Boise State coach Leon Rice: La Salle has 'got so many weapons and so many ways to score'

Courtesy of ASAP Sports, here's a transcript of Boise State's press conference ahead of Wednesday night's NCAA tournament first round game against La Salle in Dayton.

THE MODERATOR: We're now being joined by Boise State student‑athletes Anthony Drmic, Jeff Elorriaga, and Derrick Marks. 

Q. Anthony, now that you guys are finally here, what's kind of the feeling like? And what's kind of the last couple of hours been like for you guys?

ANTHONY DRMIC: It's a little crazy. It's a little overwhelming, just coming in here and just the experience of it all. I think the boys are ready to go, and we're as excited to get out on the court tomorrow night. 

Q. Speaking of excited to get on the court, Derrick, obviously, you're kind of looking back at your last game, and I'm sure you're fired up. How anxious are you to get back out there tomorrow night?

DERRICK MARKS: I'm always excited to play. It just feels like another game except for it's on a bigger stage. So we just got to come ready to play. 

Q. Jeff, a question for you. Why is this team here this year? I mean as far as you had a good season last year. Why is this team better last year?

JEFF ELORRIAGA: Just guys kind of stepping up. Last year we didn't really close any games out. Compared to this year, we started finishing some games. We got a few good road wins and just took care of business at home. I think we were 13‑1. That helps your resume quite a bit.

So just started playing good basketball towards the end of the year as well.

Q. Jeff, can you talk about what you see out of La Salle, particularly No.55, Ramon Galloway?

JEFF ELORRIAGA: They're going to be tough to guard. From what we're told, they're going to play tough basketball. They get in there and pressure you. Offensively, they've got a lot of guys that can get in there and score. Galloway seems like a heck of a player.

We're going to have our hands full with them. They seem like a great team to play.

Q. Jeff, can you just talk about what something that the coach from La Salle said, Dr. John Giannini, he said he thought you guys were a mirror image of his team. How much do you see of yourselves in them and vice versa when you look at film of them?

JEFF ELORRIAGA: They play four guards. It seems like they want to get up and down. They score quite a bit of points, and we score quite a few as well.

I think they're a little more athletic, so we're going to have to deal with that. They get up and down. A lot of guys can score. They're going to be tough to guard, hopefully just as tough as we are. They play hard, just as hard as we do.

Q. Talking to you guys after that game on Wednesday, I know Derrick said it's just another game, but how fired up are you guys? Maybe you can even sense it from him, but just in terms of kind of thinking about that last game, just thinking about how fired up you guys are.

ANTHONY DRMIC: Definitely. But like Derrick said, it's just another game, but on a bigger platform. As always we're going to come ready to play. Yeah, just come ready to play.

Q. Derrick, what does it mean for you guys to be able to be in this situation, not just in the tournament, but as an at‑large team? Boise State five previous times had to do it as a conference champion, but to be in the situation where you guys are recognized for what you did, not necessarily having to win a tournament to get here.

DERRICK MARKS: It's a big deal. It's the first time in school history that it's happened. It's something special we've got going on. We've just got to do whatever we got to do to just keep it going.

Q. Derrick, do you guys feel a need to validate the Mountain West getting five bids? Do you guys also‑‑ you're playing La Salle, but you're also representing your conference. Do you guys feel that way?

DERRICK MARKS: The Mountain West is a very competitive conference, so I'm not surprised that we got five teams in. Like I said, we've just got to keep it going.

Q. Anthony, I notice as a team you shoot 39 percent from 3. How big is the 3‑pointer as part of your offensive arsenal? How important is it for this team?

ANTHONY DRMIC: We definitely have a lot of shooters, 1 through 4, 1 through 5 even. It's definitely one of the strengths we look to go to. When we get offensive rebounds and kick it out for 3. It's definitely one of our strengths, I'd say.

Q. Derrick, what's going to be the most difficult thing about defending them?

DERRICK MARKS: They're a quick team, and they play similar to us. I mean, we guard it every day in practice, but it's a different team. We haven't played them before, so it's going to be tough to guard them.

Q. Anthony, honest answer. How much did you know about La Salle before Sunday?

ANTHONY DRMIC: I actually did watch them play Butler one time. So I knew a little bit, but it's all new teams now, you know what I mean.

It's going to be just a great game to play and watch. It's going to be exciting.

Q. For anybody up there, in the preseason before conference, you know who you're going to be playing, and you have some time to look at the schedule. Conference, of course you know. How is it different going into playing a game against a team that you have two, maybe three days to even know who you're going to be playing?

ANTHONY DRMIC: It's definitely a bit different. I mean, usually you have a lot more time to scout teams and all that sort of thing. But it's basketball. You just have to go out there and be ready to play whoever it is.

Like I said, we're excited to get out there, and hopefully we can put up a good game.

THE MODERATOR: Anthony, Jeff, and Derrick, thank you for your time. Good luck tomorrow night. We're now being joined by the head coach of Boise State, Leon Rice.

COACH RICE: We're just really excited to be here. We played in the Mountain West Conference Tournament and lost to San Diego State, and it was a long drawn out bubble process to get here. So our guys couldn't be more thrilled to be playing here in Dayton.

We know it's going to be a great game. We've got two teams that really, really match up in a unique way, where two teams are really, really similar.

Like I said, we're extremely excited to be here.

Q. In your previous coaching position, you had a lot of postseason success. What are you telling the guys on your team about how to handle a big stage like this?

COACH RICE: That's a great question. The biggest thing is, the first and foremost, I want them to be eyes wide open, enjoy it, enjoy the whole situation of being in the NCAA Tournament. It's the greatest sporting event on the planet, in my estimation.

So I want them to come in and just play loose, play guns ablazing, just really enjoy themselves and enjoy each other because they've earned this opportunity.

They'll be focused on the game, obviously. They're excited to play, like I said, but they have to understand where they are. I always tell them I want them to see the forest for the trees. I want them to look around and feel the whole thing and experience it.

So when they do that, they'll really take it in and take it in together as a team. Because we're a young team. And I want them to get used to playing in this thing. We have ten freshmen and sophomores. The more you play in it, the better off and more comfortable you are.

Q. Coach, after last week's game, Derrick, you seemed pretty ‑ maybe a little bit bothered by his performance. I know you tried not to let it show too much. How have you seen him the last couple of days? I know he says tomorrow night is just another game for him, but you think maybe he's a little more fired up?

COACH RICE: I think those guys, they're competitors. You talk about Derrick and Anthony and our two leading scorers, they're competitors. That's probably their best attribute. So it eats at those guys when they don't play as good as they think they can play.

When we lost to San Diego State, they wanted to hurry up and get back on the court. I think that's another reason why this meant so much to be able to get in and get this opportunity.

Q. Coach Giannini was talking a little bit about how similar you were. I know that's what you said in the opening statement too. What are some of the similarities and parallels you see in them?

COACH RICE: First, both teams are really, really reliant on all our guards. We play a lot of guards. We play four at a time. In our last game, we played five guards. They're very similar that way. They move the ball well. They shoot the 3.

The thing that maybe they‑‑ they're probably a little more athletic than we are. They get up into the ball pretty hard. They guard switch 1 through 4. So a lot of the similar things that we do.

In fact, there's not that many teams that play that small like both of us, and both of us have had success with it.

Q. Forgive me for not knowing a lot about your program. You have two players from Australia, one from Serbia, one from Latvia. Can you talk about the connections that allowed you to get those guys to come to Boise, Idaho.

COACH RICE: I came from Gonzaga, and I was there for 11 years, and you look at how maybe we broke through a little bit, getting some guys that were maybe a little bit under the radar or undervalued, where they were off the beaten path a little bit. And that was a big part of what we did at Gonzaga.

We operated with really great Northwest kids, and then we went out across the globe and recruited some pieces to the puzzle, and it helped us break through talent‑wise.

If you look at what they're doing there still, now they've got a ton of foreigners. So John Rillie, Jeff Linder, Dave Wojcik, they've done a great job of scouring the world. When I got there, there was seven seniors. We brought in 11 new guys that first year, so we had to look everywhere.

We're in Boise, Idaho; we've got to go all over the place to find them. Which is a credit to our football program in the fact that, when we did go places, people knew who we were. We go into Chicago, and Derrick Marks knew who Boise State was because of the football program and the national attention that they've received. It wasn't like where is Boise? Who's that? I think it really, really benefited us to have that national name.

Q. Coach, when you get to these tournament games, so many times matchups are contrasting styles and whoever gets their style of play usually benefits. When you have two teams that are very, very similar, what's going to decide this one?

COACH RICE: I think with this one, it's maybe who can play to their strengths and who can play the best on that night when you have two similar teams. They are going to present some problems for us defensively, and hopefully we can present some problems for them.

So it's who can execute, who can kind of have their will to get it done over 40 minutes because, like you said, they're really similar in a lot of ways.

But there are some subtle differences that we need to exploit and not let them exploit the ones on us.

Q. Coach, I think I've been getting more questions recently about your team than the football team, and they're having spring practice. Just want to know what that means to you to be in that situation, probably the first time that's ever happened.

COACH RICE: The football program was a big reason I took the job at Boise State. When I was at Gonzaga, I had some opportunities. I was fortunate to be in a great spot. But when Boise State opened up, I was really attracted to it because of what they've done in football. The proof was in the pudding that they knew how to do things there, and they've done it at a high, high national level.

A lot of people can talk about it and it‑‑ it never gets done if it's just the commitment from the head coach or the staff. You have to have the administration on board. You have to have the fans that are there. In our last games, we've got over 10,000 fans every game. Now we have a home‑court advantage. All those things have to be in place, the facilities.

You can't just come in and wave a magic wand and get it done if you want to build something. You might be able to build a team, but you can't build a program if you don't have all that. And I saw that with this football program.

They've been awesome to us too. Coach Pete, from the moment I got there, one of the things ‑ he said, I'm so excited to get a Gonzaga guy down here. I've been wanting to pick you guys' brains about some of the things you do. Whoa, whoa, you're 51‑3. You don't need to be picking my brain on anything.

They've been just great. I've had him speak to our team. Visit with those guys all the time on how they've done it, and learned a lot from them. So it's been for me, professionally and personally ‑ I've just enjoyed the heck out of it. There's nothing better than a Saturday in Boise on college football when we're not playing and I can enjoy them.

Q. Have you heard from Pete?

COACH RICE: Yeah, he sent a great text. Those guys have been so supportive of us.

Q. Coach, in your scouting, could I get your evaluation of La Salle's point guard, No.3, Tyreek Duren?

COACH RICE: He's a terrific, terrific on‑ball defender. He can create a lot of problems for you if you're lazy with the ball, if you're not handling it. If you get sloppy for a second, he'll make you play. He can really score.

That's the thing about them. They've got so many weapons and so many ways to score that you can't just dial into one thing and try to stop one guy. That's what‑‑ it's probably their versatility that reminds me a little bit of us, but it makes it difficult to guard them.

I think it starts with his defense on the ball. 

Q. Coach, in what ways are the international players maybe more advanced than their American counterparts? In what ways do they need more training? Second question, if you don't mind, you mentioned the kids at Chicago know you because of the football program. Why would a kid in Serbia know you?

COACH RICE: That's a good question. First of all, the international kids ‑ the Aussies that we've got, they came from the Institute of Sport. They were just ‑ their basketball skill was really advanced. They know how to play in a system that - kind of like what we're playing, where the ball moves really easily and they make each other better.

I think with Anthony ‑ I think each kid's different in the fact when you say what things do you have to work on with them, but when we got Anthony, what he could do is shoot the 3. He didn't score in all these other ways that he's scoring now.

So that's something that we've really worked on developing in his game, is being able to move without the ball, being able to attack the rim, being able to get in the paint and score. That's why he's a scorer now and not just a shooter.

Why would a guy in Serbia know about us? I think it's not just a national name now, it's an international name. Like I said, with our football program, that's how Boise State University was known. There's probably not a lot of places in the world that you can go and mention the Blue Turf and they don't know what you're talking about. I think everybody knows about that. And with the internet now, these kids, they follow everything.