Kansas State ready for 'a big‑boy game' against La Salle
Courtesy of ASAP Sports, here's a transcript of Kansas State's press conference ahead of Friday's game against la Salle in Kansas City.
Kansas State ready for 'a big‑boy game' against La Salle
Courtesy of ASAP Sports, here's a transcript of Kansas State's press conference ahead of Friday's game against la Salle in Kansas City.
Q. Jordan, last year you had such a good NCAA tournament. Can you talk about your confidence coming into this tournament, address how your back is feeling right now.
JORDAN HENRIQUEZ: Yeah, just based off the NCAA tournament before, uhm, you know, my confidence coming in is just high, just knowing what kind of seed we have, the kind of advantage we have. As a whole, we have to take advantage of it.
My back is fine. We're just treating it.
Q. Angel, you are one of the better passing teams in the NCAA. What has been the key to that success?
ANGEL RODRIGUEZ: We got great pieces, you know. Everybody has tremendous trust in each other and we feel comfortable about playing with each other and giving the ball to each other, let each other make a play.
As long as we share the ball, every time we share the ball, we have some success, everybody's happy. That's the most important thing.
So why not keep doing it?
RODNEY McGRUDER: You know, guys just do a tremendous job of moving without the ball. That allows them to get open looks from one another. Guys do a great job of screening, which allows, Will might come to the screen for me, guys might help on my curl, Will can step back and shoot. That's great assist right there.
As well as, when some guys curl into the lane, some big guys help up and we can dish it down.
Q. Shane, what happened this year for you to gain confidence as a shooter, what kind of work did you put in to do that?
SHANE SOUTHWELL: This summer I just took a lot of shots. I was on the gun a lot. All the coaches helped me a lot with just trying to get the ball up in the air. I did a lot of form shooting with the weighted ball. It helped my shot a lot.
I still to this day try to get a lot of shots with the weighted ball. I've been off a little bit, but I'm just trying to get it back.
Q. You have not let any slip‑ups happen. You've won every game you've been favored in, haven't had any 'bad losses,' what do you attribute that to?
SHANE SOUTHWELL: I feel that because we got so many guys, any one of us here can step up. We also got two other guys that's not here that come off the bench in Martavious and Thomas. When you have seven guys that can, any given day, lead us in scoring, usually Rodney and Angel does it, but when you have guys that can give you 12, 14 points, it's big.
We're not dependent on one player on this team.
ANGEL RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, I feel like this year the team overall has done a tremendous job of just trying to focus on the next game and being 1‑0, like Coach Snyder told us. As long as we do that, we focus on the next game, the chance of us winning is going to be higher. As you could see, we were pretty consistent and didn't have any bad losses at all.
But, you know, there's another level. Be playing against the best of the best in this tournament. Definitely got to be more focused but continue to do what you have done the whole season to have some success.
Q. Rodney, can you tell me what you've seen of La Salle? Seems like they're almost a mirror image of you.
RODNEY McGRUDER: They have four guards that do a tremendous job of spreading you out and dribble‑drive. If you go big, it's hard to guard because their 4‑man is really a 2‑guard. If you go with two big guys, it's hard for that 4‑man to actually get out and guard on the wing.
They just dribble‑drive, try to get whatever they want. They try to catch you slipping almost. They penetrate the guy, flip back for threes and things like that.
Q. Will, could you talk about how your offense has evolved throughout the season, but what the status is of that offense and how confident you are going into a game against such athletic guards?
WILL SPRADLING: I mean, the offense has done a great job of putting each player where he's comfortable and then getting them in places where they can make plays.
So, I mean, we're real comfortable with the offense now. It's late in the year. We've been doing it for a year now. I mean, obviously it's been working for us.
With the way they guard, with them gambling, I mean, we just have to make 'em pay when they gamble like that, be solid with the ball, which we've done a great job of all year.
Q. Angel, is it a calculated thing on your part to play so poker faced, like you never smile or do anything? You seem even‑keeled all the time. Do you decide to do that or does that come naturally?
ANGEL RODRIGUEZ: No, I didn't even know I didn't smile. I try to play happy, but I guess a smile doesn't define how happy I play, how much I enjoy playing.
I'll try to smile a little bit more for you guys, I guess (smiling).
JORDAN HENRIQUEZ: There you go (laughter).
Q. Rodney, playing here, you've done it several times already, what type of advantage do you think it gives you, the proximity to your school, the number of times you've played in this venue?
RODNEY McGRUDER: It gives us an advantage being that we just played here last weekend. It's kind of home‑court advantage for us. A lot of our fans are from this area, so they get to come out and support us. We have a little bit of a fan base.
I'm not sure if La Salle will have a fan base, but I know we will have a larger fan base than them.
Q. Did you gather as a team to watch the game last night? How different was it watching two teams, trying to figure out which one you were going to play, your scouting report on La Salle?
JORDAN HENRIQUEZ: Yeah, we did gather around and watch the game. Coach made sure that we did that. We were going to watch the game whether we got together or not. That's just the type of players we are.
But, you know, we did a really good job, our coaches did a really good job, of preparing us for both teams, what kind of sets they run and everything like that. Just be prepared for everything. That's what we really did a good job at.
RODNEY McGRUDER: Like Jordan said, we got together last night and watched the game. We just tried to see the things, you know, that La Salle likes to do, their sets, just see the guys that you're going to be guarding, their tendencies and things like that.
That's what I got from watching that game, just learning some of those guys' tendencies.
Q. If you had to personify or describe your defensive attitude, what is that attitude towards defense as a team?
WILL SPRADLING: It's pretty much just team defense. That's what we really hang our hat on. Then pressuring and playing solid.
When we play defense as a team, I mean, it's tough to score on us. If we rebound, then we can really get out and run.
JORDAN HENRIQUEZ: I think that I'm going to bring up what Will said, our team defense, we're really aggressive with that. We do a really good job at that. Being able to clean up the rebounds, being able to get out in transition.
Angel, having four guards that can take the ball up in transition is a huge advantage for us. As long as we continue to play defense, it gives us different opportunities on offense.
Q. Will, even though you've played in this building before, how much more contact have you had with friends wanting tickets and so forth, given this is the big stage?
WILL SPRADLING: Probably a lot more. One thing is my parents are out of town, so they know I'm not giving them to my parents.
Every time we play here I get a lot of contact for tickets and stuff like that. I mean, I just tell them that it's not that uch to buy 'em, so...
Q. You're up here for the fourth time now in as many years. How special is this moment, the fact you're only the second class in school history to accomplish this feat?
RODNEY McGRUDER: It's very special, you know. It speaks a lot about Jordan, Martavious, myself, how we try to be consistent, being that we've been here for four years. We just try to give it our all every night that we go out and play and practice, in drills, whatever we try to do, so we can prepare ourselves for times like this.
It's not all about just getting here; it's about just going out and playing as hard as you could, because La Salle's going to bring it. Whoever we play is going to bring it. We just have to be prepared and stay focused.
JORDAN HENRIQUEZ: Just being here is a blessing. No matter how many times me, Rodney, Martavious have been here, we really worked hard to get here. It starts from, you know, in the spring and summer workouts where guys get together or freshmen come in, they don't really know until it gets real.
Angel did a really good job at that last year coming in as a freshman, not really knowing the system or anything like that. That goes on for anyone.
I still remember when I was a freshman just coming in, really not knowing what's going on. Being on the big stage, being in front of our crowd, I think we was like a 2 seed my freshman year. I still remember it.
But I have memories from every NCAA tournament. I truly want to make this one memorable.
Q. Coach always kind of sounds like he is about to lose his voice. Is there anybody on the team that does an imitation of coach?
JORDAN HENRIQUEZ: Shane does a little.
SHANE SOUTHWELL: I don't have an imitation. When we're on the court, he constantly yells my name. It's like a, Shane, Shane, like that. That's all I got (laughter).
Q. Angel, your poise and demeanor was mentioned earlier. Do you think that's your role on the team, to keep calm and poised? If not, is there one person with that defined role?
ANGEL RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, I think my role is big when it comes to that. The point guard is supposed to control the tempo and control the guys and stuff.
I don't have a lot of responsibility when it comes to that because we're so together, at the end of the day, we all do a tremendous job of helping each other when everybody is not doing what we're supposed to do.
You know, I give my teammates and coaches a lot of credit. Like I said, I don't have a lot of pressure when it comes to that.
Q. Will, what do you mean your parents are out of town? How can they miss this?
WILL SPRADLING: It's my sister's senior spring break. They were talking about coming back, but they're not going to make it for tomorrow, at least.
Q. Where are they?
WILL SPRADLING: They're in Cancun.
THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, thank you very much. Best of luck tomorrow. We're joined by Kansas State head coach Bruce Weber. We'll ask coach for an opening statement.
COACH WEBER: Obviously you're excited to be in the tournament and then to have a great opportunity to play in the Sprint Center again. Playing in Kansas City, over the last couple weeks, it was one of the carrots we hung out there for the guys, one of our goals. We were able to accomplish that.
But it doesn't guarantee you a victory. You'll have a few extra fans. We have some familiarity with the arena and played in here obviously last weekend three times, then against Florida.
But once the game goes, the jump ball starts, you got to play basketball and you're going to have to earn a victory against a very, very good La Salle team. We had a chance to watch last night as a team. Great guard play. Very, very aggressive. Seemed to play with a lot of confidence. Obviously, the A‑10 got a lot of respect from the Selection Committee with their seeding and number of teams in.
We know we have a tough foe and we're going to have to play exceptionally well to get a victory tomorrow.
Q. In watching that game last night, obviously they spread you out. They have a four‑guard offense. What are the main things you look at in trying to defend that?
COACH WEBER: It's a lot like when we play Iowa State. You got to worry about the three, but you really have to worry about layups. First time we faced Iowa State, we gave up too many layups. They're going to make a couple threes. We have to limit the number of layups they get, then stay in front. That's the biggest.
The dribble containment, making sure we're ready to help, but get back to shooters. Then one‑and‑done. If you give them extra opportunities, you're going to be in trouble because they have too many weapons. You have four guys in double figures and they all can go off on any given night.
Q. I'm not sure since you took over, have you ever had a chance to talk to Frank Martin about the K State program back in USA Basketball? Can you describe the template maybe he left you with this team.
COACH WEBER: I did talk to Frank several times, first when we were out recruiting that spring, we were at a couple events, and the assistants. I've known Frank for a while, just being in the business. Appreciate what he did. As you mentioned, he was at USA Basketball. I hung out with him for a long weekend. He was a core coach, I was on Selection Committee.
Appreciate what he did here. He reenergized the program, Coach Huggins started it, he kept it going. Set a culture of toughness, defense, rebounding. We were very fortunate to be able to take over a program that had a good culture. Obviously it wasn't perfect at the end, but there were still some good pieces in place. We were able to kind of take it over, tweak a few things, have a great season.
I can't appreciate the players enough, especially the seniors. Change is hard. Change is hard on everybody. I know it was hard on us. I know it was real hard on them.
Slowly but surely it all kind of came together. It's been a great group. The best thing I think about us is we have great chemistry, not only in the locker room with the players, but I think also with the coaches. It really makes it a positive atmosphere.
Q. Talk a little bit about D.J. just how he's picked it up at the end of the year.
COACH WEBER: He had a big game in the tournament. He started out real well. In non‑conference we were able to overwhelm some people. He's an unbelievable athlete. He's got a great upside, mainly because in high school he played football.
Every year, four, five months, he didn't do anything with basketball. Now it's 12 months basketball. He wants to do well. He stays in the gym. There isn't a better kid. And he loves K State. He has embraced it. He's a big wheel in the dorms in a good way. People like him.
I've been to Great Bend, other places, where their kids are in the same dorm with him. People come up to me and say they just love D.J. their kids do, they've been around him.
I did know him. Coach Lowery, Coach Korn recruited him very hard. When we got the job, we started making calls. He was visiting Virginia Tech at the time. They said he was going to go there. He went on a visit. It was a long way away from home. Obviously that was the time when Seth Greenberg was going through some things. He came back, Coach Lowery got a call from one of his coaches saying he might want to stay closer.
The next day we went in his home, next day on campus, two days later he signed.
I think it's a good pickup for us. He's got a lot of upside. He went from 240 to 255, 258. He's a stud physically. Now we just have to get him to where his skills are better.
Q. Whenever we have talked to you this year, the day of a game, you are somewhere else. Apparently you finish a game, they hand you a sheet, you get on a plane. Have you always been as proactive yourself with the recruiting? Is that a change in philosophy for you?
COACH WEBER: No, if I'm going to coach the guys, I'm going to recruit 'em, I got to get out there, show my face. I think it's even more important when you take over a program and you're trying to establish different recruiting bases.
I've gone to Texas a little bit, but not a whole lot. There's so many faces and names you got to get to know.
Even in Kansas City, we've been here off and on, but not a mainstay. Out East, wherever we've gone, I think it's important.
But even at Illinois, Southern Illinois, I get out. I want to see 'em, know 'em recruiting. One day a week, just happens we have games Monday or Tuesday. The next day we have to give them out. That's the only day I can go recruiting. I don't want to miss practice. That's when we get out. Hopefully we're establishing some good connections. Feel real good about our recruiting class this year.
It's a lot different than a year ago when we got the job in April. We were scrambling. It was kind of all new to us. Now at least we know some of the 14s, 15s, have some interaction, seen 'em. So I hope that helps us down the road.
Q. You spent a year at Western Kentucky. Do you think the people here appreciate what Western Kentucky has been in basketball? What did it mean to you and who they are.
COACH WEBER: One, it was my first job as a grad assistant for Coach Keady. I was in awe of being in a Division I program. I came from Wisconsin, Big Ten territory. I didn't know much about it.
But then when you started hearing about the history, E.A. Diddle. I knew they had been in a Final Four. Clem Haskins was one of the assistants then. It's amazing history.
Obviously it takes a backseat to Kentucky. But the number of wins, the number of years they played basketball, the great coaches, players. It's a very, very good program, well‑established, great fan support. They love it. They love their Hilltopper basketball.
Q. Against La Salle, is this one of those games where it might be a tough matchup for Jordan to get on the court, but how he changes the dynamic of your team?
COACH WEBER: They do have the one big guy. He'll stay inside. That's a positive. It's not like when we played Iowa State where their 5‑guy was shooting threes. It made it a little tougher for him. He'll set screens, dive, post up, tries to score. He's a strong guy, power kind of guy. We should be able to use him.
Then the other part, I talked just before about how we guarded. We hope he can be a backstop to our defense. They're going to get by us. They're so good with the dribble, so good one‑on‑one. Now if Jordan can be a backstop to the defense and block a few shots, now they got second thoughts about coming in there.
We talked about from Oklahoma State, the first one at our place, where he blocked some shots. Second time we played them, he wasn't there. Third time he was there. He makes a difference. Thomas Gipson can take a charge, be physical, do some of those things. But Jordan, when you have a nice backstop, it's just like us going against Withey, it makes a big, big difference.
Q. Coach, on the flipside of the defense, what are the things on the offense that you can do in that motion offense to exploit their gambling nature and athletic front?
COACH WEBER: We talked about that a lot this morning. Everyone worries about them offensively. But defensively, they get after you. If you're comparing them, it would be more like West Virginia: denial, up your line, aggressive, switch 1 through 4.
First thing we did today was we called step balls, you got to get open to get a pass. If you just walk out there like you're a day in the park walking on a Sunday afternoon, you're in trouble.
We're going to have to fight for passes, screen, read the next cut. If they do switch, now you got to make the next play. The next play is going to be there, and it might end up very easy if you make the right read.
The 5‑man has to get involved. They have to help us get going in the offense, get out on the court to maybe get started. There's no doubt about that.
It's a big concern. They're very aggressive on the ball. I think even with any kind of lead, I've watched three or four, Coach Frazier has the scoutings, they can come back quickly. They score in bundles and a lot of it's because of their defense.
Q. I heard you use the phrase 'hockey assists,' the pass that leads to the pass that leads to the score. Do you chart that?
COACH WEBER: It's an important part of our offense. I haven't charted it. I don't think the NCAA would go with that as a stat they can get concerned about. But it's important. There's no doubt to have that unselfishness to make that next pass that leads to the bucket.
You could have shot the shot. You have an open shot, but he has the more open shot. That's the difference when you have that kind of unselfishness.
We have a term that goes back to Coach Keady. He talks about sharing the juices. It's having a good locker room, making sure everybody gets the sandwich, gets the gait trade, whatever. But it's also on the court, you share the basketball, make sure everyone does their part.
They laugh about it, tease me about it, but they've bought into that concept, so I think it's important.
Q. Your potential opponent today was two similar teams, Boise State, La Salle. How much of your game prep was focusing on what your opponent could do as opposed to what you need to do?
COACH WEBER: Because we didn't know who our opponent was the first two days, we could do a little bit of concepts for each one.
I told the coaches to find two or three things that they do all the time. We kind of rotated. Okay. "Boise, okay La Salle, go back to Boise."
The good thing, one wasn't Princeton or something like that, Princeton style. They're both dribble‑drive, guard orientated. That has been our focus.
The concepts, we had to watch the game last night. You're hooked into La Salle. Met as a staff for two or three hours after the game. Got up this morning, did our video clips with the players, walked through all of that. Now it will be back to our regular routine.
I'm not sure that's a great matchup for us. As a 4, you don't know your 13. La Salle is very good. We got a tough matchup. But that's the NCAA. You got to play, put it on the court. It's a big‑boy game. If you don't step up, you go home.