Wednesday NCAA Tournament Press Conference Quotes

March 17, 2004

Wednesday Press Conference Quotes
Gonzaga Coach Mark Few

Opening Statement: "We're obviously very excited to finally get over here. This was a goal of our group all along dating back to September. To their credit they've just done a remarkable job this year playing a very high level of basketball and because of that we were able to get the high seed we coveted and get to Seattle. We're excited, healthy, and ready to start playing."

On the advantage of being a mid-major/having program consistency: "We've been fortunate with that. Obviously we might be facing that issue here this spring; if we do, we'll deal with it. We've lost a player in the past, we've lost a real good player -- Dan Monson's first year, Paul Rogers made a bad decision and came out early. That really would have helped us. I don't think it's something that everybody faces, it's something that's going on in college basketball, you've just got to deal with it. As we get better and better players like we have now, we're going to have to deal with it."

On Richard Fox: "He's run up and down with us the last two days and hopefully we can get him in and get some action for him tomorrow. He certainly deserves it; that's why he came to Gonzaga, to be a part of something like this. He helped us in our last home game against Santa Clara. He came in made some big plays and then his knee kind of gave out on him in practice that week and swelled up. Now it's back to where he can function again without swelling, so we're going to hopefully warm it up and give it a try."

On the team's WCC tourney game versus Santa Clara: "It was great. It was in a hostile environment on an opponent's floor. We have been drilling situations for two or three weeks, up five with two minutes to go, down five, up one with thirty seconds to go, things like that. We've been practicing it and it was great to actually be playing it out in a live game setting and for us to learn our lesson with a win. I see nothing but positives coming out of it."

On the changing perception of Gonzaga basketball: "Teams storm the floor when they beat us -- they're obviously excited, jacked up, to play us; they know all the players on our team. They know a lot more about us, we certainly don't sneak up on anybody anymore. That's probably the biggest issue we face, that's probably why I'm so proud of this year's group. It gets lost sometimes in the analysis of going into the tournament, the top 50 games, the top 25 games. It's not easy when we hit our league and we're playing all these schools [for whom] we're the biggest game of the year, and they're coming at us with packed, hostile crowds. We really have to be on our best."

On game management and Blake Stepp: "He's so competitive, every drill, every practice, he's just a ferocious competitor. He raises the level of our entire group to where you do have to back it off on some days. If you keep score with this group it gets really physical and really intense no matter what the game is. That comes from Blake and that's a true reflection of Blake."

On strengths of Valparaiso: "Their first strength is that they're very well-coached team. Coach Drew has seen it all and really, really understands how to get the most out of his players. He's done a great job. I think they play really, really hard; they're very resilient. They do a nice job of mixing up their defenses and they have a variety of ways to score. If any of their inside guys get going they can be tough to handle. He plays a lot of different guys and when they're shooting the ball well and those inside guys are banging around they can be a real handful. We're very aware of what they're capable of doing."

Wednesday Press Conference Quotes
Gonzaga Players

FORWARD Cory Violette

On the effect of the near-loss to Santa Clara: "It helps us a lot. We stuck out a nice close win there, we made some plays near the end of the game that mattered. They're physical and they pushed us around. It definitely helps us for this tournament."

On finally playing in Seattle: "Any home crowd advantage is always going to help you out. I don't know what it will be like out there tomorrow. If it is anything like it was against Missouri this year then obviously it will help us, but it doesn't matter. Our approach will be the same; we'll draw energy from wherever we have to to win."

On self-motivation: "Everyone on our team is really competitive, having a lot of pride and not wanting to lose."

GUARD Blake Stepp

On if the team's high seeding changes its approach: "I don't think it changes the approach; what made it easier is that we didn't have to sweat it on Selection Sunday. Even with a two seed, we still need to be hungry. Every team in the tournament is good; you can't overlook anybody. We're definitely not doing that. We've got to come out and be the aggressor and see where it takes us. We're not thinking we are any better then anybody else, even with our higher seed."

On a lingering effect from last year's tournament: "We can definitely draw on that. We played in a double overtime game, and having that under your belt - what it takes to win those types of games, play every minute as hard as you can -- you think back to little plays you could have done differently."

On self-motivation: "Everybody gets motivated in their own way, especially our team. We have so many different types; something you do may not work for somebody else. We do a really good job of coming in together and feeding off each other."

On what the No. 2 seed means: "The most it affected us was on Sunday. In terms of the game, I don't think it will mean anything. It doesn't feel any different being a two than being an eight or nine or whatever we were last year. We've got to play a tough team - 32 are going to win and 32 are going to go home. It's not really about a two vs. a 15 - it's a conference winner vs. a conference winner."


Wednesday Press Conference Quotes
Valparaiso Coach Homer Drew

General Comments: "We are delighted to be here. We are excited about being in the first round of the tournament. Our four upperclassmen are a big reason why Valparaiso has returned to the tournament. This is our seventh appearance in the last nine years, which we are very pleased with. Our seniors have all added big games to our season. We are still very young; we have a large number of freshmen and sophomores on this team. The key to our whole season is what we call 'growing.' We started 4-9 and the players never gave up. They had faith in one another and faith that if they practiced hard good things will happen. We took that beginning and worked hard and ended up winning our conference. I am very proud of how this team got from where they were to where they are now."

On facing Gonzaga: "If you have found any weaknesses in Gonzaga's game, please let me know. We have watched a great deal of tape on this team. They are very impressive. One of the things they are impressive about is that they have five seniors. That experience is something that we will have to contend with. In my opinion, this is the best Gonzaga team I have ever seen. They have only lost two games, both to number one-seeded teams, Stanford and St. Joe's. Their experience and depth is truly impressive. Their stats show that they are playing at their best. So if you find a weakness, call me collect.

On change in Valparaiso program since 1998: "The wonderful thing was that people all over the country learned how to pronounce Valparaiso. The trip to the tournament in 1998 gave us visibility and the exposure to help us with recruiting. We were able to get into more homes and talk to more athletes. One of the things I am most proud of is that over the last 10 years we have been either the conference regular season champions or the tournament champs. It has been a good run of good players coming in to help us. That has been very satisfying to our coaching staff."

On Key Things For Valparaiso To Do Against Gonzaga: "We have two key things to do tomorrow against Gonzaga. One, we have to rebound with them. They are so physical around the basket and they rebound very well, so we have to keep them off the boards. Second, they really push the ball in transition, so we have got to somehow not let them get easy baskets. Those are the two big points that I have been stressing. Those are the things we have got to be able to control a little bit."

On Zag's Home court Advantage: "We love the opportunity to play Gonzaga because they are ranked in the top five. They have had a wonderful season. We wish it would have been in the Midwest and not in their backyard, so to speak. But, it still is the opportunity that we are happy about. That is what makes NCAA such an exciting venue for March Madness. It is about one game, one day, one moment. That is what you work to achieve, no matter where you play it is still the same size court. You still play the game.You have the top-ranked teams and you have the underdogs and you get your Cinderellas; that is what makes it exciting."

On Gonzaga's ability to build their program in recent years: "They have capitalized very nicely. When they started out on their run in the NCAA and their Cinderella story, they had the vision to take it to the next level. They are going to be completing a 22 million dollar facility to play in; their president really put some funds in and supported what they were doing. You have to compliment Gonzaga. They really took that opportunity to go to the next level. They now have joined the top-10, top-20 programs in America."

Wednesday Press Conference Quotes
Valparaiso Players

FORWARD JOAQUIM GOMES

On what challenges they face playing Gonzaga: "Gonzaga is a pretty good team. They are very quick and they pass the ball all game. So I know that we are going to face that tomorrow. They have got really good shooters and they can rebound the ball and I think that we have to be ready for tomorrow because they are going to come after us."

GUARD GREG TONAGEL

On the importance of getting a good start against Gonzaga: "It's really important for us. We started out pretty slow at the conference tournament and had to come from behind, which showed a lot about our team. At the same time, when you're playing a team of Gonzaga's caliber, you don't want to fall behind, especially with the crowd that they're going to have and the talent that they do have."

On what strengths Gonzaga has and the challenge they present: "What impresses me is that they're really efficient on offense. They're not going to throw the ball away, they're not going to take bad shots, they're going to put it inside to get the high-percentage shot and they've got some great three point shooters on the outside."

On where Gonzaga measures up against the other competition they've faced: "They are a top-caliber team, similar to Duke, Cincinnati, Marquette. They play a great defense, they push the ball. Those games were good at preparing us for what to expect, what we need to bring, and what to do at practice to prepare to play against teams like this."

GUARD ROBERTO NIEVES

On what strengths Gonzaga has and the challenge they present: "They have a really great point guard in Blake Stepp; he is probably an All-American player. On the inside they run the ball really well. They've been there before, so they know what to expect. It's going to be a pretty good challenge for us."

GUARD MIGUEL ALI BERDIEL

On if the Cinderella story plays into the game at all: "I believe that it is the same story, since we are the underdog. It is a great opportunity for us to come out and prove we have improved since the season started. I don't have any problem with people calling me Cinderella. If we win the games, I'm fine with it."

On what strengths Gonzaga has and the challenge they present: "I don't think that there is anything out there that people haven't seen yet. They're a very good team defensively and offensively. They control the points all the time and their inside game, as well as their outside game, is pretty tough. It shows when you've only lost two games throughout the season and that is why they're ranked number two right now."

 

 

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