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March 14, 2012
THE MODERATOR:Â We're joined by Kansas State.
Gentlemen, do you have anything you want to say?Â Assuming first time to Pittsburgh.
RODNEY McGRUDER:Â Not the first time to Pittsburgh.Â I don't live too far from here.
JAMAR SAMUELS:Â Same here.Â Same here.
THE MODERATOR:Â Questions for our student‑athletes from Kansas State.
Q.Â Jamar, how do you feel you matured throughout this season, from the very beginning to right now?
JAMAR SAMUELS:Â Uhm, I feel as though I've grown into a grown man, you know what I'm saying?Â Last year I was probably one of most immature guys you ever met.Â To change into the guy I am now, it just shows the focus that I have been going through this entire year.
Q.Â You both mentioned right off the top you're fairly close to home.Â What does it mean to you to get back up towards the East Coast and be able to play?
RODNEY McGRUDER:Â It's nice to get back on the East Coast.Â We played against Virginia Tech on the East Coast.Â Other than that, this is the closest we've been to home.Â So it's good.Â A lot of family get to come out and see us play.
JAMAR SAMUELS:Â Yeah, I'm looking forward to seeing a lot of folks back at home.Â It should be an interesting tournament, you know what I'm saying, knowing that we're four hours away from home.
Q.Â What are your initial thoughts on Southern Miss after looking at some film of them?
RODNEY McGRUDER:Â They're a tough team.Â They're kind of like Missouri, kind of undersized.Â But they play hard.Â We just have to try to match their intensity.
JAMAR SAMUELS:Â Probably the best rebounding team‑‑ the best rebounding team, in Conference USA.Â That shows a lot.
We know what we have to do, and that's pretty much play defense and rebound.Â It should be a great matchup at the end of the day.
Q.Â Jamar, is there any added pressure being the only scholarship senior, this being your last tournament run?
JAMAR SAMUELS:Â No, it's not any pressure at all.Â It wasn't any pressure during the year.Â I mean, Victor Ojeleye, I know he's there for me, he has my back.Â He's been playing well this year, too.
Q.Â Can you describe what it's like playing for Coach Martin?Â Have to have a thick skin?
RODNEY McGRUDER:Â It's great playing for him.Â He prepares you for the real world.Â He's going to give you his all no matter what it is.
Off the court he's a totally different person than he is on the court.Â On the court he pushes you, tries to get the best out of you.Â Off the court, he's the nicest guy you'll ever meet.
JAMAR SAMUELS:Â That is very true.Â You do have to have thick skin, you know what I'm saying, to be one of his players.Â He's just telling you what is real, you know what I'm saying?Â If you can take that, you should be fine at the end of the day.
THE MODERATOR:Â Can you tell now from Coach Martin that it's tournament time?
RODNEY McGRUDER:Â Yes, sir.
THE MODERATOR:Â Do you want to describe why?
RODNEY McGRUDER:Â Like you say, he knows it's tournament time.Â He don't want to go home.Â So he's still pushing us to get the best out of us.Â We're just going to give him our best, go out there and give our best.
JAMAR SAMUELS:Â Yeah, you know what I'm saying, he's still the same guy.Â But, I mean, the intensity has picked up a little bit 'cause, you know, if you don't win, it's the last game.Â He's just going to try to bring the best out of us.
Q.Â How much does Southern Miss sort of remind you of yourselves in terms of the ability to rebound, defend?
RODNEY McGRUDER:Â Very much.Â Like you said, they attack the glass.Â They try to get out there on the defensive end.Â That's the same principles that Frank preaches, you know.
They're very similar.
JAMAR SAMUELS:Â Yeah, they play four guards.Â The 6'10" guy they have, he's a guard, too.Â Probably one of the most physicalest teams we've seen all year.
It's going to be a tough challenge.Â We're a very physical team, too.Â We're looking forward to it.
Q.Â You mentioned you have a history with Darnell Dodson going back to the D.C. assault days.Â Jamar, considering you might be going head‑to‑head against each other, can you expound on that?
JAMAR SAMUELS:Â I mean, Darnell is my guy.Â I've known him since high school.Â It's pretty cool, you know what I'm saying, to match up with him.Â We haven't been talking for a good past two years.Â Hopefully I'll be able to see him before we play.
Just looking forward to seeing him.
THE MODERATOR:Â I assume that the rigors of the Big 12 Conference have prepared you for the tournament, beating Missouri twice.Â What do you feel like your best win was this season?
RODNEY McGRUDER:Â I would say on the road at Missouri because we were their only home loss this year.Â I would say that was our best win.
JAMAR SAMUELS:Â I would say Missouri, too, because I've been there for five years and I've never gotten a win there.Â To finally actually go there and get a win, felt great that day.
THE MODERATOR:Â You gentlemen have a chance to take a tour of the building?Â What do you think of the arena.
RODNEY McGRUDER:Â I like it, but it's very cold, very cold, very cold.
JAMAR SAMUELS:Â Yeah, I mean, I've been watching that HBO special they have on the Penguins.Â I'm not familiar with the building, but I would love to take a tour.
But it is very cold (smiling).
THE MODERATOR:Â Gentlemen, thank you.
We're ready to go with Frank Martin from Kansas State.
Q.Â You know how difficult this business is to kind of claw your way back to the top.Â With what Larry has been able to do, to get knocked out, come back up, what do you think of him and how he's been able to do that?
COACH MARTIN:Â I couldn't be happier.Â I've always been a big fan of his.Â He's one of those guys, he was sitting on top of the mountain, and some unfortunate things took place.Â He was kind of left out in the corner somewhere.
He's never quit pursuing what he loves, which is competing, getting kids to learn how to compete, winning games.
I've been following his teams at Southern Miss.Â My first year at Cincinnati was his first year at Southern Miss, and we're in the same league, the old Conference USA.Â I remember how bad his team was that year, how frustrated he was with that team.
For me, to see his team play, especially here over the last 72 hours, studying his team, it's hilarious, because it's like watching his old Iowa State teams play.Â They're tough, they're athletic, they grind you.Â It's got Larry Eustachy stamped all over it.Â It's no surprise he's in this tournament and his team is playing the way that they are.
Q.Â He said whenever he looks at K State, he see a lot of similarities.Â What similarities do you see between the two teams?
COACH MARTIN:Â To have him say that, it's an unbelievable compliment to me and our team.Â For someone that's as successful as him...
I told people the other day, you hear a lot of folks say we're the hardest playing team in American, well, Larry's teams were the hardest playing teams when he was at Iowa State.Â That's because they were on television all the time.Â You watch his team play right now, they play just as hard.Â The only difference is they're not on TV as much as the so‑called 'BCS schools.'
I'm just telling you, 72 hours watching them kids on tape, as a fan of the game, it's awesome 'cause you watch kids play together.Â It's simple, but it's about doing things as a unit, guys not being selfish on either end of the floor.Â That's what he's about.Â That's what we try to be about.
So for him to say that is an unbelievable compliment.
Q.Â You've handed over the keys to the car to a freshman point guard.Â A lot of coaches would be hesitant to do that at the BCS level.Â You weren't.Â What does Mr. Rodriguez bring to the table?Â What kind of difficulties does he present for Southern Mississippi?
COACH MARTIN:Â What he's brought to the table is an acceleration of gray hairs on my head.Â That's what he brings to the table.Â He's a great kid.Â He does things that no one on our team understands how to do.Â When you have somebody that brings a unique skill to the game, whether it's through their mind or their vision, their ability to pass, shoot, create, whatever, he brings that to our team.
He leads us in steals.Â He's not scared to go stick his nose in a pile and come up with the ball.Â He leads us in assists.Â He also leads us in turnovers.Â But as a whole, I really feel that the way you play the game is with two guys that resemble point guards.
I figured I needed to get him and Spradling in the game as much as I can.Â As he went through his growing moments, which all freshmen go through, as that early part of the season was taking place, he always stayed the course.Â He never came in and hung his head or never came in and disrespected the decisions that were made the day before.Â That willingness to continue to move forward eventually got me to the point where I felt enough confidence of putting him out there.
I don't want to say it changed our season around, because we were pretty good before.Â But it's given us an opportunity to do some things that we couldn't do early in conference play.
Q.Â Do you expect to catch up with Coach Huggins?Â Especially at the end of the season, do you think that was some of the best basketball your team played all year and how important is that going into this tournament?
COACH MARTIN:Â Hugs and I, our wives spoke yesterday.Â We spoke today.Â Spoke yesterday also.Â We were supposed to get together last night.Â As much as we'd like to socialize, we both have work to do here.Â We're probably all getting together for dinner tonight, 'cause the scouting report is pretty much in place already.Â There's only so much more that you can do between now and the game tomorrow.
We both feel comfortable with where we're at from a preparation standpoint, where our teams are at.Â So we're pretty sure we'll get together for dinner tonight and enjoy the moment.
Then with our team, our team was playing real good basketball coming down the stretch.Â I couldn't be happier.Â We ran into Baylor in the first round of the conference tournament.Â You play teams like that, they can make you look bad sometimes.Â I wasn't happy with how we played that day, but Baylor had a lot to do with that.Â The more I studied that game, when that game was over, the more I realized that Baylor was just real, real good on that day.Â That doesn't take away from our kids, their fight, their desire.
I'm ecstatic.Â I think our guys have taken on every challenge that the season throws at you, we've responded every time, it's made us a better team.Â I'm comfortable with where we're at right now.
Q.Â Your players were saying a little earlier you have to have a thick skin to play for you.Â How do you describe your coaching style and the way you interact with your team?
COACH MARTIN:Â I don't know.Â I demand that people make the most of who they are every minute of every day.Â There's a reason why when I got hired at K State, when I first got to K State, we had the worst graduation rate in the Big 12.Â Now we've got the best graduation rate in the Big 12.
There's a reason our APR has improved by 75 points 'cause, you know, we demand that our guys excel at everything they do.Â Basketball is no different.Â We demand that they do things right.
You know, it's like raising children.Â I get mad at my kids all the time.Â They don't do it right.Â That don't mean I don't love them.Â That don't mean I'm not going to put my arms around and hug them.Â If all I do is coddle them and create excuses for them, how successful are they going to be in society when they're my age and they have to be a dad, husband, employee?Â You got to learn how to work, how to do your job.
That path, you know, I go back and I think all the time about the people that have influenced my life the most.Â It was never the people that were nice to me.Â It was always the people that demanded a lot out of me.Â That when I didn't want to do things, they made me get up and work, they made me get up and do my homework, they made me lift weights.Â When I was a kid, I didn't want to do that stuff.Â I wanted to hang out.Â That's what I try to do to people, I coach.
I got a great group of kids, great parents, that they sent their kids there because they want them to become better men.
Q.Â I understand you called Coach Huggins right before the selection show and you had a brief conversation.Â He said later you always seem to have an idea what is going to happen.Â Did you have a hunch you would be in the same area?
COACH MARTIN:Â That's why I called him.Â It was just one of those things.Â I picked up the phone and called.Â I said, You feel good about this?
He goes, Yeah, we got to be in.Â Numbers are too good.
I said, Well, I think you're right.Â I said, Let's talk after the show.
It's just one of those hunches.Â Of all the cities that we can possibly do it in Pittsburgh.Â Do you know how much time he and I have spent in Pittsburgh together?Â And the thing is that every time we're here, it usually becomes an emotional moment because this is where he had his heart attack.Â That conversation usually ends up in that moment again.Â It becomes an emotional moment.
Like he told me when I was on the bed, and I thought I was gone five years ago, he walked in, anyone that knows Hugs, he gave me those words of encouragement.Â I was laying there, not knowing what's wrong with me.Â He said, Hey, Frank, I was flat‑lined twice and I'm still here.Â So when it's time to go, don't fight it.
I said, Tex, I appreciate that.
It's one of the greatest lines of all time.
Q.Â Supposed to be a close game.Â Some say you are heavy favorites.Â When you look at the Southern Miss team, what concerns you?
COACH MARTIN:Â I think the experts need to study the tape the way I've studied it.Â There's nothing easy about playing a Larry Eustachy's team.Â They've got good players, fifth‑year seniors, unbelievable skill.Â They're not going to give you an easy basket.Â Everything is going to be a grind.
There's a reason why I don't watch TV or read all that stuff to see what the experts think because I don't think they're right very often.Â I try to focus in on the opponent and listen to the guys that watch tape with me.Â We try to formulate our idea.
I think we're in for an absolute fight.Â Larry wouldn't allow the game to go any other way.
Q.Â One of the last memories from the tournament was Huggins and Da'Sean Butler.Â How much of him rubbed off on you?Â Could you describe the ways he affected you?
COACH MARTIN:Â That's why he hired me.Â He used to recruit my players when I was a high school coach.Â He got to know me a lot as a person.Â That's why when he was in a difficult moment in his career, that's why he offered me a job, 'cause he knows that I'm about loyalty and honesty and that I stick up for people.Â I don't run away from people.Â I don't run away from difficult moments.
We share a lot of the same values.Â That's why I'm so lucky, you know.Â I've been around people like that my whole life.Â Good Man upstairs continues to put me next to folks that are about the right things.Â They're about people.Â They're not about themselves, they're about people.
Hugs is one of the biggest persons I've ever come across.Â Nothing he does is ever for himself.Â Everything he does is to help everyone around him.Â Look where I'm at today because of him.Â Look at his players.
Everyone always talks about all this tough love, thick skin.Â When is the last time you saw a former Bob Huggins player criticize him?Â All they do is go out in society and become better people.Â I believe that's our job, to make society better.Â He does it as good as anybody.
It was fun for me that I ended up working for a man I respect so much and that I believe in who he is as much as I did.
I still call him on a regular basis to pick his mind and continue to try and develop mine so I can do my job better listening to his thoughts.
Q.Â How has Jamar matured throughout this season to right now?Â How important do you think he is being a senior to this tournament run?
COACH MARTIN:Â I joked after the Senior Day game against Oklahoma State that it took five years to get him to not commit a foul.Â He leads our school in fouls in history.Â Most of those fouls were emotional fouls 'cause he gets frustrated in a moment of the game or somebody bumps him, so he thinks he's got to go bump that person back.Â Can't do that.
This year he's been awesome.Â I mean, I could be wrong on this stat‑‑ I don't really pay attention to stats.Â One of my assistants said that.Â I think he had the second most double‑doubles in conference play this year.Â When you're in the Big 12, your name is in that category, that's pretty good.
He's been rock solid as a leader, getting our young guys, as young as our kids are, to understand the sense of urgency that you got to have about everything you do every day.Â He's been a consistent performer, which is what we've strived for him to become over the last four years.Â I'm extremely proud of him.
THE MODERATOR:Â Coach, thank you very much.
COACH MARTIN:Â Thank you.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports