home jobs contact us
Our Clients:
Browse by Sport
Find us on ASAP sports on Facebook ASAP sports on Twitter
ASAP Sports RSS Subscribe to RSS
Click to go to
ASAP Sports e-Brochure View our


May 27, 2012

Niko Amato

Joe Cummings

Drew Snider

John Tillman


THE MODERATOR:  Welcome, everyone.  We have Maryland here.  To my right is head coach John Tillman and then Joe Cummings, Niko Amato and on the far end, Drew Snider.  We'll start off with comments from Coach Tillman and then questions.
COACH TILLMAN:  We're honored to play a great school like Loyola on a very special day, Memorial Day, for the National Championship.  I think that's a testament to the hard work of our players and what they've invested all year, the coaching staff, and our administration for what they've done for us to put us in this position.
We're excited to get back.  I think like any other team that gets in the tournament, I don't think anybody plays for second place, so we're excited about trying to get there and finish this year.  It's going to be a really tough challenge, because when you play the No. 1 seed and the No. 1 team in the country, they pose a lot of problems.  So we'll have to play our best game of the year tomorrow.

Q.  Coach, someone was saying you go way back, and it's not uncommon to see you on his couch and fixing his Christmas tree.  Apparently, it's because of you that Hawkins is there, right?
COACH TILLMAN:  Yeah, I told Josh that the game is at 9:00 tomorrow night, and he didn't buy that.  It's weird how things circle back.  When I was coaching at Navy, I lived in Annapolis, and I lived a block from Coach Toomey and his family.  Charley is one of the finest people I know, and probably the closest guy or friend that I have as a coach in the coaching business.  He's as good as they come in terms of character and friendship and what he does with his players on and off the field is impeccable.
He's a good coach.  He's a better friend.  His wife was very, very nice to me.  She knew I was a bachelor, so I was invited over for dinner a lot.  I got to know his kids really well, and I still get to spend a lot of time with them.  They're just great, great people.
It's a little bit awkward in certain ways, but all that being said, we realize what's at stake for both schools and for our guys and what they've invested.  We'll make sure that we're focused and doing what we need to do to try to win the game.

Q.  John, to build off the point on Hawkins, what sort of a dangerous commodity is he for them and what sort of problems does he present for opponents?
COACH TILLMAN:  He kind of reminds me of Danny Burns.  He's a guy that's very competitive.  He's very athletic.  He's got great speed.  He does a lot of things that Danny did, and Danny was a really high draft pick and one of our captains last year.  Exceptional speed.  Can defend the ball, pick up ground balls, create transition and score when needed, as you saw yesterday.  So he's a very dangerous player.
What concerns you is you can have two guys running down the field, and somebody could be with Justin, and if he kicks it in high gear, all of a sudden that becomes a situation where they have one more guy on the play than you.
So we'll have to account for his speed at all points on the field.

Q.  Joe and Niko, how surreal is it to be here at this stage when typically the usual thought is unseeded teams don't get this far?
JOE CUMMINGS:  I think it's definitely a huge honor to have an opportunity to play again in the National Championship.  But I think our focus is to treat it like it's any other game.  Coach has done a great job of talking to us about trying to make our world smaller and just focusing solely on the game, focusing solely on our opponent and not trying to make it bigger than it is.  That way we can play within ourselves, focus on what we need to do in order to win and have fun and enjoy being with our teammates and having an opportunity, again, to compete in what is Drew and my final game as collegiate athletes.
NIKO AMATO:  I'd like to reiterate what Joe said, but I don't think we focus too much on seeds or us being unseeded.  I think every team in the tournament, all 16 teams, very good teams are all capable of winning games.  We're fortunate enough to be playing the last day of the season in college Lacrosse.  We're going to try to make the most of that opportunity.  We really respect Loyola.  We don't look at it as a 1 seed, but we look at it as going at it in a championship Lacrosse game.

Q.  John at any point at Harvard or Maryland, did you think about scheduling Loyola?  How much do you try to avoid facing friends whenever possible?
COACH TILLMAN:  I think I always look at what's best for the program.  To me that comes before anything else.  These guys put so much time and we ask so much of them.  Everything that we try to do has to be what's best for them or for our program to be successful.
I have only been here about 22 months.  The schedule we've tweaked certain things, but we have to be sensitive to some of the traditional rivalries that we've had.  Also, every year you kind of have to look at what the NCAA selection committee is doing and gauge what do we need to do to change the schedule to put us in the position to have the strength of schedule and RPI that we need to have, and also to get to the area that's we need to get to for recruiting, for alumni, and for fans.
This year we made some changes so we could get to areas like Philadelphia because we feel like it's important for Niko to play in front of his family.
We've done very well there with Kevin Forster and Guarino, and some of those guys.  We've picked up Stony Brook to try to get to Long Island because of our alums and all the great kids we have.  We feel like we're a national school.  Our roster reflects it, and these guys embody that.
So we've tried to go a little bit more national.  I think if we just stay so Maryland based, I think it will hurt us.  But if picking up Loyola gave us such a chance to be successful, we have to look at it.  And based on this year, it looks like they're going to be good for a really long time.

Q.  John and Drew, can you compare and contrast the different experience that year two has been with this collection of guys compared to year one when you came in with such a senior dominated class?  Just kind of take us down those two roads.  Then I'd like Drew to give us his perspective of being on that team and being a senior leader on this team.
COACH TILLMAN:  Well, year two being at the University was helpful in that I knew more about the school and how it worked.  Everything from admissions to facilities to recruiting, who to talk to that was helpful, even though we lost some guys, a good number of those guys, I knew who they were, and their personality and obviously the coaches.  Having a year under our belt together was helpful.  And not having to get in and try to get in.  Those were the positives.
For me, the way we had to coach this team had to be drastically different.  It's almost like taking over a new problem to a certain extent.  We really needed to take the temperature of our players, talk to them, trust them, and coach the way they needed us to coach them, not the way they wanted us to, but the way they needed us to.  That was something that every day, every week we had to be sensitive to.
This has been a team that really thrived when we pushed them, yet been very positive with them.
We tried to instill confidence, optimism, enthusiasm, and excitement, and that's when these guys are best.
Are we going to be critical at times?  Sure.  But these guys need to know we believe in them, we trust them, and I want them to have fun and be loose.  Because when we played that way, we've been our best.
Even the last couple weeks when we traveled, the guys have been loose.  They've been more loud, the bench has been nuts.  But I think our play has reflected a lot of passion, a lot of spirit and a lot of energy.  My general feeling is we can't curb that.  We've actually got to foster that because the kids are having a great time.  And I think we're playing as well as we can play right now.
DREW SNIDER:  I think the main difference between this year and last year, Coach Tillman did a good job of coming in.  Like he said, 22 seniors, that can be a delicate situation, you know, if he comes in too hard.  He could have a rebellion on his hands.  But he did a good job of handling that situation.
The difference is the players have changed, but we're still preaching the same stuff.  Do good on the little things.  We always break our holds down the majority to be the best and that's what we're striving to be.

Q.  Niko, you have the advantage of having played in this game last year.  Is there anything you can take from that experience through this weekend into that game tomorrow that's going to play out this weekend?
NIKO AMATO:  Yeah, I think the experience factor is helpful from last year.  But the most helpful part of being in the same situation as last year is the days in between the games and the times leading up to the face‑off.  Because you really want to try to manage your emotions and not spend too much energy before the game.  Just kind of peak at the right time.
Just like in games like last night against Duke, you saw how frantic it was in the opening whistle.  Being in this game last year kind of helped me settle in and calm my nerves a little bit and help manage some of the younger guys on the defense and whatnot.
Like Joe and Drew and a couple of the other guys that have also played.  I think we have good balance around the field that helps some of the younger guys settle in and be confident in themselves and remind them we play against good players every day in practice.  We've played against good teams before.  Though Loyola's a talented team and well coached and we'll face them on Monday, we've also played good players before, and we should be used to it.

Q.  Eric Lusby has been so hot this tournament.  What have you seen out of him and what is going to be the game plan?
COACH TILLMAN:  A guy playing with a lot of confidence right now.  I don't think I've ever seen two attack men have as many shots as those guys have had combined for.  I think it's over 260 shots.  Greg Catalano had a pretty quick trigger last year and he was around 100.  They play a lot of games, too.
He's playing with a lot of confidence.  They have a lot of confidence in him.  You can tell he's a fifth year guy.  He's shooting the ball really well.  They do a lot of really good things to set up, he and Sawyer, to get their hands free.  I think he's got the green light.  I think sometimes you get into a little bit of a zone.  And when you're feeling that way, you've got to keep feeding guys like that.  But he's really crafty.  He'll take what you give him.
Like yesterday, he had popped out for a shot, a Notre Dame got a little too aggressive, bad approach, dipped under, a smooth finish.  Inside he can catch a finish.  There was another time where he caught it, another approach outside and he shot it.  He can shoot it in different spots, and a lot of it comes from things out of the flow so the ball doesn't die in their attempt to get it to him.  If you have a lot of ball movement, it can really kill you.

Q.  Loyola did a lot of inverting against Notre Dame yesterday, attacking that way.  As a team, what is your strategy when an opponent does that?
COACH TILLMAN:  It will depend.  We'll watch a little more film.  We stayed up late last night trying to break down some different film.  One of the films we watched was the Notre Dame game.  Part of what we try to look at in film is look at compared to maybe the Denver game or Canisius or Hopkins, or some of the other games we watch, are they doing it because of Notre Dame's great defense or is that who they are?  And try to draw the parallels to and maybe anticipate what will they do against us.
We'll have to be ready for everything, but we'll have to look, do they play like us defensively?  Because if they do, this is probably what we'll see.  We'll have a couple of different plans much like offense and the face effects that we can defend what they're doing depending on personnel as well.  Are they just inverting to feed the ball?  Do we need to score?  Come early?  Be more reserved?
So there are a lot of different options that we have.  We'll make some decisions tonight and we'll have practice later, do a walk through, and talk about what we want to do there.

Q.  When you talk about Lusby and Sawyer, the deal pick your poison argument when you're coaching against that kind of talent, how does that play into your game plan in this game?  Eric is on fire.  Mike is not as a coach do you say do we roll to the hot guy or don't let the giant wake up in Sawyer?  How do you manage that as you're game planning?
COACH TILLMAN:  Well, with us, and I'm sure Niko would back us up, we talk all the time about 7 versus 6.  Really with us we know we're going to give up shots.  The goal for our defense is not to prevent shots.  Our goal is to basically give up the shot that's we want to give up.
A lot of times it's tough because we play against athletic teams like Loyola or Duke yesterday.  They force you to slide, and they create things.  Maybe you give up shots that are inside that make it difficult.
We have so much confidence in Niko.  If we can keep people out of the paint, which we call it, which is our inside area, we love our chances.
You do have to be sensitive to the fact that there are certain guys that shoot the ball with time from the perimeter better.  But what you can't do is get away and be so concerned with those guys.  Because if you do, all of a sudden the inside or maybe some other things might be open.
To be honest, we had to break down yesterday's defensively because we got a little too concerned with our match‑ups, and we got a little soft on the inside and some skips got through.
So we have to be sensitive because we have so much respect for Michael and for Lusby, but we can't focus everything on them.  Because watching them, they're good enough to know if you're going to focus on them, the other guys will get you, whether it's Butts or Ward or whoever.
Again, we'll try to defend the knowns as best we can.  Give up the shots we want to give up, because I know Niko will take care of business if we give them a chance.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

About ASAP SportsFastScripts ArchiveRecent InterviewsCaptioningUpcoming EventsContact Us
FastScripts | Events Covered | Our Clients | Other Services | ASAP in the News | Site Map | Job Opportunities | Links
ASAP Sports, Inc. | T: 1.212 385 0297