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NCAA MEN'S FINAL FOUR


April 3, 2014


Ben Brust

Niels Giffey

Julius Randle

Scottie Wilbekin


ARLINGTON, TEXAS

THE MODERATOR: We'll get started with questions for the student‑athletes.

Q. For Julius first, like to know how much you, just as a fan, have watched and become familiar with Wisconsin basketball over the years? Ben, please answer the same question in reverse about Kentucky.
JULIUS RANDLE: Just growing up I've always known Wisconsin just to be a hard‑nosed, tough team. They play really good defense. Of course, our team's already been informed that this is one of the better offensive teams that they have had, and they really can score the ball, move the ball. They have always just had a great coach.
So definitely it will be a challenge for us.
BEN BRUST: There's definitely a lot of rich history with the University of Kentucky's basketball program. Looking back all the way to the day when Pat Riley was there and I've watched Glory Road and all those movies, and there's definitely some good history there.
With Coach Cal, I followed him a little bit when he was at Memphis from being from Chicago, watched Derrick Rose when he made the transition to Kentucky. He's done great job with all the players that he's brought there and won with all of them.
So they're very talented team and we're looking forward to the challenge on Saturday.

Q. Guys, each of the four teams have great back courts, so for Ben and Scottie, talk about your opponents back court. Also we have heard for years about college basketball being a guards' game, I wonder if that still holds true.
BEN BRUST: Yeah, if you look at Kentucky, even though they do start three freshmen in the back court, they don't play like freshmen. They play mature and they're very talented. So it's going to be a tough test.
Guard play definitely is big in March. Now that we're into April, it's definitely something that's helped get us there and looking forward to seeing what kind of matchup it's going to be on Saturday.
SCOTTIE WILBEKIN: Yeah, for us, UCONN guards are really good, Shabazz and Boatright do a great job of creating shots for themself, whether it's getting in the lane and finishing or pulling up from the dribble. They also do a good job of getting in the lane and setting up their other teammates. So it's going to be a challenge to guard them.

Q. Ben, as a three‑point shooter, how do you get used to baskets, bigger venue, more space behind the basket and just shooting like what you do?
BEN BRUST: Well, I think we played at a lot of different arenas. Whether it be a smaller arena, whether it be a pro arena or a college arena or now a football stadium, we're going to do all the same things we always do. Coach Ryan always does a great job of that. We always get shots whenever we go different places, so we play the same way every place we go to and it's worked for us. We're going to continue doing that.

Q. For Ben, can you talk generally about what Bo has been like to play for in terms of, he can be a little bit biting sometimes. Wonder if that reflects on you guys, and also maybe something that's taught you about how to play the game that you didn't know before you arrived.
BEN BRUST: Coach Ryan's been awesome to play for in the fact that I've really grown as a player. I didn't play at all as a freshman, really, and I had a chance to learn what it's going to take to get out there on the floor and what he demands and what he expects from what you have as players.
Luckily I had other older guys like Jordan Taylor and Jon Leuer ahead of me and I was able to learn a lot of things from them and really just have grown as a basketball player. His intensity that Coach Ryan brings every day, he gets up and he comes to practice and he teaches us. He just wants to help the young men that he has learn the game of basketball and do it the right way. We're proud to be here representing the University of Wisconsin and ready to go after it.

Q. For Ben, they obviously play five freshmen, start five freshmen. When you were a freshman, you averaged three minutes, less than a point, less than a rebound, and less than an assist in a game. Were you capable of playing more and when you come in there, does Coach Ryan tell you as a freshman you're not going to play much?
BEN BRUST: There's always an opportunity. I knew there was an opportunity there. I just had some learning to do and some growing up to do. I definitely brought it every day in practice and I did what I could to make my teammates better.
But I think that experience really helped me grow as a person and as a player. Led me to where I am today. Even though they are five freshmen, they have obviously proven that they can get the job done. You don't get to the Final Four right now for no reason. So they're doing some good things.

Q. Julius, obviously you're playing in the Final Four at home. What does it mean to you and what have your emotions been like kind of leading up to this thing?
JULIUS RANDLE: Yes, it's definitely home. I'm just excited to be playing. It doesn't matter if it was in Dallas or wherever it was. Just to have the opportunity and blessing to play in the Final Four is all that really matters to me.
It's kind of been emotional for my family, all that the team's been through this year. They're just really proud of where we came from.
But at the end of the day we're just excited to get out there and compete and have another opportunity to play the game.

Q. For Julius, but if either any of you guys want to chime in, that's great. Julius, obviously all season you've played before huge crowds at Rupp, and here this weekend you guys might be playing before 75,000. I'm wondering, at any point this season have you ever paused to sort of do the math on how much money you and your teammates are bringing in for your school? If so, on balance, does the value of the scholarship that you have gotten this year, does that seem like a fair exchange or is there anything you would change about that if you could?
JULIUS RANDLE: No, I've never done the math on what we're bringing into the school or anything like that. All I know is that I'm a college athlete. I'm a college student. I have the opportunity to get an education as well as play for Kentucky, who has so much tradition, and that's really all that matters to me right now.
I don't really get into the politics and stuff like that about whether it's fair or not. I just know I'm blessed to be in the position I'm in and that's really all that matters to me.
NIELS GIFFEY: I think that I got to agree with what was just said. I think that there might be a different way to see the whole situation, but I think all of us up here are blessed that we got the opportunities that are presented to us.
Just the way it's compensated I think is great for us to get our education and just to take care of all the things that we go through every day. I think those problems that you're probably asking for, I think other people should take care of them.

Q. Scottie, throughout the Dayton game I saw you kind of gathering the team together, huddling them up, talking with them. How important do you think, as a point guard, is it to be a vocal leader and how have you developed that over time?
SCOTTIE WILBEKIN: I think it's important to have somebody on the floor that kind of relays what the coach wants and can say from a better perspective on the floor. I think it's important to keep us connected and together as a group, focused on what's happening right now in the current possession. I just tried to grow into more of a leader as I've grown older and just kind of have my mind more into the game.

Q. Ben, what aspects of your offense do you feel that you guys as a team maybe don't get enough credit for or what aspects of your offense are maybe a little bit underrated and why?
BEN BRUST: I don't really think anything is being underrated. I think we have gone out there and we have done some good things. It's nice to go through lay‑up lines and look around and see all the guys that I have an on my team. It could be their night or his night or his night.
So we definitely do a good job of being efficient offensively, and I love that we have a really unselfish group and we all care about each other, which makes it fun to go out there and play with.

Q. Niels, you're one of the few guys you, Shabazz, Tyler, that have actually been to a Final Four. Does the atmosphere and all that goes into it, does that sort of equalize things? Is everybody sort of as star struck, whether a senior, freshmen, sophomore, is it kind of hard to manage all that?
NIELS GIFFEY: It's kind of tough to manage these first days, just getting in here, taking care of the media. You have to stay focused on what you got to done the court. That's the most important thing, I think. You can't be too impressed with everything that's going on, the gym, the different crowd that's going to be out there and all the attention that's focused on you.
So just stay with your group as much as you can, stay with your teammates. That's really what I'm trying to tell my younger guys that haven't been here before, just try to have fun, enjoy this moment as much as you can.

Q. For Niels and Scottie, there's so much attention paid on making it to the NBA. How do you guys value just having a really great college career?
NIELS GIFFEY: I think it's interesting to see the different people, like Shabazz stayed for four years and he made that conscious decision to get his degree and wait for the next step for another year. I think it's just a great opportunity to grow as a person and a player on a different level where it's not all about business, where it's not about money. It's about family and getting together as a group.
I think I had my personal experiences with the national team over the summer, and I talked to the guys and they told me all the time of stories, so I was really happy with all of the decisions that I made to play for four years and not go overseas.
So it's just a great opportunity to build something at a university where you can always go back to. You will always have that family and that basis. I think that's why people should consider taking four years, getting their degree, and really making an impact on your university.
SCOTTIE WILBEKIN: For me, coming into college, I was just blessed to be able to have an opportunity to play at Florida. I didn't have a lot of hype coming in as a freshman, so I was really just having the most fun in the situation that I was at. That's what I've continued to do for all my four years. I never really looked to the future as much as I'm just having fun in the moment right now and just enjoying playing with my teammates and the college experience.
It's a lot of fun with the fans and everything and having teammates that you care about. Whatever happens in the future, whatever happens, will happen. But I'm enjoying right now.

Q. For Scottie, what makes Shabazz so different and difficult to guard compared to some other point guards that you've guarded this season?
SCOTTIE WILBEKIN: I think that's his ability to pull up from anywhere and the quickness that he pulls up and with the efficiency that he makes difficult shots. That's what makes him hard to guard. He also has the ability to get in the lane with his quickness and his first step. So just the different weapons that he has on offense is what makes it hard for him to be guarded.

Q. Ben and Julius, when you look at the matchup between your two programs, you got one program that's a high seed, but hasn't been here very often. Another one that's kind of had an improbable run, but was a lower seed. Who gets the right, the ownership to the underdog card, and do you use that? Is that something that you want to even embrace?
BEN BRUST: I just think it's going to be a great matchup. Doesn't matter what everyone has us at or what seed or if you get to here. At this point in the Final Four in March, obviously both of your teams are playing very well and you're there for a reason.
So no matter what anyone says about underdog or whatever, it's going to be a battle and I'm looking forward to it.
JULIUS RANDLE: I think that especially with both of these programs, there's just too much tradition and too many great players that have come through both of these programs that I really don't believe there's an underdog, especially when you get to this point in the season in the Final Four. You're playing for either one of these teams, I mean there's no such thing as an underdog. It's just going to be a hard‑fought game, and I think that's what both teams are looking forward to.

Q. Scottie, wanted to ask you about Napier. Can you relive the experience of that game. I know you got hurt, too, and you lost and you watched him hit a winning shot. How much does it means to you to get another crack at that defensive assignment?
SCOTTIE WILBEKIN: Well, I always like guarding guys that are challenging to guard. But as far as getting another crack at playing them, it's really not about that at all. I would be happy to play anybody in the Final Four, because I'm just happy to be here with an opportunity to advance.
So they're a great team, they have obviously played great up until this point, so it's going to be a tough game for both of us. Hopefully we'll come out with a lot of high energy and ready to play.

Q. Julius, how has your game evolved since you first showed up at Kentucky and what aspect has Coach Cal helped you with the most?
JULIUS RANDLE: My game's evolved tremendously. Just my mindset towards the game, how I approach games, and how I make adjustments throughout games. Coach Calipari has done a great job of developing many different parts of my game. But the biggest thing is just how I approach games, he's really helped me with that. How I make adjustments to how teams are playing me or how I can affect the game is really what he's helped me with. Because coming from high school, you just think that one thing, just scoring the ball and offensively. But coach has really helped me find ways to impact the game other than just scoring the ball.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports




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