March 21, 2009
PRESS CONFERENCE QUOTESHEET
Pitt vs. Oklahoma State, March 21, 2009, UD Arena, Dayton, Ohio
THE MODERATOR: Joining us today are student-athletes Sam Young, Levance Fields, Tyrell Biggs and DeJuan Blair. Questions for the student-athletes.
Q. Levance and Sam, you guys are very familiar with Oklahoma State and vice versa. I assume you got to see them on tape a little bit last night. Can you tell me how they're different from the last time you played them under Coach Dixon?
Levance Fields: We played a lot faster under Coach Dixon, up-tempo game, both defensively and offensively. They shoot more 3s than the previous two years we played against them.
And this team, from watching them, has a lot more confidence than the two teams we played in previous years, even with the team -- I forgot his name, a dude named Bogan, a post player, and the guard Curry. So they're a lot more confident, more experienced, and playing faster both offensively and defensively.
Sam Young: I think their point guard is playing his best basketball. So I think he's the leader of that team. He's kind of like the rock of that team. So when he's playing his best, I think the team kind of follows his lead. And right now he's playing great because he's playing so good the team just automatically is an upgraded team.
I think they're just more experienced, as a whole.
Q. Levance, could you talk about your matchup with Eaton? He's kind of -- he's a bigger point guard, likes to get in the lane. Could you talk about the matchup with him and how you fared against him the last time?
Levance Fields: It's going to be a tough matchup, but, Jermaine Dixon is going to be starting on him. So I'm going to be more so helping, and the biggest thing is to keep him out of the lane, like you say. He likes to penetrate. And if he's getting in the lane it opens up shots for Anderson and Harrison. And with Jermaine, and I'm on him, make sure we keep him out of the lane and avoid him from getting his teammates involved and getting them all easy shots.
Q. DeJuan, even other players of your body type fall in love with outside shooting, don't want to be post players, whether they're six-seven, six-eleven, whatever, but you don't seem to have ever succumbed to that addiction. Could you talk about your interest in being a permanent power player?
DeJuan Blair: That's something I'm working on right now with my teammates. But we've got enough shooters out there. I'm worried about getting points inside. We have shooters who if I can't score inside I can pass it out, and we got shooters that can handle it out. So I'm not going to worry about that. I can worry about it offseason. I'm just going to keep doing what I've been doing, what got us here and I'm just going to keep playing inside. I really ain't worried about that right now.
Q. DeJuan, you've had some great games against some of the best big men in college basketball, the guy from Notre Dame, the big guy from UConn, now your thoughts as you face an Oklahoma State team that really doesn't have much size at all.
DeJuan Blair: They've got a good post player in Moses. He's getting better every game. And I feel he's a good player also. So I'm just going to keep playing, and I ain't going to change for nobody. I think every big man I play is good from now on. From now on every team we play is going to be an excellent team in the tournament. So I'm just going to go hard, like I went hard every other game. It's just another game.
Q. Levance, can you please explain the concept behind the press break? It seems a lot of the times you're really not involved in the ball handling, and it's up to other guys to get the ball across half court. Could you just explain that and do you think you guys will tinker with that tomorrow against Oklahoma State?
Levance Fields: The plan is to get me the ball, teams are doing a pretty good job denying me and myself, I have to work a little harder to get to the ball. Also, sometimes I let guys bring it up because we all trust each other on this team. Unfortunately, sometimes we make mistakes, all of us, but that happens.
But tomorrow I definitely make sure I get the ball more and work a little bit harder to make sure I'm bringing it up against whatever type defenses they play.
Q. Levance, just how much are you still bothered, if at all, by the groin injury?
Levance Fields: Not at all. I told you yesterday I'm 100 percent, so I'm 100 percent today.
Q. Does it affect you at all?
Levance Fields: No, I'm fine.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks, guys. Coach, an opening statement, please.
Coach Dixon: We got done with our workout. We headed over here. We're obviously familiar with Oklahoma State over the years. We've played them the last couple of years, so we know their personnel very well. They're an experienced team. All these guys have played a lot of minutes and we know them very well, obviously.
Anderson and Harris and Obi, and so we're -- and Byron, so that we're very familiar with their team and their players. And so a little different in that regard for a non-conference opponent playing in the NCAA Tournament.
But obviously doing things a little bit differently as far as what they're doing offensively, but we've got our time to prepare and looking forward to the opportunity to play.
THE MODERATOR: Questions.
Q. You use Levance in the middle on the press break, is that normally the way you've done it and would you expect Oklahoma State to press like they did --
Coach Dixon: We move our guys around, we put them in different spots. I wouldn't say we lock a guy in one spot or the other. We're good against the press. We were better in the second half, obviously. And that's something you make adjustments and you do things better in the second half. I'd rather be better in the second half than the first half. I guess that's what you're referring to. So there was improvement. But, yeah, we use different guys and I'll expect them to see a little bit of a press, 1-3-1 is what they've shown, and we've gone through all the presses.
We've handled press well throughout the year. And, again, we handled it better in the second half, much better in the second half of the last game.
Q. Jamie, was there ever any point in the East Tennessee game when you felt we are feeling that 1/16 pressure, the No. 1 pressure in the 1/16 game when things were sticky?
Coach Dixon: I don't think really during the game. I think we went into the game knowing that it was going to be a very good opponent. I talked yesterday about how good they were and we really didn't think of them as a 16, I didn't.
So I guess that thought never really came to my mind. And I knew where they were seeded. But I had seen them play. And sometimes teams are not what they're seeded. Their body of work was not reflective of what they were at the end of the year.
I knew how good a team they were watching their last five games, and anybody that did watch those five games would think the same thing. I'm sure Coach Bartow would say the same thing, as well.
So we got a good win against a good team, and that's the way we look at it.
Q. Could you talk about Eaton and taking him out -- seems like he really is the center of everything they do and how you plan to defend against him?
Coach Dixon: He's very physical. They're a very physical team. He plays -- I guess he's a former football player, as I remember, and he just is aggressive defensively, aggressive offensively, they run a number of ball screens for him to get him penetration.
And we've seen him do this for three years. I mean, we've played against him, this will be the third year now, straight, and remember him out of high school, as well. He was always a guy who could get in the lane and he's doing a great job of getting guys shots, getting other guys open looks, and I think that's what his biggest -- and also defensively he's in the passing lanes.
He's a physical defender on drives and help side. So he does a lot of things for them.
Q. You've mentioned in the past how good Nasir is against the zone, with Gilbert being a little bit banged up. Do you have any concerns about putting Nasir in the game tomorrow, if need be?
Coach Dixon: No. I think Nasir has played well for us. Again -- and Gary has, too. Those are two guys that haven't played for us. We've played eight guys. But usually those guys go in for Sam, Tyrell and DeJuan, and that's where they would be rotated in. And so those guys have played well for us and we need to keep them on the floor.
So as well as those guys have played and as much as they've continued to improve, Nasir and Gary, their minutes are a lot reflective of what's going on with those other three guys.
So the 2-3 zone is something we'll have to attack. We need to get good shots against that. We've been good most of the year against zones 2-3, especially, but, again, it's something that they do and do well and we need to get good shots against it.
Q. Tennessee settled for 33 3-pointers yesterday. Is that something that you're going to be comfortable doing tomorrow or do you want to work it more inside?
Coach Dixon: We would never -- I think that's something we brought up to our team, and we've never shot that many 3s in a game. Tennessee tends to do that more. So it's about 60 percent of their shots. We definitely don't want to shoot that many against the zone.
And I think that's more reflective of how Tennessee plays in a lot of ways. So, yeah, it's something that we addressed. We talked to our team about it when looking at the stats, as you do, you look at previous games and what opponents do against one another.
So I think that was a valid point to bring to our players' attention and something that we've addressed.
Q. It's really good when a program can find a great player in its own backyard, like you did with Blair. And because he's from there, you probably have a good idea of what he can be. But what degree has he exceeded what you thought he could be at the collegiate level?
Coach Dixon: He's been a great leader for us as a sophomore. I think he really came in with a really good understanding about what a good teammate is, and I think that was something you probably never know until a guy gets in your program. I think being around him every day and being with a team and seeing how he interacts every day is really how he's shown what a great teammate he is and what a great leader he can and has become and will become a better one, too, I think. So I think that's probably been the thing that's the most impressive thing to me.
We saw the tools. A lot of people didn't. He wasn't ranked that high. But we saw something special in him and as a player and he's just become a great, great ambassador for our school and the city and the city of Pittsburgh, and the city school district, as well.
Q. With regard to DeJuan, there's so few post players anymore. How advanced is his technique, or was it, when you got him, the footwork, ambidexterity, et cetera, or has he made improvements in those areas since you got him?
Coach Dixon: He's become a better athlete. Conditioning was a big issue. He was heavier when he came to campus. We've talked about it over the years. He's lost a lot of weight, and that's helped him, but he always had great hands. You can't teach that. That's just something you got.
It's hard to watch kids play in high school, because oftentimes they're the biggest guy, they can't do the things that they might be able to do against bigger kids in college. So there was some things that he's improved on. But certain things, his hands, his feel for the game, his vision, those are tools that he had that you just can't teach. And I think the conditioning part of it, defensive technique, tendencies, learning those things, those are things we've had to help him improve. But he's a hard worker.
I think that was another thing you're not sure of until you get a kid there. And he's determined to be a great player and he understands the value of hard work. So those are tools that we weren't sure were there, but once he got there it was pretty evident.
Q. If you compare last year's tournament with this one, it seems like there were a lot more of the high-high level elite players, the top draft picks, Rose, Beasley, than there are this year. So how would you rate the caliber of the players in this tournament, and if you agree that it is slightly down, does that open things up or does it change anything?
Coach Dixon: It would be hard for me to compare those players to these players. I haven't got a chance to look through the whole tournament and watch each game. I'm not sure what's happening in today's games or what's going on. It's hard to keep track. But I know it may seem strange. But we're not able to handicap the tournaments and the players as much as maybe you guys are as far as we're watching so much film of that upcoming opponent.
I think there's good players every year. I think sometimes the young guys get talked about, a new face. Last year there seemed to be more new faces, freshmen, and they just get so much hype and talk going in. With DeJuan, he's a sophomore, he became the new face and became the story, and I think that's why he got talked about more.
I've been -- we still haven't talked about Sam Young, who is our leading scorer, and I've always been kind of amused by the fact he's had some games he was the leading scorer in the game against Connecticut and no one talked about him. I think it's the new face. Those guys you mentioned were freshmen. And the freshman story is everybody wants to write about it and everybody wants to talk about it because they're new.
Q. I guess Travis Ford put his team through a week of torture this year where he took the balls away and locked the gym doors, et cetera. Have you found any need to motivate or challenge your guys? You seem to have a pretty self-motivated group.
Coach Dixon: They're pretty self-motivated group, I think you're right about that. I think they challenge one another. Our practices are always very competitive and we were just in there talking just now, the players, and they talked about our so-called time off, week off.
That's an opportunity for them to get better and there's really no time off any time during the year for us. So I think one thing that's always made our program, that's helped us, is our balance and our depth and our ability to challenge each other in practices every day. And I think that's a big part of what we do.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach.