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NCAA MEN'S 2ND & 3RD ROUNDS: ST. LOUIS


March 20, 2014


Cameron Bairstow

Craig Neal

Kendall Williams


ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI

THE MODERATOR:テつ As advertised, Cameron Bairstow and Kendall Williams here representing New Mexico.テつ We will open it up for questions.

Q.テつ For both of you guys, third year you have been through this, but last year for both of you.テつ Any different feel to this point?テつ I know the game doesn't start 'til tomorrow.テつ Any different feel?
CAMERON BAIRSTOW:テつ I think just because it's a new team, a new situation, it is a bit of a different feeling.テつ It has been a different feeling I think every year based on seeding and expectations and all that stuff.
But I think at the end of the day, when we get to the game time tomorrow it will just be the same thing and just approach it like any other game.テつ So we'll see how it feels tomorrow.
KENDALL WILLIAMS:テつ Yeah, just, you know, we don't take anything for granted.テつ Like you said, it is our last‑‑especially since it is our last time.テつ Every experience, even if it feels the same at some point is different.テつ We're playing a different team, a different year.テつ We're a different team.テつ We're just excited to be back.

Q.テつ Cameron, the Stanford players were talking about the physical nature of your game.テつ How much does that factor in to how you try to get things done?
CAMERON BAIRSTOW:テつ I think that's a lot of what I try to do in terms of playing physical, getting to the foul line.テつ And try to, in a lot of situations, not the most athletic guy, so I have to try to make it a more physical contest on the ground and take away some of the athletic nature.

Q.テつ And just as a follow, the new rules this year were supposed to reduce physical play.テつ How have you dealt with that?
CAMERON BAIRSTOW:テつ Yeah, I think it has on the defensive end, especially I think in the post, the post play especially I think has limits to what you can do on the defensive end without the arm bar, and especially for the guards other on the perimeter with the hand checking.
But I think you can take advantage of it on the offensive end and I think we did struggle a lot to begin the year with that stuff, trying to stay out of foul trouble.テつ But as the year went along you learned how it was getting called.
But as long as you can stay away from it on the defensive end you can take advantage of it on the offensive end.

Q.テつ Kendall, I am curious, you had the experience obviously in Colorado Springs, you know Chasson Randle a little bit.テつ Is that your match‑up?テつ What can you say about his game?
KENDALL WILLIAMS:テつ Well, it's not my match‑up, it's, you know ‑‑ he is a point guard.テつ I play the off‑guard.
But overall, you know, we don't treat anyone as a specific individual match‑up.テつ I competed against him over the summer, a great player.テつ He leads a very talented team, so he's definitely a focal point of us.
I will get some looks at him, he will get some looks at him, and the rest of our guards will get looks at him.テつ So mixing it up on him.テつ He's a very talented guy, so we just have to keep the ball rolling for him.

Q.テつ And I heard that you played AAU with Brown.テつ I guess he's a little younger, or was that way back?テつ What do you remember about the AAU days?
KENDALL WILLIAMS:テつ Yeah, we go way back.テつ He is another So Cal kid and you run into a bunch of AAU kids when you get to this stage.テつ Another talented player and he is actually is my match‑up.テつ He is the off‑guard and I am the off‑guard.テつ We will start on each other.
We talked about it and are excited to be both be in this position and match up against each other, and it is a great opportunity for both of us.

Q.テつ Cameron, how does a young man from Australia end up playing for New Mexico?
CAMERON BAIRSTOW:テつ A bit of a weird recruitment.テつ Ron Miller who played out of Australia had a contact who got on to my coach, I think about two weeks before I was playing on one of my visits and just out of the blue got an email from him, showed him some game film and they were interested enough to recruit me.テつ And got me over there and loved it on my visit, so just went from there.
But it wasn't a long recruitment or anything, it was just out of the blue and a random coincidence.

Q.テつ I'm wondering, speaking of going way far back, if your coach has shared any stories about going up against Coach Dawkins in their playing days when they were both in the ACC?
THE MODERATOR: テつWhoever has the story.テつ Kendall, how about you first?
KENDALL WILLIAMS:テつ No story on my end.テつ That's actually the first time I heard about that.テつ But yeah, I do realize that they both were pretty good in the ACC.
So it's an interesting coaching match‑up right there.テつ Yeah, no stories.
CAMERON BAIRSTOW:テつ Yeah, same here, no stories.テつ He doesn't really speak much of his playing days.
KENDALL WILLIAMS:テつ Ever since he lost the assist record to Kendall Marshall a couple of years ago, he doesn't talk about his glory days anymore.

Q.テつ I am curious, you guys have a whole season behind you now.テつ What have you guys as players seen the evolution of Noodles as a coach from the first exhibition games to now; is he a different coach now than he was in October?
CAMERON BAIRSTOW:テつ Yeah, there has been obviously a lot of change‑ups.テつ And I think he is more calm in a lot of situations now, that has been our understanding.テつ Being a head coach is different from being an assistant, which he was for a number of years.
So he has been learning on the job as well.テつ But I think at this stage we have a pretty good idea of him as a coach and kind of know what to expect a bit more.テつ We always knew what was going to be the technical aspect in terms of offensive, defensive philosophies, but to see how he handles certain situations you weren't really sure of because we hadn't seen him in that situation before.
So I think he is just‑‑well, we know really a lot more what to expect from him, I think that's where we are at now.
KENDALL WILLIAMS:テつ Yeah, I think Cam pretty much touched on it.テつ Especially being a veteran group, we figured we pretty much knew the ins and outs of the system, the Xs and Os.テつ But just seeing him kind of grow as a leader and dealing with the staff and with the players.
And you know, especially going into the NCAA Tournament I think we all have a nice comfort level with one another.テつ And like Cam said, it's an adjustment as a head coach.テつ There is a big learning curve and we did it collectively as a program, we did a good job of staying together, getting big‑time wins, getting back into the situation.
At this point whether you are a freshman or senior, first‑year coach, 10th‑year coach, it is a level playing field and hopefully by now you established yourself and we feel really good where we are at.

Q.テつ For either of the guys.テつ I am just curious, do you guys ever talk about last year?テつ If not, when was the last time you did?
KENDALL WILLIAMS:テつ Two seconds ago.テつ We just talked about it before we came up here.テつ We figured someone was going to ask us and we're glad you did.
You know, we talk about it all the time.テつ It was a tough loss, but at the end of the day everyone loses.テつ Everyone loses.テつ It is a tough way to lose.テつ But high seeds lose all the time.テつ And I had respect for that team going into the game and more respect now.テつ And hopefully Cincinnati has some respect for them because they were a good team last year and they are an even better team this year.
Upsets happen all the time.テつ People ask if we learned from it and sure we have.テつ It is tough to go out like that.テつ You represent your program, so I think it helped us go in with a better mindset.テつ And now we're really just prepared to take every possession by possession and go from there.
THE MODERATOR:テつ Anything else for the student‑athletes of New Mexico?

Q.テつ Cameron, I wonder if you have a feel for how the NCAA Tournament plays back home in Australia.テつ Do the people actually follow it?
CAMERON BAIRSTOW:テつ Not as much as over here.テつ I think it gets a bit more exposure each year on a variety of channels and such.テつ But I remember when I left it still wasn't close to the extent of what it is over here.
When St.Mary's made the Sweet 16 it gathered a bit of attention towards them, but still not nearly as big of a deal as it is over here.テつ It is just the nature of basketball in Australia, and I guess exposure of overseas basketball.

Q.テつ As seniors, each day you play now could be your last day.テつ Would you talk about that a little bit?
THE MODERATOR:テつ Kendall start us off, please.
KENDALL WILLIAMS:テつ Yeah, definitely.テつ We talk about it a lot.テつ We've talked about it basically all year, the end of our journey.テつ And I think that's really helped us as a team, you know, the seniors that have appreciated our ride.テつ And we've taken every game like it can be our last, really.
So I think it's helped us prepare for these situations where we're literally if you lose, the season's done.
So there are a lot of seniors out there.テつ I wish them all the best of luck because, you know, it's a great sport.テつ It's a great way to bond with other guys and with other people.テつ And it's a great circle.
So like answering the Harvard question, we'll just take it possession by possession and at the end of the day someone has to win, someone has to lose, and we hope we come on the winning side of the ball.
CAMERON BAIRSTOW:テつ Yeah, like Kendall touched on, there will be winners and losers and a lot of seniors with the last game.テつ And you just have to enjoy it.
You're not really sure when your last game's going to be at this point.テつ You just have to take it game by game and just enjoy the whole ride.テつ Because you really have no idea when it is going to end and just make the most of the opportunities that you do have.
THE MODERATOR:テつ Gentlemen, thank you very much for your time.テつ Best of luck.
The head coach of the Lobos is here, Craig Neal.テつ I will ask him to make an opening statement regarding his team being here in St. Louis and then we will go to questions.
COACH NEAL:テつ Really excited to be here.テつ St. Louis is unique for me because I grew up about three hours from here.テつ So I have been over here a lot when I was younger.
So real excited about my team.テつ The opportunity to play Stanford.テつ We've got a really, really mature group.テつ I am really thankful that we were able to get those two seniors back to the NCAA Tournament and the four starters that we had last year.テつ You know, they did a lot of great things this year, winning the tournament, Mountain West Tournament Saturday, so real excited for the opportunity to play tomorrow.

Q.テつ Coach, the Stanford guys were talking a lot about the physical nature of your play, especially the big guys.テつ How physical do you guys play?
COACH NEAL:テつ Those two guys are pretty physical.テつ I always said I got the two‑headed monster.テつ Cameron, of course, is a kid that's developed from day one.テつ Came to us about 6'9", 210 and just a tireless worker.テつ Spent a lot of time in the weight room.テつ Could barely dunk a basketball when he got here and now he can put his head on the rim.テつ So he's really worked to develop his body.テつ He's a very physical player.
I think this summer helped him a lot with his‑‑the international play he did at the University Games and also with the Australian Olympic team.
And Alex has always been a big kid from Los Alamos, a local kid that was really come on.テつ He is very, very talented and he's got a lot of basketball skills.テつ But he's also, you know, he's probably 20 pounds bigger than he was last year.テつ He's real physical.
So those guys are a tough match‑up.テつ They are physical, a physical group.テつ So that's one thing we've taken advantage of this year and will continue to do that.

Q.テつ I just wondered, Coach, about the new rules, quote/unquote, designed to take away physicality to a degree.テつ How have you guys had to adapt to that?
COACH NEAL:テつ Well, I think the physicality or the physical play is still pretty prevalent in the post play.テつ You know, I think they got away with the new rules with the hand check and playing with your feet instead of your hands and your arms, and I think they've cleaned up the game and it is a lot of fun to play.
You can still be physical in the paint and screening and stuff if you do it the right way, and that's what we have tried to do.テつ And we have been very fortunate this year to win 27 games and play the way we play.
Our team has always been a guard‑oriented team.テつ Like last year we had Tony Snell, the first‑round draft pick of the Bulls.テつ And I think this year we played a little bit more inside, more physical with our post play because we've got two really good post players.
And so it's worked out really well for us this year.

Q.テつ Coach Neal, what are your thoughts on Stanford guard Chasson Randle?
COACH NEAL:テつ He's really good.テつ I have known him since he was younger when we were at Iowa and I saw him at the U.S.A. trials and followed his career and been to watch their practices a couple of years ago.
But real impressed with how he has matured as a player and developed as a player.テつ You know, he can do a lot of things.テつ He can put it on the floor, he can shoot the ball well.テつ And he's become a really, really good leader for their team.テつ So, you know, I really like how he plays and he will be a key match‑up for us.

Q.テつ Coach, I asked the Stanford players and I asked Coach Dawkins if they had played anybody this year that they can compare Cameron Bairstow to.テつ And I am not sure how familiar you are with the PAC‑12, but the player they said he reminds them of is Tony Parker at UCLA.テつ I am curious your thought on that comparison.
COACH NEAL:テつ I wouldn't know anything about UCLA, but no.
Cameron's just‑‑it's hard to compare him.テつ The one thing about Cameron Bairstow, and I have told a lot of people this, he does it in so many ways.テつ He can post you, he has great footwork, he can shoot the 18‑, 19‑foot jump shot which he really improved on.テつ He can drive it now.テつ We put him in positions to drive it and make plays.テつ He makes plays on the basket, but he also makes the right pass.
So Tony is really good.テつ Tony is a low‑post player from Atlanta and he's at UCLA, but Cameron can do it all.テつ I don't mean like he doesn't have any weaknesses, but he's really, really elevated his game with confidence and his hard work.

Q.テつ Coach Dawkins was asked about when you two competed in your playing days.テつ He said that you brought a joy to playing basketball.テつ I wonder how you recall that, what you think of that.
COACH NEAL:テつ Back when I was younger I think they said I was out of control, and then once I got to a junior and senior they thought it was just because I loved to play.テつ And I did love to play.
I think we have a great game.テつ I fell in love with it a long time ago when my dad was a coach for 32 years as a high school coach.テつ It's in my blood.テつ I never thought I would be a coach and very fortunate to be sitting where I am right now.
But I played the game the way I always try to get my players to play.テつ It is a blessing to play it, it is a lot of fun to play it, and I've tried to coach it that way.テつ I tried to make it fun for my guys because you're very‑‑we're all very fortunate to be a part of it.テつ We're all very fortunate to be in the NCAA Tournament.
But I did play it the way I thought I should play, and that's because I loved it.テつ And that's the way I view it now.

Q.テつ Coach, Cam is probably more than any player I have covered into that routine, he wakes up at 4:30 to get food in him to get the calories and all of that kind of stuff.テつ I am curious, a week like this when you are not as in control of the schedule, midday press conferences and practices, how do you adjust to make sure Cam is still in his comfort zone?
COACH NEAL:テつ I learned when I first got the job to stay out of Cam's way.テつ And I let Cam do his routine and he'll get his routine in.
So we've been very fortunate, just like I told the story, everybody makes a big deal Cam used to lift after all the games and then I think it was after our Air Force game I walked down there to check to see how our health was and we had six guys in there lifting.
So I think what he has done, his work ethic, he'll get his routine in and I just kind of let him do his deal and he's there for all the team functions.テつ And you know, he does his eating.テつ If he needs food, he calls us and we work it out to get him some food.テつ So I know how important that is to him.
And we've just been very fortunate to have a group of kids this team, and not only all 14 of them, we've been very fortunate to have a group of guys that have been very dedicated and very responsible and very disciplined on their approach to winning and their approach to the program.テつ We're very fortunate to have all of them.

Q.テつ And as a quick follow‑up, you have let this team be a little more loose and free, like the free spirit Dawkins talked about you as playing.テつ I am curious if that is tough to manage as you get them get back on Twitter, grow their hair out, doing things that they didn't do prior to you being coach?
COACH NEAL:テつ I didn't let them grow their hair out.テつ One thing my boss told me when I interviewed for the job was to shave and get my hair cut and it worked out for me.テつ The reason they grew their hair out is because of Hugh's mom, she is in remission from breast cancer and Hugh got the idea that we all should grow our hair out and we will shave it at Lobo Howl next year and I kind of let them go with that.
I have been a little looser with our guys, that's the way I am.テつ I think the game is fun.テつ I think you have to enjoy it.テつ The more you enjoy it the harder you will play, the more you will love it, the more passion you will play with it.
But those guys understand that we haven't backed down from discipline.テつ When you trust team, you trust players, their responsibility with trust is to do the right thing.テつ And I've trusted them and they've trusted me and it's worked out really well.テつ But I think they are in a little bit better place being able to be who they are.

Q.テつ I'm wondering, given what you said about how your dad handed the game down to you.テつ How special this season has been for you and Cullen and the fact he played this year after the appendicitis?
COACH NEAL:テつ It has been very special.テつ I am not going to lie.テつ I think one of my goals when he came here, when Randy Bennett was very, very nice to let him out of his letter and come play for me, one of my goals is I always wanted to coach my son in the NCAA Tournament, and I reached one of those.テつ And also I wanted him to be a part of the championship team and we did that.
So it's been very special.テつ It hasn't been easy.テつ But he's handled it.テつ I'm just glad that, you know, two weeks into when we got back from Australia I was going to red‑shirt him and I spent three days with him.テつ He's like I'm not red‑shirting.テつ And I was like, all right, it's your decision, but you are going to go through some rough patches.テつ There are going to be some rough patches for you with your strength, you better be prepared to handle, you know, if you play good, you play bad, it's just part of it.
And he's come through with flying colors and really matured and he has his strength back.テつ But he has been a big key to us.テつ When you are the fourth leading scorer on a team with 27 wins and won the Mountain West Tournament and ranked, you know, in the top 20, you know, he's had a fairly good year and hopefully he will play well in the tournament.

Q.テつ I know you only have one basketball game on your mind, but could you just share with me a couple memories of that 1986 game where your team beat Duke?
COACH NEAL:テつ You mean when they beat us?

Q.テつ You beat them once, didn't you?
COACH NEAL:テつ Yeah, we did beat them.テつ And we had some good games, really good games.テつ I think it was the first year that Duke went to the Final Four with CoachK, Johnny's team.
I had really good teammates in Mark Price, who was an excellent NBA player, and John Salley, who went on to win a championship with Detroit.テつ Mark was one of the best point guards to play at Cleveland.テつ And then we hadDwayne Farrell and Tommy Hammonds.テつ They had Tommy Amaker and Jay Bilas, those guys were a really good team.
We kind of all came up together that's when Georgia Tech started to do well and when Duke started to do well.テつ It was a big win for us at home.
And the only bad thing is, and I know you guys will look this up, I missed a jump shot to win the ACC tournament that year.テつ And it wasn't easy.テつ It was a tough situation, but I missed about an 18‑foot jump shot to win the ACC tournament.
And it's one of those things that, you know, you learn from your failures.テつ And I learned from that.テつ And I still get mad at Mark, ask him why he didn't shoot it and passed it to me.
So it's one of those experiences that I have learned from and I've gotten better for it.テつ And it's made me a better coach, it made me a better player.

Q.テつ Coach, you mentioned that St. Louis has a special part of your background growing up.テつ Talk a little bit about that.
COACH NEAL:テつ Well, I just think, you know, it's a unique situation in southern Indiana.テつ We didn't have any baseball, and so you are either a Cardinals fan or a Reds fan.
And one of my staff, Drew Adams grew up in Bloomington and he's a die‑hard Cardinals fan.テつ He can tell you batting averages, pitching, how much pitches they threw the night before.
When you grow up in southern Indiana and you are a high school coach and there is not a lot of means in your family, you do a lot of trips by car.テつ And, you know, we made some trips over here.
I'm just fortunate enough my dad has been with me this week.テつ You know, I can't figure out how to get rid of him out of Albuquerque because he seems to come and stay for months at a time, but it's good to have him around.テつ And then my mom's going to make the trip over tomorrow and it will be good to see her.
So, you know, St. Louis is a cool town and we spent some time over here.テつ So it's a neat place and I am very fortunate to be here to participate in the NCAA Tournament.

Q.テつ Coach, how much does experience play in this game where this is the third trip in a row for the Lobos?
COACH NEAL:テつ Well, I think it will play key for us.テつ We've been very fortunate to be in the tournament three years.テつ And, you know, I think those guys will learn from it.テつ I talked to them a little bit about it.テつ I haven't dwelled on it.
Kendall played in it three times, this is Hugh's second.テつ Alex is around and Cam has been around it.テつ So I think their experience will also help our younger guys, our newcomers.テつ But I think they will feel a little bit more comfortable than they had in years past.テつ At least that's what I am hoping happens.
And I'm just trying to keep my guys loose and just play good Lobo basketball and have fun with it.テつ And hopefully we'll play like we have been playing the last two weeks of the season.
THE MODERATOR:テつ Anything else for the head coach of New Mexico?テつ All right, thank you very much.
COACH NEAL:テつ Thank you, I appreciate it.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports




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