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March 17, 2010
OKLAHOMA CITY, OKLAHOMA
THE MODERATOR: Now joined in the interview room by Kansas State student-athletes, Jacob Pullen and Curtis Kelly.
We are ready for questions for Kansas State student-athletes.
Q. Hey, guys. I don't know how much of a topic it was maybe on the bus ride up or anything like that, but there's been some Tweets, some things about President Obama picking K-State in the Final Four. I want to get y'all's thoughts on that.
JACOB PULLEN: I voted for him so he had to vote for us (laughter). I mean, probably just watch a lot of basketball, you know, so maybe he just likes our style of play.
CURTIS KELLY: It's just cool to have President Obama watching us. I didn't even know he watched us. We're from small, little Manhattan, Kansas. You got President Obama watching you. We're going something big.
Q. Growing up in Chicago, did you have any particular guards that you watched, you know, other Chicago guys or, you know, the city has got kind of a reputation for turning out some pretty good point guards. Did you have anybody that was kind of somebody you watched a lot when you were growing up?
CURTIS KELLY: Oh boy, here goes a list.
JACOB PULLEN: I watched all of them. I watched all of them. I watched them all, you know. Whenever they were on TV, I tried to make sure I watched them and just understood what they did good and what they did mad, you know.
It's a lot of talent to come out of area. I'm pretty sure Sherron and all the other, Jerome and all other good guards out of Chicago, I watched them all, too.
Q. When somebody says that a guy is a Chicago point guard, there are certain traits that that kind guard has?
JACOB PULLEN: Probably toughness. All of us are really tough. We really try to get out there and we're competitors. We don't like to lose. So we try to do whatever we have to do to make sure our teams win.
Q. Jacob, North Texas has got a point guard, another smaller guy, Josh White. What do you see in him, and how do you think you'll match up with those guys in the backcourt?
JACOB PULLEN: I'm really impressed by his game. He plays a lot like his brother that played for Oklahoma. He's really talented. He gets to the basket well with his left hand and shoots it well off the ball screen with his right hand. For us, the whole thing is keeping them off balance, trying to get him not to understand what we want to do all off ball screens, whether we're trapping or going under or just trapping him at the half court. We really want to keep him guessing. We want to do that so he's not comfortable.
Hopefully, we can speed him up into so our bigs can protect the rim. We've got athletic bigs that can block shots. We want him to play our style of basketball so he's not comfortable.
Q. You guys seem loose again. You're on the third stage now, the third season. You lose, the season is over. How do you guys maintain your cool and just being loose before these big games?
CURTIS KELLY: I usually just try to relax. We do things like play video games and joke around with each other, try to relax our minds, and then the rest of it, I just let Jake take the lead, you know. I've been here before and I've been on a good team before, but I haven't been on a team like this. This is a new team for me, and Jake has been here for the longest. He's our leader. So I just let him take the lead and follow him and everything else takes its place.
You going to answer the question, bro?
JACOB PULLEN: You answered it.
Q. Curtis, could you describe the difference between your previous tournament, your previous team tournament experience, the difference in a program that always expects to be there is part of the higher echelon. This was a team that's been trying forever to get up there, now seems to have gotten up is there.
CURTIS KELLY: No. This is a big difference. You know, at UCONN was all about tradition, and I was at a school that usually made it to the tournament and was expected to make it to the tournament and now I'm here. We went from basically nothing to something, and we made people start to realize that we're got at K-State, we've got some players over here, and I feel like it's a better feeling not just because I'm more a part of it but because we wasn't expected to be this good.
Last time I was here, we played one game and lost. We lost to San Diego. I'm not trying to let that happen again. Funny thing, we're the same seed, I was No. 2 seed at UCONN and being here again, No. 2 seed here at K-State. I'm just not trying to let deja vu take its course.
JACOB PULLEN: Don't say that, man.
Q. Jake, what does Curtis have to be not just tomorrow but throughout the tournament for K-State go a ways?
JACOB PULLEN: He has to be a force. Him and Jamar got to really assert their will. The great part about our bigs they're so athletic, they can score in a variety of ways, whether it be offensive rebounding, which we do very well, or just clearing out and making sure we assert the mismatch. They have to assert their will the whole game, 40 minutes.
Most games we control the glass, we do a great job of just taking the lead. We can control the glass and get out in transition and really just play our style of basketball, we should have a great experience on this first game.
Q. Curtis, obviously Jacob and Denny are the two guys in the backcourt. I wanted you to talk a little bit about what Jacob does as far as leadership and the earlier question about Chicago point guards, does he just not shout up about that kind of stuff?
CURTIS KELLY: Jake, he's a great scorer and so is Denny, you know, but he does other things for us that get us going. Me and Jamar, sometimes we don't -- Jamar has a great game and Jamar has grown, he's becoming what we thought he would be and that's -- has a lot to do with Jake, because Jake knows how to give people the ball in right positions and even we don't want the ball, me and Jamar don't want the ball, he tell us we're going to give you the ball.
He's just a great leader and, you know, he don't really stop talking about Chicago guards and Chicago players. He loves his players from Chicago, but I think that's just him representing him and him loving his home.
Q. You guys seem to like the play with a chip on your shoulder. As you go in, does it change at all or does that chip remain on your shoulder?
JACOB PULLEN: It remains. Coming off a bad loss, a game where we really competed and really thought we had a chance to steel a Big 12 Championship which we really wanted, but coming off that loss, people still second guess us, still think we're a fluke or we don't play consistently.
We just have to prove people wrong, and I think I can really tell by how our practice has been the last few days. We've really been competing with each other, competing to the point where we really get into it with each other because we want to win. So that's the best thing for our team.
We don't compete and we have lackadaisical practices, we really -- we play like we did against Iowa State on senior night. We're not focused, and we play like we don't care. As long as we have intense practices and we really get after each other, I think that's when we go out and play with a chip on our shoulder.
CURTIS KELLY: It has been intense. I got split in my lip and another cut on my lip from practice so it's been intense.
Q. Along those same lines, I understand you guys, one of the movies you saw on the way up was Gladiator. Was there a significance, what's the theme behind that, is that the theme for you guys entering the NCAA Tournament, take that to heart?
CURTIS KELLY: I fell like I'm in one of my sociology classes. I love the movie. I watched it a couple times. I ain't seen it in a while but when I first watched it I really didn't pay any mind to it, just watching a movie. Then I started to realize maybe what was the theme behind them trying to make us watch this movie on the way to the tournament.
But, you know, it's a great movie that inspires you and kind of makes you motivated to go to battle, to go to war and it's another great thing about that movie is that it's about a man who really lost everything and was trying to gain something, you know, and risk his life trying to gain something.
I think that's what we trying to do. We're trying to gain something out of nothing right now.
We one of the top teams in the country but a lot of people don't think we're going to take this all the way. God willing, we will.
THE MODERATOR: Last couple of questions.
Q. Jake, two-parter right quick. In terms of playing in the tournament two years ago, over the last few days what have you thought about happened in that tournament, how do you have to maybe play differently and is kind of the motto of this team what Frank said the other day, "Dare to do something special here?"
JACOB PULLEN: Freshman year we were really young and happy to be here. We won the first game and it was tough for us back then to really have quick turnarounds and focus on the next team and understand what we needed to do to win games we had a short stay here in the NCAA Tournament.
But I think this year like how we prepare for the Big 12 Tournament, was able to play three games in three days and really understand scouting reports and things like that. I think that could be the difference in us having a short stay and a long stay here because we're more mature guys and upper classmen in the league, you can really settle the team down.
Even the freshmen not paying attention, you have people in film saying you got to understand this and know what play they want to run when it's time for them to get a bucket.
That could really be the difference in our stay here and as far as what Frank said, hopefully that's what we can do. We don't want -- we're not a Cinderella team.
If we wouldn't have won games this year and was a bubble team and snuck into the tournament then we would be looking to be a Cinderella team.
We have a target on our back. Teams want to beat us so they can become a Cinderella team. We also have a chip on our shoulder at the same time because we understand that people don't think we're that good. People think we're overrated.
At the same time we got to work hard and try to earn everything we deserve.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks guys.
Joined now by Kansas State Head Coach, Frank Martin. Coach.
COACH MARTIN: Just pleasure to be here. I can't tell you as a coach how excited I am for our young men, for the guys on our staff, and for our school that. But more importantly, more than anybody, those kids that wear that uniform. I understand better than most the sacrifice and the commitment that they've made over the last three years to grow as players, to take pride in who we're trying to become as a program, and to make the complete commitment that you got to make to be good, not just for a day, not just for a week, but for the long haul, and I couldn't be happier for our kids.
THE MODERATOR: Questions.
Q. Andy Katz was at the White House to get President Obama to fill out his bracket. He's got Kansas State in the Final Four. Apparently he also told Andy he would like to have you come to the Capitol Hill and try to help pass the healthcare bill. That kind of stuff, just the fact that the president knows who are you and is picking Kansas State, what's that feel like?
COACH MARTIN: I don't know. I mean, it's -- I've always been one of those people that believe that when people speak about you, it's either a good thing or a bad thing, it's not a neutral. I'd like to think that it's because of the way our kids have played and the focus and intensity that they bring to the court every time we play; that there's a calling there as far as the stuff that we try to do as a staff to get our guys to play a certain way.
But, no, it's flattering. Three years ago, heck, our own beat writers didn't know who we were. Now we've got the President of the United States speaking about our school and team and me. It's very complimentary. I hope he's a prophet. I hope his predictions work out.
Q. Frank, in your heart of hearts, three years ago, as a guy who hadn't been a head coach taking over the program, could you have envisioned being at there point, a No. 2 seed, talk of a Final Four, on the President's mind? As confident a guy as you might have been, could you have imagined this?
COACH MARTIN: I don't put time tables on things. I remember being a young coach and always listening to people say they have a four-year plan or a five-year plan. I don't know what that means. I really don't.
I've got a plan, and my plan is the people that are with me, including myself, we're going to work our tails off everyday to do our jobs the right way and do it better every single day. Let's improve every single day. That's the way that I try to operate.
The one thing I knew from day one is I knew firsthand the staff that Huggs brought to K-State. When Huggs made that decision that he had to go to West Virginia and K-State made the decision they were going to give me an opportunity and our staff with the opportunities, whether it be with Huggs or anywhere else close to stay at K-State, and Huggs encouraged us to stay there together to do the job, that gave me an unbelievable amount of confidence.
I feel pretty good about my ability to do my job, and I don't like speaking about myself because it's not about me. Never has been, never will be.
But to succeed, you have to have an unbelievable commitment from everyone involved, from administration to your janitors, to your trainers, to your staff members, to your assistants, players, everyone has to be on the same boat, and I knew we had that.
When we kept our group of guys together and then we started playing that year, this is where that year's team never got the credit it deserved. Because everyone always wanted to talk about our warts and our weaknesses. That's a team that had nine first-year players, seven true freshmen. Those are the guys that played for us. That team made it to the second round of the NCAA Tournament and the Beasleys and the Walkers never got the credit they deserved for the teammates that they were. Them allowing us to coach them, them taking pride in winning, not self glory, allowed us to coach a whole team and made all those other freshmen understand that it's about winning, and that culture has continued to evolve and that's what I'm about.
Was I going to sit here and say three years ago that in three years we'll be a No. 2 seed?
Heck, there's a lot of coaches including myself that might never get an opportunity to be a No. 2 seed again because it's so difficult. But I didn't predict it, but it's where we want to get to.
Q. Frank, was there any significance to you guys playing Gladiator for the kids on the trip up to OKC?
COACH MARTIN: No. It was either that or Training Day and Denzel in Training Day makes me look like a choir boy. So I said no Training Day. That was the only other option.
THE MODERATOR: More questions?
Q. Frank, any little lessons from two years ago in coaching this as a head coach for the first time that you utilize or keep in the back of your mind this go round?
COACH MARTIN: You deal with a completely different set of emotions as players, as coaches, as a team, because you have to understand one emotion that's different from the rest of the season and that emotion is real simple; that if you don't get through that next day, that team will be done, won't play again as a team. That season all its accomplishments will be over.
So that fear of that moment brings a different set of emotions. That's the only way you can understand how to handle them is when you've gone through them before, and that's where being in post-season three straight years, this being our fourth straight year in the post, allows you to understand that, allows you to reach into that experience to help you kind of handle those emotions better than you did maybe the first time through.
THE MODERATOR: Any more questions for Coach?
Q. You've always been a guy that kind of had a chip on your shoulder. Was that something that you had to instill in these players, or did they kind of already come prewired for that?
COACH MARTIN: I love the fact that people in the media say I've got a chip on my shoulder. You guys have said I got a chip on my shoulder. I grew up with an unbelievable family that thought me how to work. Isn't that what America is about, getting out of bed and doing your job and doing it to the best of your abilities? I don't know why doing that makes it a chip on my shoulder.
I'm no better than the next, and I'm no worse than the first. I'm just another person that's been put in this place, and I'm trying to do my job to the best of my abilities. My job is to lead those kids, to lead our program. And those kids got pride. That's why we recruited them. Those kids knew who we were as coaches. When we recruit kids, we expose them to who we are. We don't try to -- that's one thing that I learned as a high school coach is with handling recruitment of high school players, I thought the coaches that came in and were honest and were straight-up with how their environment was on a day-in, day-out basis were the ones where the kids went on to had the most success. And that's what I've -- what I tried to learn from when I was on that side of the fence.
Now, on this side of the fence, it's what I've tried to continue to do.
We bring guys there and we demand that they do their jobs. You know, here is something no one wants to talk about because everyone wants to talk about us because we're winning. Well, there's a reason we're winning. It's not just because we score more points. It's because the commitment that our kids make to represent our school. We've got the best graduation rate in the Big 12.
It's all our guys have gone through. Their numbers are through the roof the last three years. There's a reason success follows that because there's a total commitment to doing things the right way in our program by our kids, and that's why I'm so proud for our kids because they are being rewarded for all their commitment and hard work.
THE MODERATOR: Last couple questions.
Q. Frank, I know you focused on North Texas, but if you could go back to Big 12 season a little bit. At Kansas how have the Morris twins improved?
COACH MARTIN: Their whole team. The Morris twins are grown men, both 250 pounds. They run and score and rebound. They got toughness, and where they've really, really evolved is -- it's hard for me to kind of get into specifics because I don't coach them everyday, but it really looks like Bill has got them really, really in tune with playing every possession. Defensively they've just come a long way. They've become very good defenders now, and that's a credit to them that they concentrate and work and; number two, what Bill does all the time which he gets great players to play unselfishly and defend every play.
They fallen right in line with all the other great players that they've had there.
End of FastScripts