The Bootleg: What advice did you
get or have you been getting from the older guys on the team that has helped you
get through all these transitions?
Josh Childress: Partly with classes. You know, they help you out with what classes to take during the season and what ones are good to take when you have more time, like in spring quarter. Things that will help you in the long run, and also things to help you transition.
Chris Hernandez: Upperclassmen just opening up more. I know especially during winter break, I had more heart-to-heart talks with guys on the team and really got to know them. Because at first when you get here, it's kind of like you're a new guy and you're fighting for spots. Everybody is fighting for spots. You say 'hey' to everyone but you don't have that true genuine like for the person until you really get to know them. I didn't feel like really one of the guys until the middle of the season, when guys would be like, 'Hey let's go do this,' or 'Let's come to my room to hang out.' I felt a lot more comfortable then. It takes a while. That's something I'd like to do with the freshmen next year, so they don't have to put on an act or anything in the beginning.
The Bootleg: That leads right to
my next question. Now what do you want to do with the guys coming in next
year? You have three freshmen coming in next year - in fact, a guard, a
wing and a big man just like you guys. So what are you going to do or say
to help them when they come in, to avoid some of the mistakes or growing pains
you had this year?
Rob Little: I've actually talked with Matt and Dan and Jason - he actually lives in New Jersey, and I'll visit with him this summer. I hope they can come out here over the summer, even if for just a few weeks, just to get a feel for the team. Going back to what Chris said, we need to make them feel welcome and totally comfortable around us. They can ask us absolutely anything, and they should come to us first out of absolutely anybody if they need anything. If they need a ride, need advice, need to know how to get to this part of the Main Quad. They need to feel like they can come to this team. They don't have to go to an RA or another new guy down the hall. They need to know that we're here for them - that they're part of a team here and shouldn't feel alienated. Matt doesn't need to feel like he's competing with me for playing time next year; Jason doesn't need to feel like he's competing with Chris; and Matt doesn't need to feel like he's competing with Josh. We need to be their friends first, and the basketball will take care of itself. No matter what, the basketball is always going to take care of itself. When the game is done, we have to come back to each other. We all need friends, and we all need someone to talk to. The team concept and friendship is something we're really going to emphasize to their class, and the classes that come after them.
The Bootleg: Each of you guys have
had veterans on this team on this team at your position who you've played with
and against. Can you talk about what you've learned from those guys that
has helped your game this year?
Rob Little: I had the chance to play with Jason (Collins) for a just a couple weeks before he went to play in New Jersey. But playing with Curtis, obviously - he has a court savvy that I'm going to try to emulate over my next years at Stanford. He has a great grasp of the game mentally, so that's why with his frame he is able to out-quick some bigger and quicker guys in the Pac-10. There is so much to be admired about his game. He has stuff he needs to work on, of course, but learning how to time shots and block shots is something I've gained from Curtis. I'm not a jumper, and he can't jump really high either, but his arms are so long and he has such good timing when the ball comes out of the shooter's hands that he can really block a great deal of shots. His shot is something that I'm trying to emulate. He has the range that makes him a legitimate threat from the three, and everybody respects him as a three-point shooter and as a post player. That versatility and that double threat that he poses is something you just can't replace. And the courage, too. The courage it took with everyone looking at him after the Collinses left. He really stepped in and filled that role, and it took a lot of courage and character for him to do that. And I really respect him for that.
Chris Hernandez: What I learned from Tony is that you have to play for yourself. I talked to him a lot, and he had a lot of adversity going through his four years. He told me you can't play for what people say about you; you can't play for the fans; you can't play for all that stuff, or even the coaches. Just learning how to be a vocal person. Off the court, Tony was very vocal, talking to people and letting them know they could come talk to him if you wanted with your problems. He always had people over at his house, inviting the team over after a game. He always told us we were welcome if we just wanted to hang out. I learned a lot of leadership from Tony, and a lot of off-the-court stuff as well. From Julius, I learned sometimes you just have to go out and make a play. You have to step up. Sometimes it might be out of context, or it might not be what you're supposed to do, but sometimes it's got to be done. He showed me that when he played - sometimes he just stepped up and did stuff that turned the game around for us.
Josh Childress: I think I learned a lot about staying confident from Casey. He is one of the most confident guys you will ever meet. That's hard to do, when everybody's on your back saying you've got to do this or that. He stayed confident through adversity, and that's hard to do. As well, as Julius - Julius taught me that, too. Stay confident and show what you can do, and hopefully that's what it comes down to: making plays.
The Bootleg: There were a couple
games this year where Stanford just didn't play up to its level of
capability. With the talent you guys had this year, there's obviously no
reason why any team should be able to beat Stanford by 20+, like in a couple of
the USC games or the Kansas game. Now that you've been able to reflect
back upon the season, what do you think went wrong in those games? Is
there a unifying theme for what someone could see on film and exploit against
Stanford, or is there something that was missing from the execution or
Rob Little: I don't think there was a coach in the Pac-10 who hadn't seen us several times before, so everyone knows our offense - or at least they think they do. So they come out with counters, and USC can counter some of our plays. But we had a chance to win at their own house, and that was our best chance of the season - at their own home. We were up with just a couple minutes to go. You just go back to - and it gets old - but mental toughness in games against teams that have your number. You go out th