NCAA Press Conference Transcript

March 17, 2012

THE MODERATOR: Okay. Take questions. Just raise your hand, we'll get a microphone to you.

Q. For either Victor or Ron, have you had a chance to think about going into tomorrow night that this is your third game in five days and you have a chance with win to be playing in the second weekend.
VICTOR RUDD, JR.: We're not thinking about playing on Friday. We're thinking about playing tomorrow and getting prepared for Ohio.
RON ANDERSON, JR.: Yeah. Our third game in five games. It's a lot similar to the Big East tournament. Actually, probably be a little bit more fast-paced than a Big East tournament because we've got five games in five days if you're fortunate enough to make it and win. The guys are enjoying the day off. Coaches giving us a lot of rest. We'll be good.

Q. Let's start with Ron. I just want to ask you, Vic has had a run of I think four straight games with double figures. He's especially hit some big shots early in the games. Why do you think he's playing as well as he has and how much it's helped to get his offense most of these last couple games early on?
RON ANDERSON, JR.: Victor is playing with a lot of confidence right now. I think him along with everybody else on our team, the confidence level as we move on in the tournament and as we show ourselves that we know we can play the type of game we've been trying to play all year, good things are going to happen.
Coming into the second half last night, I told everybody just to have fun. I think that was the difference. We all wanted to go out and have fun. Victor starts making shots. He's out there smiling. We're just having a good time out there. We enjoy everybody out there, we're family and when he's making shots, we're all excited for him. We want everybody to do well.

Q. Vic, I'll ask you, just talk about Ohio, what you guys have seen of them so far, and if there's anybody that you guys have faced this season that reminds you of their players and strengths?
VICTOR RUDD, JR.: I don't know. I think probably the point guard, Cooper, we watched tape earlier today. He's real good. He gets his teammates involved and make them better. It's going to be a tough game tomorrow.

Q. For both of you. Coach said last night that he talked about at halftime "Go out and have fun" and that you guys responded,and how he might make that his pregame speech tomorrow night. How much of the fun stems from playing on the defensive end and getting things going at that point, and when you're having fun, what part of it is that you're enjoying the most?
VICTOR RUDD, JR.: For me, I think it's defense. We have fun playing defense. It transfers to offense. When you're scoring shots, it makes you have more fun. You want to get steals and breaks-outs, dunks and layups. All of that just comes into one big game, I guess.
RON ANDERSON, JR.: I think that all year, you know, on the defensive side we've found that we enjoy when we're able to stop the other team. I think that right now we're just enjoying the moment. This is the first time we've been here. So, when the coach says "just have fun," everybody says that and understand that these times, these moments in our lives, they don't come very often.
We want to just relish every moment and just go out and try to play the game that we know how to play. When we do, we do enjoy it because we love playing basketball. That's what we do every day. That's what brought us to South Florida, and we just want to leave our mark.

Q. Guys, you guys came into this thing as a 12th seed and we see you play all season. We knew what you're capable of. Would you say now after all that has transpired and what happened last night, that everybody realizes right now you're not a 12th seed?

RON ANDERSON, JR.: We're just playing basketball. The seeding, we were fortunate enough to get a bid to the tournament and whether -- if we were 12th seed or 13th seed, 14th seed, wouldn't matter.
We're just happy to be here and we're going to go out and play basketball and regardless of what team we have in front of us, whatever the seed it may be, that's just a number, you know.
At the end of the day, it's just five guys going against five guys. At the end of the game, it's going to have a team that won and a team that lost. As far as the number is concerned, it's just -- I mean, we don't really look too much at the numbers.
VICTOR RUDD, JR.: Me, it just gave us an extra game. We got to play in the first one. That's all it was.

Q. Ron, obviously as a guy who pays attention to the sport, you've seen a lot of different teams make a lot of different runs through the tournaments over the years, VCU, Butler, Gonzaga, et cetera, what's your favorite Cinderella run and how close do you think you guys are to being one of those teams?
RON ANDERSON, JR.: My personal favorite was the VCU run, just the similarities from that team to our team, the passion that the coach had.
I remember when they were getting ready for their Final Four practice, they had -- he dove on the ground and got the team energetic. That makes it fun.
Coach Heath is doing the same thing. He trusts us. At this point in time, we're going the keep on saying until the day we're done, we're going to enjoy this moment. He's making everything fun for us. And as a coach, if a coach is making things fun for the players, the players want to play that much harder for the coach.
We're doing that. We trust him and his game plan and, we're just enjoying the ride. We can tell he's really enjoying it, too. He's loving every moment of it. And for us, you know, we really appreciate that, too, so we want to go out and just show our appreciation by playing hard for him.

Q. If I can follow that up, do you think you guys have to get to the Sweet 16, to the Elite 8 before someone looks at you nationally and says that was a team like VCU, that was a special team worth remembering for awhile?
RON ANDERSON, JR.: I think VCU was a special case because they made it all the way to the Final Four. I think for us, we're really not trying to be compared to any other teams. I think it's kind of been our story the whole season that we're going to have to keep on battling through adversity and create our own name.
If we play great ball and make it to the Final Four and you want the make the comparisons, so be it. I think right now we're just enjoying this time and we really want people just -- we want USF to have its own name, really. Cinderella or no Cinderella, if people want to call it that, we'll continue playing the same ball.

Q. Over the last couple days you've had travels, two games, with the wins, are your phones lighting up even more with text messages? How many people have you been hearing from with each successive win?
VICTOR RUDD, JR.: I think when we look at our phones after every game, everybody's phones light up. I hear from people in elementary school I haven't heard from in a long time from Facebook and Twitter and stuff like that. It's fun to connect with people you haven't heard from in a long time. We get a lot of text messages.
RON ANDERSON, JR.: A lot of the support comes from people back in Tampa who aren't able to make it up to Nashville. As a player, that just feels good.
I've been saying it all year, what we're doing is bigger than us. It's for the university, it's for the fans and for the alumni, and we can tell they appreciate what we're doing because they're letting us know.
Once again, just knowing that we have people that support us and that want us to succeed and that are going to stick behind us regardless at this point in time in the season, you know, we really just want to continue going on and playing the best type of ball that we can to keep everybody happy.
THE MODERATOR: Any other questions? Time for a few more. Anyone? All right. Thank you, guys. Good luck to you. Coach Heath will be here shortly.

We'll take an opening comment from Coach Heath, and then you can ask questions.
COACH HEATH: Well, first, I'd like to congratulate John. I'm a former MAC player, a former MAC coach, and I got a lot of MAC blood inside of me. So hats off to their program and what they've achieved. I know we've got a heck of a game in front of us.
I'm the first to tell you we will not underestimate Ohio. I've been very impressed with the personnel and the stuff that they run, and we've got to make sure that we're ready to play and we will be.

Q. Coach Heath, during Thursday's open to the public practices, saw a lot of team just kind of use it as a shoot-around. Your guy's first drill, you had guys diving on the floor, running the length of the court for transition layups. That the kind of mentality you're trying to set here with your team?
COACH HEATH: Absolutely. We only know one way to play, all-out effort, intensity, toughness, all those different phrases and terms you want to use. That's the only way we want the play.
When we take the court, we didn't want to just stand there and shoot. It's not realistic of what you're going to play. We're smart enough, sometimes we may not tape, we may not have full contact, but we still want to go with pace. That's the kind of mindset I want our players to have all the time.

Q. Coach, how do you sell guys who come out of high school used to scoring and stuff, how do you sell them own the defensive side of things? What's the key and secret?
COACH HEATH: Playing time (laughter). I'm serious. If you want the play, that's just what you need to do. You know, great players play defense. You look at Michael Jordan, the Kobes, even Miami Heat, Boston Celtics, when they were winning, great teams play defense. I feel fortunate that the guys have understood and bought into that philosophy.
It doesn't work if you're losing games doing it, because all of a sudden they have a little bit of doubt. But the kids have bought in, they believe in it, they've seen the success that we're having with it, and it's definitely our identity.

Q. I just want to ask you, so much of this run you had, you guys have really been able to play the underdog card, have had kind of that chip on your shoulder. The fact that you're the higher seed, the fact that you get to wear the whites tomorrow, do you think your team will be searching for motivation or is there something missing because of that?
COACH HEATH: Oh, boy. I would like to wear the green. Everybody is kind of beating us up in the media and using that. The kids are so excited to be here. They're so excited to be a part of the NCAA Tournament and now we're in the third round. I just don't see them not seizing this moment. I just don't see it. I just -- I know how hard they've worked. I know the things that they've gone through, the adversity, the tough season we had last year, all those different things, the injuries we had at the beginning of the year and thinking maybe we wouldn't have this opportunity.
So, I just know these guys and I know that we've got some nice voices in that locker room that are echoing the same thing to make sure we're all on the same page.

Q. Coach, how tough is it to when kids get on campus, are you looking for a particular mindset? Do you see a kid that plays defense and does that make it easier? Or when you get them there, do you have to start some of the conversion process then?
COACH HEATH: Well, you know, I don't think you go out when you recruit, you look for "let me just get a whole defensive team." But I do think, it's not easy to do, you want to have a little versatility on your team, but one of the key traits I'd like to have is toughness.
I remember when I was a part of a national championship team, we put on our rings, "players play, tough players win." It was the initials, wasn't the whole phrase. That was kind of the motto. "Tough players win."
So, really the ingredient I'm looking for is toughness and guys who are tough, guys who are competitive, guys who want to win, they're going to do the things necessary, the hard work, the intangible things, the dirty work necessary to win.

Q. Stan, when you coached Kent State, you took them to the Elite 8 from the back. That was something, that was headline material. How much has that prepared you to get through what you're going through right now at USF?
COACH HEATH: Every season I think you learn something from every year, different players you may have on your team and tournament runs or tournament first round exits, whatever it may be, and I do think there is a comfort zone, not that I know everything, but I do have a good idea what's going on between the press conferences, the open practices, the closed practices, you know, letting the guys sleep in a lot longer.
I used to get them up early, which was dumb. Let them rest. I do think I have a better idea. I ask questions. I'm not afraid to call friends I have that have been through some things and been in tournaments that have won and ask them how they do certain things and make those kind of adjustments.
So, you know, I think to some degree it's an advantage, experience is an advantage, but I still know I have a long ways to go.

Q. You've talked a lot about history this week and how you guys are doing it. So I want to ask you a history question. For all the great runs, the great Cinderella runs you've seen over the years in the tournament, which one is your favorite and how close is this team to being one of those teams? Do you need to get to the 8, to the 16 before people remember this team for years.
COACH HEATH: Are you talking about runs period or personal runs?

Q. Runs period.
COACH HEATH: Butler's run, not one year, but two years to go back to back and play in a championship game is just mind boggling. That is an incredible feat that Brad Stevens and the Butler program did two years back to back.
I can't think of another one in history that parallels that -- those kind of runs, unless you want to talk about an NC State basketball team of Valvano, ninth, tenth, 11th seed that actually won it. Those would be my reference points of runs that were just, you know, amazing through the tournament.

Q. The second part of that, Stan, was how close do you think your team is to being remembered on the George Mason, that kind of level? Do you need to win one more game? Two more games? Three more?
COACH HEATH: I think the only way you can answer that comes into conversations if we get to the point where those teams have reached.
The way I've always approached the NCAA field is, you have to look at the brackets you're in and try to win your selected tournament. For instance, to me, we're in the Nashville, Dayton tournament and tomorrow there's the championship game for Nashville, and if you win that, you get to play in the St. Louis tournament, and so I don't really want to look beyond this Nashville bracket right now, because this is, to me, is the championship game, and if we're fortunate enough to win it, we get to go home and get to figure some things outgoing into the next round.

Q. Ten years ago you won three games with what folks thinks may be one of the best MAC teams ever. How is the talent, how is "Sean" and "Gates" and "Mitch" compared to what Ohio has brought out there this week?
COACH HEATH: That's a good question. That's a good question. I think there's similarities with Ohio having that kind of toughness. They obviously, just from the outside looking in, have great leadership with a guy like D.J. Cooper that can just make things happen and Baltic looks like a fantastic leader out there on the court. I don't know who else may be, maybe it's Offutt, he might be in there, too.
It looks like they have that senior leadership and experience, and I thought that's what really helped us. Almost like we had -- if you go to the playgrounds and have some old men playing against some young guys, the old men are just schooling the young guys because they're more talented but they don't know how to play the right way. That was kind of the recipe Kent had. I see a similarity with the Ohio team having some guys that have been through it.
There's a group of guys on that team that beat Georgetown two years ago. They're not -- this isn't something they're surprised and overwhelmed or anything like that. I'm sure they feel they belong here and feel they can win some games. I see a lot of similarities, and at the same time you have -- I was in the league and coached in the league. I know those kids feel like they have something to prove, and this is a great opportunity for them to prove that they belong, they're a good basketball team and get that kind of recognition.
THE MODERATOR: Other questions for Coach Heath?

Q. With the way that D.J. Cooper can slash through the hole and hit the outside shot, how much does he compare with Peyton Siva or another guard in the Big East?
COACH HEATH: He has a lot to his game. He shoots not just the 3-point shot, he shoots the NBA plus 2 feet 3-point shot.
The other thing I think that makes him special is he's crafty enough to get into the lane, he's crafty enough to finish with a floater or get all the way to the basket, but you can't underestimate his passing. He's got great vision. He finds guys on the inside, but he finds shooters on the outside.
So, you know, I don't know if there's a guard totally that I could compare him to. He's a combination of Peyton Siva with speed, Maalik Wayns with his scoring ability. Peyton has the passing ability, too. I think the other thing, there's guards like Scoop Jardine where, at the end of the game, he's not afraid to make a big-time play. So he's a combination of several guards that we've probably seen in our league.

Q. Stan, one more question about, we asked Leonard Hamilton this as well. Three teams from the state of Florida are bidding for the Sweet 16. In your mind, what does that say?
COACH HEATH: Florida basketball is back. No. It means that there's some very good basketball programs in our state and there's terrific players across the state as well, and I think it says a lot that we've got three teams representing the state of Florida right now.
THE MODERATOR: Anyone else? All right. Thank you, Coach. Good luck to you.
COACH HEATH: Thank you.

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