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March 20, 2010

Matt Bouldin

Mark Few

Steven Gray

Robert Sacre


THE MODERATOR: Joined now by student athletes from Gonzaga. Closest to me, Matt Bouldin; next to him, Steven Gray; Robert Sacre is with us as well. Go ahead and open it up for questions for these student athletes at this time.

Q. I have a couple of questions. First for Robert, you guys talked a lot about the travel that you do the other day playing Michigan State, Illinois on the road and so on. I just wonder, is that part of the challenge of going to Gonzaga, is playing a schedule that's kind of above your conference, you know keep yourself established as a national team?
ROBERT SACRE: I think we just chose Gonzaga for a reason because they always travel and play the top competition in the country. That's the reason, because it's one of those things where we come in and we know we're going to play the best teams every year, and it will benefit us in the tournament.

Q. And for Matt, I happened to be at the Garden the day you guys had your one really bad day this year. How much was travel a factor for that game? A noon start, coming across the country, and what did you guys get out of that experience?
MATT BOULDIN: We didn't get a whole lot out of that one. I don't think the travel was that much of a factor. We had done so many games before in similar situations I guess where we travel everywhere. But, you know, I think that's one we learned from and forgot about as quickly as we could. That was easily our worst performance this year. It was a close game for about -- about until half or so. Then we just lost it. So we really don't even think about that game, for the most part.

Q. Could you, each of you guys, could you talk about sort of the deciding factor that brought you to Gonzaga? In other words, you're playing this whole universe, the North Carolinas and the Syracuses and the blah-blah-blah, and you decided to come here. And I was wondering, to share with us, what was sort of the deciding factors that made you say, okay, this is it?
ROBERT SACRE: I came to Gonzaga because I enjoyed being with the guys. It was one of those things where Spokane is a great city. They embraced Gonzaga basketball. I enjoyed that a lot. I loved everyone on the team and the coaching staff. It's a great place. It's a big family environment. You enjoy being with the guys off and on the court.
STEVEN GRAY: I think for me too it was a lot of just that family environment, the sense of camaraderie with your teammates and everyone on the team really seemed to enjoy being around each other. Coming from a small town, that's kind of something that I looked for, and I committed fairly early. So it was just kind of sounds good, "why not" type thing. It worked out. I wouldn't want to be anywhere else. Definitely worked out.
MATT BOULDIN: I think I chose Gonzaga for the same reasons as these guys, but also because they have had so much success with, I felt, players like myself. The Dan Dickau's and the Blake Stepp's, a lot of those big guards. That was big factor. And I love the way they play, the up and down pace, a lot of freedom. Those were all factors in why I chose Gonzaga.

Q. For Steven, you know what they're going to do. They run that zone defense. Why is it so effective when you guys have seen it on tape or on TV? And what become the keys for you guys attack it?
STEVEN GRAY: It's so successful because they're so long. They are really active in the zone. They take a lot of things away. And so that energy just creates problems for most teams. As far as attacking it, we have to look to not be afraid to get the ball inside and not really settle for outside jumpshots. Take them when they're there. Not really settle, because that leads to long rebounds and they're such a good breaking team, we want to try and limit that as best we can, too.

Q. Basically, as far as when you approach playing a number one seed like Syracuse, what is the mentality? Because you're always going up against the big guy, and people expect you to play well and give you a chance for the upset. But it's usually in these types of situations where it would be regarded as an upset. So what's the mental approach to that?
ROBERT SACRE: We just come into every game viewing it as one game at a time. We're really not thinking about the upset or where they're at in the seeding. We're just viewing it as one game. We're viewing it basically this is our championship, this is the finals right now. Because we have nothing to lose, and everything to gain from this game.
STEVEN GRAY: I think the mental approach just has to be one that we've kind of carried all year: Just be ready to come in, work hard, and not allow ourselves to be outplayed, outcompeted. That's something the coaches really stress on us. Make sure you match the level of intensity from the guy across from you. So we just have to have that workmanlike attitude that the coaches talk about to us in practice.

Q. For Matt and Steven, could you talk about Robert's development and what his presence in the middle now means to you guys?
MATT BOULDIN: Rob is a beast. I think a lot of people -- a lot of people across country don't realize how big and how physical he is. That alone helps our team. But the fact that he's developing into a scoring threat down there. When he's knocking down free-throws, he puts so much foul pressure on a lot of teams. He's a huge factor to our team. Defensively he bangs with any big guy in the country. I think he thrives on that. That's just his mindset. It really helps us a lot.
STEVEN GRAY: I got a chance because I live with him, so I got to see that this summer. He went down to the gym just about every day during the summer and really put his time in. It's really nice to see all that pay off this year. I couldn't think of another big that I would want to have in the post. You can throw it -- his hands have gotten so much better in his time here. You can throw it and he's going to get the ball. He's got that jump-hook, turn-around jumper. I mean he's such a big, physical guy. You don't really have to worry about that aspect of the game, that inside presence that we've lacked at times in years prior. I mean, he's a big part of our success this year. We're going to need him if we're going to want to make a run here.

Q. This is for Rob. With Onuaku being out, how do you think that affects the game? And do you see even being more critical for you to play a good game out here?
ROBERT SACRE: I really don't view it as -- they have great players in the post anyways. So it's one of those things they lose a big-time scoring threat down inside, but overall, they're a big, physical team. They're in the BIG EAST. So they will be physical. We know they're going to come out and bang with us. I know I need to do my role and be a threat in the inside.

Q. As follow-up to anybody, (Elias) Harris, can you comment on how your view of him, how good -- were you surprised how good he is? And what do you think about his potential? People talk about him as being an eventual first-round draft choice. How do you see the way he has developed this year?
MATT BOULDIN: He's gotten a ton better this year. Obviously he's got the physical tools to be a first-rounder easily. He can jump and run and -- with anybody in the country. The fact that when he's hitting shots and faces up, he's that much harder to guard. But, yeah, I was really surprised. Obviously we hadn't heard or seen him play. Maybe a YouTube highlight here and there. But when he got here I think his first four or five possessions during pick-up ball were all dunks. We were like, okay, he can play. So we've seen it all year. We know how good he is and how good he's become. He's only going to get better.

Q. With a quick turn-around like this, is it difficult to prepare? And is it more difficult to prepare for their zone with a quick turn-around like this?
ROBERT SACRE: We've been in tournaments all year. So I feel like we can compete and we've always had these quick turn-arounds. If you look back at Maui, we were very successful at that with going with the quick turn-around. Changing with different adjustments like going from Wisconsin all the way to Cincinnati. So I feel we did a good job on that.

Q. Are you guys preparing for -- will you be surprised if Onuaku gets out there tomorrow?
ROBERT SACRE: No. It's his last year, so I wouldn't blame him if he came out and tried to give it his all.

Q. For Matt, you mentioned Blake and Dan. What stood out when you watched them in the tournament, with your decision to come to Gonzaga?
MATT BOULDIN: What stood out in the tournament?

Q. When you saw them play.
MATT BOULDIN: How much fun they're having and how close the team was and how they all fed off each other. I really enjoyed watching them play because of the way they played. I thought they played basketball like in its purest form. They're great passers, all great-around players. Dan obviously was a scorer, could shoot it from anywhere, he reminds me of Jimmer Fredette in a lot of ways. I was a Zag fan back then. More the Blake era was my favorite time becoming a Zag fan.

Q. Still a recruiting question. For each of you, who was the most important person when you were making your decision to finally pull the trigger to come here, who was your go-to person that you leaned on to kind of confirm that you were going to do it, if in fact there was a go-to person?
MATT BOULDIN: Mine was obviously my dad -- my dad. My dad was my biggest supporter in that recruitment process. My dad and my high school head coach said to me, I think you're born to play at Gonzaga. That's the night I committed to Gonzaga. It was really my dad and my high school coach.
STEVEN GRAY: For me I would probably say my AAU coach. He always had a lot of confidence in me. He told me that he thought Gonzaga would be a good fit. I went for a summer camp, and my high school coach said, I wouldn't be surprised if in this meeting if they didn't offer you. I thought he was a little crazy. And they did.
I called my dad that night and said, I think this is where I want to go. I don't see why I wouldn't want to come here. I think it was more my AAU coach. But it was a pretty simple decision, I guess.
ROBERT SACRE: I would have to say my mom was there for a lot of the recruiting. She helped me a lot. Just to have a person to talk to. But she was like, I'm not a part of you making the decision. I do not want you to be unhappy and blame it on me or anything like that. So I would have to put it on myself when it comes to my decision. I just thought it was a great place. I wanted to be here.
THE MODERATOR: Good luck, tomorrow. We're with Gonzaga Head Coach Mark Few. We'll go ahead and have you make an opening statement, Coach, and take questions at that time.
MARK FEW: Hey, it's great to still be here. It's great to be playing. I don't think there's any better feeling from a coaching standpoint when your team goes out and gets an NCAA tournament win, and you get to keep coaching them, keep playing in this thing. I hate to be redundant but it's the greatest sporting event in the world so you want to stay in it as long as you can. Especially the way we grinded it out yesterday. We beat a very good Florida State team. A phenomenal defensive team. And to be able to make baskets and execute against them and beat them on the boards I thought was a great statement by our team. And now we're, gosh, stepping into probably one of the biggest challenges we've ever had since I've been the head coach at Gonzaga.
It's very similar to playing North Carolina last year in the Sweet 16. This is a phenomenal basketball team we're playing in their own backyard that has played great all year. Short preparation to play against this zone, not only against the zone but to prepare for their transition game, is a tall task. But it's a great opportunity also.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach.

Q. We've been hearing all morning the Big 12 and the BIG EAST have been battling who has the best conference, with St. Mary's knocking off Villanova today and you of course hoping to advance, can you explain to us why we were remiss in not understanding how your conference prepared you to be successful in this tournament?
MARK FEW: I don't -- how you were not --

Q. We all counted on the BIG EAST. We talked about how many teams, we talked about the competition and all the other conferences, making them sharp for this, that they were prepared, and now you guys sort of come in and you're 3-0.
MARK FEW: I think everybody gets way too into the sweeping generalizations with leagues and affiliations and whether you have football at your school or not. You guys probably all need to look at the teams and say okay, there's a really good program. There's a really good team. And I think we all want to group everything into BCS or non-BCS or whatever. You should probably look at the basketball teams. If you watched at all this year, you could tell that St. Mary's was a very good basketball team.
If you watched us, we won the Maui. We had some big wins on the road. We won our league, which has been a very good league, especially this year. I think it would probably be better off if everybody didn't get into the groupings and generalizations.

Q. Coach, you mentioned the quick turn-around of playing a team like Syracuse with that 2-3 zone and their transition game. How much more difficult is it basically having one day to prepare for it?
MARK FEW: It's really difficult. Obviously you're not going to go very hard today. We haven't seen anything like that all year. Obviously there aren't many like it. Especially with the size and athleticism that they bring. Then the other thing that's very impressive is they run the basketball and get out in transition very much like the great North Carolina team did last year, being able to somehow slow that thing down is a tall task in 24 hours.

Q. Mark, could you talk about Jim and yourself with the Coaches Versus Cancer and how he got you into it and all that kind of stuff?
MARK FEW: Yeah, Jim and Juli. Juli really motivated Marcy and myself, as did Coach B (Boeheim). We came out and actually went to theirs, which was the first one of its kind. And theirs has been hugely successful. Ours, we've raised over four million with ours. We are the two far and away the biggest in the country. He's just treated me with a lot of -- took me under his wing on Nike trips and NCAA things. I'll always remember that. He's a Hall of Fame coach with -- I don't think you guys get to know him on the level we get to know him. He's got a great sense of humor. He's a very, very fun guy to be around. Until I was able to see that side of him, you never would have guessed that. Obviously his coaching stands for itself. And the other thing I don't think people understand is how involved he is in college basketball. He gives so much back to this game via U.S.A. Basketball, through the NABC, with everything he does. I mean, he has dedicated his life to not only Syracuse basketball, but to college basketball. We're so much better off because of that.
I don't think people realize how many days a year he gives up to basketball and cancer and all those things like that. So he's a heck of a mentor.

Q. Is there anything from the first half last night against Florida State that you guys were able to do offensively that could translate to tomorrow afternoon, understanding that obviously they are two different styles of defense.
MARK FEW: Make a bunch of shots. That always makes life easier for a coach and player. That one thing I would say is play with the type of poise and pace we played with in the first half yesterday. I mean, we're going to have to be able to do that against the zone and not get caught up in trying to score off the first pass or the first side. Probably that would be the biggest thing. It's obviously a very different type of scenario, hard-nosed in-your-face, man-to-man defense. But I think Bo (Boeheim) will tell you the zone this year for Syracuse has been so effective because they've been turning a bunch of people over. They've really been forcing a lot of turnovers in their zone. We have to take care of the basketball and get shots on our terms.

Q. How different is Syracuse if Onuaku does not play or is playing hurt?
MARK FEW: I certainly didn't notice a difference last night. They looked phenomenal last night. I think they're probably better equipped to answer that than I am just on watching them. Obviously it affects their depth. Us losing Manny affects our depth a lot. So you're putting guys in positions that maybe haven't been in those type of positions or playing minutes like that. Sure didn't look like it affected them much at all last night.

Q. Could you talk to the matchup problem that Wes Johnson might give you guys?
MARK FEW: Yeah. He's a very difficult matchup. I don't think we're the only team in the country that's had a difficult time matching up with him. Anytime you get a gifted athlete like that that can stroke it out to three and put it on the deck and get it to the rim and finish above the rim and also make plays with his passing ability, that's a really hard guard. That's why he's player of the year. We'll have to guard him, give him a bunch of different looks. They're so balanced and they share the ball so well this year, that makes them very difficult. The only other team we've seen that really passes it as well as they are is St. Mary's. Everybody is seeing the kind of success they're having.

Q. Coach, Steven Gray in talking about Syracuse's zone said he can't settle for jumpshots. Talk about getting the ball inside. With that in mind, can you talk about how important Robert Sacre could be tomorrow?
MARK FEW: You have to step up and make shots against it. The only way you're going to beat that thing. The teams that have done that have stepped up and made shots. We won't go away from that. I think all our guys will be key tomorrow. Obviously Rob had a great approach yesterday against Florida State. I think it's very important for Elias to be really active in there. Our perimeters have to step up and make shots. So I would put it on everybody and not just on Rob inside.

Q. Mark, Leonard Hamilton yesterday was speaking very admirably of your program and how it has really grown and grown. He kind of compares it to they've become gunslingers; you go around the country and look for people to fight. He meant it in a very positive way.
MARK FEW: That's great.

Q. I was wondering at the very beginning what your vision was; had you ever envisioned getting it to this point? And where would you like to see it in another five years?
MARK FEW: That's a great, great question. We just try -- what we try to do -- going back to that first year we got in the tournament, made a run and got to the Elite Eight. We didn't want to be a one-hit wonder. We wanted to not be a flash in the pan. So we've been able to continue recruiting, we just kept trying to get better and better and better along those lines. The university has grown tremendously from -- I think we had 3,000 students. We now have over 7,500 students since this run started. We've changed our facilities, pretty much changed the way we do everything as far as we just continue to grow. And now I think we've turned ourselves into a national brand and a national name.
And then obviously the next step would be to be able to get in this thing and get a number one seed or something, so you kind of have the advantages that come with that.

Q. Mark, over the years can you talk about the level of talent available in Canada? Obviously you have four Canadian kids on your roster, Syracuse has two. Are there more good players north of the border now?
MARK FEW: Yeah. And I think -- sometimes I don't think you consider it so much -- there's so much intermixing now with the AAU tournaments that you'll watch a team and you'll be -- where are those guys from, they're pretty good. That's a group from Toronto or they have a couple of Vancouver kids. So it's not like you're going to these big international tournaments and exotic places. They're showing up in tournaments in Vegas and Orlando and Kansas City and Texas and pretty much everywhere all the other guys are. I think they're changing their approach up there, and the youth basketball has gotten a lot better, and there's lot of good coaches up there. Who knows, might end up being more popular than hockey and curling if we keep going on this pace. It will take a while, but...
You never know.

Q. Could you just comment on Harris' development this year and how you feel he's been playing of late.
MARK FEW: He's been phenomenal all year when you think of freshmen and somebody internationally coming in and adjusting to just the whole aspect that is college basketball. Whether it's living in a dorm and immersing yourself with a bunch of new guys that you've never been around to -- obviously the crowds and things that we face are nothing like what he's seen over there. He's pretty much kind of playing in front of not a whole lot of people. So how he's adjusted, has just been unbelievable. He's a great student. He's a very responsible guy. He's a wonderful teammate. And then I mean he's a really tough, hard-nosed kid.
When it's game time, he's been remarkably consistent all year. I think that's probably the most impressive thing with him right there, is just how consistent he's been.

Q. You talk about eventually getting up to that level where you can get a number one seed. When you look at this year, were you surprised to be as low as an eighth seed given you had been up in the rankings in the year. And do you think that conference tournament loss hurt you, whereas Syracuse stayed a number one despite losing their first conference game?
MARK FEW: Well, I mean, I thought Syracuse all along should be number one seed, if not the number one seed overall. Just the way they played this entire season, just kind of how they're built for this NCAA tournament. You know, as I said, the night of the selection, again, the overwhelming feeling I had, to be honest with you, was pride. Pride being we made it 12 straight in the NCAA tournament. North Carolina wasn't up there this year, UConn wasn't up there, Arizona had a streak of 25 end this year, UCLA. There are some incredible programs.
What stood out to me is just it's so hard to get in this thing year in and year out. That far overwhelmed anything -- the seedings, you get caught up in that. What this comes down to really is matchups, you know? And some of these guys ended up with high seeds and ended up with some really tough matchups, like Cornell or something. It doesn't matter if you have a great seed, if you end up playing somebody that's kind of like your kryptonite which I think Villanova and Richmond and those guys found.

Q. But in terms of respect for having been there -- for this being the 12th year, should you have gotten on the four, five, six line?
MARK FEW: I think -- I wasn't in the room but I think we probably took a hit for losing in our league tournament that in retrospect now if we all look back at it here this afternoon, probably shouldn't have taken that big of a hit. I thought we've been pretty darn consistent all year with how we've won and where we played and who we beat and to win our league. The other thing I always say is you go into those league tournaments and when you know you're in the NCAA tournament and the other teams that aren't are playing with a sense of desperation, sometimes it's really difficult to match. I think you can really garner a lot from those teams that still go in there and win them.
Kansas won theirs, Duke won theirs, Butler won theirs. Those guys were all in the tournament. Kentucky won theirs. That says a lot right there. Because that's a hard deal when you know you're in the tournament and those other teams are playing for their lives.

Q. You were talking about the growth of the program. What role did the AAU play in that growth? I know there's been a movement from a lot of coaches saying I think we need to kind of reel this back in. But I'm wondering what's your perspective on that?
MARK FEW: You know, that goes back to what I alluded to earlier. All of us, me included, we want to group everybody together and say all the AAU guys, 95% of the AAU guys are great guys, and they're doing such an honorable thing to get kids playing and taking them under their wings and doing things like that. You know, obviously we've -- most of our guys have played in those tournaments and been very successful in those tournaments. I think we're a program now that's very accepted to a lot of the powerhouse AAU programs. Yeah, if we can send an I go to Gonzaga, that would be great. So it's been a process of educating those people, much like it has been with scheduling and even with the media nationally. I think they serve a very good purpose. I do think that there are some things going on with people that shouldn't be going on that -- everything has to go through them or whether it's money or whatever, that you hear about. So obviously those are the ones that have to get out and keep the good ones in somehow.

Q. Mark, I hope you didn't cover this earlier when you talked about Boeheim. Going forward, do you see anybody staying at a school for that long in a pressure business like this is?
MARK FEW: Well, I think that's what's great. Coaches came up and had other offers, to go other places, it's great to be able to talk to him. He has been out to our Coaches Versus Cancer been out on our campus and seen what we have. For me he's been a great source of somebody I can lean on and ask him hard questions. I think that's incredibly honorable and a great thing. You wish you saw more of it. If you think about what he's been able to do and Coach Krzyzewski has been able to do staying at the same place now, Tom (Izzo) has always been there, Michigan State quite a while, I think sometimes that gets lost. Everybody always jockeying around to leave. He's created a legacy that will be there forever at Syracuse. And I think everybody in the world identifies Syracuse with Jim Boeheim or Jim Boeheim with Syracuse. And that's something pretty cool.
THE MODERATOR: Coach, thanks.

End of FastScripts

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