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NCAA MEN'S 2ND & 3RD ROUNDS: SAN DIEGO


March 20, 2014


Rob Brandenberg

Juvonte Reddic

Shaka Smart

Briante Weber


SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA

THE MODERATOR:テつ Center VCU we have Rob Brandenberg, Juvonte Reddic and Briante Weber.テつ We will open it up for questions.

Q.テつ Briante, Stephen F. Austin is getting love, talked about being a Cinderella team and how they are a possible Sweet 16 team.テつ I wonder if you guys had heard any of that and what you thought of it?
BRIANTE WEBER:テつ We read the clippings and see what comes on the TV.テつ It ads fuel to the fire as us being the underdog.テつ We're going to attack from the get‑go and we will see what happens.

Q.テつ Rob, how difficult it is to prepare for a team that has an amazing winning streak but hasn't necessarily played the best competition?テつ How do you look at them when that's the situation?
ROB BRANDENBERG:テつ Any team that wins 28 games you have to respect, and you have to respect the winning streak and you have to prepare like you will prepare for any other team.テつ We done our preparation and we will be ready for tomorrow.

Q.テつ Melvin not playing tomorrow, listed as doubtful, how does that affect you?テつ Obviously you didn't have him in the conference tournament.
JUVONTE REDDIC:テつ It had an affect, him being a key player.テつ He was a great scorer for us so without him a lot of other guys had to do a lot more scoring and other guys had to step up.テつ Being without Melvin it's going to be key for us but we've been without players in the past and some of the guys have stepped up and did a good job so I think, you know, we're going to be all right.
BRIANTE WEBER:テつ When somebody goes down somebody has to step up and we're going to need somebody to step up and play big for us throughout the tournament until we get Melvin back.テつ It's great opportunity for other players to show themselves and show what they are capable of doing.

Q.テつ Rob, how interesting is it to be on this side of things where you all have been sort of the Cinderella story all these years and now people are talk about the team you're playing being that potential story?
ROB BRANDENBERG:テつ You know, since VCU, since I've been here and Bri and Ju, we have been considered the underdogs and to be the favorites does nothing to our psyches, we have to have the same mind‑set to go out there and attack no matter the seeding.テつ We proved seedings don't matter, when we were an 11 or 12 seed it didn't matter and the now we have the same mind‑set as a 5 seed as we did when we were a 12 or 11.テつ Seedings don't matter and saw Ohio State lose to Dayton, so if you go by that, seedings don't matter.
We just got to make sure we're ready to go tomorrow.

Q.テつ Coach Smart is what's known as a very motivational coach.テつ Could you guys talk about the things he does to help give you confidence to play at your best?
BRIANTE WEBER:テつ Well, Coach always finds a way to help us with the game plan.テつ It will be something different every time but he comes different with the approach he has on us.テつ He thinks of different ways to make sure that we get up and play for this game, but he shouldn't have to do much when you're in the NCAA Tournament.テつ It's all on the players, it's basically all on the players to do what they need to do to win.

Q.テつ I wasn't talking so much about this specific game but over the course of a season and a career what does he do to prepare you to play your best?
ROB BRANDENBERG:テつ One thing Coach is good at, he has a way with words and tries to bring the best out of you.テつ He brought the best out of Bri, myself, Ju, and he has a great way of instilling confidence in us.テつ It's like, if you trust him, just believe the plan, believe the process and everything will be all right.テつ I think he does a good job of making sure that we go out there, and just play, just play.
He's the type of coach that lets us play.テつ We don't gotta make a mistake and look at the bench and I think that really helps when you're out there because you're not constantly looking back.テつ If you make a mistake, you know, he's always positive.テつ It's been working since I've been here.

Q.テつ Rob and Briante, how have you handled the last few seasons where all these rumors about Shaka Smart, obviously he says he wants to stay at VCU, that hasn't stopped the rumor mill from turning, how have you all handled that?
BRIANTE WEBER:テつ Having the type of relationship that I have with Coach Smart, we communicate throughout the day and he tells me everything so I have no worries about him leaving or go anywhere else.テつ If he did, I'm pretty sure he would be a man about it and tell me he's going to leave and we would work things out from there.
The type of relationship that Coach Smart has with his players you won't have with every coach.テつ Some are about money and the materialistic things and Coach Smart isn't about that.テつ He's about making people better as a person‑‑ as people and helping his team win.
ROB BRANDENBERG:テつ I think Coach Smart is big on relationship and communication.テつ I haven't been worried since, you know, after the Final Four that he was going to leave.テつ I knew Coach was going to stay here my four years, he told me and Ju that and I'm pretty sure he's going to be there for Briante and Treveon Graham's senior year.テつ The main thing is he communicates with us and he doesn't come out of nowhere.テつ But if he was going to leave, like Briante said, he would be a man and tell us, but the relationships, it's not easy to walk away from that.テつ So definitely it helps with the relationships.
THE MODERATOR:テつ Thank you, gentlemen.テつ We have VCU Coach, Shaka Smart, and he will begin with an opening statement.
COACH SMART:テつ Great to be here in San Diego.テつ Our guys are excited.テつ It's a terrific opportunity for us.テつ With the game tomorrow, Stephen F. Austin has had a terrific season and Coach Underwood and his players have done a phenomenal job.テつ For us it would be a heck of a challenge and we're excited to be here.

Q.テつ I believe Stephen F. Austin is 11th in offensive rebounding rate.テつ What do you have to do to slow them down on the offensive glass and how much of a factor will that be tomorrow?
COACH SMART:テつ You got to put a body on them.テつ They're very good at going to the glass, they're relentless the way they pursue the basketball, they get those 50/50 rebounds that could go to either team.テつ It's not really a matter of them jumping over you it's them outworking you.テつ You have to do a good job matching their energy level their physicality level, they're a tough, hard‑nosed team.テつ I think putting a body on them and getting the rebound and getting five guys to go after the ball.

Q.テつ What's Melvin's chances of playing tomorrow?
COACH SMART:テつ He's doubtful for tomorrow.テつ We practiced earlier.テつ He moved around a little bit and he can shoot which is the best thing he does anyway so maybe we will put him in the game and let him stay on one end of the floor and shoot, but he's not ready to move the way he needs to move yet to play, especially until our style of play.
I was telling someone earlier, we're thankful that he's much further along than he was several days ago.テつ When he hurt his knee last Saturday, the way it looked we were worried that he was going to be out for a long, long time.テつ He's still out now, but hopefully it won't be too long.

Q.テつ When you have a player like Briante Weber who is so adept at stealing the ball, was he like that when you recruited him and with the emphasis on scouting everybody knows he does that, he does it anyway, what are the things he does to keep doing that?
COACH SMART:テつ He was like that.テつ That's one of the reasons that we were so attracted to him in the recruiting process.テつ With our style of play it's great to have people with active hands, with energy, with quickness, and he has all those things at a high level.
The key for him over the last few years has been him continuing to learn to be more disciplined.テつ The better the opponent, the more they make you pay for gambling, so as our competition has gotten better and better, he's just had to learn that if he gambles and goes for steals all the time people are going to make him pay and the referees understand that he's going to try to do that as well.
He's got to be careful of foul trouble.テつ His junior year here he's done much better with that, made major progress.テつ That will be a big key tomorrow against Stephen F. Austin because their guards are very good with the ball, they're a terrific passing team and they certainly can make you pay for gambling.

Q.テつ Just a follow‑up to the Melvin question.テつ What do you lose without him on the floor tomorrow?
COACH SMART:テつ A lot of shooting.テつ He's a terrific shooter, he scores in double figures for us.テつ He has a moxie about him, and he's very well liked by his teammates.テつ Tell you what, when he got hurt that was a big hit to our team psychologically, and when they saw him moving around the other day, you know, he was a little ginger but he moved around and clearly it wasn't as bad of an injury as maybe some people originally thought.テつ Our guys‑‑ it was like we had won a championship game or something.
He means a lot to the our team and without him we lose a guy who has scored a lot of points and a lot of three's and without him you have to have guys step up and I think we have some guys on the team ready to do that.

Q.テつ What's it been like recruiting guys who are familiar with what you do, who watched you make that run and you don't have to explain what VCU is anymore?テつ What's that been like?
COACH SMART:テつ It's helpful, that's for sure, in recruiting.テつ When we first got to VCU there was a lot less visibility for our program, a lot less awareness.テつ Some of the kids and coaches that we talked to had never seen us play.テつ That's not the case anymore.テつ Most of the‑‑ pretty much all of the people that we call, whether it's a kid, 16, 17 year old kid or high school coach or AAU coach or the family member of a prospect, they have all seen us so we don't have to tell them we press, we get up and down, we have an exciting style of play.テつ They've seen it.テつ And that's helpful because in recruiting, everybody is talking and saying all the things that they do and it's much more powerful when you don't have to talk and it's out there visually.テつ That in itself doesn't get us high‑level players but it certainly gets us in the door, and then we have to do a good job developing a relationship from there and convincing them VCU is the best place for them.

Q.テつ Your program has been the underdog, the Cinderella story, now you're playing a team that people are saying Stephen F. Austin could be the Cinderella team of this tournament.テつ What's it like to be on the other side of it?
COACH SMART:テつ It's definitely different.テつ When we made the Tournament in 2011 nobody thought we belonged in the Tournament so we were the ultimate underdog.テつ The next year we were a 12 seed playing against Wichita State who was a 5 seed and we were not the favorite.テつ They had had a phenomenal year, and that was something we always have used.テつ Last year we were a 5 seed so this will be our third straight year in the 5‑12 game and obviously it's a game historically that can go either way.テつ For our guys they have a great understanding of that.テつ They know that we have won as a 12 seed and they saw Harvard win as a 12 seed.テつ I think the seeds go out the window, our players understand that.テつ Stephen F. Austin's players are confident.テつ They've won 28‑straight games, I don't think they're thinking about their seed, they're just trying to go out and win a game like our guys.

Q.テつ Talking about the visibility of the program as well, teams have had a chance to really breakdown the things that you do defensively the last few years and moving up to the Atlantic 10.テつ Have you had to tweak things or pull things back to adjust?
COACH SMART:テつ Well, we adjustor presses and our style of play not so much because people have an awareness of what we're doing, but we try to do things a little bit better.テつ I think it comes down to playing with great energy and terrific focus for our team.テつ When we have those two things, energy and focus, we have been really, really successful.
At the same time when you take the court there is another team that wants to win as bad as you do, so you've got to make sure you're trying to take away the things that they do well.テつ Our style of play is one that's exciting to play, our guys enjoy it, but it also takes a high level of commitment both physically and mentally.
So I'm fortunate to be able to coach guys that are very committed to that.

Q.テつ Shaka, you talked about the 5‑12 game and seeds don't matter.テつ It does seem that Stephen F. Austin has caught the fancy of the country, that they're the 12 team that's destined to do big things in the tournament have you talks to your guys about that, and have you used that as motivation?
COACH SMART:テつ I think our guys are aware of that.テつ They watch Sports Center and they're aware of what people are saying.テつ On Sunday as soon as we were announced, then they announced Stephen F. Austin and I believe Seth Davis right there said he picked Stephen F. Austin so starting there, I mean, I can see why people would pick them.テつ They've won 28‑straight games.テつ They have a terrific system.テつ They have got guys that have winning experience.テつ I don't think our players are too caught up in that.テつ I think we're just focused on doing the things that go into winning for us.

Q.テつ Recent amusement about the $25 million practice facility.テつ What does that mean for this program and how does that help this program going into the future?
COACH SMART:テつ It's a huge step for our program in that I think it's a further commitment by VCU to men's and women's basketball, and it will give us a facility where not only where we will practice but where our guys' experience as a student athletes will be enhanced.テつ There is a lot of lip service around the country given to that term "student athletes" experience but I think when programs and administrators and coaches and the NCAA step up and do things to enhance the experience that kids have, that's what it's all about.テつ There is no question that that practice facility will do that for us, and it will help us in recruiting.テつ Hopefully in turn it will attract more high‑level student athletes and guys that can make our program better on and off the court.

Q.テつ Shaka, your guys general play with a fairly high level of confidence.テつ What do you do to instill that confidence in them and you're a coach that let us his guys play and shoot.テつ How tough is that sometimes when they're taking shots that might be ill‑advised or too quick into the shot clock?
COACH SMART:テつ In answer to your confidence question, we just try to let the guys know we believe in them, we care about them.テつ We know how good they can be.テつ This is a process.テつ We're trying to help guys usually come into our program at 17, 18 years old, help them become the best version of themselves at 22 years old, and that takes time.テつ Even at 22 years old, a lot of times people are not going to be exactly at the finish line in terms of their maturation as a player or as a person.テつ We want to keep moving them forward and let the guys know we believe in them.テつ The confidence, I believe, comes from that.テつ In terms of shot selection, we define early in the year, Paul, what we think is a good shot and what we think might not be a great shot.テつ We work hard as a staff to chart and monitor what we call "shot quality" every game.テつ The shot quality does not always equate with a high shooting percentages because if you get an open 3‑point shot for a Melvin Johnson, for instance, that would be a high‑quality shot but it doesn't necessarily mean it's going in.テつ All we can do is focus on the things that we can control.テつ I think we can control our shot quality more than we can control our shooting percentage.テつ We're just trying to get good ones.テつ You asked how I feel when guys don't take good once.テつ You try to help them, especially the younger guys understand that our goal on offense is simple, to get a team score.テつ It's not for one individual guy to score, no other agenda, just for our team to score, just like on defense our goal is to get a team stop.テつ If we can keep guys on the floor focused on that, we will feel good about the results.
THE MODERATOR:テつ Thank you.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports




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