Q: Last year, you guys finished 16-2 in the Big East, winning the regular season and tournament titles. Looking back, how impressive was that feat? Did the loss to Michigan State spoil the year for you, or do you still have fond memories of last season?
A:Last year's Big East titles were great accomplishments. Almost every game was against a Top 25 opponent, many of them being in the Top 10. Although the Michigan State loss ended our season earlier than we all wanted it to, it was still a great year. Winning the Big East
regular season title, Big East tournament, regular season number 1 ranking, and the number 1 overall seed for the NCAA tournament was a great year.
Q: North Carolina fell out of the polls this week for the first time since January of 2006. How tough is it to lose the kind of talent and leadership that they did, the kind you lost with Terrence Williams, Earl Clark, and Andre McGee?
A:It's tough to come back the next year with losing that kind of talent. Many guys are stepping up into roles that they aren't used to, getting more playing time and becoming more of an impact player for their team. Another thing that is lost is the leadership that they brought. That needs to be replaced and it's a hard thing to do.
Q: What’s the biggest difference between this year’s team and last year’s?
A:The experience and vocal leadership are two big things that are different. Having guys step up and play big minutes for the first time. And we have leadership but it's not as vocal as it was last
year. T-Will was a naturally vocal person and other people fed off him.
Q: From watching the team all through last year, it looked like T-Will and McGee were the heart and soul of the team. Who fills that role this year?
A:I'm not sure if one or two people can fill their roles this year. Instead it'll be more of a team effort. The more we play together the better we will play.
Q: What does the locker room normally sound like? Are you guys a goofy bunch or more businesslike?
A:It will usually depend on the day. Some days quiet, other days it is loud. But overall I'd say we are goofy but when it comes down to business we handle ourselves appropriately.
Q: You’ve seen your playing time shoot up dramatically this year, and you were in the game in the final minutes against Pitt. How gratifying is it to know that Coach P has that kind of trust in you, especially in a hostile environment?
A:Playing time is sometimes hard to interpret with coach but you just have to be ready at any time and always stay focused. It is gratifying to play in those situations and good to remember that through rough times.
Q: Most games, you get between 12 and 20 minutes, but sometimes Mike Marra gets the bulk of the court time. What determines who gets more playing time in a given game?
A: It could be many things: maybe one of us practiced better that week, or coach will expect the other team will do something and play which one will fit better against the other team.
Q: You are, for my money, the best pure rebounder on the team, especially on the offensive glass, despite being only 6’4”. Have you always had that nose for the ball, or is it something you’ve worked hard on at Louisville?
A:I've always been a good rebounder but it has gotten a lot better since I've been at Louisville. I am good at predicting where the ball might come off and get in that general spot.
Q: Is there anyone you’ve tried to model your game after? What will be your main focus as far as improving your game goes for the rest of the season?
A:There isn't really one person that I've modeled my game after. I try and look at different players and study what their strengths are and why. My main focus is just staying confident. Confidence is key to shooting, defense, dribbling, etc.
Q: Most of the talking heads thought the Big East would be down this year, but Pittsburgh is in the top 20 despite being picked to finish 9th in the conference, Syracuse and Villanova both have only 1 loss all year, Seton Hall just beat Pitt last week, and UConn took down Texas without Jim Calhoun. Fran Fraschilla has said that in the Big East, it’s all about getting on a 1 game winning streak and going from there. Is that the case? What’s the toughest part about playing in the conference?
A:The toughest part about this conference is the competition and competitiveness. There's no easy game. Anyone can get beat by anyone on any given night. We just played Depaul and they are alot better than their record shows, so every night we have to go out and compete hard
Q: Who is the best player you’ve guarded/played against at Louisville?
A: I've played against a lot of great players so far, there's Thabeet, Harangody, Dyson, Johnson, and I have to put Twill on the list. All of those guys, except for may be 1, are or will be in the NBA.
Q: As a Notre Dame student, I have to ask: What do you think of Luke Harangody?
A:He's a very deceptive player. You look at him and you don't think basketball player or athletic. But the truth is if you don't prepare for him he can put up 40 on you.
Q: For the past few years, Pitino’s teams have been the best on the road in the Big East and great at closing out games. This year’s team has let a couple games slip away, againstVillanova and Pitt. What is it going to take to be able to close out games against some of the top teams in the country?
A:The main thing is to stay focused and finish games. It's easy to not be focused and let a game get away but good teams stay focused and win games they are supposed to win and also some games that they aren't supposed to win.
Q: Free throw shooting has been a bit of a weak spot for the last few years. Does the team spend a lot of time on them, or is it more of a mental thing?
A: In my opinion it's a combination of both. May be one influences the other. We shoot free throws everyday after practice and even more on game days. My thinking is the more you work on them the more confidence you have which is the mental aspect of them.
Q: Jerry Smith has never shot below 46% in his career, and in each of the last 3 years, he has shot better from 3 point range than he is shooting from the field this year (38%). How much is his slump bothering him? The last couple games, he seems to have really tried to help the team in other ways, and I see him getting the bench fired up all the time. Is that more of a focal point for him as he tries to regain his touch?
A: Although he has been in a shooting slump, for him, he is doing many other things to help the team out. It's not all about scoring. Getting a stop on defense is just as, if not more, important than scoring. He gets a lot of deflections, drives the lane to set up other people for shots, and when he's not in the game he's on the bench getting everyone fire up.
Q: Pitino teams are famous for slow starts and great finishes. Do you see this team making a run the rest of the conference season? What will it take to do that?
A: Like you said his teams are known for that, and I think we are capable of making a good run to finish out the conference season. It will take a lot to do that. It will take focus, hard work, and a drive to win. Coach prepare us well for the other team and we just need to go out and execute the game plan.
Q: How much has the addition of Ralph Willard to the coaching staff helped the team this season?
A: He has influenced the team a great deal since his arrival. His approach is different than coach's and it helps us out sometimes if things are explained a different way. He is a great coach and I'm glad he's here.
Q: Sunday against Cincinnati, we saw Terrence Jennings and Samardo Samuels play together for extended stretches, something I’ve been hoping to see a lot of this season. How dangerous can this team be when they are playing well together, and how does it change the way
opponents have to prepare for you guys?
A:TJ and Mardo playing together is another combination that makes it hard for other teams to prepare for. Truthfully, we have several lineups with different strengths and we are deep. On any night, we can put in three or four lineups that cause match up problems for many teams.
Q: No matter how this season plays out, clearly there’s a lot to look forward to in the coming years. How have you seen this year’s freshman grow as the year has progressed? How excited are you for the next couple recruiting classes, one of which (2011) already includes 2 members of the ESPN Super 60, to come to the Ville?
A:Coach always brings in great players so we can be successful. I know we have a lot of talent coming in and I look forward to playing with those guys but truthfully my focus is this year and now.
Q: How excited are you to play in the new arena next year?
A: I'm really excited to play in the new arena. It's going to be an amazing place to play. I will have had 2 years in Freedom Hall and will have 2 years in the new stadium. Best of both worlds.
Q: How hard is it to balance the demands of being a major conference college basketball player with your academics? (Congrats on being named to the AD’s Honor Roll, by the way)
A: It's really challenging to excel in both athletics ad acedemics. But I've learned to manage my time and how to get things done that I need to get done. For example, this year on flights instead of sleeping I would take homework with my and do it on the plane or I do it while we are stuck with curfew at the hotel.