

Q. The Tennessee guys said they don't get a chance to see you a lot, playing on the West Coast. How much do you watch them on TV, because they had some national TV games during the year?
BILLY WHITE: I saw them a couple of times playing on ESPN. I saw them maybe once or twice. Other than that, just catching a couple of highlights on ESPN.
KAWHI LEONARD: Me, too. I seen about one or two games. And a couple of highlights on TV. I seen them play against Kansas a little bit, that game, I caught at the practice, and that's about it.

Q. When you guys look at Coach Dutcher and what he's done for the team. Maybe he doesn't get as much credit for terms of game planning. Can you talk about your relationship with him and how he prepares for you guys to play a game, especially with a team you haven't seen or don't know much about?
D.J. GAY: Coach Dutcher, he's an easy guy to get along with, of all the coaches on the team he's the jokester of the bunch. He does a good job of getting his point across to the team. Like you say he probably doesn't get as much credit as he should. We probably wouldn't be here without him. He's kind of like our offensive coordinator, he puts in the plays for us and calls them when needed. He's played a huge role, Coach Dutcher and Coach Justin. They've both done an amazing job for this program.
THE MODERATOR: Now joined by Coach Steve Fisher. Opening comments Coach.
STEVE FISHER: I hope I'm echoing what our players said. We're very privileged, excited to be here. We look forward to representing ourselves, our program and the University in a similar fashion. We know we've got a great opponent in the University of Tennessee but we will play hard and play smart and play together and we're anxious to take the court.

Q. Bruce was mentioning that he remembered sitting with you in gyms when you were Big Ten assistants. Can you talk about those days going after the same guys?
STEVE FISHER: We rarely got a guy that Bruce Pearl wanted. He is a protege, obviously, of Dr. Tom Davis. I'm going to count the bounce passes that they throw, when they go through warm ups, that's what Dr. Tom used to do.
I think there's a real kinship in assistant coaches when you go anywhere. And when they become head coaches you pull for them. So we've done that. I've done that with Bruce Pearl, from the moment he took his first head job, and then went to Wisconsin, Milwaukee, and now Tennessee. I'm not surprised with the success he's had. He's smart. He's a very, very hard worker, tremendous motivator, and he was that way as an assistant. He was very involved, very active, and you could tell that he was a head coach in waiting, so I'm not surprised with what he's done.
And I wouldn't say that we're guys that talk on the phone every month. But when we see one another, we spend time to reminiscing a little bit and talk and catch up, and I've got great respect for him.

Q. Could you kind of depict how it is for you now going into the NCAA Tournament maybe compared to what it was like when you first came to the tournament as head coach in Michigan and thereafter with those great teams, is it just as exciting?
STEVE FISHER: If you don't get excited when you walk out there for an NCAA Tournament game, it doesn't matter who you are or where you are, then you don't belong in the business.
I am itching, jumping out of my skin to get another opportunity to play in the NCAA Tournament, as are our kids and our fans and our community. We don't have quite the history that our opponent does, but we have a great awareness of what this tournament is all about. The NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament is the finest sports spectacle that there is in the world and we're a part of it.
Before every season you set short and long-term goals, and the long-term goal is to get here. And everybody strives for it and not everybody gets here. And we're here, so we're extremely excited to be a part of the field. It doesn't matter who you play, what seed you are, or where you play, you go in expecting to win.

Q. What was practice like this morning? Were the kids pretty antsy, were they relaxed, were they happy to be back on the court after a pretty long travel day, just take me through how that was like?
STEVE FISHER: You want an honest answer? We were sluggish in practice today, and maybe part of that was me. I didn't want to do a whole lot of full contact, 100 percent and I think it led to kind of dragging ourselves through practice. And I never get too caught up in what that might mean in terms of the next day. We are going to be excited to play and anxious to play.

Q. If you could just talk about Leonard. His numbers speak for themselves, but if you could just talk about him compared with some other grates you've had.
Also when you look at Tennessee, what J.P. Prince does for them, their small forward?
STEVE FISHER: Kawhi was a terrific basketball player. He was player of the year in the State of California. Came in with a lot of hype. Most of the time when they come in with that value, they don't measure up. But Kawhi has measured up. He was a competitive guy who early on was feeling his way around and it doesn't take him long to say I belong here, I can play here.
I don't want you to get overly caught up in all his rebounding numbers, because he's the best offensive rebounder of his own missed shot that I've ever had. So he sometimes gets three rebounds on two misses that he's had. But he can rebound the ball. He can rebound the ball special he's got huge hands and is fiercely competitive.
Prince, I remember him when he was at Arizona and loved him then. He is tenacious. He will guard the opponent's best wing player. He's giving of himself for the team and he's a winner. He's a terrific basketball player that any coach and any program should feel honored to have.

Q. Talk a little bit about D.J. Gay, he's averaging almost 35 minutes a game, more than that lately and what he's meant to this team?
STEVE FISHER: For the benefit of those that have not followed us or don't know that much about us, we graduated five seniors, four of whom started last year, and the catalyst for that team was our point guard, Richie Williams. We knew we had good players coming in, our fans knew that. And the worry that all our fans had were who's going to play point guard.
What are we going to do without Richie. And D.J. Gay has turned into being our most important player, even though he doesn't lead us in scoring, he's our most important player. In the tournament in Vegas he played 40 minutes, 40 minutes and 39 minutes in the three games. In the championship game I believe he had 7 assists and no turnovers.
He's unafraid to take an important shot and he's everything, again, that I mentioned with Prince, any coach in the country would love to have D.J. Gay. He came out of high school as one of the leading scorers in the State of California. And he's made a transformation from a guy that thinks score every time he gets it to a guy now thinking what can I do to set someone else up to score. But he can score the ball when needed and when available. He's very, very important to us.

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