Razorback Q & A:
Brandon Dean and Teddy Gipson
This year, the Razorback basketball team will say goodbye to five seniors. While none of these players will be receiving going-away cards from the rest of the SEC, there are two Hogs that have opposing coaches particularly excited about saying adieu: Brandon Dean and Teddy Gipson, the Razorbacks' dynamic duo from down on the bayou.
These two have been thorns in the side of the rest of the SEC for the last four years, and Razorback foes are undoubtedly saying, "It's about time." Brandon and Teddy have been heavily counted upon since the first day they stepped on campus and they have been more than happy to torture opposing players with a smooth mixture of athleticism, skill, and intensity. But that run is finally about to come to an end and they want to make sure that their grand finale is a memorable one. The way the Cajun kids are playing lately, they appear to be well on track to accomplishing that goal, as they have been hotter than a steaming bowl of gumbo.
The insertion of Gipson into the starting lineup and the resurgence of Dean as one of the most explosive players in the SEC, have ignited the Razorbacks to win six of the last seven games, including a 2-0 start in league play. I found myself in a situation that is usually bad news: trapped in the corner by Brandon Dean and Teddy Gipson.
Nathan Striegler: This team started off slow, but is obviously on a roll now. How high is the confidence level right now?
Brandon Dean: Confidence is extremely high right now. We've been playing a good brand of basketball. Everybody believes in the system and what we're trying to accomplish, offensively and defensively. After going on the road and winning a few games and then coming back home and winning, confidence is sky high.
Teddy Gipson: I feel the same way. The turning point of the season definitely had to be when we went on the road and played Memphis. We knew it would be a tough atmosphere but at the same time I think being down and holding our confidence changed a lot of things. Even when we were down we knew we were going to win and ever since then our confidence has been sky high.
NS: You guys are 3-1 on the road now. How have you become such road warriors?
BD: I think we just grew up as a ball club. There is a lot of maturity on this team and on the road we feed off of the other team's crowd. We had a cocky attitude. We go out there with a chip on our shoulder because we want to prove everybody in the gym wrong.
TG: I definitely believe that what he says is correct but I think the biggest difference is that we've learned to put two halves together. We're a lot better at letting the first half carry over to the second half.
NS: Sunday, you get to play at LSU. How excited are you guys about playing in your home state?
TG: I look forward to it. It's always good to go back home. It's gonna be a lot tougher for us as far as the fans are concerned, but I think it's gonna be more difficult for him because they (LSU) recruited him a lot harder.
BD: It's always exciting to go home and everybody dreams about going home and having a big game. We're more focused on going in and winning the ballgame and being 3-0 in the conference. That's everybody's main objective, especially ours.
NS: Brandon, earlier in the year at Midnight Madness you donned the Superman shirt. If you're Superman, then who is Teddy?
BD: We're gonna call him Spider Man.
NS: I don't want to see you crawling around in red and blue tights Teddy. You two have really been counted on since day one here. There wasn't really a true transition period from high school to college. You came in as freshmen and had to deliver. Do you think that has helped you guys develop?
BD: A little bit. We kinda wanted that on our shoulders. That's the type of players we are. Any player with a competitive nature wants that responsibility. I think we accepted it and tried to do the best we could with it.
TG: Since we got here we have been counted on a lot. When we first got here we had a lot to prove but after having such a good year, from that point on we felt like we could be leaders on this team. After our sophomore year we felt like we were in that spot, whether coach put it on us or not. It makes it that much easier because we got started a little earlier than everyone else.
NS: Brandon, in the Mississippi State game you went head to head with your high school teammate Derek Zimmerman and you blocked his shot several times. Did you let him hear it about that?
BD: We're the best of friends. Good players leave things on the court. We got into a little talking match on the court but that's all in a friendly nature. We both wanted to win the game. I'm sure we'll get into it once we get back home though.
NS: Teddy ever since you got back in the starting lineup you've been in the groove. Do you think that starting helps you be more productive?
TG: Maybe. At one point I didn't think that was what it was but maybe. Every player is going to have a slump and you just have to figure out a way to give something else. When I was playing bad I feel like I was trying to give something else. I've really been terrible on offense but at the same time I've been a good defensive player. Maybe the starting thing did boost my confidence level. Every time I've started I've played well, but I don't want to think that, just because I'm not starting I'm not going to play well. It's hard to put my finger on it, but hopefully I won't fall back into that trend again.
NS: What do you guys think about Matt (Jones) coming in and the way the fans are responding?
BD: I think it's a good opportunity for him. He's probably been excited and wanting to play basketball and you never want to deny anybody that chance. He's not out here just for the heck of it. He's a good athlete and he has a lot of basketball skills. He can help this team but right now he has to get in basketball shape.
TG: He can help our team. Any kind of height with his athletic ability can definitely help our team. He can run, dribble, shoot, and pass. I think he really wants to be here because this is a sport he wants to play. He can play this just as well as he plays football. It's gonna be interesting and something to look forward to.
NS: I know I've never seen anyone get a standing ovation for getting called for a foul. What have you guys learned from Coach Richardson?
TG: I think I've learned that you've got to be patient. One day you might be the favorite player on the court and the next you might be on the end of the bench. You have to learn that your time is going to come. If you just stick it out and keep working hard eventually you're going to get to play.
BD: One of things I've learned is mental toughness. I've also learned to take advantage of your opportunities because if you don't, you'll be in the doghouse for a while. You have to make the best of every situation.
NS: This is you guys' last run with the Razorbacks. What can we expect from you the rest of the season?
TG: Every night I step on the court I'm gonna be intense. When we're on the road I'm gonna be one of the guys trying to get the team motivated whether I'm starting or sitting down, whether we win or lose, I'm gonna be one of the guys that is gonna give my team a chance. I'm going to lead by example. I'm going to be one of the most intense guys on the court, just going crazy, almost acting foolish I guess. I've seen a change in our attitude lately. Our intensity has been so high lately that it has just carried over from game to game. If we can keep just a few guys at that intensity level maybe it will carry over to the rest of the team. I'm going to try to be one of the players to do that.
BD: I'm just going to try to keep making jokes. I'm gonna try to do as much as I can to make everybody laugh. I just want to do stupid things on and off of the court. Whether it's picking my nose on TV or dropping my pants at half court.
TG: That's easy. That comes natural to you.
BD: I'm just going to try to keep this team enthusiastic about playing basketball.
NS: Brandon you've struggled with nagging injuries throughout your career. How good does it feel to finally be 100% healthy?
BD: It feels so good. It has just been a blessing this whole season to not have any nagging injuries, especially ankle sprains. I've always had that as long as I've been playing. I haven't had any injuries this year and hopefully it will continue because it is helping not only with my play but also with my conditioning.
NS: Knock on wood.
NS: Teddy over the last few years you've had to deal with some personal tragedies. How have you been able to overcome these and maintain your mental focus?
TG: Everything happens for a reason. That is mainly one of the things I live on everyday. It has made me the person that I am today. I know that I am hard working but when you have struggles like that it makes you want to work that much harder to be successful. In order for me to be the best I know it's going to take hard work and dedication. I just made it to where I had the attitude that I wasn't going to give up. I just wanted to strive to be the best I could and the only way that I knew how to get better is to work as hard as I can.
NS: With all of the football players coming out for basketball have you guys considered putting on the shoulder pads for Coach Nutt?
TG: NO, NOT ME. NO WAY!
BD: Yeah, I though about going out there and playing quarterback but knowing me I'd probably get selfish with the ball and try to run it every time. But no not really.
At this point Razorback guard Jannero Pargo crashed the party.
Jannero Pargo: This isn't really my interview you know but as a prospect I feel that my skills could best be used as…
NS: Place kicker?
JP: No. Defensive back. I play safety and quarterback. I think they're pretty set at the QB position. I thought about free safety but I think Ken Hamlin is pretty good. With Jermaine Petty leaving I though maybe I would put on about 40 pounds and be a linebacker.
NS: You better wait until after the basketball season to put on that weight.