Gators vs. Bruins: Player Pre-Game Quotes

Quotes from several players on the Gators and Bruins on the upcoming naitonal championship game.

Final Four: Florida Gators - Breakout Interviews
Florida Forward Al Horford
On UCLA's style of play:
"UCLA plays defense like Georgia. They are a scrappy and physical team who is very athletic. They are a big-time defensive team."
On head coach Billy Donovan:
"It would be great for him, our program and for the University of Florida to win a national championship. Our coaches have worked so hard, and we really want to give them this win."
On Florida's basketball tradition:
"I know a lot about Florida's basketball tradition. When I came to Florida, I didn't know that much about it, but Coach Donovan has really tried to instill that in us. Florida made it to the Final Four in 1994. There is a lot of tradition at Florida, and we are trying to build on that."
UCLA's success against LSU in the semifinal game:
"UCLA was dominate. They shut LSU down early and never gave them the opportunity to get back into the game. LSU is a great team, but UCLA stopped them in every aspect."

Florida Guard Taurean Green
On expectations in preseason:
"Our team felt like in the preseason that when we weren't getting any respect, we still had the mentality in that we knew what we had. We felt that we could get to this point if we just worked hard."
On realizing a dream:
"Growing up, every kids dream is going to college and playing for a national championship. We're excited now that we're here and we're just going to try to seize the moment."
On rituals in pre-game:
"I really don't have anything that I repeat. But no, not at all, I don't do that. We do have the same thing that we do as a team. We go to pre-game meal, get taped and we do all that sort of stuff before a game. I don't do anything over and over. I'm not superstitious. Maybe Joakim [Noah] is. But I'm not."
On Donovan:
"He's a really intense coach. The thing I like about Coach Donovan is that he really cares about his players. He tries to get you to be the best that you can be. Just what he's taught me from the basketball standpoint has helped me and really helped the other players. You can see the improvement that Joakim [Noah] has made, that Al [Horford] has made, that we've all made since we've gotten here. It's because coach will sit down individually with you and talk with you and try to get you the best that you can be."
On not having players with much starting experience coming into season:
"We knew starting out that we would be thrown in different roles than in the previous year, so we just started out and played together unselfishly and knowing that we wanted to see each other get better."

Florida Forward/Center Joakim Noah
On how he got started playing basketball:
"I remember playing in all these tournaments in New York as a kid. I remember playing long hours in the gym by yourself early in the morning. I was doing whatever it takes to get to this moment and this is as a basketball player your dream to play for a national championship. It's such a great feeling that it's finally here. There has been so much hard work and so much sacrifice. There are so many moments that I can go back to like being a little kid walking to practice. It's great, but at the same time I can't look back on these moments. I have to really narrow my focus on the task at hand because we are playing a really powerful team tomorrow."
On Mbah a Moute (UCLA player from Cameroon):
"I have never played against him but I've seen him play a couple of times. He's a really tough player and I have a lot of love for people from Cameroon especially guys that are playing basketball and doing well. I know (UCLA) has a couple of guys from Cameroon on their team. After the game we will probably talk but right now he's the enemy. I'm not really worried about showing him any love."
On growing up around Big East schools and being recruited by Ben Howland:
"I remember skipping school a few times to go watch the Big East tournament in New York. I got recruited from a couple of Big East schools after ABCD camp where I did pretty well. I was getting recruited by low Division I schools. Actually, (UCLA) Coach Howland was the first coach to ever recruit me. My sophomore year when he was still at Pitt, I remember him being in the office at my school and saying one day he would recruit me. It's crazy now we are playing him in the National Championship."
On the reputation on Florida as a "soft school:"
"It's tough when people are calling your program soft. You definitely use what is written as extra motivation. I don't know about us being soft. There's a lot of luck involved. If Corey Brewer hadn't hit that crazy jumper on the side, we might have lost to Georgetown. So a lot of luck comes into play. You might be nine times better than a team out of ten, but with a lot of these games (in the NCAA tournament), when it's one and done, you might lose that one game."
On the recent tradition of Florida and if it's the beginning of a longer tradition:
"UCLA definitely has the bigger names but I look up to guys like Major Parker, Udonis Haslem, David Lee, and Anthony Roberson. They are a big influence on my life. There is nothing soft about them. I've watched those games. When we went to the National Championship and lost to Michigan State, I remember watching the guys and how hungry they were and how they played. That's an influence to me. It might not be the same tradition (as UCLA), but it's definitely an influence to know that they (former Florida basketball players) are watching, and it makes me play that much harder."

Florida Guard/Forward Corey Brewer
On UCLA's semifinal win:
"We watched them in our rooms, because we just got back from our game, but you could tell that they were a great defensive team. They really play hard. We watched again this morning, and their personnel is really good."
On team comparison:
"Defensively, I think South Carolina is a very good comparison. But you really can't compare this team to anybody. They're a totally different team.They take you out of your offense. They do a lot of different things. They really play you physical and they bump you off of cuts. They really try to take you out of your offense, so you have to be strong."
On playing different styles in the SEC:
"I think it helps us a lot because we've won playing in the fifties, and we've won playing in the eighties and nineties, so we just have to play whatever way it comes down to. We just have to go out there and get a win."
On playing in a defensive system:
"I think I could play in that system because I like playing defense. That's my game. I wouldn't mind playing in that system."
On establishing their play:
"George Mason was very physical too, and tried to take us out of our offense. You have to establish your game plan at the beginning of the game, and let them know that you're not going to get punked."
On finality of season:
"It's all about winning your last game. You always want to win your last game. In high school and in college, you always want to win your last game, because when you win that last game, it means you're the champion."
On his father:
"I talked to him on the phone last night after the game. He has heart problems and diabetes, so he can't travel like he'd want to. I think he'll be home watching like he always does."
On growing up:
"I had to work really hard growing up, because we really didn't have a lot. My dad was a farmer, and he had a trash route, so we had to work in the fields, and haul trash on the weekends."

Florida Guard Lee Humphrey
On what he knows about UCLA:
"We haven't had a chance to see a whole lot of UCLA. We watched a little bit of film this morning. Throughout the tournament we heard about their defense. We saw a little bit of the LSU game last night and they played very well. We know they have a lot of great athletes on their team and they make defense their staple. They've got a lot of length. Their big guys are very athletic and their guards are as well."
On Florida's strength:
"I think our biggest strength as a team, offensively, is we have a lot of guys who can score. In different games this year, different guys have stepped up. Our team is very unselfish and we generally have a high number of assists and pass the ball. I think, for us to be successful, we need to do that again tomorrow night."
On taking out the Cinderella team, George Mason:
"I don't feel like we were bad guys. My job was to go out and win. We knew George Mason was a good team. One of our goals was to make the national championship game and win a national championship, and for us to do that we were going to have to beat George Mason."
On winning a championship:
"We never won a state championship in high school. This is definitely the farthest I have ever been in a school sport. I've thought about [winning] some. It was one of our goals coming into the tournament, trying to win a national championship. We've got the opportunity to give that a try, and I can't imagine what it would be like it if we actually do."
On the expectations of his recruiting class:
"We weren't promised anything. We were promised we would have an equal chance to prove that we could play, and I think we got that in practice. I didn't really know what to expect playing wise, but we knew if we came in and worked hard, coach would give us a chance.
On his role with this team:
"I think my role on this team is a little more than what it was the past couple of years. I play defense, shoot 3-point shots. That's been a big part of my role this year. I had to play a lot more minutes, but I've tried to be a solid player for our team."
On the breeze/draft in the RCA dome:
"I did notice the breeze, but I didn't really adjust the shot. I don't think it was strong enough to make an effect. I don't think it was like playing outside in the park on a windy day."

Final Four: Florida Gators - Locker Room Quotes

Florida Forward Chris Richard
On playing in the Southeastern Conference:
"I think the SEC has certainly shown its strength this year. Our league had the NIT champion (South Carolina) and two teams in the Final Four (Florida and LSU). Playing quality teams throughout the year has made us a better team."
On UCLA's rich basketball tradition:
"There's no doubt that UCLA has a great basketball tradition. They've won 11 national championships and we've never won one. I think winning (the national championship game) tomorrow night would be great for our team and our school."
On comparing UCLA to any team they've played this year:
"UCLA is a little bit like Arkansas. They have a strong frontcourt, but they also have fast guards who can shoot the three and penetrate down the lane."
Florida Forward Adrian Moss
On this being his last game:
"I went into the tournament thinking that each game could be my last, but these guys have extended my career."
On how Coach Donovan changed during his career:
"As far as practices, he cuts back on the physicality of practice as the season goes by. It turns to more mental practices as the season goes on."
On how Coach Donovan was during his freshman and sophomore years:
"Yeah, he used to destroy us, three hour practices, we would spend hours killing each other before games."
On if Coach Donovan has mellowed:
"No, not at all. He's still passionate about it the same as he's always been."
On playing for a National Championship:
"We're going to go win it. I'll probably have a lot of phone calls, I'll probably turn my phone off, but I'm going to be focused on winning."

Final Four: UCLA Bruins - Breakout Quotes

UCLA Forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute

On leaving Cameroon:
"Leaving my hometown and my family was very hard. I am very close to my family, and I miss them very much. They were all at the airport when I left. I knew I had to come to the States. My dad told me that a man has to do what a man has to do, and I have to be in control of my life. It was very hard leaving."

On yesterday's game against LSU:
"I am very happy with the way we played. We came out firing and played strong defense. Everyone, from the starters to the players that came off the bench, knew what they had to do. Everyone executed. We played with a lot of heart and intensity."

On what winning a national championship would mean:
"Winning a national championship would mean a lot. It means a lot to be here right now, but we want to win. As a freshman, you hope you can come in and contribute, and I feel like I have done that."

On returning to Cameroon:
"I definitely want to return to Cameroon. Cameroon is home to me. I love my country, and when all is said and done, I want to go home. I miss home very much. If my dad were to choose me as his successor, it would be an honor and privilege."

On his first memory of the Final Four:
"The first time I watched the tournament was with a friend three or four years ago when Syracuse won. I remember watching it and thinking that playing in the Final Four would be a dream come true. To be here is very special and I know I am very lucky."

On the UCLA tradition:
"I began learning about the UCLA tradition when I was being recruited. I had to research about all the schools. The tradition wouldn't be the same without Coach Wooden. I say hello to him at home games. He is a great guy. He is so active and very smart. I think it's great that he is that active and is 95 years old."

On teammate Alfred Aboya:
"Alfred is like my brother. It's great having him here with me. All the guys on the team are important to me, but Alfred is like family. He understands where I come from and who I am. In Cameroon, he lives 20-25 minutes away from me."

UCLA Center Ryan Hollins

On buying into Coach Howland's program:
"It's always different going from one coach to the next. I was a freshman so it was probably easier for me than guys like Cedric (Bozeman), but we just wiped the slate clean and worked at it."

On learning the new system:
"The slate was wiped clean every day, every practice. We had to start over and learn a whole new system."

On senior Cedric Bozeman:
"He means so much to the team. He's been through everything. Since he's gotten here it's been the worst, not living up to expectations, but he's never let that get to him. He's a quiet guy and humble, but very focused and you feel that and respect his determination."

On becoming more physical and stronger in the past two years:
"I'm a lot stronger. I've put it into my head that I wasn't going to be denied. A lot of people said that the only thing I lacked was physical strength. I'm not the biggest guy now, but I've put in countless hours in the weight room, I've worked harder than anyone."

On time spent in the weight room:
"As a freshman you're kind of naive to it, you think you can play well and that's all you need,but as you get older you realize that lifting weights is something you have to wake up each day for. It's a job, but it gets fun after a point. You see yourself getting stronger, you see a difference, you're getting bigger, and after a while they couldn't get me out of the weight room."

On contrast between Coach Howland and former coach Steve Lavin:
"I was only with Coach Lavin for a year and it was a horrible year. I didn't get to see the Sweet 16 or the Elite 8 or the success. I came in at a down time. I have so much respect for Coach Lavin and his style and his attitude toward the game, but Coach Howland is a different coach. Every coach is different and you can't compare them both because every coach is different."

UCLA Guard Arron Affalo

On being so close to UCLA's 12th national championship:
"Kids our age don't always realize what they're doing at the time. Final Four experiences and national championships have a lot of historical value. There are a lot of people who love this game. There are millions of kids on playgrounds who would love to be in our shoes right now. We feel very fortunate to be here and want to take advantage of this opportunity."

On playing defense:
"Playing good defense was kind of my role last year. I looked at myself as a stopper. Buying into defense isn't too hard once you start winning games. The guys on this team figured out how we were winning games and, once you see the system working, you don't want to change it."

On how he defends the three-point shot:
"Your heels need to be outside the three-point arc. At this level, guys are capable of making shots in your face. You're not going to block too many shots outside the arc, but the key is to alter as many as you can."

On the first time he met Coach Ben Howland:
"I first met him during my junior year of high school. He came up to the school and introduced himself. It was a pretty simple exchange. I committed pretty quickly so he didn't have to do too much selling."

UCLA Guard-Forward Cedric Bozeman

On Coach Howland's focus on defense:
"Coach has taught us to be disciplined and focused. He's got us thinking about taking good shots, and being more aggressive on defense. Whatever coach tells us to do is what we do."

On the pedigree of Florida's players versus UCLA's program:
"We've never been a team of individuals. We don't really pay as much attention to the names on our backs as we do the UCLA on the front. That's our number one priority. We believe that with a good team effort there will be individual success."

On dealing with the losing teams early in his career:
"It made us tougher. It was hard going to school after losses. Losing doesn't feel good. We remember what it feels like to be a part of those losing teams and it only makes us hungrier to win. We don't forget where we were, we just stay focused on the game in front of us."

On dealing with team injuries throughout the season and playing in the National Championship:
"Coach built us up to be tough. When guys went down, it gave other guys the opportunity to step up."

On the style of play in the Pac-10:
"It's funny. There are teams that want to fast break, there are teams that want to slow it down, and there are teams that can play both styles. So I think the Pac-10 season prepares you for the tournament because you see a lot of different styles in the tournament."

On how Coach Howland prepares the team mentally:
"We can go out and play a great game defensively and offensively and Coach will break us right back down. In film sessions he can break down every little thing and say, ‘If we do this again, we are definitely going to lose the game.' I think that's where the mental toughness comes in."

On the difficulty of adjusting to a new coach:
"I think we have a great group of players with great character. We're willing to listen to our coach. At the time, we were losing, so we would do anything to win. Buying in this quickly just shows the kind of character we have on the team."

On the talent on the team his first year versus this year:
"From the guys that were on that team my freshman year, I think three of the starters are in the NBA. This year's team is more about cohesiveness and playing together."

UCLA Guard Jordan Farmar
On how much time Coach Howland spent talking about defense when he recruited you: "All he did was talk about defense. That's what he did, that's what he coaches, that's what he teaches. I'm glad he's honest. So that's one of the biggest, if not the biggest and one of the most intriguing reasons for me coming to UCLA. I realized that to become the best basketball player I could be, which is what I wanted to do when I came to college, I needed to work on the areas of my game that needed improvement and that was one of the biggest. I really needed to focus on my defense and I thought that, that being one of my weaknesses and that being one of my coach's strengths, it would be a good combination to help me reach my potential."

On UCLA being such a defensive team, does it or does it not sell in LA:
"We're not worried about selling tickets. If they want to buy tickets, they are more than welcome to come. If not, we're going to play whether the stands are full or empty. We have a job to do, and we're going to do what we need to accomplish it without worrying about outside sources. When you're winning games, people come no matter what the score is."

On being a low-scoring walk-it-up-the-court team:
"I don't think we're low scoring. We just do what it takes to win and we're smart. That's my thought as well as Coach Holland's. If it's in our best interest to push the ball up the court like it was last night, then that's what we do. But if teams are scoring in transition and getting back up the court, then it's tough to push it. We don't take a lot of bad shots. We just value the ball and try to take good shots. If that results in low scoring, then we'll take it. We're just trying to get the best looks for our team."

On how much UCLA's reputation helps this team:
"I think it helps a lot. That's where the mission starts. I think our tradition really helps set the bar. Us knowing that nothing but winning a national championship is accepted really helps us. We won our conference, we won our conference tournament, we got to the Sweet 16, we got to the Final Four, but we'll really be recognized unless we win that national championship. I don't think that adds pressure. I think that helps start the mission. We're just trying to reach our goals."

On spending more time in practice on defense than offense:
"We spend much more time on defense. It started from day one. It's a whole set of principles of the way we run our team. Then we just tweak it a little bit for each team on how we are going to play, depending on their personnel. We're always going to be physical. We have to be because in order to beat a team, you have to rebound and to rebound, you've got to be physical. When you go up against a team like LSU, you have to be physical to overcome their athleticism, whether that's Darren Collison at 150 pounds or Ryan Hollins at 240."

UCLA Players - Locker Room

UCLA Center Lorenzo Mata
On battling Florida's front line after the tough LSU test: "LSU's big men were real good and real strong. Florida is the same way and we're going to do the same thing and use the same strategy. We need to keep doing what we do and keep playing defense."

On the confidence he is playing with after a strong performance against LSU:
"I feel good. It was a good game for me. Tomorrow is the end of the season, and we're playing for a national championship, so I am just going to go out there, step on the court and leave it all out there."

On the up-tempo style of Florida:
"We kind of want to do the same type of thing. We kind of want to run and everything, but we're definitely going to try and slow them down so they don't get easy baskets. We're the ones who are trying to get easy baskets, so we're going to keep playing defense."

On being one win away from a national championship:
"It's just another game for us. Yeah, we're playing for a national title, but it's one game like any other game. We're going to come out there and do what we've been doing."

UCLA Guard Darren Collison

On playing in the finals:
"We still have another game to play. We still have to be focused, and we still have to do the same things that we've been doing the last couple of games. Florida is a good team."

On his play:
"I'm getting a lot more comfortable out there. My composure is down, that's all it is. On this stage right now, you've got to keep your composure. You have to have the best possible plays down the stretch in the game."

On what to expect from Florida:
"Pretty much the same thing all teams do when they have good perimeter guards. They tend to run. They handle the ball really well, and they shoot really well. And that's what we expect from Florida. They are going to run the court really well."

On team's improvements throughout the season:
"Defensively, we've improved a lot. That's what has caused us to win games. If the offense isn't working, we can turn it over and rely on our defense."

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