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March 20, 2014

Joe Callero

Chris Eversley

Jamal Johnson


THE MODERATOR:  Chris Eversley and Jamal Johnson are with us representing the student body.

Q.  Could you both just kind of describe the style of play and kind of educate us on what has been successful for you this last week or so.
CHRIS EVERSLEY:  The first thing we just do, we just focus on making sure our intensity is there.  Our intensity and heart has to be there before we start executing any types of Xs and Os.  Just making sure everybody is mentally focused and ready to concentrate for 40 minutes.  Before night in and night out, if you play 40 minutes of great basketball collectively you can do a lot of great things.
JAMAL JOHNSON:  You know, just touching on what Chris said, being mentally focused going into each game.  You know, Coach Callero preaches mental toughness.  Being able to bring it to each game is a big part of what we do.

Q.  What has clicked for us guys and certainly the regular season went the way it did and you've caught lightning in a bottle?  What's been the key ingredient for you?
JAMAL JOHNSON:  I think we made the right plays at the right time.  We got‑‑everyone knows their roles on the team.  Everyone is shooting the right shots.  You know, you have Chris hitting his midrange and David doing his drives.  Kyle is a great shooter.
So when you have those players doing the things they do best, things tend to go well.
CHRIS EVERSLEY:  Just to piggyback off that, the guy that's putting us in great position is Jamal.  You know, Jamal and Ridge are putting guys like Dave, myself and Kyle in a position to score.
You look at the percentages from the season, the shots are starting to fall.  That is the part that kind of clicked because we struggled throughout the season and now getting in the right spots and guys are confident and knocking it down.

Q.  Jamal, I want you guys to state your case.  You are the only team in the field with a sub.500 record and playing the only undefeated team in the country.  Why should people believe that you can be the first 16 to knock off a 1?
JAMAL JOHNSON:  I think our main focus is just making the right plays.  You know, they are a good team.  They don't go undefeated in a season for no reason.  And, you know, we just happened to catch fire at the right time.  As Chris mentioned earlier, we're all shooting the ball really well.
At the beginning of the season we struggled a little bit, but now that we are all shooting the right shots, I think there's no reason why we can't win.  You know, we practice hard, we play hard, and I think it showed in the Big West Tournament.

Q.  Chris a couple of questions.  First it is two‑part.  First I want to ask you, coach was talking about Kyle coming back helped a lot in terms of spacing.  Not that he is going to score 20 or something like that, but his outside shooting threat.  Maybe, Jamal, you should talk about this, too.  How has that really helped?  He hasn't scored a bunch of points, just his threat.  And Chris, you can finish it up, you can talk about how and why you transferred from Rice, what went on there.
CHRIS EVERSLEY:  For part one, just you kind of alluded to it about Kyle being a threat.  He has been an offensive threat his whole career.  And his freshman year you look at the stats, he had big 20‑point games.  And I am sure coaches we play against know that and know that he is capable of getting hot at any time.
And games like Arizona, the first game of the season, he had seven threes.  It is kind of like we have to respect him as a shooter.  And it helps us a lot for spacing.
And then you have guys coming off injury like Reese Morgan, he stepped back and hit three big threes.  And great confidence coming back.  And then we have another shooter off the bench, a freshman, Taylor Sutlive, who can also knock down shots.
So keeping that three‑point point line deadly with those three, just having guys who can ‑‑ multiple weapons that can step in at that position is very important for us.
JAMAL JOHNSON:  Do you want me to add to that?  I think just to add on to that, they all shoot the ball with great confidence, especially Kyle.  Kyle knows when the ball leaves his hand that it can go in at any point, and I think other teams recognize that, too.  Kyle's ability to shoot the ball is a big part of the offense.  I think it's clear that Kyle can get hot at any moment.
And for Kyle, you know, to shoot the ball well we need to be able to get the ball to him.  But at the same time defense does guard him and it opens up things for other players like Dave's drives and Chris's midrange jump shots.
CHRIS EVERSLEY:  Part two.  It was just the mutual decision on my part and the coaching staff just to be able to get the opportunity to grow and develop as a player, I felt I had to find another fit for me.
And there was a lot of times in life, pretty sure everybody knows, you have to find the right fit that is best for yourself, and I felt that Cal Poly was the best fit for me.  With academics, if basketball wasn't going to work out I would still get a great education and it was the best life decision I could make at the same time.  And here I am four years later not complaining, sitting in front of you guys.

Q.  For both of you guys, can you just talk about the experience you're going through.  What it has been like.  How crazy this is.  Who are you hearing from?  What are they saying?  If you can actually believe this is going on or are you able to sort of insulate yourself from it?
JAMAL JOHNSON:  I think it is a two‑part question.  I think the team is excited and hungry.  You know, we know we worked hard to be here.  We know we deserve to be here.  We proved that in the Big West Tournament.  Also, we like to stay humble.  We get down to work, watch film, and practice hard at the same time.  So I mean, that's pretty much how we get down.
CHRIS EVERSLEY:  There we go.
THE MODERATOR:  Chris, how about you?  How has your life been the last couple of days?
CHRIS EVERSLEY:  It has been a whirlwind.  If I used one word it would be "pandemonium" from the standpoint of my personal social circle to hearing about the city of San Luis Obispo going crazy and everybody having viewing parties.  It has been insane.
It is definitely a blessing for us to be here, but also a testament to all the work we put in this summer and this fall.  And then the daunting preseason schedule we put together traveling coast‑to‑coast playing all of these R.P.I. top 50, it prepared us for this experience that we're going through.

Q.  You made reference to the "whirlwind."  I am curious, have you tried to make it work for you?  It sounded like coach wanted you to feel like playing a game first would give you traction to get here opposed to when you are in flux.  Can you talk about the last 24 hours or so that way?
CHRIS EVERSLEY:  Yeah, after the game last night we went back to the hotel, showered, saw our families about 20 minutes and hopped on a plane and got here.  It's weird in a way this is probably the most stable I've felt‑‑it sounds strange because we are playing going from place to place, but we have each other.  We have each other's backs and everybody is making sure they are eating the right things, drinking the right things, keeping their bodies hydrated.
And the coaching staff is making sure we are on top of things.  And we have a great staff, athletic training staff, and everybody is working together because the common goal here is to keep this going.

Q.  With this being the school's first appearance in the tournament I wonder if you have been able to reflect on other upsets that have taken place in the past.  Is there a game you remember growing up where you thought, Hey, could that be me some day?
JAMAL JOHNSON:  [Laughing.]  That's a tough question.  I mean, you always dream when you're a kid, you know, making the tournament and achieving those big wins and hitting those big shots.  It's hard to pinpoint a single game that I can vividly think of that would represent this moment in time.  I wish I had one for you.
But I think for the next step for us is just going out there and making the right plays and we will create our own history and our own moment.
CHRIS EVERSLEY:  Great answer.
THE MODERATOR:  Chris, do you have an upset in mind?
CHRIS EVERSLEY:  I kind of will stick with Jamal on this one.  We experienced it a little bit last year when we got the chance to go down and play UCLA and were able to take them down at their place.
But at the same time that team is different than this one.  Every team has their own legacy and every team has a spot in history.  And it's up to them to try to make it.
So our goal right now is to just focus on Wichita State tomorrow and handling our business.  Like Jamal said, make the right plays.

Q.  Ordinarily you would have no reason to pay attention to Wichita State.  I am curious this season as they were undefeated and became a bigger and bigger story, were you watching them at all or paying attention to what was going on?
JAMAL JOHNSON:  Wichita State is a really good team.  You know, my dad is from Wichita, born and raised.  Wichita Shocker fan.  So he is always watching Wichita basketball.
But it is hard not to follow a team like that when they go undefeated in a season, they have a historic run, it is hard not to be a fan of good basketball, and that's what I am.  When you see a team play as well as they do you become a fan naturally.

Q.  What is your dad's name?
JAMAL JOHNSON:  Gary Johnson.  Grew up in Wichita, born and raised.

Q.  What did you know about the Shockers?
CHRIS EVERSLEY:  They are a great team.  On SportsCenter on Saturdays that's the team you see.  They climb steadily and finish the season undefeated.  Definitely a great coaching staff, great personnel.  They are a solid program top to bottom.
And if we were just going to go out and make sure we play our style of basketball because at the end of the day the only thing we can worry about are ourselves.  And records really don't matter at this point in time.
And you look at it on paper, the last four months, they have been better where we have.  But when it comes down to Friday night if you can play better than that team for 40 minutes anything can happen.

Q.  Chris, it looked like you went a couple of rounds in the ring with your eye.  Is that from last night?
CHRIS EVERSLEY:  There was a story going around the other night, which is true, how I got my first one on this side.  I was riding my bike when I was 7 trying to impress my neighbor, who was of the female gender.  And that's before my dad got to the birds and bees talk.  I was trying to impress her, and obviously it didn't work, she went in the house laughing, and I ended up with a lifelong scar.
And this first one I got elbowed the first game of the Big West Tournament.  And I told myself and my team I'll take six more sets of stitches if I am going to get a ring and net around my neck.

Q.  There was stitches the other night and the one when you were a kid.
CHRIS EVERSLEY:  Yes, this is when I fell off my bike.

Q.  How many?
CHRIS EVERSLEY:  I couldn't tell you.
My whole face was‑‑it was a dark point in my life.  [Laughter.]
Q.   How did it go with the girl?
CHRIS EVERSLEY:  I didn't really see her much.  She just laughed at me and that was it.

Q.  Can you amplify how your dad made it to California, presumably California, and what he does or what he did coming out of Wichita.
JAMAL JOHNSON:  My dad was born and raised in Wichita.  My grandma lives the next street over from Wichita State.  Growing up, visiting her, always knew about Wichita State basketball.  Never thought in a million years I would play them.
But my dad works for Boeing and Boeing brought us to San Antonio.  And from San Antonio I was raised, played high school basketball and came out to Cal Poly and now I am blessed with this opportunity to play Wichita State in a small world.

Q.  I am curious what you both knew about Cal Poly before you came into the program.  What attracted you to the program and who else recruited you?  And Chris, you transferred.  But talk about your road to Cal Poly.
CHRIS EVERSLEY:  I mean to be honest with you, before I transferred I knew as much about Cal Poly as most of the people in this room knew before we made it to the tournament.  I really didn't know much at all.
And the one person that was instrumental on staff that was getting me out there, and Jamal as well, was Coach Omar Lowery.  And him and then a couple of guys that I worked with back home, and Dan Powman, runs a scouting service back home, him, another guy I work out with were a triangulation in getting me out there and making sure the ball kept rolling.  And the Coach Lowery told me if I came out I would love it.
And once I found out who I would be classmates with, like Jamal and Maliik, who had to take a year off for the red‑shirt, and Kyle, I was like how can I not love these guys.
And as I sit here today I can say Jamal is my brother.  Blood couldn't make us any closer.  So that's why we kind of answer off each other a lot.  It is like a social alley‑oop, if you will.  [Laughter.]
       JAMAL JOHNSON:  To piggyback off what Chris said, Coach Lowery was at Texas State when I was still playing AAU ball still in high school.  When he got the job I had finished my junior year in high school.  He came out.  Hey, I can bring you out here, just do your job.  Play basketball.  Make good grades.  I will make sure you end up out here.  And you know here I am today.  Without him, I probably wouldn't be here.

Q.  Jamal, can you give us the details on your grandmother, her name, and she still lives in Wichita?
JAMAL JOHNSON:  No, she moved to Dallas.

Q.  What is her name?
JAMAL JOHNSON:  Sallie Coleman.

Q.  One of the things that stands out is how careful you are with the basketball, the low turnovers.  Talk about that a little bit.  Style of play and how important it is.
JAMAL JOHNSON:  Coach Callero being a point guard, his main focus when he was playing was taking care of the ball.  Taking care of the ball keeps you on the floor is what he always preached.  And taking care of the ball keeps us in games.
We may not have the most prolific offense, but if we limit the times we give it away we always give ourselves a chance to get a shot up.
And over the years we have been in single digits for the season in turnovers, and it all starts with the coaching staff.  We are doing push‑ups or running for turnovers.  That's our main goal.  We always have a goal at the beginning of the season.  A better assist‑to‑turnover ratio than the other opponent.  And this season hasn't been any different from the past ones.
THE MODERATOR:  Gentlemen, thank you very much for your time and best of luck.
The head coach of the Mustangs is with us, Joe Callero.  We will ask him like all the other coaches today to start off with a statement about his club being in St. Louis, his week and then we'll go to questions.
COACH CALLERO:  We're excited to be in St. Louis because we're a team from San Luis, and "San Luis Obispo" is how you pronounce it.  We are Cal Poly and we are a first‑timer, meaning the first time the team has ever made it to the tournament in 20 years of DivisionI basketball.
And our community's embraced it, the school embraced it.  We have about 500 people, students watching it in the auditorium.  They are selling out of shirts and we're enjoying the ride.  I am definitely going to enjoy the journey.
We are not uptight about it.  We have an opportunity of a lifetime to play a great Wichita State team, and a 16 seed versus a 1.
Our fifth game in eight days, and I think sometimes that's good.  Our guys haven't had too much time to think about the consequences of playing the No. 1 team in the conference or the nation.  Although we are conference champion, we are playing a nationally‑ranked team, a nationally prominent Final Four team.  But I think they are young and they don't think that much sometimes and that's probably to our advantage right now.

Q.  Joe, I will ask you the same question I asked your players who were just in here.  You're the only team in the field with a sub.500 record and playing the only undefeated team in the field.  State a case for why people should believe Cal Poly can be the first 16 to beat a 1?
COACH CALLERO:  Well, it probably shouldn't.  Nobody has believed‑‑why would you look at the numbers and say that Cal Poly has a chance.  And it's the same way we looked at it when we went to the Big West Tournament.  We were the 7 seed.  I told the guys I am packing three suits.
The facts of the matter are we did suffer some injuries, we were 3‑0 in conference play.  Ken Pom had our preseason schedule ranked in the top five or ten when you take offensive adjustment.  We played at Oregon, we played at Arizona, we opened up the season at No. 1 seed Arizona, we were down by 2 at half and Kyle Odister had 21 points.  We played at Stanford, at Pittsburgh, at Delaware.  Five teams we lost on their home court.
You see the numbers, you say this team shouldn't be in the tournament.  We were 3‑0 and quite possibly could have been 6‑0.  We were two buzzer beaters away from 6‑0.  Kyle Odister, our second leading scorer, broke his foot, had a stress fracture.  We sat him out three or four weeks.
And another great scorer for us has been out all year with an ACL, he is back, had 10 points in last night's game is Reese Morgan.
So we have two great shooters who haven't played the majority‑‑well, Morgan the entire season and Odister, a kid that can hit big free throws.  We beat UCLA at UCLA last year when they were nationally ranked, Kyle Odister hit big buckets there.
We are a program that has been in the big lights and had big upsets and feel it is not completely irrational to think that Cal Poly, a 16 seed with the worst record in tournament since 1965, somebody said, I don't know what the year was, they go, That is what happens when you have somebody that is injured for a while.
But that's why you have a conference tournament, you get people healthy.  You get hot.  You stay positive.  The kids have been unbelievable, their attitudes.  I'm sure you just got to see Jamal Johnson and Chris Eversley, two senior, who never‑‑seniors who never wavered.  Every time you looked at their eyes in practice, they never pointed a figure, never hung their head, they just kept coming back to work.  I love them.

Q.  You kind of alluded to this already, but I wonder if you can describe this.  Others may not believe or you think maybe the numbers don't indicate others to believe, obviously you guys will and do.  Do you have any particular motivational approach you take to getting that across to the team?
COACH CALLERO:  I do.  I think Coach Marshall and anybody who coached basketball will say that whatever you have done in the past is behind you.  I mean, Wichita State is 34‑0, but they don't get to carry those games on to the court.  They don't get spotted an extra 34 points for winning 34 games and we are not penalized for having a crappy record.
It's you play the game 40 minutes on Friday, okay.  It is a brand‑new game.  It is a brand‑new season.  We went into the Big West Tournament saying, Hey, the records are 0‑0.  It doesn't matter what you have done in the past, you have to play that 40 minutes.
So our focus is on the 40 minutes.  We want to focus on the 40 minutes, the 40 minutes that we have this one opportunity to play this one game the best of our abilities.  And that's how simple it comes down to.

Q.  You're kind of in this fast turnaround.  How do you go about scouting Wichita State?  What kind of impressions do you have of their solid play?
COACH CALLERO:  Well, to be honest, I never saw any Wichita State play outside of ESPN highlights until last night on the charter jet from Dayton to St. Louis.  And you get a chance to peek at them.  You hear all the stories about them.
Of course, I saw them last year in the tournament and so forth, and you hear the stories about their defense, passing, rebounding, teamwork and you go, Wow.  Then you watch on film and you go, Oh, man, it's all true.  That was the disappointing part, that they are as good as it sounds.
But you look at that and say, Well, all we can do is what we have done and that's prepare our team for our fundamental things.  We're not going to focus on making history.  Our motto to the kids right now:  Don't worry about making history, worry about making the right play.  Worry about pump faking, jump stop, worry about tracing the ball on defense.  Worry about making a great block‑off, because they have an 8‑plus rebounding advantage every night.
Our focus is on doing things in a basketball game that might be relevant to winning it, not being historical and the first 16 seed that turns Las Vegas on their head.

Q.  You kind of addressed some of this, but I looked at my watch last night when your game ended and it was 7:52 I believe St. Louis time.  Walk me through how you got here.
COACH CALLERO:  We win a big game, go to the press conference, from the NCAA to the administrators to assistant coaches, says, Coach, we have to go.  We gotta go.  Okay, can I get a glass of water?  Can we walk out to the bus?  The bus takes off back to the hotel.  The coaches decide we have to order pizzas at the hotel.  Everybody goes back to the hotel and starts packing and we got about 45 minutes from the time we got back from the hotel, packed up, my wife and daughter are traveling with us.
She said, Well, I was preparing to pack like we might leave, but I didn't want to jinx it, so we just throwing everything in there.  Got the bus at 10:45, got to the airport at 11:30, took off my midnight.  We caught an hour back, that was nice, flying west we got an extra hour.  Landed around 12:30, 1:00.
Took the bus to the Hilton downtown, found our keys, got everybody in their room and decompressed and kind of had to review the plan for the next day.  And got back to my room about 1:30.  Sat down and kind of went, Wow, you know, five hours ago we were getting ready to play a game to see if the season will be over.
Not only do you play a game, win a game, get an NCAA victory, a tournament victory, but within four or five hours you are in another whole city in a different apartment pulling clothes out of your bag, going, All right, where do I hang this up?
Talk about whirlwinds.  Probably the best for us though.  Having a week to think of Wichita State and a nationally‑ranked team, I think it could work against you.  You hear so much about, you know, how great they are.  You know what?  At the end of the day we have to go play the game.
And the last part is we woke up this morning and we found out one of our great assistant coaches was smart enough to tweet Ozzie Smith, who is a Cal Poly alum.  So anybody in St. Louis who knows who Ozzie Smith is, we have a Cal Poly alum who we will hopefully meet with today, tonight, tomorrow or before the game.  If that is not a reason for St. Louis to cheer for the Mustangs, I don't know what it is going to be.

Q.  We saw Chris and Jamal in here before.  I wonder if you can describe a little bit of what each brought to the team.
COACH CALLERO:  The best description for those two is dedication.  Both those guys have been four years in our program.  Chris obviously was a transfer and had to sit out one year and had three years of eligibility.  Jamal we got in as a freshman from Texas.  Both of them came out to California. Chris from Chicago andJamalfrom Texas.
And they completely embraced our program.  They embraced my family, they embrace each other.  They truly spent Christmases together and Thanksgivings together.
And people don't understand how much time you spend with these kids, they do become part of your family.  And I do look at them as I do look at my own child and say, this is what it is about.
So what they meant to the program are the incremental steps of success that are required, paying your dues, paying full price as we call it.  And going to the semifinals of the conference last year, losing at the buzzer to Pacific, who ends up going to the NCAA Tournament.  And saying well, we need to challenge.  So we stepped up our preseason schedule, all of the high major games just to get prepared for this moment to be prepared against the Wichita State.
We went and played the Arizonas and the Pittsburghs and the Oregons and Stanfords.  We played those teams so some day we could be in this seat to play Wichita State.
And those guys bought into it all the way.  I said, Hey, if we have a losing record, don't hang your head, it is your job to control the locker room.  Because those guys, freshmen, sophomores, they can be upset, but you seniors have to control the locker room, and they have been masterful at it.

Q.  Joe, who is the assistant coach who was quick enough to tweet out to Ozzie Smith?
COACH CALLERO:  I believe it was Coach Reaves.  I think they were both talking about it.  I think Coach Reaves saw the picture of Ozzie Smith in the Hilton lobby and got a picture of the picture‑‑or took a picture with the phone and tweeted a picture at Ozzie Smith, Hey, wouldn't it be great to meet Ozzie?  And he apparently responded and contacted our people, so there we were.

Q.  He did respond and you have some anticipation that will happen?
COACH CALLERO:  Oh, yes.  The dots have been connected already.  It is just a matter of if it is going to be pregame or later tonight.  So he has desire to connect with his alma mater.

Q.  Joe, all season most coaches when asked about Wichita State they kind of start out and say well, to start you have to be able to match kind of their physical play, rebounding all that kind of stuff.  Would you view it that way?  That's how you start the game plan, we have to play as hard as they do in those areas?
COACH CALLERO:  Well, taking a page from their book, they play angry, for to us have a chance we have to be furious.  I mean, there's no chance.  They are angry, we have to be furious because that's how strong and aggressive and confident and smart they are.  And we have to meet that right off the bat.
It doesn't help to be our fifth game in eight days, but it certainly is going to keep us in that competitive mode that, you know, we have to love the blood.  Our thing, we get hit in the mouth, you have to love the blood because we have to compete at the highest level we ever dreamed of to shock the world.
THE MODERATOR:  Anything else for the head coach of the Mustangs?  All right, thank you very much.  Good luck.

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