On the Podium: Creighton

SAN ANTONIO, Tex. - The NCAA presents a full transcript of Creighton head coach Greg McDermott and athletes Doug McDermott, Ethan Wragge, Jahenns Manigat, and Grant Gibbs from the Bluejays' Thursday press conference...

THE MODERATOR: We are joined by Creighton University studentathletes Doug McDermott, Jahenns Manigat, Ethan Wragge, and Grant Gibbs. Questions for the studentathletes.

Q. Doug, it's an east region question, but I wanted to know what your thoughts are about Bryce Cotton and the amount of minutes he plays, and how he never seems to tire and just how impressive that is?

DOUG McDERMOTT: It's really impressive. We actually played him three times this year. He's one of the more underrated players in the country. I think he deserves a lot more credit for what he's able to do out there. Just run the show for 40plus minutes is pretty impressive. We have a lot of respect for him and Providence.

Q. Guys, you come here and you've got Iowa State, you've got Creighton, you've got Nebraska. How strange is it that it seems like so many different divergent paths have all come together in this one pod?

DOUG McDERMOTT: I mean, it's pretty cool. It's not really strange to think. It's neat for all the fans. I feel like a lot of mutual friends are fans of the same teams. So I think maybe some of them traveled down together. You just see a lot of different people walking around the River Walk. Programs that we're all really familiar with.

Q. Doug, you're technically a walkon this season?


Q. And Grant, you have that scholarship now, right?

GRANT GIBBS: That is correct.

Q. Can you guys between the two of you tell us a little bit of the story about how that came about and why it happened?

GRANT GIBBS: Well, when we applied for an extra year for me, our program was out of the allotted scholarships that we get. So Doug knew that if I did get the extra year that he would become a walkon and Coach Mac, or Doug's family basically, would be paying for my school for a year. So he reminds me of that. His mother reminds me of that daily that I owe her some money when this is all over.

But it was a tremendous gesture, obviously, by Coach and Doug to do that for me to be able to come back for one more year. I think he's kind of solidified his spot as probably the best walkon in the nation with that.

Q. Tell us your side of it?

DOUG McDERMOTT: Yeah, I knew it was definitely an option. My summer I was traveling with USA basketball, and we were still waiting on the NCAA decision on Gibbs, and my dad called me on the way to Russia. I was in the airport, and he told me the news. I had never been more excited to be a walkon, because that meant we have one of our best players back. So we were really excited, and it's great to have Grant around us for another year.

Q. Grant, did you blog for somebody this year?

GRANT GIBBS: Yeah, for USA Today.

Q. How did that go? What kind of reaction did you get?

GRANT GIBBS: It was cool. It was a great opportunity. I've had some opportunities like that in the past and I passed them up just because it is difficult during the season. But when I thought my career was over, I kind of regretted not doing it. So with another year to do that, USA Today was nice enough to give me the opportunity. It's been a lot of fun, and definitely for keepsake to have those.

Q. Were you ever critical of any of your teammates in the blog?

GRANT GIBBS: Yeah, absolutely. I've enjoyed like the public forum to be able to expose some of these guys for their faults.

JAHENNS MANIGAT: Would you like to share some of what you said?

GRANT GIBBS: Yeah, Jahenns' Canadianisms is something we talked about in the blog. So it's been a cool thing to give fans more of an inside look and then obviously just having fun with it. And like I said, giving me a public forum to harass these guys.

Q. Doug, you said yesterday or the day before it would be a failure to not make the Sweet Sixteen. This is for all of you guys, now that you're here, what is the feel like? Is it differing any from the past two years?

DOUG McDERMOTT: Obviously, we'd love to make it to the Sweet Sixteen. Every team dreams of that. That's too far ahead of us right now. Right now it's just LouisianaLafayette and focusing on them. The last couple years we've definitely fallen short of our goal and now we're all back together. We feel like we can make a deep run.

Q. I'd like to have Grant and Ethan talk a little bit about the extent to which you think experience on a seniorladen team has helped your season and helps you going into this week?

ETHAN WRAGGE: Yeah, with me and Grant and I guess all of us just being seniors, I think it's kind of helped us really grind and win some games. We don't take things for granted. A lot of times there are a lot of young, athletic guys and sometimes you can count on that with experience, and I think that is a thing this team prides itself in. I think it's helped us in close games this year.

GRANT GIBBS: Yeah, I think it's definitely something we've leaned on, obviously, having a veteran group that's been battle tested. And this being our third time through in the tournament, we're hoping we'll use that to our advantage.

But I think it's just a trusting between having a senior group and the coaches and knowing what they expect and vice versa from them. So it's definitely something we've relied on to win some games.

Q. Jahenns, can you talk about Elfrid Payton from Louisiana and matching up with him and how you're planning to slow him down?

JAHENNS MANIGAT: He's a really good guard. He reminds us of Semaj Christon for Xavier the way he plays. He likes to get up and down in transition. He's great in that 15foot in area. So we'll have to be pretty creative in the different ways that we're going to guard him. We're trying to throw some different guys on him, probably, just to give him some different looks and make sure he doesn't get too comfortable with what's in front of him.

But with a player of his caliber, if you don't kind of throw some different pitches at him, he'll be able to kind of be comfortable all night. So I think different guys are going to have the job of staying in front of him and making his looks tough and making him finish over top of us as opposed to getting easy stuff down in the lane.

Q. When LouisianaLafayette was in here, they said that the only way they expect to be in this game is if they make their shots, make all their shots, literally said all their shots. Do you expect this to be a backandforth type of game?

GRANT GIBBS: Yeah, absolutely. They can really score the ball. They can get up and down and they play at a great pace. We've been trying to prepare for that. But I think we have a ton of respect for this team. Watching them on film and the games they've been in, they've been right there with some topical better teams.

So we understand the talent level and that they can really score the basketball and get up and down. So we're going to have to be locked in on the defensive end, and taking away easy buckets and trying to keep Payton under control because he's a terrific player. Like Coach alluded to earlier, he could play for anybody, and I think we respect that.

Q. Doug, what kind of relationship do you have with Fred Hoiberg, and when you guys saw that you and Iowa State would both be here with the history you have, did you have to laugh at all?

DOUG McDERMOTT: Yeah, I've known Fred ever since my Ames days. Obviously our high school team, we all looked up to Fred. He's the mayor. Everyone looked up to him. Harrison, it was a big controversy when Harrison Barnes wore his high school number.

So I've known him for a while. His family is still at Ames. His mom and dad and they've always been close to Ames High. I actually was at a couple weddings with him this summer. So just to be around him here, just really proud of what he's been able to do for Iowa State and kind of bring them back.

THE MODERATOR: We're joined now by Creighton University head coach Greg McDermott. Coach an opening statement?

COACH McDERMOTT: This never gets old, an opportunity to be back in the NCAA tournament. Obviously with this team and this group of seniors that has meant so much to our program and has accomplished things that no one before them has been able to accomplish, this is a fitting way to end their careers. Obviously, we're not in any hurry to go home.

Having said that, there is certainly a challenge ahead of us tomorrow with LouisianaLafayette. Their point guard, Payton, is maybe as good a point guard as we've played all year. With Shawn Long and the things that he can do on the front line, pulling you away from the basket certainly creates a whole set of challenges for our team. So I think it will be an exciting game tomorrow, an uptempo game, and one that we're going to have to play well if we expect to advance.

We're absolutely thrilled to be here. We appreciate the hospitality so far in San Antonio and look forward to hopefully spending the entire weekend here.

Q. Very few fathers and very few coaches get to be in this sort of situation on the eve of this tournament with your son. Are you allowing yourself at all to think "big picture" and "what if"? Or do you have to try to really push that aside?

COACH McDERMOTT: Doug and I, this season, have both really made a pact that we enjoy this. When he made the decision to come back for his senior season, the two things I told him is, number one, if you're going to come back, there's going to be some extreme pressure on you and your game is going to be critiqued by a lot of people. They're going to try to pick it apart. They're going to try to find weaknesses. You're going to get everybody's best shot.

So you have to make sure beyond all of that and with having said all of that that you enjoy this experience if you're going to come back to college. The second thing I said was you have to get better. We have to work to try to improve and make a difference in your game. Of course, he shot back at me okay, I'll enjoy it, but you have to enjoy it too.

So I've really forced myself to step back and really enjoy the opportunity that I have as a parent, the coaching aside, to watch what he's done. Watch him enjoy himself with his teammates. You know, it's going to come to an end sometime in the next three weeks. I hope closer to three weeks than the latter.

But I don't think I'm going to shed a tear when that happens, because I've been blessed to have the opportunity to coach him this year when I didn't think I was going to get that opportunity. I thought he was probably going to move on. So this has been a bonus for me. It's been an experience that I wish every parent could experience what I've had the opportunity to experience this year. It's been an incredible ride.

Q. A lot of the teams, top teams in the country are led by star underclassmen. You guys are the exception, seniorladen experience. What kind of advantages can that give a coach as far as teaching tools and getting things together a lot quicker than having to coach younger guys?

COACH McDERMOTT: I think from a tournament perspective, the fact that essentially our entire team has been here. They've won a game in the NCAA tournament each of the last two years, and they've lost a game in the NCAA tournament.

So I don't think they're in awe of the situation, which I think the first time you bring a team to the NCAA tournament the bells, the whistles, everything that surrounds it can be overwhelming at times. You want to make sure your team enjoys it.

But having done it already, I think their focus is able to be about the game maybe a little bit quicker than teams that have never done it before. I've seen a tremendous focus out of our guys this week. Obviously, we enjoyed San Antonio last night and we'll get a good meal tonight and enjoy it a little bit more tonight.

But having a group that's been through it as much as they've been through it has made it relatively easy for our coaching staff.

Q. You guys struggled against the zone and against Providence in the Big East final. The LouisianaLafayette coach said he tries to throw is expecting to throw that at you guys tomorrow. How do you think your team will respond to the zone, and why is the zone against you guys so effective?

COACH McDERMOTT: It's effective because we miss shots. If teams are willing to give Jahenns Manigat and Ethan Wragge the shots that they got against Providence, we'll roll the dice and take our chances. Those guys were 2 of 13 from the threepoint line and really all 13 were shots that I'll take every possession.

So those guys are career 40plus percent shooters and they've stepped up in big moments. It wasn't like we weren't ready for the zone. I thought we played a little rushed early in that game and turned it over a few times. But we had some good looks at the basket, we just didn't make them. And I'm confident that we'll make them this weekend.

Q. I asked the guys the same question. You've been here, you've done that for the last couple of years. Is there any different feel this time around knowing what is kind of expected of this team?

COACH McDERMOTT: I don't know that you feel any different. I don't know that you feel any more or less pressure. We've got an unbelievable fan base that obviously expects us to have a successful program. It didn't matter whether we were playing Cincinnati, Alabama or LouisianaLafayette, they expect that we win. That is our expectation.

But I don't sense any feeling of urgency because it's close to an end. I think their approach has been very similar to what it was in the regular season; and frankly, that's what it needs to be. We're not going to reinvent the wheel here. We're going to go play the way we play, and at the end of the day we hope that's good enough. It's been good enough far more times than it hasn't been over the course of the last three years.

I think our guys will compete. I think they'll play together. But you're also playing teams that have had great years, so that's what makes the NCAA tournament great. Anything can happen on any given day.

Q. What do you hope some of your younger players learn from this experience? Because obviously in about three weeks this is going to be their team.

COACH McDERMOTT: It's an unbelievable experience. It's unfortunate that Isiah's hurt and can't be part of it, but to have our three red shirts here, Zach Hanson, guys that haven't been through it before, it's really a good experience for them. To be able to watch Grant and Ethan and Doug and Jahenns handle themselves and how they go about their business with the media attention that they have to deal with why they're here, yet still finding a way to remain focused and lead our team in our practices and in our preparation in the film sessions to make sure guys are on point doing what they're supposed to do. I think it's certainly a learning experience for them. But it will make it easier when you get back here again.

Q. With the history that you and your family have with Ames and Iowa State, does it mean anything to be in the same place as they are for the tournament?

COACH McDERMOTT: You know, it's neat to be here. It's where Doug went to high school, obviously and had a great experience at Ames High School. Coach Hoiberg and his wife Carol and Theresa and I are really good friends. We were friends before he came to Iowa State and have continued to grow that relationship over the last four years. I recruited Melvin Ejim, so I'm pulling for him 100%. He's a wonderful young man and has had a great career and I'm very proud of that.

But it's amazing how things worked out. Sometimes when you have a shuffle like that, does the move work for me? Does it work for Iowa State? Does it work for Doug? In this case, everything worked great for everybody. I think that's really, really cool. I still have many good friends that will be here this weekend that I'm sure will find their way over to our game, and our family will be cheering for Iowa State as well.

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