You really hit the boards hard tonight (16 rebounds) …
Last week we got outrebounded pretty bad and I thought that was partly my fault, even though I had 10 rebounds. In practice, Coach got on us on Tuesday and we all we were going 100% and we still had more in us, so tonight I came out and knew I needed to control the boards and tried to get as many as I could.
How do you feel about the state of your conditioning right now?
I feel right now I'm in the best shape of my life weight-wise and conditioning-wise, but I still can get a lot better. I still get winded, too – I got winded pretty bad in the second half and I gave Coach the tired signal, but I feel I can go pretty long and we've got another six practices. I'm really going to push it so come Nov. 22 I'll be able to play 35-40 minutes.
Talk about how Team Nike came back after your early lead …
I just think we let down and we can't do that. When we got that lead we just kind of backed off. Coach talked to us about not letting down and that's something we've got to stop.
What does the team need to work on most over the next six practices?
Defensively, we've just got to get after it a little more. We get after it at the beginning, but then we have those stretches for 2, 3, 4 minutes where we back off. If we can hit it hard, get on ‘em defensively and pressure them, it's going to be hard for teams to play against us.
How'd it feel to race ahead for the fast break dunk?
It's great. I knew once Ousmane (Cisse) scored, Coach said ‘If they score, you can't do anything about it so just run.' I boxed out and as soon as that ball went in the basket, I just took off. I beat the whole team down the floor and Raymond, a heck of a player, threw it over the top. It's a great feeling to know that if you run you're going to be rewarded for it. I'm going to continue to do a lot more of that.
Do you think opponents are getting surprised by how well you can run?
People are still used to seeing me from last year, real heavy. I didn't like to run a lot last year, but I've got to like to run a lot this year if I want to play. I'm just going to do what Coach asks, he told me to get out and run and that's what I'm going to do.
What does this team still need to work on?
I think that we run well, but we can always run better and faster and get the ball out quicker. We've still got a lot of work to do the next 7-8 days, but we'll be prepared.
And what did the team do well tonight?
I thought we played real good. A couple lapses where we didn't really keep up our defensive intensity and let them back in the game a couple times.
How tough was it to come in with confidence after shooting 1-for-9 in the first half?
It's tough, you have those nights. But for me, my aspect was to come in and help my team build the lead and help us win. So that's all that I was worried about. Some days you're on, some days you're off. You've got to keep shooting. For me it's not a big thing because I'm trying to make my teammates better and keep the offense flowing. I hit some shots, I missed some shots – it comes with the territory.
Can you guys maintain the fast pace Coach Williams wants, considering the lack of depth and with David [Noel] out?
We can with conditioning and a lot of hard work. With a lot of hard work we can do about anything, so we keep going out and working hard – we'll be ready.
Coach Williams said there's going to be a lot more conditioning in the next week – is that exciting?
Not really, but it's part of the job. Got to go out and do what coach expects you to do.
What about the team's rebounding tonight?
I think we did a decent job, as far as the first half and beginning of the second half. We need to keep it consistent – can't depend on Sean and Jawad to get all the rebounds. More of our guards have to get in there and rebound more.
What do you think of Justin Bohlander's game?
I've always loved the way he plays because I think he's very talented. It's all about his confidence in wanting to be as good as he can. He can help us a whole lot, once he gets in the mindset of getting a little swagger.
In the transition game, how much fun is it to get the ball out of the basket after they score and quickly get it right back?
It's fun because it's unexpected for the defense. They want to celebrate a little bit and we've already got the ball downcourt. If we can learn to be a lot more consistent with that, we'll put a lot more points on the board.
Can you talk about how the injury occurred last week?
I layed the ball up and turned around and collided with Reyshawn Terry and hyper-extended my thumb. I just went off to the sideline and told Skate (trainer Marc Davis) ‘I felt something pop' and it didn't hurt too much, but once Skate put the ice on it and I took it off, it was swelling. So Skate wrapped me up and sent me to sports medicine. They took the X-rays the next day and found out it was torn ligaments and had torn off a piece of bone.
And they had to delay the surgery for a week to avoid infection?
Yeah, I had a scar and any time you have a scar or scratch where they need to repair, they postpone it until the scar gets better. I had a scratch during the Blue-White game and they didn't know about it until after they had taken the X-rays. Dr. Taft told me we'd have to wait until it healed all the way up before they do surgery.
How are you dealing with the injury?
It's tough – real tough. Just trying to keep my emotions down and not be negative out there on the court. I'm just trying to keep high spirits around my teammates and not let them see me down.
Do you and Sean talk about it all, since he went through this last year?
We talked the day before my surgery about how it'll go and how he felt last year. This is one thing I wish on nobody. It shows you how fast something you love can be taken away so quickly. Hopefully I can get back and help this team.
Conditioning is such a key in Coach Williams' style of play, what are you doing to stay in shape?
I've been running with the team. I haven't played basketball or caught a pass, but I've been running up and down the court and tried to keep in shape.
What are your expectations for returning to the court?
I'm not sure. I'm just ready to get back out there. Probably six weeks, but I'm hoping for less. We'll see – I really don't know yet.
Thoughts on the team's play tonight?
They did a lot of great things out there. We had a couple of lapses where we lapsed on defense and our guys got a little tired, but other than that we did a good.
How do you think the team defense is coming together?
We have a lot of different defensive things that we can throw at you. It's going to be very tough to get the ball past halfcourt sometimes. Once we get into the condition we want to be in to play that type of game for 40 minutes, I think our defense is going to be very tough.