Friday Press Conference Quotes

March 19, 2004

Gonzaga Players

GUARD Blake Stepp
On being comfortable in KeyArena: "It's always better, of course, to play on a gym that the other team hasn't. But arenas around the country are pretty much the same when you're looking at NBA courts, and I don't think it's probably like any other college courts, especially ours. So it's a little bit different for us even though we've played one game on it. Hopefully the rims will be a little more gentle on me tomorrow."

On poor shooting against Valpo: "I feel fine with my shot right now. It's falling during shootaround, but for some reason it just didn't fall in the last game. It's just one of those things. Everyone has a bad shooting night every now and then. Let's just hope that was my only one for the tournament. There's nothing that I really need to change, I just have to keep shooting."

On being recruited by Gonzaga: "I really liked the coaching staff and players. I wanted to be able to come in and play right away, I wasn't interested in being red-shirted. Gonzaga graduated five guys the year before I came in so I wanted a chance to get in right away and play. Overall, this was by far the best chance for me and I felt right at home as soon as I got here."

On Nevada's potential Cinderella story: "We've been there before as a 10-seed. I read in the paper today that a 10-seed has made the Sweet 16 in the last seven years so we are going to try and stop that. They are coming in in the same position that we've been in the last couple of years, being the low seed, but we will definitely be ready for them. We know that they have a really good guard that is one of the best in the country. He does a lot for them and we are going to have to try and stop him. Hopefully we will stop the other guys, too, because we know that they are a good team and they proved it last night by beating a Big Ten team."

On long passes over the top: "It's just something that happens in the middle of the game. If you talk to the guys that are on the other end recieving the passes they always seem to want me to throw more. It is a good thing to start a run and it creates the emotional plays. For me, it is pretty easy because we have a lot of guys that can actually catch them and convert them. When the defense in trying to concentrate in on denying us, over the top is usually a good way to catch them off-guard."

FORWARD Ronny Turiaf
On Nevada: "They have a really good inside game and really good guards. They are going to be a good match-up for us and I think that we are going to have to be ready to play against them. Last night they showed that they could beat Michigan State, so they are going to be ready for us."

On being recruited by Gonzaga: "I really liked the team and the coaching staff. I didn't think that I would get to play as a freshman because I wasn't as good as guys like Blake, but I knew I wanted to play for Gonzaga."

On going from cinderella to a target: "This whole year we have been the target of everybody every time we have stepped on the floor. People are ready to play against us and people are always trying to bring their A-game to beat us. I think that we are definitely comfortable in this position because we know what it feels like to be the underdog. We have been there in the past years. We just have to be ready for them because we know that every time that we step on the floor the other team is going to want a piece of us. We have to bring up our intensity level to match theirs."

CENTER Cory Violette
On preventing the home crowd becoming a distraction: "It's important, but I think this team does a good job of using energy like that. We play in a gym at home that's one of the most unbelievable in the country as far as having a home-court advantage, with fans that are right on top of other teams. I think there's a good core group on this team that all have good heads on our shoulders, in terms of basketball. Whereas we'll let ouselves swing upward, we never let ourselves get too low."

On Nevada's potential Cinderella story: "I definitely know where they are coming from because we have been there before. Looking at how they play, it seems like they have a good understanding that in games like this, it's pretty even with the teams that you are going to have to play. When you have two or three guys on your team that have a good night, anything can happen. They play hard and with a lot of confidence."

Nevada Coach Trent Johnson

On recruiting Nick Fazekas: "He came to Nevada because of playing time. He knew coming in that he had the opportunity to have a lot of playing time right away and he also wanted to be a part of a program that was on the rise. That speaks volumes to our players, because our guys all welcomed him with open arms. Usually players with the skill level that Nick had coming in choose a school because of the players that are there, certainly not because of his coach."

On Blake Stepp: "He can pass, defend, he makes good decisions, he is deceiving in terms of how quick he is, and I think he is a pro. He also plays for a guy who knows how to coach. I am very impressed with him. He has really deep range; he shoots the NBA three point shot really easily. The most impressive thing about him is that he is deceiving in terms of his strength and speed. Hopefully he will miss some open shots tomorrow afternoon. The game is at noon, maybe he will show up at four."

On improving the team's defense: "The turning point might have been when we had three games in one week; we faced Tulsa, SMU and LaTech on the road. It speaks volumes that in the last four or five games when we haven't shot the ball real well, we have been able to defend and hold teams to around 60 points. Once the kids bought in and really understood that to win we were going to have to defend the ball really hard, we were able to make improvements."

On recruiting Kirk Snyder: "Kirk played high school in Southern California and I had been a part of the recruiting process in Southern California while I was at Stanford, so I had seen him as a younger player. Once I received a job at Nevada I focused on Kirk because he was a very talented high school player and we got involved. Fortunately for us some teams dropped off because of his academics, but to Kirk's credit he became a better student and became a partial-qualifier. We were very fortunate."

On Snyder's development: "Off the floor, he has really matured in the sense that he has grown up, like most kids in college. On the floor, you will see that at times he is a very emotional player and sometimes he doesn't make the best decisions because he wants to win so bad. But from the standpoint of buying into a system and playing within a team system he has made a lot better decisions. In my mind, kids with a skill level like Kirk sometimes try to do too much and it has been really a credit to him that at times this year he has really tried to play within the team system and defer to other guys on the floor instead of trying to make things happen."

On Nevada's non-conference schedule: "Our conference schedule is also brutal. I thought that when we won the WAC Tournament, our players were relieved that they didn't have to face conference opponents anymore. I don't think people realize how tough it is to travel and play in the WAC. I think it speaks volumes to the strength of our conference that SMU was our eighth-place team and they beat Purdue at home after Purdue had beaten Duke. They also beat a good Texas Tech team. There were four teams in our conference that had 20 wins, and one with 19 wins, so non-conference vs. conference is not a significant difference. We don't tend to dwell on that as much as we dwell on the next game and respecting competition and treating each opponent the same. I think in college basketball, regardless of the level, you have to respect every team that you are playing. Every team has five guys on the floor that are trying to beat my five guys on the floor."

On Gonzaga's inside game: "Turiaf and Violette are physically stronger, whereas [Michigan State's Paul] Davis wasn't as strong but he was more mobile, capable of going right or left. Gonzaga has no weaknesses. They have nine or 10 guys that know how to play this game. They pass, they shoot, they make good decisions, they are really intense, they have been here before, and they have the ultimate goal of winning it all. They are good enough to win it all, so as opposed to worrying about the post, we have problems all over the place. We have to do our best from a defensive standpoint if we want to be successful."

On Gonzaga's bench: "Morrison plays like a junior. I like him as a poor man's Larry Bird. He shoots it, he passes it. I think in their recruiting process they look for guys with a high basketball I.Q., but they also look for toughness. Morrison is not a freshman, he is playing like a junior or a senior and he could probably start at many other schools in the country." NCAA Men's Basketball First and Second Rounds KeyArena, Seattle, Wash.; Mar. 17-20 Friday Press Conference Quotes Nevada Players

GUARD TODD OKESON
On what happened to make their team better within the last month: "We finally got the defensive intensity to where it needed to be. Coach has been preaching to us that defense is what it takes to win games, and we finally got that through our heads. We've been guarding people a lot better than we used to, and that's helped us turn things around."

On what they need to do to beat Gonzaga: "We've got to execute our offense better than we did last night. We've got to make shots, just play with them. They're an up-tempo team they can play anywhere. We just have to match their intensity."

On Gonzaga guard Blake Stepp: "He's a pretty good point guard; he can do everything. He goes both right and left, and he's pretty quick, he can shoot from anywhere in the gym. That's a pretty nice item to have. He's bigger than me and has a lot of strength, so it may be tough for me to guard someone with his size and strength."

On Coach Johnson: "Everyone knows that Coach Johnson is a pretty serious guy. He's not joking around at anytime unless we we're to win the last game. That's just the way he is and that's the way it has to be as a coach. You've got to let your players have fun, which he does, but he lets us know that we're here for a reason and that we're here to take care of business."

FORWARD NICK FAZEKAS
On enjoying last night's win: "It feels good to come out and win in the first round. Although we haven't been here before, we want to come out and act like we've been here before. We don't want to go out and celebrate after a first round win and then go and get blown out in the second round. We're here for the long haul. We didn't come out here to play one or two games and get beat. We're trying to get to the Sweet 16 like everyone else."

GUARD GARRY HILL-THOMAS On any of Gonzaga's weaknesses to try and exploit: "We've only watched a little bit of tape, but we haven't really seen many weaknesses. They're a great team, but we're still looking for weaknesses and I'm sure there are a lot of other teams still looking for weaknesses, but we're just hoping to go out there. Play competitive and play hard."

On changing his role on the team: "I did it for the best of the program. The program has come a long way and something had to give. It wasn't hard to change, knowing that if I played harder defense we could have so much more success as a program. I've had so much more fun this season than I have the last three. I just wish that I would have done it sooner."

On the importance of having a strong start to their season: "It was nice to play a good team early in the year, like Connecticut. We went down there and were focused on winning it, even though that didn't happen. As a team we learned a lot, and being in that kind of environment it got us ready for the long season that we had ahead. Going down to UNLV to get a game on the road was even better. It was a very nice foundation and got us ready for the long haul. Our conference doesn't give us a lot of big-time schools, so for us to step out and play someone like Connecticut really helped us get to where we are."

On becoming a better half court team: "Early in the season we had a lot of success in the transition game. Everyone is getting back faster on us and trying to take that away. So we either had to become a better half court team, or we were going to struggle. We dwelled on that everyday at practice and Coach prepared it for us very well."

On teammate Kirk Snyder: "He's made me a better defender, just by guarding him everyday. I'm able to go out there and play guys bigger than me sometimes. He's just a total package."

 

 

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