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March 17, 2011
THE MODERATOR: Questions for our student-athletes.
Q. Jordan, how would you say J'Covan has changed or developed over the last year?
JORDAN HAMILTON: Are you saying me and J'Covan?
Q. No, J'Covan.
JORDAN HAMILTON: I think he's doing a fantastic job as far as growing up off the court, and I think it definitely helped him on the court. He's been doing a fantastic job as far as working hard and knowing he has to play both ends of the court.
Q. Talk about the match-up with Benson. Obviously he's a long, lengthy guy, get some NBA notice as well. Talk about what you've seen on film and that potential match-up?
TRISTAN THOMPSON: From film, he's a lanky, skilled big man. It will be a good match-up for us. He's a perennial shot blocker, kind of like Alex Oriakhi.
So in terms of his game plan, we have to contain him from blocking shots and go up strong.
Q. On the same subject, he is a good shot blocker, but is that the kind of guy you would want to take the ball right to him and try to draw fouls or get into him where he can't block?
TRISTAN THOMPSON: Any time you play shot blockers, you want to try to get into them and pressure them into fouling and try to get them on the bench or get them into foul trouble. So our game plan will be the same like when we play Baylor or UCONN, try to attack the bigs and get them in foul trouble.
Q. The Oakland coach has talked about how your offense starts almost when the shot goes up in terms of your ability to rebound or your team's ability to rebound and really play well off the glass. Is that complimentary? Tell me about your mindset on rebounding as a team?
TRISTAN THOMPSON: Yeah, just getting off the glass, getting offensive rebounds, I feel that if I get offensive rebounds, it gives our team another possession and another chance to score and get what we want.
So I don't take it as a knock on us. I think it's a compliment that we're active on the glass, and that's always a bonus.
Q. Jordan, the Oakland coach was talking about how they're a fast-paced team and they want to run, and they hope you all want to run. Do you want to run a fast-paced team this game?
JORDAN HAMILTON: I just think we should come out and dictate the game as far as playing inside out and getting into minute sets, because down this time of the season there are going to be team that's like to get up and down. But it's more execution if you ask me.
Q. Gary kind of struggled the last two games in Kansas City. Can you both talk about how important he is offensively knocking down that shot that he's hit almost all year but kind of struggled with in Kansas City? Can you just talk about his contributions?
JORDAN HAMILTON: I think as of lately he's been doing a lot better. We all gathered him up and told him we really need you this time of the season because you're a big part of our team. I think he understands that, and he's going to come out and really do what he can to help us win. I know he's going to make that 15-foot shot like you said. He's going to make it.
Q. How much have you been able to let go of the late-season stumble that you guys had after you were ranked so high earlier?
TRISTAN THOMPSON: To be honest, we totally forgot about that. We're not focused on what happened in the past. Situations happen, and we got the losses and that's good for us to experience those heartaches.
But now it's tournament time. We know it's a lose or go home situation, so now we've got to pull our socks up and it's time to grind.
Q. Can you just talk about the lessons you learned from last year in the NCAA Tournament? Obviously, that was a hard first round loss that you guys had. Talk about how that might have shaped the team this year.
JORDAN HAMILTON: Yeah, comes down to, like I said earlier, execution. And one possession can dictate a game, whether if you lose by 1, 2, or 3 points. That's why every play is really important, and that's why in tournament time you have no time to take plays off or do things like that. You have to play every possession as if it was your last.
Q. They played a tough non-conference schedule against a lot of good teams. Is it a little bit easier to prepare against a team when you can kind of compare them to they just didn't play a lot of mid-major lower schools? They played some games against some pretty tough folks. Is it easier to prepare for them for that one?
JORDAN HAMILTON: Yeah, I got a chance to watch them a few games when they played Michigan State and Ohio State, teams like that. They did play a tough non-conference schedule, and coach brought that up early on in the season before we even knew we were playing Oakland.
I think they're a pretty good team. We watched film on those guys. They can really shoot the ball and they've got a force inside. But if we come in and execute and do our thing, I think we'll be okay.
Q. All season everybody's been talking about Gary sort of being the leader for the young guys. Did he find it amusing? He said that you were talking to him saying keep your head up, we need you that kind of thing. Did he laugh at that at all?
JORDAN HAMILTON: Not really laugh. But it's a team effort. Whenever a guy's down, you have to talk to him. He missed a couple of shots and probably got hard on himself. But now that it's tournament time he knows how important it is for us to win. Like I said, he's going to knock down that 15-foot shot and do what he has to do for us to win.
Q. The Oakland coach was telling a story about his dog. He had run to the front door whenever the doorbell rang, and that's how he compared you to the offensive rebounding. Whenever there is a shot that goes up, you're one of the first to jump. How do you feel about that comparison?
TRISTAN THOMPSON: I guess it's another compliment that I'm aggressive on the glass. I like his story. But yeah, you've got to be aggressive on the glass, give the team opportunities to get second chance points, so it's not really that.
Q. Do you feel like you're coming underrated or the Texas team is coming in underrated in this contest?
TRISTAN THOMPSON: It's like the beginning of the season. Lot of people questioned us and questioned if we were good enough or what not, and we like that. We like having that motivation to know that we've got to prove people wrong or people forgot about us. It's makes us more hungry. It's like the beginning of the season, so we're ready.
Q. I just wanted to go back to what you said to get clarification of you watched Oakland University when they played Michigan State earlier and you said Rick brought up Oakland University?
JORDAN HAMILTON: Yeah, one day we were in film in the beginning of the season. He was saying how Oakland's a tough team. You can't underestimate anybody wherever they play or what league they're in. He was saying how good they were. That being said, we know we have to come in and play hard.
Q. So they've kind of been on your radar for a while?
JORDAN HAMILTON: Yeah, we know about Oakland.
THE MODERATOR: We welcome Texas Head Coach Rick Barnes. Questions for Coach Barnes.
Q. Gary struggled a little bit in Kansas City. How important is he to the offense, and how much do you think he's going to be able to bounce back from those two games?
COACH BARNES: Well, he's had a great career for us, great year, and we believe every game's a new game. He's always worked hard, above and beyond what you would expect.
But we're the team that we want to be. We want everybody to be ready to play. But there is no question that he's the guy that, not only on the offensive side, but defensively he does some really good things for us. So I think this time of year you need everyone on your team playing well.
Q. The media timeouts here in the tournament are going to be about three minutes long. Do you ever run out of things to say in the NCAA Tournament timeout sometimes? Do you need the whole three minutes?
COACH BARNES: Well, I think they've always been three minutes. They can say whatever, but I think they've always been long timeouts. Yeah, sometimes you need three minutes, sometimes you don't need but about ten seconds.
It is what it is. It's part of the tournament. I've always believed that the timeouts are one of the reasons sometimes it's really hard to sustain runs and momentum because there is so much of the long timeouts.
If I'm not mistaken, the first timeout of every half becomes a full timeout. So if someone calls a timeout around the 12:30 mark, you may be playing one or two possessions, got a three minute break, play one or two possessions, and then have another three minutes. So in a six-minute whatever it would be, there may be just two possessions in the game.
So the timeouts are definitely longer. Some years you like it if you've got a low number that you're playing. If you're playing a high number, you might not like it as much.
Q. Could you evaluate J'Covan Brown's game to a year ago going into the tournament?
COACH BARNES: Well, again, he's a year older. I think a year wiser. I think like anybody you would expect him to improve and continue to get better every year, and I think J'Covan has done that. I thought at the end of last season, he really worked hard and had a good spring/summer like the rest of our guys. He's continued to improve this season too.
But there is no doubt he plays his best basketball when he really gets engaged defensively. When he's really doing that and not worrying about whether or not he's making shots. That is when he plays his best.
Q. With so many straight tournament appearances, but only the one Final Four, how much pressure do you feel to get back there, and how do you balance that against the overall body of work and success?
COACH BARNES: I don't think I feel that kind of pressure, because you go back and it's very hard, one, to get into this tournament. You go back and look. We will never take for granted just getting to this tournament.
And yeah, there have been years that we've gotten here and we haven't advanced and moved on the way we'd like to. But every team that ever gets into this tournament feels that way.
But we will never, ever take this for granted because there are a lot of teams that would love to be 1, 2, 3, 4, whatever. But we start out every year with a major goal of doing what we have to do to get to this tournament. Then when we get here, we're like every team in it. You realize if you can get hot, you get going, you've got a chance to do some things. It's no different.
But in terms of where I am, do I feel pressure? No, I don't, because we're going to work as hard as we can to be the best we can be. We've got, this year, a group of guys that have -- if you would have asked me a year ago or before we started this year what would happen this year, I would honestly say, I don't know.
This team has come together. They've played well. But years ago I might have said I have felt it, but wouldn't say it. But I'm telling you, do I feel pressure, no? Do I want to do it? No question about it. But I don't feel the pressure.
Q. We've heard a lot about Tristan's rebounding lately. Would you talk about Cory and Jordan's rebounding from the perimeter and what they bring to the team from that standpoint?
COACH BARNES: I do think when we're playing our best basketball is when you're guards are really engaged on the boards and get down and come out with it. Jordan has done a great job all year. He's gone down there and people look at what he has done offensively, which he's been very good there, but his rebounding, he's our leading rebounder.
But Cory, again, has big hands, long arms, and not afraid to go down there. Dogus Balbay is an outstanding rebounding guard. So, yeah, when you get perimeter guys -- and that's one of the reasons if you look at Tristan's numbers maybe aren't as high because we've got guys coming down and getting involved there.
Q. Greg Kampe told us right after Selection Sunday was all he knew about Texas was you were orange and had horns on your helmets. It sounds like Oakland's been on your radar a little longer than that. Jordan told us you were breaking down film pretty early in the season. When did they appear on your radar? Why did you look at film?
COACH BARNES: We played Michigan State, and they played Michigan State, so we got to see them. So when you break down tape and you try to break down your opponent, and you show some things that maybe your opponent doesn't do too well; and certainly when they were playing Oakland, it was a very close game. Oakland did a great job of driving the ball.
Obviously from where we were looking at, okay, we play. We've got to be able to get into the cracks like they did against Michigan State. Putting the ball inside, the different things.
You know, Greg Kampe's a great coach. He's been around a long time. He's done a great job. I met him a couple years ago when we were in Auburn Hills playing Michigan State, and I think they were playing Oregon. We had a chance to meet and talk for a little bit.
He's one of those guys that has just quietly gone about his business doing a great job. No question he's capable of coaching anywhere at any level. He's done a great job with that program. This has got to -- if you look at his team, he's got an outstanding team. A team that truthfully you could say should be seeded much higher than they are. If you look at what they've done in terms of their non-league schedule, certainly they played a lot of those games. A lot of coaches don't do that. He's not afraid to do it.
So he comes out of there with some nice wins. If you go into Knoxville and win, you're a pretty good basketball team. Then you look at the run he made through the conference, and their conference championships.
He's done a great job. I'm telling you, I don't care what level, he would be highly successful because his teams are just really, really sound.
Q. Coach, you've talked about you've made the comparison between this team and the 2003 team. Can you talk about that a little bit?
COACH BARNES: What now? About comparisons about my team?
Q. Yeah, to the team you had in 2003?
COACH BARNES: I don't know that I've made comparisons in terms of I think they're different in some ways. I think every team's different. That team was older in terms of experience and had been around.
But in terms of the number of guys we're playing. It's sort of the same. I think that team we actually went 11 deep, but the fact of the matter is when I think of that team towards the end of the year, guys that maybe had been kind of forgotten, came on and did some good things for us in the tournament late in the year when we needed them.
But the chemistry. I think that team had a focus about them from the beginning. This group, even though I said they're younger than that group, they've stayed together, the chemistry has been good. I've said before that I could probably count on one hand in terms of the practices where I didn't think we were very efficient and very good.
But overall, this is a fun group to be around because of a lot of things, but not only the seniors doing their part and setting the tone, but just the fact that I think they have great chemistry among them.
Q. Lot of people thought you should be seeded higher in this tournament. Are you talking about that and using that as a motivation factor?
COACH BARNES: We haven't. I just think this time of year I don't know what goes on in the room. I do think the committee works as hard as they can. I can't tell you the field they might have in terms of the game. I can't tell you that. I don't know how many people in the committee right now would say that they are really basketball guys. I don't know. I don't know any of that.
I do know this: That committee is a committee of high integrity. I think there are guidelines that they have to go by. I think there is some of the human element that comes in where there are opinions that have to be voiced, but I don't think there is any question that the integrity is what you're looking for.
Can mistakes be made here or there? Sure they could be. But I do think this: That it doesn't matter what line you come in on. People would say that's crazy to say that, and the reason I say that is, there is nothing you can do about it. So why dwell on it? There is no reason to complain. The fact of the matter is right now you've got to play, and at the end of the year you analyze everything you do, and I would have to think that even the selection committee will analyze and learn from some things.
I haven't even looked at the bracket. But coming over here someone asked me the question about, do I think it's fair that a team that play in the first round are already playing the second game early? Somebody told me some teams got in late.
Again, it's the first time I guess they've done what they've done this year, so I think they'll learn from that. It's tough for a team to play if they have flight problems and get in at 5:00 a.m. or 2:00 a.m. and play.
But it goes back to these guys want to play. They're going to fight through whatever elements there are. Again, years ago I might have voiced a little more displeasure in it.
But, again, it's no reason. It is what it is. The fact of the matter is you've just got to play and hope that you can be playing your best basketball and get hot and keep moving.
Q. It seems unusual to have two players prominent from Canada. When did you start recruiting those players, see them, or did they do a Kevin Grant and call you and say I want to play with you?
COACH BARNES: I wish I could see how you were dressed? Are you dressed pretty good?
Q. I'd like to say I was in all green, but I'm not.
COACH BARNES: Again, at the University of Texas our recruiting always starts in the state of Texas. I have great assistant coaches who know we're going to start there at home. But we also think being at the University of Texas we're able to go anywhere in the world and get involved with people because we have such a powerful university.
And my assistants, once we evaluate the state and start looking at what we think will fit into our program, they go out and in the case with Canada, Rodney Terry had developed a great relationship being up there. He started recruiting these two guys at a very young age. There are certain players that you see that you know if they continue to develop 10th grade, 11th grade, you just know they're going to be players. So he put a lot of time in there.
We were fortunate to get an early commitment from Tristan. Then a year ago, obviously, Myck Kabongo had committed to us. And then with that said, those two guys wanted Cory to play with him. So they were the guys that recruited him.
There is I a really strong bond between those guys. So, again we were fortunate that we got Tristan early, and Myck, and then they really last year -- we wanted to recruit Cory, but we weren't sure because we already had the two from Canada, what it would look like.
And Cory let it be known through those guys that we wanted to recruit him. And so we got involved, and certainly excited about it. And they've been great. You look at our team and we've got a guy from Istanbul. We've got a guy from Cameroon. I think that is because the University of Texas is such a powerful place. Once we get people on campus, we think we've got a shot certainly at getting anybody that visits there.
Q. As far as talking about Cory and Tristan, they come from Findlay where they played a national schedule and they were flying all over the country to play top teams. How do you think that affects them going into a tournament situation like this where first you had the Big 12 Tournament with three games last week, and now you'll be playing in a tournament situation from here on out?
COACH BARNES: Well, I don't think it's a factor. The way we traveled throughout the year, it can't be any better than anybody. It's phenomenal what the university has allowed us to do with our traveling. It's probably been a huge advantage for them being away from home, because Tristan had been away for a couple of years when he started back in New Jersey and ended up going to Findlay with Cory, And Cory being away.
So if anything, the fact that they've been away from home for a while probably helped them as much as anything, but I don't think the travel is a factor.
Q. Do you think your youth played a part at all in the late-season struggles? Would it surprise you at all if this group were able to get back to that early season form and make a run?
COACH BARNES: No, I think our group is confident. I think we're a group that we know we're capable of winning every time we walk on the floor. I think we realize we've got great respect for our opponent knowing that at any time we walk on the floor, too, if we're not ready to play, we could lose.
But I think our guys are in a good place in terms of knowing that we can get everybody playing the role and doing what they, do that we're capable of beating anybody.
Q. Oakland wants to get you into a running game. Where do you stand on that? Are you confident you can keep up, or do you want to avoid?
COACH BARNES: No, we've always tried to get down the floor as quick as we can too and score early. We've always believed in trying to get early baskets and quick baskets in transition. So we've played in high-possession games this year. We've played in some in between and some low-possession games. And we're comfortable playing any style that the game sets into.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports