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NCAA Sweet 16 Press Conference Transcript: Xavier (March 25, 2009)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009 , Posted by Christopher Byrne at 8:06 PM, under , ,

Athens, GA (Mar 25, 2009) -The Sweet 16 Teams are getting ready for their games over the next two days. Part of that preparation is sitting down with the media. Here is the transcript of the Xavier University press conference, as provided by the NCAA.

COACH MILLER: Well, we're obviously, as a program and university,
very excited to be here in Boston and playing an excellent team in
Pitt. But I think most importantly, really excited to be back here for
the second consecutive year. Not many programs can say that.

Last year we lost in the Elite 8 to UCLA. Here we are again. I think
it's really a remarkable accomplishment for our players, some of which
now have been in four consecutive NCAA tournaments. We look forward to
the game tomorrow, knowing that we have to be at our very best to have
a chance to win.

Q. I know you probably prefer for the emphasis to be on your
players, does it mean more to you to be playing Pitt and have your
former teammates and classmates call you and asked you to take it easy
on them?

COACH MILLER: Pitt has a special place for me. I was a student
athlete there many years ago now, '87 to '92. But like so many former
student athletes, you look back at your experience and the one I had
was amazing. Some of my strongest relationships, which include my
wife, stem from my time at Pitt. And several of my teammates will be
at the game. Which side they'll be on, I don't know until the tip off.
But from that perspective it's unique. And certainly I love my days as
a player there.

But for this game, the spotlight really should be on our current
team and in the match up and their team. It's exciting to be in the
Sweet 16 regardless of who you play.

Q. Talk about Pitt, you are an alum, you might keep a little closer
tab on them from other teams. Are you more familiar with them? Have
you seen them this season?

COACH MILLER: Yeah, I've watched them with a lot of pride over the
last eight years, as much as from a coach's perspective, from the fact
I once went there, and even the amazing job they've done, from Ben
Holland and transforming their program from Fitzgerald Field House to
the new arena.

And watching Jamie Dixon take over and just the consistent success
that they've had in the Big East Conference speaks for itself. And a
lot of the things their program has become known for we, too, try to
take great pride in what we do at Xavier; physical play, tough
defense, trying to be a solid rebounding team, trying to develop
players. Whereas the years change, faces change, you have different
players becoming the new leading scorer, the new leading rebounder. As
they've had that in their program, we've had some of that in our
program, as well. So there's more of a healthy respect than anything.

Q. Coach, you talked about Pitt's consistent success, yours has been
consistent progress, you get deeper in the NCAA tournament each year.
How have you managed to do that?

COACH MILLER: Well, I think first of all we have great balance in
our classes. If you look back a few years ago when we played against
Ohio State and lost in a very tough game, but a great game in the
tournament, we were led by a group of three seniors, Justin Doleman,
Justin Cage and Brandon Cole, and they left our program. And last year
on our Elite 8 run we were also led by three seniors, Josh Duncan,
Drew Lavender, and Stanley Burrell.

And as the baton has been passed this year we have two, B.J.
Raymond, who arguably has had as good a senior year at Xavier as just
about anybody that's played here, First Team All Conference and has
been incredible through here, and his counterpart, C.J. Anderson.
Derrick Brown is a junior, but he, too, is in his fourth year in our

If you look at the success, it's really stemmed by our oldest
players have terrific performances in their last year and really
showing, I think, leadership, like you would want it as a coach. When
that's in place, it's amazing how everything can follow.

Q. Now that you've seen Pitt, do parts of their game remind you of
anybody you've played this season, and talk about how big rebounding
is going to be this game?

COACH MILLER: No, to me they're the best team that we've played. In
Memphis, we played them a long time ago and I think they've improved
over the months since we played them.

But Pitt has, on offense, three dynamic players, Levance Fields, I
can't judge where he goes from here, but if you look at who he is in
college basketball, you can make the argument that he does as good a
job playing that position as anyone out there.

Sam Young on the wing, coming off of 23 points in one half, in the
last game, he's really developed over his time there to be, to me,
someone who probably will be an NBA player.

And inside with DeJuan Blair, how unique he is, how tough he is on
the glass. You have three different players who at their respective
position don't take a backseat to anybody out there.

And then they're complemented with so many other players that can
make shots and plays. And they have a system, they're very good on
defense. They have a great confidence about them. And you put all that
in, that makes them the No. 1 seed.

For us, I think where it really starts and stops is to be physical,
ourselves, to not allow them to dominate us on the glass. I don't
think they nearly get enough credit for being a great offensive team.
Their transition, they get dunks and easy baskets that break your
backs. We have to be rock salad in our transition defense and
rebounding, two things that we've been very good at this season. And
for us to have a hope, I believe, of advancing or beating them at the
end of the game, you'd have to see us do a great job in those two

Q. Coach, one of the things I know you and your school has been
upset with in the past is the labor of a mid major. Is this more
evidence that you guys have put that label behind you and now you're
one of the more elite programs in the country?

COACH MILLER: Yeah, if I had to ask you back to define "mid major"
for me, how would you define that? Just pick a topic.

Q. Through conference affiliation is where it usually stems from.

COACH MILLER: I would say college basketball is not college
football. When you look at Memphis last year, in the National
Championship game, I don't think anybody really cared what conference
they were from, they just looked out there and saw an excellent team.

We've been in the Elite 8 two times in the last five years. When you
add the fact that we're alive in the Sweet 16 this year, we've now
been in the Sweet 16 three times in the last six years. And that, I
think, speaks for itself.

When you go further into our program, if you've been to the Cintas
Center, our on campus facility, to me it's one of the nicest in all
college basketball, it's on campus, it's accessible to our team 12
months out of the year. We have our own practice facility, state of
the art weight room and anything you'd ever want for the team that you
have and the players that you coach, it's the best of the best.

When you look at our non conference schedule and some of the things
we've done in recent years, where we'll be next year, to me it's so
much more about your program than the name on the front of your jersey
and what you stand for than whether you're in this conference or that
conference. And I think college football and college basketball are
completely different when it comes to that.

Q. I'm just wondering, what was your impression of C.J. when you
were getting him? What have you learned about him and how is it
different than what you thought?

COACH MILLER: C.J. Anderson? No, he's from Cincinnati and he went to
high school there and did a very good job at Manhattan. He's someone
that really needed an academic environment like the one we offer at
Xavier. We not only have great education, but it's in the small
atmosphere with all the academic support you could ever, ever need.

For those of you who don't know, we have the No. 1 graduation rate
in all of college basketball. I think where C.J. has blossomed is it's
that combination of comfort and structure off the court in his
hometown and a team approach, surrounded by some terrific kids, that
have really brought out the best in him.

Make no mistake, this year he's the leader of our team. He's the
heart and soul of what we do. Tomorrow's game from a toughness
standpoint, there will be nobody playing the game who's tougher than
him. If you think about it, he's played two seasons at Xavier. He went
to the Elite 8 last year and here he is back at his senior year. I
think that says it all about him.

Q. Going back to the previous question about the mid major business
and all that, with regard to your recruiting, is there still a class
of player that you wouldn't "waste your time trying to get"? How do
you compete with those so called elite teams?

COACH MILLER: I think one of the keys to being successful at Xavier
is you've got to know who we are. Generally we're going to be
attractive to a family that cares a lot about their degree. Where
we're located in Cincinnati, in a five hour radius, arguably you can
make the case that it's the most talented area of our country right
now in terms of high school basketball players.

Looking for that fit, that family, but as our success has happened
over the last three or four years, to me, our scope has broadened.
We're clearly right now, in addition to those factors, trying to
recruit the best student athletes we can get. I know this, that we're
able to talk to people and be in places now that four or five years
ago were untouchable for us. A lot of it has to do with this, that
it's about the NCAA tournament. Can you get there? Can you advance?
And once those two things are established and people investigate our
program further, and look at the Cintas Center and the academic
environment we have, it's really become a lot easier. And quite
frankly, we can recruit the high level student athlete right now.

Q. Sticking with the conference team, Pittsburgh is known as a
physical team. They're from a physical conference. How do you feel you
match up, your style of play, with that type of play?

COACH MILLER: They are. They're the very best at playing that game.
Offensive rebounding numbers, to me, they're the No. 1 in the nation
when you consider what they do to their opponent in the toughest
league, so that speaks for itself. Ironically it's the very best thing
that we do. And it will be tested at a high level.

Our defensive rebounding, rebounding margin, our defense in general
is what has allowed us to have 27 wins, it's why we're here, and what
we just did last weekend. Our greatest strength will be tested
against, to me, the best at doing it. And that's why I say we're going
to have to play a great game and clearly hold serve in those areas for
us to have a chance to win.

Q. Following up on that, what are your impressions of DeJuan Blair
and the physical presence he lends to their team?

COACH MILLER: He's a very unique player. He reminds me of a guy I
played with, Jerome Lane and Jerome led the nation in rebounding. And
DeJuan is right there. Both of them are high you can't really put a
height on them. DeJuan is about 6 foot 7, I would say, but he plays so
big because of his arms. He's a very intelligent player. He's
physical, but he's very intelligent with positioning and how he gets
to the ball.

I know I'm not the only coach that's been able to talk to their team
about you can't let him get five rebounds a game on offense. He does
it every game. So I think for us using our depth, we have four front
court players that have really done a great job for our team. Kenny
Frease and Jamel McLean are two young players that come off the bench.
Kenny is 7 foot. And Jason Love and Derrick Brown are very
experienced. Those four guys are going to have to do a terrific job
rebounding and being able to compete with not only DeJuan, but Pitt's
entire front line.

Q. For any of you guys, just what do you think this game means to
your coach to play his alma mater. Do you think deep down inside he
really wants to beat that team?

C.J. ANDERSON: I don't think it is a matter of who he's playing
against, he wants to win the game. So if we were playing against any
other team, he'd want to win just as bad.

DERRICK BROWN: I agree with C.J., totally. It's an important game,
regardless of who we play. I don't think for the outside world it
might be more important, but for the people in the locker room it's
just as important as any other game.

B.J. RAYMOND: It's a simple it's another game. We're just going to
focus on that. We're going to come out and just play our best. Coach
did play there, everybody knows that, it's the elephant in the room.
But we're just going to focus on trying to do our best and play at the
highest level.

Q. Have you talked about the Coach's playing days?

DERRICK BROWN: In practice sometimes when we don't get the job done,
he would say, When I used to play, something funny like that. But for
the most part he's pretty humble about his college experience.

Q. C.J., this is for you, can you tell me a little bit about your
memories, what you remember best playing at Manhattan, the decision to come to Xavier and when you knew for sure that it was the right move?

C.J. ANDERSON: I had a lot of good times at Manhattan. I still talk
to a lot of the guys that I played with. The decision for me was easy,
once Coach Gonzalez took the Seton Hall job, I wanted to come back
close to where I was from. I decided to go to Xavier. It has an
outstanding graduation rate, thanks to Sister Fleming who keeps us on
track, and has an outstanding basketball program, so it was really a
no brainer for me to go to Xavier.

Q. Derrick, Coach talked about the physicality that Pitt has in
their front line and how important rebounding is going to be. Can you
talk about what it's going to be like going against them?

DERRICK BROWN: It's definitely going to be a challenge. They're the
best offense rebounding team in the country, actually. And defense
rebounding is something that we do well, really well, also. So it's
going to be a battle of who can do that better. But it's never going
to be easy, especially in this game and at this magnitude. But we're
up for the challenge.

Q. B.J., you guys lost a lot from last year's team. When did you
guys know you were capable; was it in Puerto Rico, was it as the
season went along?

B.J. RAYMOND: No, we knew that going into the summer. A lot of
people thought we were losing a lot off of last year's team. But the
three guys sitting up here, we're a big part of that, as well. The
thing that we do at Xavier, it's tradition. We help each other get
better. So the younger guys push the older guys to get better, and the
older guys help the younger guys get better.

And Dante Jackson, Jason Love and now Kenny Frease and Jamel McLean,
they're becoming better. And that's the strength of our team. We don't
count on just one or two guys to get the job done every night. We
count on a number of guys. We beat you with numbers. And that's one
thing, we never lowered our goals. We never lowered the bar. The bar
was to get back to where we were last year. We just want to play our
best. We worked for that, for this moment. And this is good to see
that the hard work is paying off.

Q. C.J., I wonder if you would be more specific about what do you
feel you're getting at Xavier both athletically and academically that
wasn't there for you at Manhattan? That's the first part of the

C.J. ANDERSON: What I'm getting at Xavier athletically is I'm
sitting here talking to you, getting ready to play in the Sweet 16. I
didn't have that opportunity at Manhattan. Last year we made it to the
Elite 8. I didn't have that opportunity at Manhattan.

Academically, there are people at Xavier that care more about me as
a student versus me as an athlete, and me succeeding as a person off
the court. And Sister Fleming, who is back there sitting in the room,
she's a major part of that. And the coaching staff, they care about us
graduating. Xavier has the No. 1 graduation rate in the country. Those
are the things I'm getting at Xavier that I didn't get to Manhattan.

Q. Have you spoken to Coach Gonzalez?

C.J. ANDERSON: I seen him in Puerto Rico. But I have not seen him
since then.

Q. Since you left Seton Hall?


Q. B.J., it seemed like coach is a little tired of talking about it,
I'm sure you guys may be fed up, as well. Do you think mid major
paints you with too broad a brush, you're beyond that label, now that
you've in the Elite 8 and back in the Sweet 16.

B.J. RAYMOND: We've been to the Elite 8 in the past five years. Been
to the Sweet 16 probably three of the last six. If you want to call
that a mid major school, you can. I feel like we're an elite level
program. We don't really confine ourselves to conferences, like
Memphis is moving themselves out of Conference USA.

But Atlantic 10 is a great conference. All we focus on is trying to
win our conference. It wouldn't matter if we were in the Big East, Big
Ten, Big Sky, we focus on winning our conference. That's one thing we
worry about. You can say we're a mid major, but we feel we're an elite
level program, and that's what we try to focus on.

Q. The life and times of C.J. continue. When you got to Cincinnati
and you started working with Sister Fleming and the other academic
people there, was there a day when you realized early on, I've really
got to buckle down? Did you come in once and have them call you on the
carpet or was it more demanding than anything you had been through

C.J. ANDERSON: I don't want to say it was more demanding, I want to
say, if anything, it was easier because there was more willingness to
help me out.

So I don't think it was more demanding, I think it was easier for me
to come in with people that were willing to help me and take the time,
sitting down to help me and help me when I was struggling. So it
wasn't more difficult at all.

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