Basketball: Target St. Louis

Head Coach Designate Sean Sutton and seniors John Lucas (left) and Joey Graham represented Oklahoma State at the Big 12 Conference media day Thursday in Kansas City.

These quotes from Sean Sutton, John Lucas and Joey Graham are courtesy of

SEAN SUTTON: We are happy to be here. We have practiced almost two weeks when we get to Saturday's practices. I don't think as a team, and I know it's early, that we haven't played maybe as well as we would have hoped we would have up to this point.

Sometimes you take for granted what Tony Allen did for us a year ago at both ends of the court, but we are still very happy about this basketball team. We have a lot of positive thoughts that this is going to be a good team, and it's just a matter of we have to get after it, practice the next couple of weeks, and get ready for our first exhibition game on November 9.

This team a year ago won 31 games and really have been the most fun team that we have had at Oklahoma State. They were a group of guys that were very unselfish. They understood their roles. They had great practice habits, and they handled success maybe better than any team that we have ever had.

As a result, they had a great, great season. They are just people that you enjoy being around on a day-to-day basis, people you enjoy coaching because they are smart people and very intelligent players.

This has been brought up a couple of times, but I am very proud also of what they have been able to accomplish in the classroom. We have got four of our six seniors have already graduated and a fifth one will graduate in December, Daniel Bobik, and then John is on track to get his degree next May. So all six of these guys will have their degrees. From that standpoint, our staff is very, very proud.

My dad wanted me to apologize that he could not be here today. He, as most people are aware, had an accident a little over three weeks ago. He has five cracks in his tailbone, and it's, I guess, one of the most painful injuries you can have.

He stayed home for a little over a week and the doctors kept him in bed. The last two weeks he has moved around and with each day he is getting a little bit better. He has been at practice most days pretty consistently, and even over the last four or five days I think the players sense that he is starting to kind of get back his fire and his energy level. He has been firm and demanding with them, to say the least.

On a few occasions – he walks with a cane, so on a few occasions when things – we have a total meltdown on the court, you know he is about to hammer that cane on the floor that he is happy about this season and looking forward to coaching this team.

I think in another two or three weeks he will be a lot better.

MODERATOR: Great, coach, thank you very much for those comments. We will take questions from the floor, please.

Q. John, did you talk about the mind-set this team has gone into practice with? Obviously, last year was a hard one to follow, but what you all are thinking, what you are looking forward to?
JOHN LUCAS: No, we are just going out and practicing every day real hard. We want to accomplish everything we did last year and even more. So that means winning the national title this year. We are real big on winning this year. A lot of people say it's hard to repeat everything as you have done last year and hard to get back to the Final Four, but I think my teammates and I and the coaching staff, we feel we have a real good chance of getting back to the Final Four and also winning this year.

Q. Joey, as a follow-up to that, what is it going to take for this team to have similar success as you did last year?
JOEY GRAHAM: I think we will have similar success. We only lost Tony Allen last year. We picked up a couple guys that have helped this program out, Aaron Pettway and JamesOn Curry, in addition to my brother coming in and playing a lot more minutes.
I think we are going to not miss a beat at all. We are just focusing on practice, playing hard every day, and I hope we can have the same turnout we did last year.

Q. Would you talk about JamesOn Curry. Obviously, there was a lot of excitement about him.
COACH SUTTON: He has done well. We went to recruit him. Obviously, we talked to a lot of people and did a lot of research on the situation that occurred, and everybody that we talked to had extremely positive things to say about this young man. It was a mistake that was out of character, and our staff, like a lot of staffs, believes in giving young men second chances.
After bringing him to our campus, getting a chance to know him, we ask our players what they thought about him, and he has come in and done extremely well. He is very well-liked from other people at Oklahoma State and viewed as a great kid. He has done very well in his school work-out.
Surprising to us is that he has a great feel of how to play. He has been well-coached in high school. Everybody talks about his offense ability, but he is also someone that can really pass the basketball. He is a great three-point shooter. He can create his own shot.
The two areas that you will have to develop, I think, to play a lot of minutes is he has to get better on the defensive end and he has to get where he understands valuing the basketball, not turning the basketball over. For two weeks in, he has done very well in our opinion.

Q. What do you think the advantages were coming out of last year the team provides this year?
JOHN LUCAS: It's going to be hard to replace Tony Allen on our team. I think everybody is going to have to chip in to fill that space. We have a lot of players who can come in and step in right away. Stevie [Graham], he is real aggressive. Joey [Graham] is playing defense. He is the kind of person that is not afraid of getting hit, kind of like Tony was. He likes stepping up to challenges. He can be a real good person, Danny Bobik, Joey and also Marcus Dove, a redshirt freshman from last year. He is real long, one of our real – I guess a real good defensive stopper on our team since practice has been going on.
It's going to be hard to fill Tony Allen's shoes. He did so much for the program it's unbelievable.

Q. John, how do you look back on that Final Four game? Good memory? Painful memory? Does that motivate you personally?
JOHN LUCAS: It motivates me a lot. I watched that game at least 30 times over the summer. You know, it motivated me just to step up more on D because I did lose containment of my man. I want to get back to there. It was a good feeling, but I also left a bad taste in my mouth after the game was over with.

Q. You can't discuss specifics, but the change a Final Four balance (inaudible). Would you talk about the reception you got on the road after that and how it helped you?
COACH SUTTON: No question, it helped a lot. I think the fact that we played on TV so many times down the stretch of the season, we had a very entertaining team to watch play. To go through the NCAA tournament and get to the Final Four, obviously, gives you great exposure to your program, and something that we sold heavily, this fact that I think there has only been 10 other programs in the last two years that have gone to two Final Fours.
Normally after a team goes to a Final Four you are going to see the recruiting class do well. So far things have gone well for us in the recruiting front.

Q. John, a lot of times last year you talked about it as if you were in a dream, et cetera, and Coach had announced you as being the Big 12 Player of the Year. Is it still a dream, the road you have been on?
JOHN LUCAS: Absolutely. I'm grateful to be in the situation I am, to be playing under some of the best coaches I have played under. Not taking anything away from the Baylor coaching staff, but the coaches at Oklahoma State, they are like my father away from home. When they see me doing something I am not supposed to be doing, they get on me. Even if I am not really focused on practice, they jump on me and get me right back on track.
They dig everything they can out of you so you can leave everything on the court with those lines. To me it is a dream, and I never thought I would be in a situation like this just by playing with some of the players that I am playing with and under, also playing the coaching staff. I am enjoying every minute of it.

Q. Joey, last year John tried to take a lot of the blame in the Final Four loss, but that's not really being fair to himself. Obviously, you guys wouldn't have gotten in the Final Four without Johnnie. What is your opinion on that?
JOEY GRAHAM: We all play a part in the loss at Georgia Tech. After the game we sat together and reviewed the film. We pretty much just tried to regroup and learn from the mistakes that we did last year and tried to use them as a tool for this year.

Q. Joey, how much are you guys using that game as a motivation to try to get back?
JOEY GRAHAM: Like John said, he has watched it 30 times. I have watched the game multiple times. I am pretty sure the coaches do as well. We do use it as a motivational tool. We have a great team this year and know we can get back to the Final Four. Hopefully, we can come back with a national championship this year. We have this game as a learning experience and just try to use that as motivation for us every day in practice.

Q. Joey, Quin Snyder says he thinks you are the best player in the conference. Any comment on that?
JOEY GRAHAM: I definitely think I am one of the best players in the conference. It takes hard work and dedication. Hopefully, I can just maintain and stay consistent throughout this whole year as I did last year. Things will turn out great for us this year.

Q. Sean, there are a lot of phases to basketball, but can you put your finger on one thing that is – say this is why Oklahoma State did well last year?
COACH SUTTON: I don't think there is one thing. I think this team was very explosive in transition. They were a very sound defensive team. They were a team that played extremely unselfish and knew their roles. Because of that, they were a fun team to coach. It doesn't happen very often these days where you get a group.
They had very little egos and they set the team goals as the most important goals. That's the way it should be. In the reality of it, sometimes that's not the way it always is. But defense, hard work, unselfish play, and their commitment to run on every possession really helped them get to the Final Four.

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