Dan Scott Interview: Oliver Purnell

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SportsTalk with Dan Scott


Listen to the full Oliver Purnell interview Here: Real Audio - Windows Media

Dan: Last night was a workman like performance, right coach?

Purnell: That's right. Its funny because I sat here and read a couple of
articles on the game, because the game became a bit of a blurr at the end. To
say that I was not coherent at the press conference would be an understatement.
As I recounted everything, it was on its way to being a workman like win. We
took control of things the first half, up ten, up twelve. The second half we are
in control for most of the game, mid-way through the half up eight, up nine. If
we did what we need to do there or Virginia Tech would go away, it could have
been that. But you have to give them a lot of credit because they battled and
battled, and they caused us to make some mistakes and all of a sudden it’s one
of those things where the road team comes in and steals it right at the end.
Then the fairy tale takes over, in terms of senior night.

Dan: Where does this victory rank?

Purnell: It's probably right there at the top. As I recount I would say right at
the top, just the way it happened on senior night with our two seniors being two
principals in terms of making things happen at the end. At the buzzer, victory
snagged from the jaws of defeat, the drama. It’s all right there at the top.

Mark: Talk about the play you used to tie up the ballgame.

Purnell: We called it double away play, and I saw it this morning on tape and it
did not resemble it. Vernon Hamilton did a great job of burning the ball up the
floor, which drew people to him and Babalola coming down trailing late. The fact
that Vernon is on one side the floor and crosses over and just finds him. A nice
individual play on Vernon Hamilton's part and then obviously Babalola spotting
up nice there.

Dan: Did you draw up that play for Olu?

Purnell: We did have spacing, and we do try to teach them to play and we do want
guys to be willing to shoot the ball when they are open. There is an obvious
case where you're not going to get another, so you have to shoot that thing when
you're open and that sets off a chain of events.

Dan: When Shawan Robinson had the ball he seemed to roll the dice a little
knowing or not knowing where the clock is.

Purnell: To me that's experience. Shawan is the son of a coach and obviously has
played a lot of basketball the past few years at Clemson. We practice a lot and
the last six minutes where those situations come up, I think if you have not
been in those type of situations very much you get the ball and get it up there.
He got it and was aware of how much time was left when Olu knocked in the shot.
That's when you look up at the clock, Olu knocks in the shot and you take a
quick glance because now they are coming down trying to score. So you have a
good feel for how much time is left. When he steals it I don't know if he a look
or not but he was certainly in a position to look. And his head was up and that
was the amazing thing to me is that he kept his head up as he went by two
defenders. He had to get by one and then the other but he had his head up to see
Sharrod wide open.

Mark: Has this team figured out how to play in the last few minutes of a

Purnell: Yes, I think they have figured some things out, but it’s also an
approach with the attitude, what I have been calling the past couple of weeks,
that look in their eyes. And that look says we are going to make a play to win
or several plays to win or we're going to make a play to stop them. I think the
attitude first off is important and after that the strategies important. And
that is what you saw, a little bit when we came in getting the ball to Olu and
taking the shot, then getting back. And of course, Shawan, first off getting the
steal and then the presence of mind to advance it and not just to launch on up
there. Which no one would have blamed him for trying to get a shot in there at
the end.

Dan: Are you still thinking along the lines of the NCAA?

Purnell: It is a dream, absolutely. That’s why you play a season is to have an
opportunity to do that and certainly in the conference tournament the team that
comes out of there the champion goes on. I reference to our team about Maryland
last year. Here was a team that was exactly where we were last year, and you
know the rest. Maryland had to win their last two or three games to even have a
chance to be in the NCA as an at large. So they were not certain, they went into
the tournament playing well and won the entire thing with a couple of close
ballgames. Those things can happen. And it will happen around the country this

Dan: Are the players buying into the dream?

Purnell: If you get two, all of a sudden you're in the semi-finals. Then you get
two and you are one game away from being in the finals then obviously you get in
the final and crazy things can happen. If you can go into the tournament and win
your first game it sets up a match up that we have no idea what that would be,
it could be Maryland or Florida State. It could be that kind of match up for the
second and if you get that one you are in that semi final spot and one away from
the final. In the finals you're exhausted, mentally and physically, but you
might be in there with a team that also had to go four nights straight. It could
happen. It’s not likely, but it could happen.

Dan: When do you start getting ready for Georgia Tech?

Purnell: Not until tomorrow, that’s just fortunate how the schedule worked out.
Starting tomorrow we'll spend a couple of days getting ready for Georgia Tech
and go up there Friday night for the afternoon game. That’s going to be a big
challenge in practice tomorrow, I have the feeling there will be a lot of
yelling and screaming and mashing of teeth tomorrow. We have a tough Georgia
Tech team and we'd love to keep this thing going because to get that game is to
go into the tournament as the hottest team in the league. We have the
opportunity Saturday to do that, but we are going to Georgia Tech on senior
night and we know how good those guys are, so it’s not going to be easy. But
nothing in this league has been easy, so this will be no different.

Dan: What kind of role have your seniors played in this turn around?

Purnell: Let’s talk about Olu first. I think it has been a little bit of a
struggle in terms of getting him to buy in and that kind of thing, but after his
suspension early on he has totally bought in and I think the light came on about
how much he has tried to do things right with the basketball program and this is
my last go around and with these young kids along with Sharrod we can have a
pretty good team here. And I am a much better player when I try to do things the
right way. Some times it takes a while for the light to go on, but it has with
him. The bottom line is that there is no way we could have had the type of
season that we have had without the experience of Olu. A great example is last
night, he hit that shot to tie the ballgame. It’s good to see him get some
rewards because I know it has been a struggle for him. Then Sharrod, what can
you say about his improvement in the four years that he has been here. Its a
remarkable story when you think about his numbers have gotten better each and
every year and to be in a position to be on a team that has accomplished some
things and a team that will be in post season play. I'm sure that a year or two
ago that seemed like something that would not happen for him, so that’s great to
see. I think he has a tremendous basketball career ahead of him and I am happy
for him as well.

Dan: Let’s talk a minute about the crowd last night.

Purnell: They have been great all year, the student support has grown and I had
a chance to write a couple of emails to them during the year and they really
responded. They wear their orange and it’s good to see them be rewarded for
their efforts. To have the ability to celebrate their last home game with the
players, that does not happen all the time. So that was good to see them get
rewarded for coming out and supporting us and helping us build and them wanting
to be a part of this thing. That is what we have talked to them about. They are
the only ones who can help us build the kind of atmosphere that we all want at
Littlejohn, and it will be fun to be apart of, and I think you saw that last
night. It was an exciting game, an exciting finish and celebration at the end.
Very happy with the students, we have some work to do with our non-students and
we'll do that work and I fully expect to see our crowds continue to get better.


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