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March 17, 2012
GREENSBORO, NORTH CAROLINA
THE MODERATOR: We'll start with questions for the student‑athletes.
Q. C.J., this is a veteran team with a lot of players who were in the tournament two years ago, how much did that experience play into your success last night?
C.J. MCCOLLUM: I think that was huge for us. Everybody at this table had a little bit of playing time in that game versus Kansas as freshmen, so we know what it's like to be on the big stage and also know what it's like to be an underdog, since a 16 seed had never beat a 1 seed before, so that definitely prepared us for the game yesterday.
Q. C.J., I think there are double digit schools in Ohio that have Division I basketball and then Canton and Akron are right there, Cleveland State is right there, Ohio State isn't far away, OU isn't far away, were those schools just not interested?
C.J. MCCOLLUM: Akron was very interested in me. I went up there for an unofficial visit, but they obviously only had one scholarship offer. They gave it to Zeek Marshall and I didn't want to go there without a scholarship. Kent State recruited me for a little bit, but they offered it to Randall Holt who plays there now. And I think South State recruited me, but I didn't want to go there. Other than that Bowling Green recruited me, but that was it. I don't think any other schools offered me. Miami of Ohio recruited me but didn't offer me.
Q. C.J., you're about to face one of your Federal League rivals from high school in Kenny Frease, can you talk about what you remember from him and in high school and any games that stood out?
C.J. MCCOLLUM: He was a beast in high school. He was about the same size, probably weighed a little bit less, but he was virtually unstoppable in high school. Some memories I have? I remember beating them in the district championship my sophomore year.
Q. Gabe and Jordan, can you talk about how the team needs to refocus after that upset yesterday? And is that a concern at all coming into this game?
GABE KNUTSON: Yeah, I guess that obviously we just had a big win for the program, but coach is really trying to keep us focused and keep us prepared for the next game. We have had some experiences this year where we get a big win, and then we kind of hit a lull there. And we're just trying to eliminate that lull and be prepared going into the game tomorrow.
JORDAN HAMILTON: We're very happy and proud of ourselves for the win last night, but we still feel that there's more for us to accomplish in this tournament and this season and we're really not ready to leave and to ‑‑ I'm not ready to end my career and these guys aren't ready to end what we created this year. So really playing for one another is all the motivation we need to continue.
Q. C.J., talk about the challenge that Tu Holloway brings that may be different or may not be from Rivers and Curry?
C.J. MCCOLLUM: Tu Holloway's a terrific player and I know he's great in the pick and roll. I've been able to watch him over the last few years. And I think it was his sophomore year that they made a little run when they had Jordan Crawford. But no, he's a great player. And similar to Rivers, he likes to pick and roll and get to the cup. So I think that they have a guard in Mark Lyons as well so it's not just him, they got a pretty good guard tandem.
Q. C.J., you mentioned yesterday you were five‑six in high school. Can you sort of explain your growth spurt, when you got to six‑three, how you got there, and what was your frustration level too in not getting noticed by some of the bigger programs?
C.J. MCCOLLUM: Well, I was five‑six, a little chubby, spot up 3‑point shooter, so I couldn't blame the schools for not recruiting me. But then my junior year, I was five‑eleven, hit a little growth spurt. But throughout the whole experience, AAU experience, I was basically a two guard in a one guard's body, being short and being a scorer first. But it was a little frustrating not getting recruited, but things happen for a reason and I'm in a good situation now. I'm blessed to be here, so can't complain.
Q. C.J., visited last night for a second. Did you get a sense of helplessness that Duke's guards started to feel as the game went on? And if so, how much do you think you played a role in that and not just in the baskets that you scored but even the ones that you missed, the kind of shots you were able to get off that just seemed like they were unable to stay in front of you.
C.J. MCCOLLUM: I don't know if it was a sense of helplessness, but I think they were definitely on their toes a little bit, on their heels a little bit after a few minutes into the game where I was getting ball screens and I was able to get to the cup a little bit and distribute as well. But it was very ‑‑ I was very comfortable and I heard them say don't let him touch it, so that made me feel pretty good and gave me a little bit of confidence.
Q. C.J., talk about what the last day's been like and the national attention that you're getting. And in a way, do you feel like it's about time?
C.J. MCCOLLUM: The last day has been crazy. I know that the guys next to me worked extremely hard for this opportunity. It's not just me. I know it's a team effort. I wouldn't be here without those guys, but it's been crazy, a lot of text messages, a lot of Tweets. I haven't ‑‑ we don't really have Internet access in our hotel because there's no wireless, so I don't really know what's going on outside of Twitter and a little ESPN on TV.
Q. Jordan, just kind of feeding off that a little bit, do you have any sense of what the reaction is back at Lehigh and on campus and in Bethlehem and have you heard from folks?
JORDAN HAMILTON: Yeah, I think that the students are really proud of us and really enjoying the victory. We have never really experienced this sort of press or notoriety before and I think it's something that the students and the whole community is really embracing. We just really appreciate all their support and we have gotten a lot of feedback and a lot of love from the campus. And that's something that we have‑‑ we all as a team really appreciate.
GABE KNUTSON: It's been great. Just all the support from the fans this year and it's been growing. I know that since our freshman year, we have been really trying to build the program and the support and get more fans at games and everything and I think that this is definitely a big step for us. But, yeah, I think the fans have been great this year and especially now when we have done it on the national scale.
Q. Gabe, can you talk about the Patriot League a little bit? I guess to be frank it would be called a low major, you know that if you don't win your conference tournament you're not going to get in the tournament, you've experienced that disappointment. But now between you and Bucknell the last couple years, you've gotten some time on the national stage and Bucknell had that great win against Arizona, so talk about maybe the level of play at the Patriot League and maybe why Bucknell and now Lehigh have been able to make such a splash?
GABE KNUTSON: It's definitely been a competitive league. I think Bucknell has really proven themselves in the league and we wanted to take what they had ‑‑ obviously last year they won it and the year before we had it. So being on the winning end of things my freshman year and the losing end of things my sophomore year, we wanted to come out on top this year, especially for the seniors. But, yeah, I think the league's definitely been more competitive. We're happy for them when they beat Arizona to give us more of ‑‑ I guess just like a give our league a better look, but then obviously we were pretty happy with ourselves to show up against Duke. So, yeah, you think it's definitely more competitive and yeah, the league's been improving.
JORDAN HAMILTON: I think that part of the reason why it's a lower rated league is the academic standards are very high in the Patriot League between us and Bucknell which poses challenges in recruiting areas. But I think it's a highly underrated league and I think we're starting to show what the potential we have to compete at a higher level and I think it's just going to continue to improve.
Q. Gabe, you're getting all these questions now about where C.J. came from, he had 2000 points before you guys won the conference, what do you think about getting all these questions?
GABE KNUTSON: It's great. C.J.'s a great player and a lot of people don't see it, but he's our hardest worker too. And that's‑‑ that means a lot for the team because when your best player's your hardest worker, everybody else looks at that and follows that and it's easy for a lot of guys to be jealous or whatever, but he deserves everything he has and it's easy to follow a guy like that, especially when he works so hard.
Q. C.J. heard a couple questions people asking why you felt other schools didn't recruit you, but just talk about what it was about Lehigh University that kind of distinguished itself in your mind and made you want to attend.
C.J. MCCOLLUM: Well, Lehigh was one of the first schools that recruited me early on in my junior season. Coach low gee, who is no longer here, he reached out to me through the telephone and eventually game to my school and went through the in‑home visit and went through that process. But my mom really liked the academics, she thought that was very important. She said she always tells me you can't play basketball forever, so you make sure you go to a school where you can get a good education and that was huge. And then the fact that I could come in and contribute and play right away, that also played a huge factor and I wanted to get away from Ohio and a lot of schools didn't recruit me there, so I had to get away, but it was also good to get a little away and just start fresh.
Q. Jordan, you've had a crash course in Xavier since they won last night, can you talk about what challenges they post and do they remind you of anyone you've played this year?
JORDAN HAMILTON: Well, they're a very good team and they play ‑‑ what we found so far is that they have been really good in transition, they have great guards, high volume of ball screens, which means we're going to need to be dialed in. Our bigs are going to be‑‑ need to provide a lot of help for us on the shows and getting back and in the middle. And really we know they're aggressive and really attack both on offense and defense, so I think for us a key is going to be withstanding their runs and really standing up to their pressure and not caving in or sort of crumbling under their image or the intensity they play with.
Q. Do they remind you of anyone?
JORDAN HAMILTON: I don't know of how many teams we face like this, would I say somewhat like St. John's, I think they're more ‑‑ a lot more talented. And they have a better system than St. John's, but I guess that would be the closest I could draw to.
Q. Kind of coming off of that question, who do you guys remind yourself of from past tournaments? I've heard some people throw out a Butler comparison. Are there some teams that you remember watching the last few years that you guys remind yourself of?
GABE KNUTSON: I couldn't answer that. I don't know.
JORDAN HAMILTON: I think the Lehigh Mountain Hawks, I think we got our own identity and I think we're something that this tournament's never really seen before. But I know people like to draw comparisons and try to categorize, but I really believe that we're our own unique team.
C.J. MCCOLLUM: If we have to compare, I would say maybe similar to Davidson a little bit in terms of being a small school having a solid team, solid coaching staff and trying to make a run in the tournament.
Q. C.J., Davidson had a guy named Stephen Curry. Are you or your team Stephen Curry?
GABE KNUTSON: Yes.
Q. He did what he did about 80 miles down the road?
C.J. MCCOLLUM: We're two different people but's he's a terrific player. I don't‑‑ I don't know how good I am compared to him. I know he's in the NBA. He's a star. But I think he's a great player and he's going to have a great career.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks, guys, we'll see you tomorrow. Take questions for coach.
Q. Could you just talk about how the team sort of has to get back to earth and refocus in terms of the next game and is that a concern at all for you guys?
COACH REED: I think that after any emotional game there's always the propensity to potentially fall off a little bit, because we have expended so much mental energy. However, immediately after the game, I wanted to make sure that our players had a chance to enjoy the moment, enjoy the experience. It was really something special that Lehigh was able to do last evening.
However, I did also quickly ask every person, number one, if they had enjoyed it and are enjoying it; and the answer was an obvious yes. It was basically a softball setup to ask the second question, and that was, are you satisfied? Because I think if we're satisfied with what we have done thus far, it's going to be hard to really motivate ourselves to get to the type of effort that we need for this next contest. But to a man they all said they weren't satisfied. And because they weren't satisfied, obviously now we have a chance to continue to grow and build. Because I think they have a lot of faith and confidence in what they were able to accomplish and this is special team. And this special team I think really wants to do something as we continue to progress with the next game.
Q. When you're looking at kids to recruit, you not only have to find a kid that can play basketball but also has to be a phenomenal student as well. How difficult is it for you to find a recruiting pool with kids who can do both?
COACH REED: Lehigh's one of the top academic universities in the entire country and it's a tremendous strength for us in recruiting. Yes, it does limit our recruiting pool significantly. However, if you look at our roster and the breakdown of all the different states and where everybody's from, there's always a built‑in niche for those student‑athletes that really value academics. It comes through in their board scores, it also comes through in their daily activity in high school. And if they are putting forth that type of effort academically, they really want the value of what a Lehigh degree can bring for them, and because of that they're willing to travel even from afar because they identify with what Lehigh's reputation is, what Lehigh can provide for their future. And that combination of being able to combine those academic interests with a great basketball career is something that can allow us to take people from even far across the country to come and join us.
Q. How much of your early non‑conference schedule is by design and what did you hope to achieve with that?
COACH REED: One of the biggest designs of our non‑conference schedule, because of the way we recruit and the way we recruit nationally is to bring our players home to a home region where they have a chance to play in front of friends and family. With that said, trips to Iowa to take young men like Gabe Knutson and Corey Schaefer home, trips to Michigan to take somebody like Holden Greiner home and different trips like that obviously help us.
We had an opportunity as well to participate in a tournament in a tournament format. Our Patriot League's tournament is a little bit different. We don't play on consecutive days. In fact, it's more like kind of a regular season schedule. But I wanted to give our guys an opportunity to kind of experience a tournament format where they could spend time together, and where they worked towards an opportunity. That game right at the beginning of the year was against St. John's. We learned a lot about ourselves I think in that competition. I thought we played well, but we weren't able to keep our poise towards the end of the game and we lost the lead. And that was unfortunate.
But fortunately through that experience through even playing in hostile environments like at Iowa State for their home opener, we learned a little bit about how to control pressure situations. Ultimately we went on in a tournament that was part of that subregion or subbracket. For the St. John's game, we went and played three consecutive games in three days. And because of that, we had a chance to really formulate some great relationships and some bonds which helped our chemistry. Now 12 of our first 15 games were away from home in the beginning of the year and fortunately for us, we were at the time where we won important games on the road because we had confidence in our ability to do so.
Q. What did you see in C.J. when you were recruiting him that others didn't see? And did you envision that he could be this kind of player for you?
COACH REED: The first time I saw C.J. McCollum, I thought he was a terrific player. And I thought he was somebody that could come in and immediately help us.
Really I think I saw value in a package that wasn't necessarily as glamorous as you might necessarily expect from a college player. I saw talent. I saw a feel for the game, a basketball IQ, and just a smoothness about him that I really valued.
Now, physically he was a little bit underdeveloped and also undersized. Because of that, his package wasn't necessarily what you would really want to have at the Division I level. But getting to know him, seeing his desire, and also getting the great feel for his game and all the different things that he could do, I thought it was more important to really search that talent and that character than it was the package that surrounded it.
Q. Two part question for you. Number one, since about 9:45 last night, how many requests have you had to do interviews being on TV, radio or even for print that wasn't broadcast? The other part is: You have a doctorate. Why did you choose coaching over doing something else?
COACH REED: Okay. First question: It's been busy. A lot of people want to talk about Lehigh right now. I guess that's a good thing. I'm happy to be able to accommodate as best I can.
Justin Lafleur, our sports information director, has done a very nice job of trying to put things together and I've had some great conversations with people who really love sports. And because of those conversations, I'm able to talk about what Lehigh is and what we're all about and really share a little bit about what this magic of this tournament is all about also. Young men striving together for a common goal and really being able to see those dreams come to reality to some degree.
Now, the second question is probably a loaded one about the doctorate, because it's a long story. I was in ‑‑ well, I don't want to make it too long. Let me see here. We got other things to do. I guess the biggest things were I ended up getting some great advice from people who understood the profession and understood really how advanced education can help you in your career. And fortunately for me I took that advice. I didn't want to do any further schooling and it was the furthest thing from my mind. I actually really just wanted to coach and teach. I thought teaching and coaching at high school would be great.
With that recommendation to continue on and people helped me through fellowships, graduate assistantships, and all those different type of things, to even make it financially possible, my goals changed a little bit. And a lot of it was based on my father's influence. Growing up in a home and watching my mother as a teacher, my father as a coach, I thought that would be one of the best vehicles to make an impact in the lives of other people. Because it was something that I was really passionate about. I thought I could connect with people about it, because they were passionate about it as well, and we could learn about life through basketball.
And I thought if I could get my dad's job, that would be the best job on earth. I thought perhaps having a doctorate when it was all said and done could perhaps help me find a nice small school maybe a Division III school, where I could coach and teach and just have a great experience and kind of build a program.
The other advice was, I always knew that I would be coaching because I wanted to, not because I didn't have the ability to do anything else, because I would have other alternatives and other options, because this is a stressful profession and not everything works out. The breaks don't always fall in line. But I knew I always wanted to be coaching for the right reasons, to give ‑‑ and to try to provide for the student‑athletes that are, that I have the opportunity to coach, and because of that I think even studying all the theory and instructional theory, learning theory, even motivational theory has actually made me a better coach.
Q. Where was UNCG in all that process? Where was your head then? What do you remember about those days here?
COACH REED: I have some great memories and some great experiences. It was actually kind of a roundabout way that got me to the University of North Carolina Greensboro. It was in big part to my wife. It's also in big part to pursuing my doctorate because I had earned ‑‑ or I guess won some sort of fellowship which was terrific from Wayne State. And it provided me a stipend, paid my health care, gave me a housing allowance, paid my tuition, my books, and all those type of things. And I didn't know any ‑‑ and I didn't owe any service to the university. So my wife, she's studying speech. She was at that time studying speech language pathology. She had her undergraduate degree, and it was really competitive for her to find a Masters program. So I told her, honey, apply nationally. Wherever you get in, I'll look at having an opportunity to join you. I'll go. But I would really like to try this coaching while I have this fellowship, this might be my one chance to really do it. And I looked at different staffs and different parts of the country and begged for opportunities. And one person I talked to was Fran McCaffrey, who was a first year head coach at UNCG. And the relationship took off and I was willing to volunteer because I had some of the other things in place. He figured, hey, let's get another hand on deck. Fortunately the chemistry was good, the production was good, and that ended up providing another opportunity for me to work going from a volunteer to a full‑time and actually top assistant coach at High Point University under Jerry Steele.
Q. All three of the coaches from that staff, you, Billy, and Fran coached Lehigh to a NCAA tournament.
COACH REED: Well, Tommy Schneider actually had a NCAA tournament as well and Fran McCaffery I believe was an assistant coach on that staff. My history is a little fuzzy. But it's been a very productive coaching tree for me. People that I can look at as mentors, people that I have a great deal of respect for, people I still consult and ask questions about, and even the assistant coaches that I've had a chance to come in contact with, it's been a solid nucleus of people. And between the influences of my father, my high school coach, Coach McCaffery, Coach Taylor and Jerry Steele, I've been very fortunate to work with some excellent people.
Q. I also have a two‑part question. One, what have the last 12 hours been like for you as you familiarize yourself better with Xavier? And two, what are your impressions of the Musketeers, particularly their back court?
COACH REED: I think the first thing is it's been very hectic because there were the opportunities to kind of recap and talk about our win against Duke, but then we had the responsibility of making sure that we can put forth the best product against Xavier, with the goal of winning that game.
Fortunately for me I have a very talented staff of assistant coaches who have already poured through a great deal of film and can kind of give me a head start and teach me what we need to know about Xavier, and then we can kind of construct a game plan a little bit further based on that information.
So I think balancing both of those responsibilities to be able to promote Lehigh University and what we have been able to accomplish, and also look at the needs and the necessity for preparation for our opponent, which is something we take a great deal of pride in, I think it's been a really important thing and because of that there hasn't been a lot of sleep, but I guess can I sleep in May. So we'll worry about that then.
And the second part of your question was?
Q. Your impressions of particularly Xavier's back court.
COACH REED: I think their back court is absolutely terrific, to be honest with you. They have guards that seem to live in the paint. They're aggressive, they have a tough mentality, they go to where they want to go on the floor. And one of our primary responsibilities is going to be containing dribble penetration. We would like to do it by negating their opportunities in transition where they have open floor chances to get high percentage shots. We also know that we have to have effective ball screen coverage to try to limit their advantages to start their dribble penetration. And then at the end of the day, we're just going to have to be ball strong and make sure that we do a good job guarding our individual man, yet still having team concepts to provide support around.
THE MODERATOR: All right, thank you.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports