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Meet the Press: NCAA Sweet 16 Pregame




March 25, 2010

Photo Gallery - Thursday's Practice/Press Conference

THE MODERATOR: Questions for the student athletes.

Q. America wants to know: Do you have a Twitter account, and if so, when is the last time you tweeted?

Tweety Carter: I actually do. But I don't be on it like that, so probably a long I never wrote on it or anything. I just have it.

Q. Can you talk about playing so close to home and the possibility of so many Baylor fans here? That's got to be a pretty exciting proposition.

Tweety Carter: Oh, man, it's exciting. You know, like you said, especially to be playing at home. We hope that we have a great turnout, and it looks like we will for our fans. So we're just looking forward to getting out there and playing in front of them.

Q. We're all hearing about Omar, we see how much fun that guy has, we see how he's enjoying himself. Talk about the challenge of he's going to be on the court. Talk about what you've seen of his game on the court looking at film.

Ekpe Udoh: It's going to be a tough battle down there. Kind of has a European taste to his game. So we'll just stick to our game plan. Nothing changes. We're here on a business trip, so we're going to try to pick up these two wins.

Q. Would you talk about Lace's athleticism and sometimes when you're watching game tapes, do you sometimes marvel at some of the things that he does?

Tweety Carter: I mean, he's great. He's great. You know, he learns a lot each year. He learns more and more each year with what he can do and how he can bring something to this team. We know scoring is his thing. But at the same time people don't know how well he can pass the ball and how well he can defend and rebound. He just brings so much to this team. We talk about him all the time. He brings so much. It's hard to just handpick what he brings. He just brings a lot to us.

Q. Could you comment on that, on Lace's athleticism? Those dunks he had last week.

Ekpe Udoh: Yeah, he's doing a great job, you know. Last year I used to beg him just to dunk a ball for me. But this year he's doing it every game it seems like. He's just bringing something new to the table every year. He's just growing as a player.

Q. So much of what you guys accomplish at Baylor is sneaking up on people, playing the underdog role and surprising people. These are the last three games in the NCAA Tournament, you're big favorites. How weird is that, and does that take a different mindset coming into these games as the favorite?

Tweety Carter: First of all, we just want to thank God that we're in this situation. You know, that's what we came to this program for, to be a part of something special. But at the same time, like you said, we've got a big game on tomorrow and we've just got to stay focused. Get ready for that game and take one game at a time. Know the joy we can bring to Waco just by winning games. So we've just got to continue to take one at a time.

LaceDarius Dunn: Yes, about the same. Just staying focused and not getting caught up in the things that's going on right now with all the publicity we're getting. Like Tweety said, we just want to take it one game at a time and come to play, and hopefully it will turn out good for us.

Q. Can you just talk about the job Coach Drew has done in kind of putting this program back together considering where it was seven or eight years ago?

LaceDarius Dunn: He did a great job. From going out to getting players and recruiting players, to coming here and just being a part of this program. I really think he did a great job of that. But just the things he brings to the table. The energy, the great guy that he is, all the different things. Like I said, coming from back where the program was until now is a big change. I give him all the credit for going out and doing the things that he does well getting players to come.

Q. Can you talk about Anthony Jones came in last year. Struggled a little bit. How you helped him maybe get through that year and his development into a starter and everything this year?

Tweety Carter: Like I said, all our success, I think, came through this year started in the summer. Just playing against each other tough, you know, not coming out and just playing pick up just to be playing. Playing it with a purpose and pushing each other. Some days you have to stick Lace. And Lace is the type of guy that's going to go at him every practice. You know, when you've got that and Anthony Jones trying to come back at him every practice, it builds your confidence. You know, with Anthony Jones he improves every year. He's getting more aggressive, more aggressive every game. So as long as he continues to do that, I think he's a big part of us winning.

Q. How much are you guys playing up being the underdog, through the conference, through the season and up until now?

Tweety Carter: I mean, every game we've played so far I'm pretty sure except for in the beginning of the season we were underdogs coming into every game we played. It was just a respect thing. Like I said, all through summer I think we earned our respect as a team without people even seeing us yet. You know, it's just a matter of coming out here and knowing that you can many compete with anybody. Not looking at the name on the jersey. Just coming out here and competing and giving it your all. I think this team and this program did a great job with every one here. Even when we're losing, this is a program where guys love each other, and guys are going to fight for each other every night.

Q. Different zones take on kind of different personalities. What adjectives would you use to describe the way you play zone defense?

Ekpe Udoh: Energetic, long, crazy lackadaisical at times, but, yeah, that should do it (smiling).

Q. Omar Samhan, what has he said or what has he done that stands out in your mind? Because he's given us a ton to work with as far as his personality goes, but what sticks out most in your mind about him?

Tweety Carter: He's a basketball player. He comes out and produces for his team. The way he handles things, you know, that's him. But I feel like we've got the best big in the country in Ekpe Udoh. And any time we can have a challenge to go against him, I'll take that any day. You know, Sam is a good player, and we're just looking forward to playing him.

Q. Outside of that though, he talks about how much he loves Taylor Swift and that kind of stuff. What do you think of that side of him?

Tweety Carter: I don't know much about that side. I can't speak to that side (smiling). That's his thing. That's something he's got going on that he likes, I guess (laughing).

Q. Kind of following up on the last question, just from the standpoint that he's in here and he's given a shout out to Taylor Swift, and he's raising his hands to us as he walks in. It seems like Ekpe said, you guys are on a business trip. Can you talk about your mindset going into it now? How much are you enjoying the ride versus trying to take care of business and look ahead?

Tweety Carter: I can't enjoy it that much. Like at the last game we played against Old Dominion. You know, I wanted to just cry, jump, do something. But at the same time I know that we didn't come here to just play in the Sweet 16. We came here to win games. We've just got to continue to stay focused and know what we came to do. Always keep God first and keep this team in it. As a young team, we've got to stay focused. Just make sure our leader is doing a great job which is to stay focused.

Ekpe Udoh: Just like Tweety said, not getting caught up in anything except for our team. You know, people can talk about looking down the road, but right now we're so focused in on St. Mary's and what we've got to do to pull a victory that it doesn't matter what anybody's saying on the side, you know. So, we just stay together.

THE MODERATOR: Coach, your opening comments.

COACH DREW: It's great to be down here. I know our team is excited to be close to home and having an opportunity to have Baylor nation down here, and more importantly representing the state of Texas in the Big 12 Conference, so we're excited.

Q. Kind of a contrast when the St. Mary's guys came in here and they're goofing off and playing around, it seemed very business like. Talk about your team and their approach, and how as they advance through this.

COACH DREW: I think our success is, again been a tribute to our leadership from our upperclassmen. Tweety, Ekpe, Josh, and Lace have done a great job. Always making sure that we're focused on the task at hand and making sure we have fun when it's time to have fun and it's also time to concentrate when it's time to concentrate. As long as they keep doing a good job leading us, we'll follow them wherever they want to go.

Q. Tweety said that he actually after the win against ODU, he wanted to cry but needed to keep his emotions in check because this is businesslike. How much of that is coming from them versus you?

COACH DREW: Well, I think, again, Tweety is somebody that understands what the goal is. You don't ever celebrate before it's time to celebrate. At the same time I know we all did enjoy the win in the locker room. We had a great meal afterwards. Tweety's mom prepared that for us. That would make you cry. That was a great meal. But as far as the team goes, again, I think all year long the Big 12 has prepared us for big games. It was the number one ranked conference in the country RPI wise. And every game you play is a big game. So you emotionally need to make sure you're ready for the next one. That's what we've been able to do and that's why we've been successful and hopefully we can keep doing that.

Q. Can you talk about what it's like to go from where the program was when you started to now be in the Sweet 16 and looking at a legitimate shot to go even further?

COACH DREW: I think the most rewarding thing is seeing the satisfaction and excitement our players feel from the joy of making the Sweet 16 and being in the NCAA Tournament. And then I think their excitement comes from the fans in the community and the Baylor people that were supportive during the tough times. Now seeing them have a chance to be able to smile and be excited. We were just in New Orleans, so we're relating to the Saints. They've had some tough years and I know their team was really excited when they were able to give their fans a lot to cheer for. And that's how we feel. Doing it all close to home is something that is great because they can all partake in it and have an opportunity to come down here and attend the game. That's super, too.

Q. Usually you guys aren't the big attraction in town as far as when you come to tournaments. But you were on with Jim Rome the other day, and he asked you about being picked by the coaches to finish tenth in your conference. St. Mary's was picked in a smaller conference to finish fourth. Can you comment on that?

COACH DREW: I think that's parity in college basketball. You see that in the tournament this year with so many lower seeds winning. Us coaches realize there is such a fine line between winning and losing chemistry. A couple balls bouncing this way or that way, foul trouble, injuries. So at the beginning of the year there was a reason we were picked 10th, that's because we had three 1,000 point scorers that graduated and left the program. So you should have a down year when you lose that offensive fire power. But credit to the upperclassman leadership and the chemistry, we've been injury free this year. So things have fallen into place for us nicely.

Q. I'm curious as to what you guys try to do when you come across a good shooting team like St. Mary's, a good shooting team and a good passing team. Are they a bit unique in that respect to some other teams you guys have faced this year?

COACH DREW: We've faced some good shooting teams before. We've faced some good passing teams before. But there's a reason during the Sweet 16 they seem to do it a little bit better than everybody else. So we know we have our challenges in front of us. The big thing we want to do is just make sure that they earn all of their makes. We don't want to give them open looks, because we know they're going to make open looks if they're contested. At least there is a chance they'll miss them. So we're going to try to contest shots. But that's why they're in the Sweet 16. That's why they're one of the top teams in the country because they're very, very good, intelligent players that play as a team.

Q. Just wanted to ask you, you've had a lot of success in close games this year. 6 2 in games decided by five points or less. In the two NCAA games you were tied in the second half and were able to come up with that run. Where does that come from? What's been the key to you guys being able to handle situations like that?

COACH DREW: Again, I think the Big 12 Conference prepares you for that. Our non conference schedule prepared us for that. Then you have to have that upperclassman leadership to get you home during that stretch run. And we've been able to have that for the most part this year. The players deserve all the credit for that.

Q. How would you describe your zone defense? There are obviously different zones play different ways. How would you describe your zone defense? Are you hesitant given the fact St. Mary's has such good outside shooters?

COACH DREW: I don't know if there is a good defense against a good team. You're worried about anything. With us, our defense changes as far as our zone. We'll always tweak it and adjust it to the team we're playing and what they like to do. I know with St. Mary's, again, that's why they're in the Sweet 16. They have an inside and outside attack. We'll have to make sure that we keep them on their toes and try to keep them guessing and not let them get in the rhythm. I mean, we played man this year as well as zone, so we adjust accordingly.

Q. Can you talk about Anthony Jones and his struggles a little bit last year and what helped him?

COACH DREW: I think as any freshman, you come into a program and you're going to have some ups and downs. And credit Anthony Jones for continually working hard, continually being a good teammate. At the end of last year he got more and more opportunity. This year he's been tremendous as far as especially on the defensive end. Really contests a lot of shots and does a great job. He's somebody that will continue to get better and better as he puts on weight and gains strength. His skill level continues to improve. But having a chance to play at home, his high school, Yates, finished number one in the nation, so I know he's all excited. Hopefully they'll be out here to support him.

Q. Obviously we all know what a good time Omar's having on the St. Mary's side. But talk about the challenge that he does present on the court and how difficult he is. But also he made a comment today to us that they've got everybody fooled because it's really their outside game and he's going to be pretty quiet this week because of what you guys do. But talk about both those aspects.

COACH DREW: If you're in the Sweet 16, you have to have an inside and outside attack. It's obvious what he can do offensively in those first two games. Nowadays, a lot of your big guys aren't as effective inside because they're more perimeter oriented and he's an old fashioned big who can score in the paint. Has great footwork. Has countermoves, very intelligent player. Also a very good passer. So he's been very impressive.

Q. I know back at Valpo, and maybe even earlier on at Baylor, you've had a lot of experience with foreign players, and players overseas. You look at St. Mary's roster, and obviously what jumps out is the five guys from Australia. When you look at them and their skillset, what impresses you most about that group of kids? What do you get over there that you maybe can't get in the United States sometimes?

COACH DREW: I think we had Aaron Bruce who was an outstanding player for us, a freshman All American from Australia. Typically Australian basketball players are very heady, very intelligent, very team oriented. A lot more passing than one on one. Very good on the ball screens. And, again, their skillset, they spend so much time shooting the ball and working on the outside shot that normally they're very efficient at it.

Q. You guys have been the favorite throughout the games in the tournament here. That's an unusual role for you guys. How have you all approached that?

COACH DREW: I think the big thing that our team realizes and the teams that are still alive realize is that seeds don't matter. Every team's a great team that made the tournament to begin with. If you don't bring your A game you're not going to be around and that's what we've been fortunate enough to do is play well and have great leadership down the stretch.

Q. I'm sure you're focused on what you need to do. But talk about just having both Baylor teams in the Sweet 16. What's that mean for the school?

COACH DREW: I think it's a tremendous compliment to the university. It shows what great athletic department staff members and support we have, and what support we have from the university and then obviously the fans. Because it's always a team. But to be one of five universities to have the men and women still playing is something to be very proud of and very excited about.

 

 

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