Q&A: Illinois Players

AUSTIN, Texas - Illinois seniors Brandon Paul, D.J. Richardson, Tyler Griffey and Sam McLaurin discuss the NCAA Tournament matchup with Colorado.

AUSTIN, Texas - Illinois seniors discuss the NCAA Tournament matchup with Colorado.

Q. Brandon, Colorado has said that Andre Roberson is going to check you at the beginning of the game. What do you see from him on film on what's the key to playing against him?

Brandon Paul: Robinson's a real athletic kid. He lives on the rebounding and he's like a double digit guy every night. I know he's real athletic, so it's going to be challenge, but we put ourselves in position to be successful. And I know my teammates are going to do a good job of getting me in positions to score.

Q. How concerned have you guys been with their length? Big team.

BRANDON PAUL: I don't think we're real concerned. We're a pretty athletic team. We got guys, that if our guys are smaller, they makeup with their athleticism. They're a team that's has a lot of balanced scoring and a lot of size. But as long as we play our game, I think we'll be in good shape.

Q. Particularly for Sam and Tyler, answer the same question.

SAM MCLAURIN: Coming from the league that we played in all year, we're kind of used to being one of the smaller teams inside. So I think our body of work this entire season has prepared us for a moment like this.

Tyler Griffey: We got a lot of size too. We have been going up against bigger guys the whole year.

Q. Tyler, when you have a big scoring night, is it because you're feeling it, is it because of situations that leave you open? What are sort of the ingredients that make for a game when you have a good offensive game?

TYLER GRIFFEY: I just try to do whatever it takes to help the team win. When I get an opportunity to score or to shoot to the best of my ability I take them. But a lot of my job is to do little things too, rebounding, boxing out, and just playing solid defense.

Q. Tyler, when you went through that long stretch there where you were 0 for whatever on the 3's, can you talk about what the response and the support was like from coaches and players, and how important that was and getting you back on track.

TYLER GRIFFEY: Unbelievable. They knew I was in the gym, I was working so hard trying to get one to fall. But coach just did a good job, he kept drawing place up for me to get open shots. Teammates kept feeding me when I was open and they all had confidence in me and I was able to knock down the next one.

Q. For Brandon and D.J., you guys have said repeatedly you kind of want to leave a mark or all of you want to leave a mark on this program. How important is this week for you guys to take that step and to do something for the program?

D.J. Richardson: It's a big step for us. Obviously we have been through a lot in our careers. We're looking for the big matchup tomorrow. We just want to have fun and go out there with a bang. It's our last -- this could possible be our last game tomorrow, but at the same time we are going to come out and fight and have fun at the same time.

BRANDON PAUL: Opening up the season with the Maui, with that championship, that gave us a lot of confidence for the year. So I think we did a lot of good things this year to look back on as seniors regardless of the outcome tomorrow. But like he said, we're going to go out and compete. We're not ready for it to be over yet. We got a good team ahead of us in Colorado, so we're looking forward to the challenge but we're going to compete and we're going to leave it on the floor.

Q. Sam, you know these are unchartered waters for you, this the is the first time in the tournament what's the experience been like?

SAM MCLAURIN: Oh, man, it's been unbelievable. Getting that police escort to the gym. That's pretty awesome. But, no, it's everything I expected it to be. The team, a lot of the younger guys haven't experienced this as well. So we're all pretty excited about it. And we're looking to do some good things tomorrow.

Q. Can you guys just talk about the new coaching staff and how you guys embraced them and how early that process began and what it's been like for them.

D.J. RICHARDSON: It's been great. We have a mature team, everyone been in since day one. We trust what the coaches have to say. Coming off a strong season that they had over in Ohio, it was exciting. They got here, from day one everybody on the team bought in. I think we showed a lot of maturity.

BRANDON PAUL: Basically what he said, the coaches came in the with the mindset that they wanted to win and they didn't want this to be a rebuilding year. And we had the same mindset. A lot of people petitioned us to come in and just play, but we competed, we wanted to win and we did that. Starting out early we had a great non-conference schedule and we finished in our conference good. So with them coming in and they put a lot of trust in us and I think we just were on the same page and it just helped us build a relationship with the coaches.

TYLER GRIFFEY: Coach and his staff have done a great job from day one. Building relationships with us on and off the court and just in gaining our trust. Each day that goes by, we know that the success that he's had last year at this tournament and it's something that we can look forward and build on.

SAM MCLAURIN: When they recruited me to come in, they were saying Meyers has just left, first round, so a lot of people was doubting him. Saying that it wouldn't be a team able to make the tournament. And this team hasn't been to the tournament in a few years. So we all accepted the challenge. We knew it would be tough, but we knew we had to fill the void that Meyers left as a unit. And we were able to come out and do some good things.

Q. Have you had a chance to see Austin at all? Is there anything about it from just getting ready for Colorado that you have done that you can share that you've enjoyed?

BRANDON PAUL: No, we pretty much, we went to the Vince Young restaurant and ate there. It was really good steaks there. And Vince Young was in the house so that was pretty cool. But aside from that, we have been riding around, getting to practice, to the hotel and getting prepared for the game tomorrow. I don't think anything else is really as important as the preparation for the game. So that's about it.

Q. For Brandon, D.J. and Tyler, how does this experience this year compare to two years ago in Tulsa?

TYLER GRIFFEY: It means something special for me. Something I'm remember for the rest of my life. Sophomore year, a couple years ago I wasn't playing as much, so it's kind of special for me to be a major part of it.

D.J. RICHARDSON: It was great. To see our name get called to be here. Obviously it's one of the best tournaments in the country and it's just a blessing, like I said. It's really that's really all. It just a blessing.

BRANDON PAUL: A lot of kids wish they were in the position that we are in and there's nothing more to say than it really is a blessing. This is the second time we have been able to do this and we want to take advantage of this and just get everything we can out of it. We want to look back on this when we're a little bit older and say that we got to do this. So we're looking to go forward in this tournament.

Q. Brandon and D.J., Brandon you talked about going up against Roberson with him guarding you, D.J., Dinwiddie will probably check you. Have you ever seen defenders that big with that big a wing span? Any guys compare to them?

D.J. RICHARDSON: Well we're four-year college players and we have been through a lot, especially playing in the Big-10, so many great players that have been through our league. We play like 34 games this year and we experienced a lot of things. So obviously they're pretty good guys, overall long length, six-six, six-seven guys that can spread you good on defense, but we played so many games this year that we should be ready to play them.

BRANDON PAUL: There's not a lot of different -- I played against Victor Oladipo the last few years, so I'm sure obviously he's the defensive Player of the Year. He's a tough guy to go against. And I've seen all types of defense, so going against these guys I'm going to look at it as if I look at every other game. I'm not going to take them for granted, I'm not going to be like, oh, these guys can't guard. Clearly, they're a good team that defend well or they wouldn't be in the tournament. I just got to make sure I'm cautious, I take care of the ball. Scoring's not going to be an easy task, but at the same time I'm a gifted scorer, I know that, the team knows that, so I'm going to look forward to my God given abilities and my teammates and coaches putting me in a position to score, because that's what I do best.

Q. For any or all of you guys, knowing that Coach Groce has won in this tournament as a 13 and a 14 seed, what are your impressions of that? What does that mean to you guys?

SAM MCLAURIN: It just shows us that if we listen to him and we execute the game plan that he provides for us, it gives us a good opportunity to win. He's won with lesser talent and we have the talent to win games in this tournament.

TYLER GRIFFEY: It means he knows what he's doing. When he says something, when he's had success at this level, we trust that when he says something, it's going to work.

D.J. RICHARDSON: He knows what he's doing. Obviously the staff, they do a great job with the scouting report and just them as well, getting us prepared for the game. So even though Coach Groce did get a lot of credit with for what he does, the staff does a huge part for our game plan.

BRANDON PAUL: Yeah, he's been here before, he's been where we want to go, and as a senior, we, me, Tyler and D.J. we made it past our first round our sophomore year. But Sam, none of us have been past that. And they have done it a few times. So just having that coaching staff, they have had the greatest amount of trust in us throughout the year and we're going to continue to move forward with them. We're looking forward to the challenge tomorrow. I think that they keep us prepared and we're going to stay prepared.

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