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March 17, 2010

Dino Gaudio

Ishmael Smith

L.D. Williams


MODERATOR: We'll start with the Wake Forest student-athletes. We've been joined by guards Ishmael Smith and L.D. Williams. Questions for the student-athletes.

Q. The way the season has ended for you guys, do you kind of look at the tournament as somewhat of a fresh start and a chance for redemption a little bit?
L.D. WILLIAMS: Of course. It's a fresh start for everyone. But this tournament is a chance for us to really get back to what we were accomplishing early in the season. You know, we've obviously been down a little bit, but we had a couple of great practices coming in. And I feel really confident coming to the tournament.

Q. I recognize if you fall behind the game's not necessarily over. But given the way last year's Cleveland State game started and given the way the Miami game last week started, how important is it for you guys, both you guys, to get off to a good start tomorrow?
ISHMAEL SMITH: Well, obviously, it's huge. I think any game you play, it's always good to get off to a good start. This game isn't any different. Obviously, you know, stakes are raised a little bit higher. But it's huge to jump -- not jump out, but to get off to a good start. I think in every game, but in this one in particular. Obviously, based upon the two previous games that you mentioned.
So it's going to be huge for us to jump out to a good start and maintaining that, not dying down, but maintaining that and not maintaining it, exceeding it throughout the whole game.
L.D. WILLIAMS: Yeah, of course, like Ish said. Games are won and lost in the first four minutes of the game in each half. Obviously, we want to come out and try to impose our will early, and have the rest of the game go from there. But kind of like Ish said, it's about starting the game off nice and then sustaining that throughout the whole game.

Q. So much is made of Texas as far off from being No. 1 to an 8 seed. You had a similar slide. Do you feel like maybe you're under the same kind of scrutiny and everybody trying to analyze what's wrong or what's not right with this team right now? Or maybe you're not quite as high profile?
ISHMAEL SMITH: Well, no, we're hearing the same thing. Al-Farouq Aminu is my roommate. And me and him woke up to ESPN talking about how Texas and us are so much similar in the talent-wise. Then at the same time how we're kind of sliding and everybody's trying to figure out what's the problem.
So I guess for both teams and for everybody in the tournament, it's a new start. But, yeah, we hear that. I've tried to kind of cut off the TVs and everything because of the five game or the five out of last six game losing streak we've had. I've tried to cut can off the TV and kind of just concentrate and focus on on the task at hand. That's winning the first round game.
But the TV I have watched, I have heard similar to what you've said. And obviously you're going to hear it. But you've just got to concentrate on the task at hand.
L.D. WILLIAMS: Kind of what Ish said. People are going to talk, you know. There are going to be critics everywhere. Kind of like Ish, I really haven't watched too much TV, ESPN or things like that as of late, just to kind of like clear my head and take focus to what the task is at hand, which is obviously the game tomorrow.
You know, like I said earlier, this is a fresh start for us. We really can't be worried about the past.

Q. For either one of you, being this is your last chance at this, how important is it to you, how much pressure do you put on yourself to win the game and a tournament and move on on?
ISHMAEL SMITH: Well, I think you've got on to do the opposite of that. Because if you put so much pressure on yourself, then those little jump shots you used to hit and those little passes you used to make and now turnovers and missed shots because you're so tense, you're so tight because you're scared that every little, obviously, every play does matter. But I think you have to come in and you've got to play every game, obviously, like it's your last one as far as how hard you have to play. But you've got to be free. You've got to play with confidence. And you've got to play free.
I think that's what you have to, the mentality you have to have. I think if we do that, then we give ourselves a chance to win.

Q. I'd like to ask a follow-up. What can you guys do as senior leaders to give your team the best chance to get off to the kind of good start you were talking about?
L.D. WILLIAMS: A lot of what we do is predicated on our defense. So in these games in these situations in these tournament situations, you really have to start off getting stops. You know, everybody in this tournament can score. Everybody's proven that they're elite teams.
The better teams are the teams who get stops. They string stops together when they need stops, and rebound the basketball. They also play loose.
I think for the most part Ish has been doing a great job of that in these last couple of practices. Keeping everybody loose, still focused on on the task, but just keeping everybody loose. Not so tight. We've all made plays before, and that's what it comes down to. Making plays, getting stops and rebounding the ball.
You put yourself in a really good situation to be in the game.

Q. Same question.
ISHMAEL SMITH: Just getting off to a good defensive start. Getting some consecutive stops, and hopefully by that first TV timeout, then you've got some consecutive stops. I felt like we didn't do that in the Miami game.
I hate to revert back on the past, but I think they scored their first eight out of nine baskets and from there it snowballed. So it just set the tone with our defense. If we do that, we give ourselves a chance to win.

Q. What have you seen that makes you confident that you guys are ready to snap out of the losing streak that you guys have been in? What signs have you seen?
ISHMAEL SMITH: Well, for me, when you look at our last five, I guess, out of six games we've lost, the Florida State who is a tournament team, I think -- who else did we lose to? Virginia Tech, who is a heck of a team. So those two losses we were right there in the game. We played well. Felt like it just came down to the end, and some plays here and there. Maybe some execution plays here and there didn't happen.
Beat a very good Clemson team. As far as the Miami game, I haven't the slightest what happened. We will put that game behind us. I have no explanation about that one.
But I felt like out of those games, we were right there. We played hard, played well. And in practice, we've been practicing hard, practicing well, getting back to the basics of our defense. Offensively just trying to play loose, play smart, though, but play loose and play with some freedom.
L.D. WILLIAMS: To piggyback what Ish said, these last couple of practices have been some of the better practices we've had just because guys have been really getting after it. You know, it's refreshing to know that, you know, the guys have kind of put the last couple of games behind us, and, you know, we're pretty much focused on the task at hand.
So, like Ish said, these last couple of practices have just been good. As long as we just keep working hard and we can play as hard as we've been practicing, then I think we'll be all right.

Q. When you look at Texas, what kind of challenges do think present to you guys defensively in terms of what you're going to have to do to stop them? What have you seen so far?
L.D. WILLIAMS: Those guys push the break. And they really attack the rim. They put a lot of foul pressure on other teams. You know, Avery Bradley's really quick, Damion James is on obviously one of the better players in the country. They really go to the offensive glass aggressively. I mean, Damion James is the best rebounder in conference history. That says a lot. You know, Dexter Pittman, you're not going to be able to move him.
So we've got to really get back on defense, for one. Contest shots and try to limit him to one shot on the glass.

Q. You're playing a team in Texas that's had similar problems, as we said, late in the season. Do you feel that's to your advantage rather than playing a team that's kind of on a hot streak?
ISHMAEL SMITH: Well, I'm sure they're taking the same perspective we're taking: that this is a new beginning (smiling). But I guess there are some pros and cons to both of the situations whether you're playing a team that's hot or cold. Just you think you've got to come in and don't worry about anybody else but yourself.
If we come in, like I said, and just worry about what we have to do and execute on offense, do what we're supposed to do on defense, we put ourselves in a good position at the end of the game to win the game.
As far as that, I guess you could think of it in a good way, but you could think of it in a bad way. But I'm sure they're thinking the same thing as us.
L.D. WILLIAMS: Yeah, Texas has come in in a similar situation. They've probably had great practices coming into this, knowing they've got to get back on the good foot kind of like where they started at the beginning of the season.
I don't really see any advantage or disadvantage in the situation. I know both teams are going to come out and play as hard as they can for as long as they can. And hopefully the best team will win.
MODERATOR: Questions with Wake Forest Head Coach Dino Gaudio.
A few thoughts coming into the tournament, your preparations, and then we'll take some questions.
COACH GAUDIO: Yeah, we're really excited to be here. I'm really proud of the two kids that were just up here and the other 15 in that locker room.
For them to get back in the tournament, there were five teams last year that lost two players in the first round of the NBA draft. Two of those teams are back in the tournament. We were the only team to lose two underclassmen to the first round of the NBA draft. So with those losses and these kids doing what they did this year, I'm just incredibly, incredibly proud.
The other thing I'm just as proud of is what popped up in USA Today this morning. That you look at Wake Forest, you look at the graduation rate, you know, we've had 17 seniors since we've been here, 17 kids walked across the stage at graduation and picked up their diplomas. Two of those seniors you just saw up here, and the other two that are in the locker room on May 17th will do the same thing.
I'm just as proud of that as anything we've done on the basketball court. So it's an honor to be here. We're excited to be here. And really looking forward to the tournament.

Q. I just asked those guys as seniors and this being their last chance in the tournament, how much pressure they're putting on themselves to win a game and sort of in their last chance. Different for you, obviously. But how much pressure do you put on yourself to get them through?
COACH GAUDIO: I feel the same pressure, whether you believe this or not, when we opened up with Oral Roberts this year. And I felt the same pressure, maybe the most pressure I've ever felt in this position is when we played Fairfield that first game that I was the head coach. So we prepare like we prepare. We've had some very good practices, and we've just got to play hard for 40 minutes.
So for me, this is absolutely no different than any other game we've played. I think the most pressure I've ever felt in a game is when we opened up my first game after we had lost Coach Prosser for the Fairfield game.

Q. What can you as a coach do to see that your team gets off to a good, fast start which you weren't able to do against Cleveland State last year and you weren't able to do last week in Miami?
COACH GAUDIO: You know what, we just have to come on out with an energy and emotion. That's what it's all about. We talked about that and how we've got to be excited to play and those things.
But I think that's the biggest thing. You have to come out with energy and emotion, and if we do that, and it's got to be an aggressive mentality. I told our guys: If you're going to make a mistake tomorrow night, make it on the side of aggression. You know, and that's exactly what we have to do. I told Ish I just want him to be aggressive. I want him to be in an attack mode. And I think he'll do that.
I think as he goes, we go.

Q. Who were the other teams you were referring to about the two -- loss of two draft picks? And what does the legacy of Chris Paul mean at Wake Forest? Do you kind of regret that the Hornets are out of town this week and he can't be here to cheer you on?
COACH GAUDIO: I checked in the meeting today with the NCAA meeting that we had. He has two years of eligibility left at Wake Forest. It would be nice to use him. But I think Chris has left a tremendous legacy at Wake Forest. We use him a tremendous amount indirectly in our recruiting. Of course, Chris can't call kids or talk to kids or write kids. Anybody at any university that has graduated cannot do that.
We get in so many doors when we're recruiting, especially guards, when you talk about Chris Paul. Because all these young kids, they love him, they know what he stands for, and he really helps us a lot in our recruiting in that area.
Just been a terrific young man, and a representative of our university. Obviously, the folks down here know who he is and what he's about. So we're really, really proud of Chris.
I'll let you look up those other schools. The two in the tournament are ourselves and Louisville.

End of FastScripts

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