Hoops: Q&A with UM Players

Read on to see what Miami's players are saying the night before the team takes on Illinois in the third round of the NCAA Tournament.

Q. Guys, when you're practice was interrupted today, what were you thinking?
TREY MCKINNEY JONES: We didn't really know whether to leave or not until one of the security guards told us we had to evacuate the building. But then we made the most out of it. Julian was out there rapping, we were just having fun. Being brothers like we really are.

Julian Gamble: It's an unexpected in any event, but you have to know that you always have adversity, whether it be now or on the court and you have to be able to handle that. So I think it's a little bump in the road for us. And just being able to make the most of it and have fun outside with your teammates, like we always do.

KENNY KADJI: Whatever they both said. (Laughter.)

Q. Considering how the so called experts had you in the middle of the pack in the ACC in the pre season, you go on to win the out right conference title, to be one game away from the Sweet 16, which would be the first appearance for Miami in more than 10 years, in the Sweet 16, what does that mean to this program?
KENNY KADJI: It means a lot. But we know that it's just another game. We have to play against Illinois and they're a pretty good team. We don't want to look ahead of them.

Making it to the Sweet 16 would be great but we got a battle in front of us and everyone will be ready for tomorrow first.

JULIAN GAMBLE: We try not to think about the past too much. We have to worry about the present and take care of the things we can control. Because we know there are very little things in the grand scheme of things that we can control.

So just going out there and just playing the game, not getting caught up in the hype and playing to the best of our ability and giving Illinois our best punch.

TREY MCKINNEY JONES: We're a really confident team. We understand how deep we are. All the players and coaches have a lot of confidence in each other. I feel like that really helps us.

Q. Illinois, what do you see from them? What makes them dangerous?
JULIAN GAMBLE: They're a very good 3 point shooting team. That's one of their strengths. Along with that, they have a lot of experience. They have a lot of seniors and red shirt juniors and they have very good coach as well. They're very battle tested.

Playing in a league like the Big Ten, they have been battle tested every night. So we don't expect for them to be intimidated at all. We know we have a target on our back and we know we have to play have to go out there and play our best basketball.

Q. Trey, can you talk about Illinois' defense and what sort of schemes you're expecting from them?
TREY MCKINNEY JONES: At the end of practice just now we worked on their little what was that?


TREY MCKINNEY JONES: Zone, trap, out of the sideline out of bounds. And other than that, we pretty much just talked about them playing man to man and being ready for them to play zone as well.

Q. For Julian and Kenny, I know your guards get a lot of headlines and they get the big stats, but you guys are very deep as far as big guys are concerned. How do you set the tone in the trenches to make things easier for your guards?
JULIAN GAMBLE: First off, every headline and all the attention our guards are getting is well deserved. They're all very hard working guys. As for us to be able to really control the boards and just be physical with those guys and really try and help our guards get open. They get so much attention offensively and people try to attack them defensively, so also be able to just help them and kind of take the load off their shoulders a little bit.

KENNY KADJI: I think we got a pretty big team. We have four big men and we want to control the paint all the time. We're worrying about foul trouble and things like that. We know that Reggie and Tonye is coming off the bench and we got guys who can come and play well. So we just want to control the paint and be enforcers down there.

Our guards are going to do a bunch of the scoring and controlling the game and all we want to do is be physical and not let anybody come in the paint.

Q. For everyone, you guys have a win over Michigan State already, given the hype surrounding the Big Ten and you've already played a Big Ten opponent, you know what that's about. What can you kind of take from that game into this one?
TREY MCKINNEY JONES: I think what it really comes down to is us doing what we do best and that's locking down defensively. I feel like if we play the Miami defense and take away the 3 point shot I think that we'll do great.

JULIAN GAMBLE: I think that having played a team from the Big Ten kind of gives you a little bit of experience, but league wide they're just very tough. Teams that are going to rebound and really test you defensively. Illinois' a team that forces lot of turnovers, but they also foul a lot and in these games you never know what's going to happen. So you have to really be strong with the ball and not be able to turn the ball over and really handle their pressure.

KENNY KADJI: The Big Ten is a big conference, a physical conference and we know that. We won against Michigan State this year, but we lost to Minnesota last year by like 20. So we know that we have to come and be physical, played hard down in the paint and expect to win too.

Q. Julian, you're a rapper and Kenny, you're a dancer, Trey's kind of quiet over here. How would you describe Trey?
JULIAN GAMBLE: Trey is the cerebral assassin. He's the Swiss Army knife. Anything you ask of him he can do. And Trey can rap a little bit too. People don't know that though. But I live with him, so that's confidential.

KENNY KADJI: Trey does everything. Everything you ask for he gets on the court and does it. I think that he's the same off the court. You can ask him anything and he'll come and surprise you and do whatever you want him to do.

JULIAN GAMBLE: Kenny is also not much of a dancer.


JULIAN GAMBLE: I'm a dancer, Zinger, rapper, anything you need, I got you.

KENNY KADJI: They have videos of me dancing, so.

Q. I was going to ask you if any of you guys did you guys get to watch the Illinois game and what did you think when you watched the flows and weird ebbs of that game?
KENNY KADJI: A lot of scoring drought. They went on a run, and then for a couple minutes they couldn't score and then they went on a run. So you never know.

They shoot a lot of threes, I think they shot 31 threes yesterday. So you can't be surprised. They shoot the ball sometimes, they won't make any, sometimes they make everything. So you got to be just keep playing your defense and try to stop them.

Q. For each of you, could you talk about when Coach Larranaga came in what his approach was, what he's done to kind of get this thing turned around so quickly with you guys.
KENNY KADJI: I was very surprised. For a guy his age, he's so energized. He came in and I think the first day we had individual work out wit strength and conditioning coach and then we went and ran a mile the same day. So we were exhausted.

He knew that we had a pretty good team and we could do some great things and he came and gave us a plan and he told us what to do to execute it. And that's what we did.

JULIAN GAMBLE: I think it was just a beginning it was a culture change. That's something that he wanted to focus on, just changing the culture and what people thought about Miami basketball. So really just getting back to the fundamentals of the game and throughout the game having that toughness about us, toughness that teams really remember us for. And then down the stretch it's been being very poised and I think it's just kind of stuck so much better because we have so many veterans and it's a lot easier for us to buy into what he's saying, because we just want to win.

TREY MCKINNEY JONES: He wouldn't have left a good George Mason team if he didn't have, didn't think we had a lot of potential. And when he came in, he knew how to relate to us on and off the court. And I feel like that's why we have been so successful.

Q. Seems pretty clear you guys aren't just teammates you're also friends. Talk about how that's important and how that's helped you support each other during this run.
TREY MCKINNEY JONES: You hear it so often that teams are a tight knit family, but I can honestly say that Julian's my roommate, I knew about Kenny before I even got here. So we are really all like brothers and we have fun on and off the court and when we're having fun on the court, I think that's when we're really tough to beat.

JULIAN GAMBLE: I think it just kind of speaks to the bond that you have and how that off the court bond really translates to on the court. If you think about how much we really have each other's back and even when a guy makes a mistake to really be there and pick him up or all just cheering for each other the same way. We want to, we want each other to be equally successful and it all comes from team success. So I think that on the court and off the court bond that we share really helps us out and it shows how much we love to be around each others. Not only the players, but the coaching staff as well, that we love each other very much?

KENNY KADJI: And I also think that we can relate to each other. There's a lot of five year, six year seniors on this team. Guys who have been through a lot. I played Trey when I was at Florida, I mean I knew Durand Scott, knew a couple guys on the team and I just think that we have been through so much that we could relate to each other. We knew what we had to do to be successful and we wanted to win.

Q. For Trey and for Julian, I know you guys are focused on the next game, but the whole country seems to have discovered another one of the schools in your state in the last 24 hours in Florida Gulf Coast. I know that you guys were familiar with them long before any of us were, what can you tell us about those guys and were you surprised to see the upset yesterday?
TREY MCKINNEY JONES: I wasn't surprised, just because of how they put it on us early in the season. They're a great team and as you saw yesterday they're very confident. They weren't ready to back down at all. And they put the pedal to the metal and they didn't stop.

JULIAN GAMBLE: They're a little bit similar to us in that they play with a chip on their shoulder even when we played them at their police they played with a chip on their shoulder. Actually one of their players on the team, Eric McKnight, I grew up with in North Carolina as well, so I kind of know the type of person that he is and the struggles that he's gone through to be able to get to that moment.

So I wasn't surprised at all. They just went out there and played basketball. It just goes to show in these tournaments you have to come in and play and seeding doesn't matter and you can't go into these games and take any of these teams for granted.

KENNY KADJI: I just know that everybody on our team picked them to win that game. We knew how Florida Gulf Coast was and they're a pretty good team and the way they played against us at their place was unbelievable. Everybody was saying we didn't have Durand Scott back, I knew that that was not a fluke and they were a pretty good team. So, you know, just good job to them. I think that they will go far in this tournament.

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