WATCH: Press conference for Brownell, players in San Diego
|2018-03-16 11:43:21.0- -||
Clemson head coach Brad Brownell and some of his veteran players spoke to the media on Thursday in their introductory NCAA tournament press conference in San Diego, Ca.
FULL TRANSCRIPT, courtesy of ACC Communications
BRAD BROWNELL: This is the first time we've ever kind of made it all the way through. But I think it's something that we can continue to do and that's what we're excited about. In terms of playing in the tournament, we're not trying to do anything different. But we are trying to really enjoy it. I want our team to enjoy this experience. I want them to have a good time. I want 'em to embrace it. I think because we are a loose kind of group that's good for us. And when it's time to play we'll go play. And hopefully, we're good enough to do that. We've been that way all year. We haven't let things bother us from the outside. We haven't concerned ourselves with being 13th in the preseason. We haven't been too worried that they are picking New Mexico State to win. We just worry about us and what we're doing.What we're doing is fun because we like each other a lot and we really appreciate what the other guy is doing. So we come to practice every day and have a great time together and put in our work and let the chips fall where they may.
Q. Coach, you talked about your time at the mid-major level. Obviously, I know you don't want to speculate too much on someone else's program, but what does it say about a program 3 NCAA tournamentsin four yearsunder three different head coaches. I feel like it speaks to a culture and it's larger than one coach, one player?
BRAD BROWNELL: I think it speaks to a commitment at aschool, and that's hard. Some places have advantages when you don't have football because everybody's driving toward basketball and everything resourcewise is put into basketball. I lived that at Wright State and UNC-Wilmington. That's one of the hurdles,challenges we've had at Clemson is making basketball a big thing there. There's a lot of things that we've done to try to do that.For that to happen at a school three out of four years I think shows a commitment by a university. It's not just a coach. It's a university commitment with athletic directors, board, presidents, it's a culture and that's how you have long-term success.Q. What were the conversations like? What was it like years ago when you got Earl Grant from Wichita and what was it like when Charleston got him from you and all three of you together in one region?
BRAD BROWNELL: One of the biggest smiles our staff had was after we saw our name was to see Charleston and Auburn playing in our same region. You know, I didn't know Earl when I hired him at Clemson. He was out at Wichita with Greggg, but I knew I wanted a South Carolina guy and I'd heard a lot of good things about him from several different people. So he was somebody that I immediately wanted to talk to, and I had a lot of respect for Gregg and the way he does things and knew if he was working for Gregg he was not only learning a lot, but he was a quality person.So when I got the opportunity to talk to Earl he was excited about the opportunity to come back to South Carolina. He was a joy to work with every day. Unbelievable, positive person with great personality, beautiful family. Still talk frequently. Multiple times a month. Obviously, he talks with our staff, our staff with their staff all the time. So, you know, I'm just really proud of him to watch what he's done because I know when he took over in Charleston it was in not very good shape andin four yearshe's done a remarkable job, really. It doesn't surprise me in the least, and I think he will continue to be good much like the question I just got here about being in the tournament three out of four years. Wouldn't be shocked if that's what happens with Charleston. I'm a huge fan of Earl Grant, always have been and was blessed that he was able to work with me at Clemson for a while.
Q. Jemerrio Jones, obviously one of the best rebounders in the nation, what have you seen from him and what do you tell your guys going up against a guy like that?
BRAD BROWNELL: Really unique player, really unique. I mean, nose for the ball, that you can't explain, you can't coach. It's just guys have it. He's an igniter on offense because of his ability to dribble and pass after he rebounds it and that's what makes him extremely difficult to guard. You're not going to look at him or watch him on film and it's not going to wow you until you look at his stat line and then you look at games and he just keeps getting rebounds. I think there were six games where he had 20 rebounds. That's unreal. But his relentless pursuit for the ball and his nose for the ball, I don't think those are traits that are coachable. I think that's something unique that a guy has.
Q. Talk about the fact that five of the top seven scorers on the floor tomorrow night will be guys that have transferred into your program. Is that something you had to change your philosophy on from when you first got here to just the way basketball is played now? The guys all coming together from different backgrounds and meshing together?
BRAD BROWNELL: I think it's a combination, time, to be honest with you. We did several years ago start holding a couple of scholarships more for guys that we thought were transfers and where it started was we were losing out on some good players. We would get down to the final two and we lost a couple and we noticed that some of them were wanting to go --weren't happy where they ended up going and wanted to come back. We felt like we needed to keep some scholarships available for guys like that. So it just kind of happened. Then just some other unique ones, like Marcquise Reed was just a unique situation for us. We happened to play him and knew how good he was probably more than most people realized how good of a player he was. We thought his stats would transfer and obviously they have.Then we've also taken guys like a David Skara. He just fits me and what I believe in and our team. He's not some high-powered scorer or anything like that, but he's a guy that helps your team win. So, yeah, we've kind of kept some scholarships, first time we've had a grad transfer with Marc and he's been terrific for us in terms of a blend with Eli. But I don't think that's easy and it's not easy to plan that way. But it's not something we just have planned, hey, we're going to take transfers all the time. Some of it's worked out.We did plan on taking a couple, but I do think now with how many transfers there are. There are so many now that you're probably silly if you don't have at least one scholarship sitting around for somebody because that's just the nature of it. You're probably going to end up with one because to be honest you're probably going to lose somebody. Kids these days --I don't think there is anything wrong with it, when I was a younger coach I did, but now I think we ask so much of them and we can work 'em in thesummer, we can do all these things with them, take all their time and kids play 8, 9, 10, 11 minutes as sophomores and juniors, I can understand if a kid wants to go somewhere and start and play 28 minutes when he's done all the things we ask them to do in any program in college at this level. That's why so many more kids are leaving, and that's why there are so many more available.
Q. You talked about the disadvantages of being at such a prominent football school. What about the advantages? I think Clemson brand has been hot because of football has that helped you at all?
BRAD BROWNELL: Absolutely. There are advantages and disadvantages in a lot of things. Tremendous advantage being at Clemson, because of the success under Coach Sweeney, and what that's meant nationally for our school and our athletic department as a whole. I'm a huge Coach Sweeney fan. He has left me messages multiple times this week, and sounds more excited than I am that we're in the tournament. He is a huge basketball guy. He played high school basketball.When we have football games, we've got our best recruits going to that environment, Death Valley, on Saturday. It's an incredible experience. It's an incredible weekend, and whenever we bring a recruit, people that aren't from the area, they're shocked, because it's special.And at the same time in the middle of January when we're playing a big-time ACC game, Coach Sweeney is expecting six or eight tickets right there behind the bench for some of the best high school football players in the country. Obviously, we are happy to deliver. So it's an unbelievable experience; it's a shared experience, and I know schools talk about family, and I cringe because I've been at other schools and I hear other people talk about it. At Clemson, we live it. We are a town of 12,000 people. There are six football coaches that live in my neighborhood. We just are around each other all the time, and it's real.We actually really do spend time together. We want the best for all of our athletes; we want the best for our students. A big part of that is the athletic department and what that means to our community. It's special, and I think when you come to Clemson that's what you see.
Q. Coach, in regards to the two seniors you've talked about, with Donte, how has he been able to impact the team despite he can't play and with Gabe what has he meant for his program from freshman year to now?
BRAD BROWNELL: He and Donte have both grown tremendously as players and people. Gabe wasn't highly recruited. He had some good offers, but I don't know if he had another ACC offer, but I thought he was going to be what he is now and it was just going to take a little time. He's an extremely bright guy, over a 3.0 in our business school. He's going to be successful playing basketball for another ten years, and he's going to be successful for the next 30 years. Some of that has shown with Donte's injury. Gabe has raised his level of play and also his level of leadership. The first couple of weeks were hard for Donte, the injury, the surgery, the rehab. It was challenging.But in the last month, he's been much better. I don't know if I've met a more genuine young man than Donte Grantham. His personality is really our team. That's the biggest change is that our team has taken on his personality and his personality is unselfish. He's given up more in his career than almost anybody I've coached for a guy who was as talented as he is. A lot of times he's a guy that will sit back and take a backseat to another good player because he wants that guy to have success, he really does.So he's as happy for our team even though he's not playing as anybody I can imagine, and that's one of the reasons why I love him.
Q. What's the final message you want to leave your team with before they take the court tomorrow?
BRAD BROWNELL: We're not going to do anything different, be who we are, enjoy this experience. We're putting in our preparation all week, and we're going to be prepared. Being prepared and playing well is good enough.But we've got to play well. Let's go out there and do what we've prepared all year
to do and especially this week and then let's smile and have a good time and enjoy this experience.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach.
GABE DEVOE AND MARQUISE REED
THE MODERATOR: For Clemson, we have Gabe Devoe and Marcquise Reed.Q. First of all, how are you guys enjoying the trip so far? Is it everything you would have imagined being part of the NCAA Tournament?
GABE DEVOE: Yeah, just getting adjusted to the time. Had great dinner with the team yesterday, just exciting and ready to playtomorrow.Q. I was talking to Tim yesterday and he was talking about the Barcelona trip and how that incident in front of the team hotel with the bombing brought the team together. Can you talk about that moment and what it was like to go through it and do you think that was a turning point in terms of how this team came together as one and how it carried you guys through the season?
MARCQUISE REED: That's a scary incident, you know, but for us to be out there and just all we got out there, I thought that brought us together more as a team. Being stuck in the hotel for 24 hours, couldn't go nowhere. So it just really brought our relationship closer.Q. When Donte went out midway through the NCAA play there was a lot of talk about whether you guys would continue to be strong. Do you think you have been able to adjust to life after Donte, and how has he been able to influence you guys in a positive way from the bench in terms of applying that leadership he had when he was on the floor?
GABE DeVOE: Things changed a little bit on the court with his versatility, his ability to bring the ball up court and things on the defensive end, being able to switch. But with Aamir stepping in I think he did a great job for us and our guards just continued to step up and make plays. I think we adjusted fine. But his leadership is still there. He's still a voice in the locker room and a big part of our team.Q. What is your impression of what you've seen on film of New Mexico State, what they do well? And do you guys see them as a threat to you guys?
MARCQUISE REED: Yeah, they're a pretty good team, 28-5. That's hard to do in Division I basketball. So we got a lot of respect for them. They rebound the ball pretty good, get out in transition and play good defense. We've got to be ball strong, go in there confident, shoot the ball well.
Q. Obviously, each and every year that 12-5 game seems to be the upset game, everyone talks about the upset game. Do you guard against that, or do you have to be on the offensive and play your game?
MARCQUISE REED: We've been the underdog all year, so it's nothing new to us. We've been battling through adversity, losing Donte and Shelton for a few games. So it ain't nothing new that we can't handle.
Q. Gabe, knowing that you've worked so hard to get to this moment, the entire team has, to have this opportunity, what does it mean to you and what does it say about this program and where it's going
GABE DeVOE: This is a special moment for me, just knowing the things that we have done through the first three years, continuing to battle. Going into my senior season, I wanted to make this goal. Me and Donte did a great job of rallying the troops and leading our season to get to this point. It was a blessing to be in this situation like knowing you're going to be selected. So just continuing to fight and take it one day at a time and ready to be out there tomorrow.
Q. For both you guys, I know they say take it one game at a time, but did any part of you peek down the bracket and say this could end up as a battle against the College of Charleston, a battle for Palmetto State in the second round. Do you have to look down the bracket and see that could potentially be there?
GABE DeVOE: Looking at our pod, focused on the first two games, also seeing College of Charleston, have a lot of respect for those guys. I know a bunch of them, and I've been talking to a few of them about a potential match-up. So that will be exciting to see. But the first day is tomorrow night and taking care of business.Q. Marcquise, you've had a phenomenal season. You've done something that no one has since 1980, 500 points, and 80 rebounds and such.
Q: How have you improved where you are so versatile and can do so many things on the floor, and how has your team helped build that up as far as adding to your game?
MARCQUISE REED: Putting in extra hours in the off-season on top of what's mandatory, so improving my game when we get off, going hard in practices, things like that.
Q. How do you think you guys are going to handle the nerves tomorrow when the lights go on? You take the floor, and you hear the Anthem, and you realize we're a part of the Dance, something we have been waiting for our whole lives?
GABE DeVOE: I think the nerves will be there until tip-off, and then after tip-off,
everybody will be fine. I'm excited now, ready to play now. Leading up to the game, a lot of excitement and nerves. But after the ball tip-off, I think everybody will be fine.
MARCQUISE REED: I think a lot of guys are going to be excited. First few minutes everybody gets those jitters out, some guys might be nervous because they've never played in the NCAA Tournament before. But I think once the first few minutes go past we'll be fine.
Q. I just want to know what Coach Brad Brownell has been like this past month knowing you had this opportunity and you were on your way to the NCAA Tournament, what has he been like? Is the mood light or is he more intense now knowing that you have a chance to compete for a National Championship?
MARCQUISE REED: He's been excited coming to practice every day to coach us. The closer it gets to game day his juice tightens up. It's been a real exciting atmosphere.
GABE DeVOE: I think he's coaching the same as he has in the first game as he has the 30th game. He brings it every day at practice. He challenges us every day. He did a great job of managing us in terms of knowing when to go hard and give us time off, and I think we will be ready to go tomorrow.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, gentlemen.
Q: How does it feel to be here?
ELIJAH THOMAS: “It’s felt great. It shows that our hard work pays off. Coach B[Brad Bronwell]isan excellent coach. He’s an excellent mentor off the court. He teaches us things that normal programs don’t really get a chance to teach their players. I think everyone buying into this program kind of just made it easier for us this year to get where we are right now.”With the adversity you guys have gone through, what does it say about this team?“I think it shows we apply ourselves to stick to the ‘ClemsonGrit.’ We started that over summer. We went overseas and played some games. We’ve just been working hard this whole year. I give credit to our freshman. They’ve brought a lot of energy to our program. With those guys giving that energy off to the guys like us, it works well.”Why did you decide to transfer to Clemson?“I came here because it’s just a family-based program. It’s a really good school. Academics are amazing. They teach us a lot of things. Like I said, Coach B[Brad Bronwell]does a great job of teaching us things off the court that we can use for the rest of our lives. I think with that, when you have a guy like that and a lot of players that want it to buy in, it makes it easier on us. I’m enjoying it. It’s amazing to be feeling the way I am about playing tomorrow.”
Q: What are you going to do while waiting for the late tip-off time?“Just prepare. Never too high. Never too low. With me, I’m going to play a lot of video games, watch TV, listen to music, and when it’s go time, it’s go time.”When you’re watching TV, are you watching other basketball games?“If A&M plays, I’ll probably watch them. If they’re not on, I’m probably just watching my little shows.”
Q: How do you feel after the long trip from South Carolina?
“My legs are fine. Our coaches–they do a really good job of getting us prepared for this type of environment. We got to stretch, a little yoga before we came to this practice, too. My legs are fine. I’m ready to go.”Is it cool that there are two teams from South Carolina here?“Oh yeah. That’s big time. Everyone wants the South Carolina matchup. Whatever happens, happens. We’re just worried about this game tomorrow.”How do you tune out the upset talk about the 12 and five seeds?“I mean; it really doesn’t matter. Those guys aren’t playing on the court when we play. They’re not in our path. They don’t do what we do. We were picked 13th this year, so we kind of have a thing for defeating the odds and just coming out and playing. That’s what we’re going to do. Just come out and play and let our play speak for itself.”How do you guys switch your mentality heading in to the tournament?“Honestly, I would say it was an underdog mentality we had this year. We just knew if we played our cards right and became a team on and off the court and listed to Coach B’s plan and executed, we would have a pretty good season.I wouldn’t say we we’re necessarily underdogs even with us being picked 13. We didn’t play it that much mind. SinceI’ve been here, this team has been
underwritten. We just need to worry about what we can do, control what we can do, and let the outcome speak for itself.”
Q: What does it feel like to be at the NCAA tournament?
SHELTON MITCHELL: “Overcoming what we did and finishing to be a top-four seed. To be here now, not a lot of people expected it. Like I said before it just shows all of the hard work paid off.”Does New Mexico State remind you of anyone youhaveplayedin conference?“Not necessarily. I think they are different. They are obviously a really good team. They are fast and really athletic. Obviously they are good because they won their conference. We just have to be ready to play.”Has the adversity you guys have faced with Donte brought the team together?“Definitely. Donte was one of our leaders. Once he went out with his injury, everyone had to pick it up a little bit, especiallythe seniors like me. He is still here with us. He is still leading us and helping us as much as he can.”
Q: Do you ever see plays that you wish you were a part of?
DONTE GRANTHAM: “All the time. When thing happen in the game, I wish I was in that position or I wish they would have given me that shot because I would have knocked it down. But, I love the game and I have always imagined being out there. Like I said I do not do it much because I know I cannot and it will probably just bring me down a little bit. I just think about our team’s success and all the work that I have put in to get into this position.”Did your teammates offer you any inspirational words or support?“I think the most inspirational words were for me to keep pushing myself. I am going to do it myself, but them staying on me about rehabbing and staying focused on my love for the game. Even though I cannot play, I still need to have to keep the love for the game, watch film, and shoot. Now I can stand and shoot, but before when I was on my crutches, I would sit and shoot. I was sitting and shooting every day in practice. The game is still in my heart.”
Q: What lies ahead for you in basketball?
“First, the most important thing for me is to get healthy. After that, working out to play professionally at the next level. The NBA has always been my dream. That is why I play the game. That is what I am shooting for. I think I have a really good chance of doing that. SoI am just going to continue to get healthy and strong and keep my love for the game high.”
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