Pre-game Q&A: Illinois Players

AUSTIN, Texas - Illinois seniors Brandon Paul, D.J. Richardson, Tyler Griffey and Sam McLaurin discuss Sunday's NCAA Tournament third round matchup with Miami.

AUSTIN, Texas - Illinois seniors Brandon Paul, D.J. Richardson, Tyler Griffey and Sam McLaurin discuss Sunday's NCAA Tournament third round matchup with Miami.

Q. This one is for Brandon, you're from the far north suburbs so you're pretty familiar with the Chicago area, you've got four guys from the Chicago area that are sophomores, the Athletic Director has been aggressive promoting the program in Chicago. Tell me how much it means each tournament win and the more visibility, how much that means for your family and friends and the family and friends of the Chicago guys back home.

BRANDON PAUL: I think it means a lot. Especially as a kid growing up you always want to play for your home state team. As a recruit, that's what I loved seeing about Illinois, they recruited inside the state a lot. For the younger guys it just shows that they get a lot more, I guess, press and it gives hope for other hoopers growing up, thinking that they can make their dreams come true. So I think the personality of Coach Groce as well as Mike Thomas, it's really good for the program.

Q. Brandon, the last two games you've been guarded by Victor Oladipo and Andre Roberson. You're not really catching a break tomorrow when you're going to see Durand Scott ACC Player of the Year. What have you seen from him on film?

BRANDON PAUL: He's a good player. Solid on both ends of the floor. He knows how to put the ball in the basket, obviously he's a great defender, playing on a great team that has had a lot of success this year. But I've played against tough defenders my whole life and these are the moments you get up for as a top player.

Q. Guys, this is for Tyler, I wonder if you could speak to the challenge that Miami's big inside game will post for you and also for your team.

TYLER GRIFFEY: They got a lot of big talented guys down there. We have to keep on the glass, it's like Brandon said, it's nothing we haven't seen before going through the Big-10. We have gone against bigger and stronger guys all year, so but we look forward to the challenge.

Q. D.J. and Brandon, what do you remember maybe about your first conversations with Coach Groce when he first got champagne your first impressions that you made you think that this guy might be really the right guy for the job.

D.J. RICHARDSON: Before we heard he was our new coach, just looking at his background, just how much he's achieved throughout his career as a coach. Taking a team like Ohio to the Sweet 16, when he first got there, our impression was like we all trusted him and what he had to say. His standards for our team was high quality and I think we all followed that throughout the year. I think that we helped him and he helped us get to the predicament and the place we are at right now.

BRANDON PAUL: I was really impressed by the way he opened up to us players. He had individual meetings with everyone. He was genuinely interested in what we had to say. He wasn't just doing because this is his new job and what's what he had to do. But he wanted to know about us, not only as players, he wanted to know our backgrounds, our friends, our family growing up. So that really impressed me. It gave me the type of confidence in him that continues to grow to this day.

Q. Sam, I'm going to ask the question about Florida that Paul asked Brandon about Chicago. You got two teams from Florida in this building today. You're from Florida. Did you ever think about playing there? Did you dream of those schools? Do you have a chip on your shoulder about tomorrow's game because of that?

SAM MCLAURIN: Actually, I'm from Tallahassee and when you're from Florida you're either a Hurricane, a Gator or a Seminole and I'm a Seminole, so, no, I never thought about playing for those guys.

Q. For Brandon and D.J., you guys obviously are seniors trying to make something special and it's been awhile since you've been to the Sweet 16. You're playing a team, Miami, that's full of seniors, also a number two seed. I'm assuming that based on what you guys want to accomplish and based on what you guys have done, with some of your earlier wins, you're not intimidated because of their seniors and they're number two.

BRANDON PAUL: We're not intimidated by anyone. We have been through a lot of games this season. We played top teams. Obviously with we went into a hostile crowd out in Gonzaga, played against Indiana twice this year, played against Michigan twice this year, basically the whole Big-10. This is just another challenge for us. Obviously Miami's a great team, they have had a lot of success this year, and their guys have great leadership. They have a lot of seniors like we do, a little bit older than us, but at the same time we have been through a lot and I think our position in the Big-10 has put us in this position right now to continue to be successful. But it's not going to come easy and we're going to look to battle tomorrow.

D.J. RICHARDSON: I think that Brandon basically hit all the points. We have been through a lot of different situations throughout our whole careers, all our seniors played in tough games, played a lot of minutes for our school. Sam played a lot of minutes for his school playing some tough games. It should be a tough matchup. We have five seniors as well and Joseph Bertrand is another guy that's, he's a red shirt junior and he's experienced as well.

Q. When you went back and looked at the tape from yesterday, what went wrong during the drought?

D.J. RICHARDSON: We really didn't -- we just talked about the game a little bit. The NCAAs, it's about advancing. We went through a couple of things about the game yesterday, but our main focus now is on Miami. They made a run yesterday, but now we have advanced. And the main goal was to find a way to be better than Colorado and that's what we did yesterday.

Q. Tyler, you guys have played some big teams in the Big-10, but few have as many bigs. They have four or five guys that are pretty burly. Do you and Egwu, do you make a concerted effort to hit the glass harder knowing there's a lot more beef this time around.

TYLER GRIFFEY: We always make a concentrated effort to hit the glass and go to the offensive glass as well. Coach talks about getting 68 percent of defensive rebounds back. That's a goal that we have set for every game. We definitely try to achieve that. But they got some bigs guys. Julian Gamble, Reggie Johnson, Kenny Kadji, we're going to have our work cut out for us as well. But we look forward to the challenge.

Q. For Sam and Tyler, has there been anything throughout the year that you have seen, the way Coach Groce goes about day-to-day work or preparing for games that's been particularly different or interesting for you guys to see?

TYLER GRIFFEY: Everything he does is at a high level energy wise. He's a ball of energy. He gets his coffee, he drinks two or three cups a day. But no, everything he does is, he's so focused, so energized and so enthusiastic about his job and about helping us succeed.

SAM MCLAURIN: I think not only with the energy that he brings every day, but he is really high on us paying attention to details. When we're not executing details and it shows up on film, he gets on each and every one of us about it. And he just tells us how much that is, how important that is for us to get where we want to be.

Illini Inquirer Top Stories