Creighton Talks Round Three

Doug McDermott

SAN ANTONIO, Tex. - ASAP Quotes presents the full transcript from Creighton's Saturday press conference, featuring head coach Greg McDermott and athletes Doug McDermott, Ethan Wragge, Jahenns Manigat, and Grant Gibbs...

THE MODERATOR: We have with us Doug McDermott, Ethan Wragge, Jahenns Manigat and Grant Gibbs. We'll take questions for the student athletes.

Q. Doug, could you just talk about your relationship with Cory Jefferson, how you guys got to know each other, and he said you guys still keep in touch?

DOUG McDERMOTT: Yeah, I mean, Cory is a good friend of mine. I met him this summer playing team USA. Hung out with him during the tryouts out in Colorado. We weren't roommates over in Russia, but we hung out a lot and walked around Olympic Village. Got to know him really well and Brady Heslip. So it's pretty cool to be able to go up against them here tomorrow.

Q. Just to follow up on that, did you have any conversations with those guys in the last few days about the possibility of this match up?

DOUG McDERMOTT: Yeah, I actually did. I got a text from both of them on Selection Sunday about the possible matchup, so I told them they have to take care of a good Nebraska team first, who is really wellcoached, and we obviously had to take care of business first, too.

I talked to them and talked to Brady when I got to town here. We weren't able to meet up, but I'll finally get to see them tomorrow.

Q. This is also for Doug. What were some of your reasons for coming back this year? The Sweet Sixteen, was that a pretty big goal?

DOUG McDERMOTT: Yeah, it's always been a goal of ours. We haven't gotten there yet as a program, so that's something that was in the back of my mind. You know, we're finally to this point again where we've been the last two years, and, you know, it's played a big part in my decision, just being with these guys up here on the podium and playing for my dad another year and just playing for our great fans in Omaha and throughout the state of Nebraska.

Q. Have any of you had a chance to break down Baylor film? What have you seen out of them at the end of the year that's been able to help them go on this run, and what kind of challenges do you think they present?

GRANT GIBBS: Yeah, I mean, obviously they play through their post, Jefferson and Austin. They're both really talented dudes, incredible on the offensive glass. Then you know their zone gives people a lot of problems with their length. They've really gone on a big time run here towards the end of the year and piqued at the right time and played their best basketball.

So watching them on film, we know they present a lot of problems with their athleticism and length, and that's something we're going to have to be able to combat.

Q. This is for Grant or any of the guys. How has Doug been as a teammate? Obviously, he scores a lot, but very unselfish. Can you just talk about that?

ETHAN WRAGGE: I mean, Doug's so great to play with. He just draws so much attention down there. Just the ability for him to score and kick and get three, four guys on him just makes our life so much better, leaving us with wide open shots or uncontested pullups or whatever you can. So when you're playing with a guy that draws attention like that, it makes everyone's life a lot easier.

Q. If you could, how would you compare your guys mindset and focus knowing that you've been at this point in the last two years? What is different about your preparation this year and kind of your drive to get over this hump?

JAHENNS MANIGAT: I mean, like you said, we've been here the past two years. It's been extremely tough for us to go home at this point the past two years. So it's something that we really focused on this year. We wanted to get back to this game. This is the most important game of our season, obviously. Another win or go home situation.

So I think our experience from having been here before and just that drive to not want to be sent home again after a loss is certainly what's pushing us. You know, we're going to have to prepare for a really good Baylor team today.

Q. Doug, have you been paying attention to other results inside the tournament?

DOUG McDERMOTT: Yeah.

Q. It seems like a lot of times the stories that are coming up the last couple days are teams that are galvanized from playing together for long periods of time. In a lot of cases those are like upset situations like Mercer. It's not usually a team that finished at the top of a big conference, like you guys. Do you think that there is something to the talent versus experience aspect this year?

DOUG McDERMOTT: You know, I really feel like experience plays a huge factor. You know, we've been together, this is our fourth year together as a group. We definitely did well in the Big East this year. I think the Valley helped us kind of grow as a team. It's a tough, physical league. Now we're here together. This is our last go around, and I feel like those teams play the best because we've been through so much together to get us to this point.

Q. Grant and Jahenns, you guys are flanked by number 6 and number 7 on Seventeen Magazine's Hottest College Basketball Players list. Do you have any thoughts on that?

GRANT GIBBS: Just another year and another magazine for Wragge, I guess. I really don't have a comment. I thought the one he was on last year was clearly mocking the players that weren't extremely good looking. Then this year, I think it said something about him looking like Justin Timberlake, which is like the wildest thing I've ever heard in my life. So I don't know. Like I said, just another year. We'll see what magazine he ends up on next year.

JAHENNS MANIGAT: Yeah, I haven't really paid too much attention to that. I don't personally think Wragge's the best looking guy out there. But I guess some other people have become a fan of him and how he plays. I think him being a bearded bomber is better than what he actually looks like. And him being able to knock down the threes is actually what's getting him in the magazine.

So whatever they like about him, I guess it's positive. It's something that's positive for our team, and it's just creating a better buzz for our team, and people are hopping on to the bandwagon a little bit more because the guy to my left is attracting a lot of people. It's a good thing for our team all around, but I don't think he deserves to be there.

THE MODERATOR: Ethan, you want to add anything to that?

ETHAN WRAGGE: Sounds like a lot of jealousy. But I noticed that they both read it, so they must be following me a little bit. But I'll just leave it at that.

Q. Doug, have you seen a lot of zones this year? Have you seen many with Baylor's length?

DOUG McDERMOTT: We've seen a little zone here and there. We saw George Washington's. We saw Providence, and we struggled against both of those. I think the Providence one, we kind of struggled because we weren't prepared for it very well. They kind of threw us off to start the game, and we didn't really practice it that much.

Now we know that we're going to see zone against Baylor, so we're going to work a lot harder on that in our preparation. Obviously, not a lot of teams have guys that are 7'1", and 6'10" with that wingspan. So it's going to be hard to get a good look at it in practice, but we're going to imagine it and we're going to try to do our best. We have one of the best shooting teams in the country, so we actually like it when we get zone.

Q. Scott just said that you had an "Old Man's" game, and you were quoted as saying you watch a little bit of the Spurs. Do you have a particular player that you watch on that team that maybe you can compare to your game?

DOUG McDERMOTT: There's not really a spur that I compare myself to. Just in general I like watching them play. They just play the right way, ball movement, just really unselfish. I feel like that's kind of the way we play. We're obviously not the Spurs, but I feel like we move the ball well and we make that extra pass. And I just think that's a good comparison. But I guess it's a compliment being called the "Old Man's" game. I just try to stick with fundamentals because I'm not as athletic as some of the guys I'm going up against. So I have to find other ways to take advantage of my skill set.

Q. For Grant and Jahenns, there are lots of teams where you find like people go through three and four seasons of playing together that don't seem to get as close as you guys appear to be. Is there some component to it that it's more than just you've played in all these basketball games and practices together that has galvanized you guys?

GRANT GIBBS: I think it kind of happened naturally with the personalities we have and kind of the people that Coach Mac brought in and instilled, our camaraderie and those type of things. I think we revert back a lot to a team trip we took to the Bahamas which would have been three or four summers ago, kind of our first time all playing together. Spent a lot of time with each other off the floor, trying to build relationships and that trust in each other. It's really just taken off from there and kind of become our mantra. So more than it, over time growing, I think it was something that happened right away with the guys on the team, and the unselfishness of everybody from the top to the bottom.

JAHENNS MANIGAT: Yeah, going off of what Grant said, off the floor we spent so much time together. We always live in the same dorms and our rooms are really close by. We're either a floor below or above each other. So guys just spend a ton of time off the floor. It's not necessarily just talking about basketball. It's really hanging out and building a friendship that will last years far beyond our time playing together.

So I think that just kind of is the root of how well we've been and how unselfish we've been on the floor. It all stems from just generally spending time together off the floor and creating a bond and a friendship.

Q. For Doug and for Ethan, as Doug mentioned, you guys played against GW and Providence and played a little bit of zone. But I would guess for guys like you that particularly get out on the perimeter and shoot, zones are a situation where there's not one guy chasing you and you can usually spot up and find a hole. Is that something that you're going to try to as you kind of maybe look forward to the fact that there's not going to be one guy dogging you the whole game?

DOUG McDERMOTT: Yeah, it's going to be tough because of the length they have. I think we just need to do a much better job of moving the ball. The ball kind of got stuck a lot in those two games, and I'm sure that's something we'll work on here in practice today, just trying to get the ball in the middle of the zone, and try to create stuff from that. I feel like we move so well as a team without the ball, that when there is a zone, we kind of just stand around and we need to get back to cutting through the lane and making that extra pass, because that's who we are.

ETHAN WRAGGE: Yeah, that's exactly what we want to do. And to go off that, our guards do a good job of getting in there just to spray the ball out to our shooters. That will be good shots for us. So we're focused on getting in there, attacking the zone and not standing around as much as we have in the past.

THE MODERATOR: Anything else for the student athletes? Okay, gentlemen, thank you.

We're joined by Creighton University coach Greg McDermott. Coach, an opening statement?

COACH McDERMOTT: It's great to be back in this room today. That is the bottom line, survive and advance at this point of the season. Although we weren't perfect yesterday, we found a way to get it done and move on to the next round.

Very impressed with Baylor. Their play the last, really since the middle of February, has been about as good as anybody in the country. They've played great basketball. They're getting contributions from a lot of different places, and their ability to chase the ball on the glass is as good as any team we've played this season. So obviously that's a concern for us, and it's going to have to be an area that we're very, very good tomorrow if we expect to move on.

Q. What do you tell Wragge before a game? What do you want him to do? Do you ever think that he should do more or do people want him to do more than he does?

COACH McDERMOTT: Shoot. That's what I tell him. He is who he is. That's why we've been successful. We've got a group of guys that don't try to do things they can't do. We've got some guys that are good at taking it to the basket and creating things in the lane, and Ethan's one of those guys. He's an elite shooter, and he's really good at that, one of the best in the country. So there is no need for him to try to post and put it on the floor and do things that he's got teammates that do better than him.

His marching orders is if you get a look, you let that thing fly. That's what he's supposed to do, and he does it as well as anybody I've coached.

Q. Coach, I would imagine that with the way you guys shoot the ball that playing a zone against a zone team, which you guys would be happy with that. But Baylor doesn't play a typical zone. Is that a fair assessment?

COACH McDERMOTT: Yeah, it's a very good zone. Their length and athletic ability is what makes it difficult. The last time we played against a zone for 40 minutes was the Big East Championship versus Providence, and we had some good looks at basket but we went 8 of 30 from the three point line. If we expect to win tomorrow afternoon, that percentage is going to have to be much better.

Q. Greg, have you faced a team with this much length not only on the starting front line but also coming off the bench they have bigs as well?

COACH McDERMOTT: Probably St. John's. St. John's I think led the country in blocked shots for a long period of the season. I think in that regard that they're similar. Isaiah Austin is as long as any player in the country though. Then you add his skill level to go with that. He's a handful. You know, Cory Jefferson takes up space. He plays extremely hard. He's active on the backboards. He can step out and shoot it, and he blocks shots as well.

They're totally different when Gathers comes into the game, because he's more of a smash mouth, physical type player that gives them a different look than when Cory and Isaiah are out there together. So, they've got good depth, both in the guard court and in the front line.

Q. Coach, the talk is about Baylor's defense. But what do you guys have to do on the defensive end to stop them on the offense?

COACH McDERMOTT: I think rebound is first and foremost. I think teams that have been successful against them have found ways to hang in there on the backboard, and that's going to be really critical for us. Obviously, we're not a team that takes any rebounds above the rim. Most of ours are fundamental, block out type rebounds. So we're going to have to be very fundamental in our approach to rebounding tomorrow. Brady is one of the best shooters in the country, and when he gets going, he's very difficult to stop. We have to keep him in check. And Kenny Chery is kind of the Xfactor for them. When he's making plays off that ball screen and scoring himself and making plays for his teammates, it just adds another element to go with what they already have inside with Cory and Isaiah and with Brady's ability to shoot it.

Q. Obviously Doug gets a lot of attention. How has he handled all of that? In what ways do you feel he's improved his game this year?

COACH McDERMOTT: I think this season he's improved his range. I think he's shooting it much deeper with accuracy than he had a year ago. That intermediate game, that 12 to 17foot off the screen with one dribble, face up, fadeaway, that shot has improved. His assist to turnover numbers are much better than they have been at any time in his career, so I think his passing has improved. His decision making has improved. He's handled all this in stride. He's stayed very grounded, very hungry, very humble. For that, as proud as I am of the way he's played as his father, I'm even more proud of how he's handled himself.

Q. Along those lines, Greg, as a father to have been there for his entire four year career and what he's accomplished and the fact that you know it's going to be over here pretty quick as far as you coaching him, what are your emotions just having coached him for four years in college now?

COACH McDERMOTT: It's been an incredible experience. It's an experience that every parent, I wish they had an opportunity to sit in my chair and be able to go through these times with Doug that I've been able to experience. It's been absolutely fantastic.

I haven't thought too much about when it's going to be over, because the reality of it is I wasn't sure this year was going to happen anyways. I thought there was a good chance he was going to enter the draft. So I got 34, 35 bonus games to coach him. I think we've both done a good job of probably enjoying it more this year than we have in the past.

Last year we didn't know when the last home game was or when the last time he leaves the locker room or gets introduced to the starting lineups. There is a little bit more finality to it this year. But it's been such a great ride. I hope nobody wakes me up from it. It's been pretty cool. So I'm not going to shed tears when it's over. It's been absolutely incredible. We'll be one of the, some of the best years of my life.

Q. Doug's game has been labeled "Old Man." As his father and his coach, do you agree with that "Old Man" game label?

COACH McDERMOTT: I think he's he plays with a high basketball IQ, and maybe where that maybe could be why that statement has come about that he's got a little bit of an old school game. But the guy can do a lot of things. He can score in the post. He can shoot threes. He can score on the move, going to the basket. He's done a good job every year of taking a part of his game that wasn't good and making it better.

As a result, now you have this very complete basketball player on the offensive end of the floor that has an unbelievable understanding of how to read a screen in a split second and make you pay much like he did with that three point shot he hit yesterday. They had chased that screen the entire game and that's what we thought we were going to get. I thought we were going to get him curling to the basket. To Doug's credit, he made a great read, Ethan Wragge set a great screen, and he pops it and hits the three to ice the game.

If being a fundamentally sound basketball player and not doing a lot of things above the rim, if that makes his game old school, then so be it. I wish I had another one of him. I'd have kept having kids if I would have known that.

Q. Coach, it's becoming more rare for a group of veterans to stick together like this through four years. What's that been like for you? Can you sense that hunger to get beyond this step and keep playing?

COACH McDERMOTT: No question, it's been one of their goals all year is to get back to this game and have an opportunity. We've knocked on the door and come so close the last few years to try to get into that Sweet Sixteen and see what happens after that. But there are a lot of things that had to transpire for this group to come together.

Ethan Wragge's injury that forced him to red shirt, so he's back a year. Grant Gibbs gets his sixth year of eligibility. Doug decides to come back to school, and all of a sudden you have these pieces in place again for really a fourth year together. So I think you're seeing in the NCAA tournament that that experience is trumping athleticism, length at times. Just because these guys play together and they have so much confidence in one another when you have a group that's been together that long and has achieved success.

I think our group fits that mold. There is a confidence about them. That's not an arrogance. They're confident in each other. They believe in each other. They understand that we have to play a certain way for us to be successful, and I'm hopeful we can execute that plan tomorrow.

Q. From your time at Iowa State, I assume you still kept a pretty close on him. They're obviously playing here. I wondered what you thought the reaction was when you heard Niang was out for the season now?

COACH McDERMOTT: I felt awful. I've gotten to know Georges a little bit. We scrimmaged them this year, and Fred and I are good friends. Obviously there are a lot of connections still to their support staff. Melvin Ejim was my last recruit there. So I've stayed in close touch with their program and obviously want to see Fred and his team do well. So that was a big blow. You feel bad for the team. You feel worse for Georges because I know how much he's invested in making himself the player he is today. So I wish them all the best tomorrow.

Q. Coach, what would it mean to you personally to take this group of guys to the next level?

COACH McDERMOTT: I'd be most satisfied that this group was able to finish their career doing something that nobody else has done in the modern era of the NCAA tournament. This group has achieved a lot of firsts in the history of Creighton basketball, and I couldn't think of a better way for their career to end than to go to Anaheim and have a chance to go to the Final Four. So it would be very rewarding. In some ways it would be justice served because of how hard they've worked and how well they've represented our program.

It's one thing the things they've done on the floor, but there hasn't been one time in their four years that there's been anything embarrassing that they've done that's had a black eye on our program. When you have 18 to 20yearold young men that can happen once in a while. But these guys have made all the right decisions, all the right choices. They've sacrificed and they continue to grow collectively, so it would be a pretty special thing if we could make that happen.

Q. Can you compare today and then last year in Philly that same day, difference in their attitude and their focus?

COACH McDERMOTT: Well, they're older, you know? The way Grant and Ethan are walking around, they look much older today. But you can't get out of your routine because the stakes are higher. You're successful because you have a certain way that you prepare. If you're going to be a team that's won on the road, which we've been able to do the last few years, the preparation and the routine is really important.

You can't ever get too high or too low based on an outcome. These guys have stayed pretty even keel in their approach. That's what I've seen the last couple days. That's what I saw last night in the film room, and I think when we head to the practice floor, I think I'll see a team that's focused and hungry, willing to listen, willing to learn and try to get as much ironed out as we possibly can in the short time we'll be on the floor.

THE MODERATOR: Anything else for Coach?

COACH McDERMOTT: Thank you.

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