Men's Basketball

    Previewing New Mexico State vs. Indiana - NCAA Tournament Second Round

    Go Hoosiers! Tom Crean
    Go Hoosiers!
    Tom Crean
    Go Hoosiers!

    March 14, 2012


    PORTLAND, Ore. - Indiana head coach Tom Crean, along with juniors Jordan Hulls and Christian Watford and freshman Cody Zeller participated in press conferences heading into the Hoosiers' second round game vs. New Mexico State in the NCAA Tournament in Portland on Wednesday, March 12.

    Indiana Press Conference Q. What have you observed about New Mexico State in the time you've watched them on film?
    Cody Zeller: They're definitely very athletic. And there's a reason why they're in the NCAA tournament. They're definitely very athletic. They like to crash the boards. We're going to have to do a nice job of getting the defensive rebounds. They're definitely a very talented team.

    Q. How does the Big Ten season and playing in that conference prepared you to play against a physical team like this?
    Jordan Hulls: Helped us out a lot playing against the Michigan States and Ohio States, all of the Big Ten is a very physical conference. It really got us ready for this game because New Mexico State, they play physical. They crash the boards a lot, so we've got to do a good job of boxing out.

    Q. You've known for awhile you were going to be in the tournament. Can you talk about the reaction you've had from friends, fans, fellow students since the announcement was made on Sunday night that you guys were actually back in the tournament?
    Christian Watford: We received a lot of support from our friends and family. They've been with us throughout the whole year. It's given them something to cheer for.

    Q. I'm curious, have you all been able to get your family out here to Portland? I know that's always an issue with some guys. I know the NCAA probably ought to help family members get out here. Are all three of your family members coming out here?
    Cody Zeller: My parents are going to watch Tyler in Greensboro, because he's the favorite.
    Christian Watford:
    My family is on their way out here right now.
    Jordan Hulls: My parents, my aunt, my cousin and my brother are coming.

    Q. Can you talk about what you've seen from Wendell McKines so far, what stands out about that particular player?
    Christian Watford: He does it all, he's like Draymond Green from Michigan State. He can shoot the ball well, he gets the offensive glass, and we've got to keep him off the glass.

    Q. What's it been like for replacing Jones since he went down. What are the challenges of replacing him so far, what's that been like for you?
    Jordan Hulls: It's hard to replace him on our team. He's a senior. Been through all the ups and downs, one of the senior leaders on the team. We had guys on the bench who were fully capable of stepping up. We've had a great week of practice. It's tough to play without Verdell, but we're adjusting the way that we need to.

    Q. You talked a little bit about Wendell McKines. Can you elaborate more on his physicality and rebounding, what you have to do to stop a player that moves so much and uses his muscles, so to say?
    Christian Watford: The main thing is you have to limit the presses. We're going to crowd him a little bit, get into him. Make him keep him off the glass, always have a body on him.

    Q. Beyond McKines, how are the other different ways that New Mexico State can hurt a team?
    Cody Zeller: They're very big. It starts with McKines, but all the way down the line. They're one of the tallest teams in the country. They get a ton of offensive rebounds. Like I said, we're going to have to do a nice job getting all the defensive rebounds, not only blocking out McKines, but the other four guys on the court always crash the boards hard, so that will be a big key.

    Q. Maurice Creek has been a guy all season that as you made this run, he's watching from the sidelines. What impact has he played this season for you guys, as a player off the court and what's it been like for him, do you think?
    Jordan Hulls: I'm sure it's pretty difficult for him. Because he obviously wants to be out on the floor playing with us. He's been vocal off the court, whether it's calling out plays the other team is running or taking a guy's side for encouragement. He does different things off the floor that go unseen to the public, but as a team we all see it happening.
    Christian Watford: He's been a leader off the court more than anything.

    Q. Looking at New Mexico State, they are No. 1 in free throw attempts in the country. How do you go into a match up like that to not play to their strengths and keep them out of the interior, and keeping out of foul trouble?
    Cody Zeller: Like you said, they get to the line a lot. We can't get in foul trouble. So we've got to do our work early, keep them out of the paint. Keep them off the boards. We played against some teams that get to the line quite a bit this year. We're going to have to do all the little things it takes to win.

    Q. How do you temper the excitement of being in the NCAA tournament and keeping everybody kind of focused on what they have to do just with the next game?
    Jordan Hulls: Just approaching the game the same way we have all year, same mindset we've approached it, whether it's been practice or film sessions. We're definitely honored to be here, but once we get on the court we know it's game time and we've got to keep our heads level and focus on the details of the game.

    Q. You guys have improved a lot on the boards and have been more physical this year, how much more fit do you guys feel to play a team that is this physical and this big this year as opposed to years in the past?
    Christian Watford: I think it helps a lot, especially with as physical, how teams are in the Big Ten. We've got to put a body on them. Me and Cody will be down there the majority of the time, but we've got to get all five guys in there helping us to rebound.

    Q. As a follow up to my last question, have you seen everybody taking this with a kind of serious focus that they need to?
    Jordan Hulls: Yeah, definitely. Like I said, practices have been great this week, and mindset is great. We're trying to look at the film and all the different things that go on in practice. As long as we stay focused on those things we'll be able to do all right.

    Q. Is this about rebounding, rebounding and rebounding?
    COACH CREAN: I think so. But it's also about not fouling. They average so many free throw attempts. There's no question when you watch them on film that they do a great job of creating contact.

    When you talk about being relentless on the backboards, we can talk about that with teams in our league, and when we start to look at Michigan State and Purdue and people of that nature, Ohio State, they take a backseat to nobody on that. They are sending three or four every time. And I think that's where they get a lot of their fouls is on second chance.

    So their baskets off of offensive rebounds and their free throw attempts off of offensive rebounds have got to be as high as anybody we've seen. Verticality and making sure our positioning is right, all those things are crucial. And the rebounding and the fouling kind of go hand in hand.

    Q. Now that they're out here in the building and getting ready to practice on the court, how do you keep them from being blinded by the glitter of the NCAA and focus on the next game?
    COACH CREAN: I don't know that you spend a lot of time thinking about that. The best thing we did is get out here on Monday night. Practiced at home. We had all day yesterday. We've been in the gym today. We're going to get up and down the court a little bit today, so it's not just going to be go out and shoot a couple of shots.

    I'm not real worried about that. These guys are honored to be here. You can see it. There's nobody that feels like they've arrived or that they're just happy to be here. There's nobody that's taking it lightly. And I think that's the way that this team has evolved over a period of time. They know what they've earned. They don't know what they're getting into. But the more we spend talking about that the more distracted they could be. And these guys have been great about understanding the atmosphere and the environment all year long. They've grown up watching the tournament.

    If we spend a lot of time talking about all the what ifs, we'll get away from what has to happen.

    Q. Can you talk about Wendell McKines. Your player talked about him that he's similar to Green. Is he also similar to Dominic Sutton, a guy you saw later in the year? Two guys that definitely go after the glass.
    COACH CREAN: That's a good preparation. When that game moved and we started to look at how their season was evolving, we were able to talk about that. Every team you face this time of year when you get in the tournament, they're more than likely going to have a pro.

    I don't think Wendell McKines takes a backseat to anyone. He's one of the better, undersized, but also undervalued forwards probably in the country. He can score. He can shoot the ball. When you look at his numbers over a four year period of time, incredible the rise that he has made statistically. You can tell he's a hard worker.

    And he's somebody, you have to account for him every possession. Because what happens is when you lose a step on him, it's over. Whether it's a rebound, whether it's a drive to the rim, whether it's a post up.

    But there again, like so many other good teams, they're far from just being a one person dominant team. When you've got a team that gets 30 free throw attempts a game, you've got an aggressive, relentless team. The way they rebound and defend.

    What's impressive about them is they really look I don't know their players, but they have really good togetherness on the court. And it looks like they've got really solid leadership on that court. And I bet Wendell McKines has a lot to do with that.

    Q. Three out of five returning stars from two years ago played in the NCAA tournament from New Mexico State and they took Michigan State to the last seconds. Are you concerned at all about some of that NCAA experience that those three particular senior starters have?
    COACH CREAN: I'm sure that factors in. We're far more concerned about the team they have right now, and especially the way they played this past weekend. They are averaging over 17 offensive rebounds alone just this past weekend. They're a really, really good team.

    Marvin Menzies is an excellent coach. He's always had great respect. He's always been didn't matter what coast you are, people know who Marvin Menzies is. And when you look at that team, you see a lot of improvement. I'm sure all those players from a couple of years ago are better, obviously.

    We haven't spent a lot of time I've looked at that box score, but we haven't spent a lot of time looking at something that far away. I think this team is really good.

    But we can't do anything about the lack of experience we have in the tournament. There's no way around it. What we have to do is we've got to go up there and go out and take advantage of the 33 games of experience that we have this year and do the very best we can with that.

    Q. You talk about the offensive rebound and free throw attempts. Can you compare them to a team that relies they're not a great 3 point shooting team. Seems like offensively they do two things really well.
    COACH CREAN: I think they do more than that. Those are numbers that stand out with bright, neon lights. But I think they're a very good 3 point shooting team. They don't have a lot of guys maybe that attempt them, but they come off the bench and they shoot the ball very well. And McKines and Laroche shoot the ball very well.

    We're looking at that entire team, starting Sunday night, and we've just been hammering away. And our players have done an excellent job of trying to absorb all of it, especially since Monday. And we know we're playing a really good team. Who they've played, what conference, what seed, none of that has nothing to do with how good that team is that we're getting ready to see tomorrow.

    We know what they're capable of, and the thing that they're very good defensively. They make it very hard for you to score. This team is bigger, in my mind, without seeing them in person, I mean, this is they're probably bigger than 50, 60 percent of the Big Ten teams we see. So they've got a big, solid team.

    I've got two brother in laws in the NFL that would probably have a lot of interest in watching these guys with the size of body and the speed they have. They look like they're full of tight ends and defensive ends when you look at them. They're a big team.

    We're more concerned about that than just the two major aspects of their team, because I don't think you get 26 wins by just having a couple of things that you're good at.

    Q. You talked about staying out of foul trouble. Is there one game that you've played earlier this year, one or two games that you point to and say we need you to play like you did here?
    COACH CREAN: No, I think those things make them overthink. It's about positioning, technique and awareness. Those are huge. And they've got to go together.

    Michigan State is a team where when Draymond Green has it, when the shot goes up, you have to account for everybody on the court. Not all teams are like that. But New Mexico State is like that. You have to account for everyone.

    The plus/minus of when Mullings is in the game alone right there is strong. Here's a guy that maybe doesn't take a ton of shots. And you look at him and maybe his numbers don't stand out maybe as much as some of the other ones, but when you watch him play and you see the aggressiveness of him, the way he drives it and gets it to the backboard, you know you've got to do a phenomenal job of keeping him off.

    To me, I don't know if we can go back to games. I think there's a lot of games that give you the experience and the belief and the knowledge once you get into the game. But this is a game where, again, the position and the technique and the awareness have got to be outstanding.

    Q. How does this road trip differ from others? I know it's an NCAA tournament, I want to hear from you how it differs. And what challenges it poses to a coach to keep your team focused?
    COACH CREAN: First off, we don't leave Monday for Thursday games, but we also don't have to travel as far as we did. We're on spring break. If we were still in school we may not have left as early, we would have stayed in school another day.

    But for this team right now, I mean, they've been great, they're mature. They've had a great opportunity to see Portland some, to do a couple of different things. They went to a movie last night. But again, it's been a pretty good dose of work, as well. And as a coach, I don't mind the rain. It keeps them in and they want to get into the film a little bit more.

    Q. What have you done in Portland?
    COACH CREAN: We're staying downtown. We have a great location at the Nines, so they can move around down there. We've gone out to eat different places. They went to "Act of Valor" last night. And then we'll pretty much shut it down after they eat tonight.

    But we let them have an opportunity to kind of explore. But at the same time, they're getting a lot of rest. So it's fun to sit in the front of the bus and listen to them in the back of the bus. I may not know everything they're saying, but that laughter is universal. And those are the things that you really enjoy being a part of it.

    And I think when it's all said and done, they'll remember where they went. They'll have experiences to think about, but it's the lasting, shared memories of something somebody said that was silly in the back of the bus or silly at breakfast. That's the stuff that really builds them, I think, when they come back years from now and reminisce about their time. And it's all part of that.

    Q. Have you told Cody or the other two guys anything differently from this game in terms of trying to stay out of foul trouble?
    COACH CREAN: Again, it's about position, technique and awareness. And we talk about those things all the time. We've got to have great verticality. They create contact. They jump into you. And we've got to have this is not a situation where we can get into a wrestling contest. That's not what we're looking for. And when you're coming from the Big Ten and you have to adjust to different types of officiating in the sense of is it going to be called close or tight, players make those adjustments. We come from a great league that has excellent officials. These guys have adjusted all year long.

    We're not going to spend a lot of time putting doubts in their head. It's not about don't foul. It's more about move your feet, have verticality, be in position. We're trying to create positives by giving great reminders.

    Q. I know that he can't play, but what role has Verdell played over the last couple of days, and what role tomorrow?
    COACH CREAN: He's been unhealthy today. He's been under the weather. His attitude has been great. We didn't practice in Indianapolis, we walked through after the Penn State game. And we did a little bit on Sunday. And it was yesterday, a little bit on Monday, but definitely yesterday you could really realize he wasn't out there. He's got a presence. We've always known what he's capable of and especially the things that he's done this year, and the way he played.

    We miss him. There's no way around it. He's a stabilizing force. He's grown up so much as a player, and was playing such excellent defense. He had a 7 rebound game at Minnesota. Those are paramount things, especially when you're playing a team like this tomorrow.

    In answer to your question, he's done a great job with the team, his spirits are excellent, not so good today when he's not feeling good, but I think he'll be good for Remy, he's been an excellent teammate. I haven't seen a change, and I think these guys have done a fantastic job of being his friend, being his teammate. There's nothing different. He's just sitting on the side right now. He's taking it in.

    I was even asking him questions on Friday about the game, even like he was playing. I've done that a couple of times at practice and I plan to do it tomorrow. But these guys, they have a great bond. And I think most teams that get to this time of year they really have that. And our guys really don't take a backseat to anybody on that. And especially everything that everybody has been through and how roles have changed in our program. And those that cover us know they've really changed and they've grown.

    To have the team be that close just says so much about the quality of the people and the program, the quality of the players. And that, as a coach, it's just an awesome feeling to have that.

    Q. When he's sick, do you try to keep him away?
    COACH CREAN: Yeah, we've taken care of that. We were born at night, not last night. We've got that, moving in that direction. We can't afford anybody else down, I know that.

    Q. In your tenure in Indiana the road hasn't been exactly kind to you guys. But you got that under control near the end of the season. How much of that has been mental, and now you're playing as far away from home as you possibly can be, is that a roadblock that you guys are over?
    COACH CREAN: We started out the season with two road wins, at Evansville and North Carolina State. So there's been some up and down. And we're 500 this year away from home. In respect to maybe some of the better teams in the country it's not as good. In respect to where we've been the last three years, it's tremendous.

    So again, it's like anything else. These guys are a product of their experiences. I think everybody is getting adjusted. And again, I think coming out Monday was good for this team to get adjusted. I don't sense any cabin fever or anything like that. They're doing things and we're trying to occupy time, at the same time give them a lot of free time.

    So we've just really stayed focused on getting ready to play another really good team. We're coming off neutral games, just like New Mexico is, like they played in Las Vegas this last weekend. They've got the advantage maybe in they don't have to deal much with the time change or being in a different locale in the sense of where they're at in the country. Tomorrow night it's not really going to make a difference. It's who adjusts, who makes the fewest mistakes, who pays attention to the details, all those things are going to be who determines who the winner is.

    Q. Coach Menzies mentioned that their team is better than a typical mid major team, but not compared to a high major team. When you look at some of the teams in these bigger conferences, how does New Mexico State's size and athleticism compare?
    COACH CREAN: First off, it's not about the conferences and it's not about the mid major, high major anymore. Like we told our team on Sunday, congratulations on 25 and 8. This was about 4:00. You've got two more hours of that. After this, everybody is in the same room. It's not just about being 0 0. It's who can take advantage of their experiences the best.

    I think New Mexico State has done a great job, just from really studying them the last few days, they don't take possessions off. They do not take opportunities to rebound off. They don't take opportunities to run the court off of a turnover or a rebound off. They move the ball. They've got some go to guys and everybody knows it.

    And I think, again, they're a big team. I haven't broken it down to the size and weight, but I would put them for sure in the upper half, well into the upper half of size, strength, body types of what we would face in the Big Ten or maybe any other power conference.

    There's nothing, quote, unquote, "mid major" that you see with them. They've got star power. They've got guys that stay in their roles. And a team that looks like high level tough guys. And I know their coach is really, really good.

    Q. After the Kentucky game you were getting a ton of attention nationally. And after a tough stretch, some of the national media kind of overlooked you a little bit. Is there any part of you guys that are thinking about that role, that may have been overlooked a little bit, is any of that motivation at all?

    COACH CREAN: I think that is. Back to the beginning of the year, it wasn't anybody that picked us to be here, let alone 4th seed, let alone winning 25 games.

    I don't think outside expectations drive us. They're like anybody else, when they're doubted, when they're criticized, I'm sure they're going to take that to heart. We'll have our times we throw that out there. We'll have our times where somebody will say something and we'll use it.

    But this team right now, they're in a place where they've just got to understand what makes them successful. And anything that's said in a good way, anything that's said in a bad way, that's going to have nothing absolutely to do with it at 6:40, 6:45, whatever time we tip.

    New Mexico State Press Conference
    Q. You've been here before. How does that experience help you guys as you head into this game with Indiana?
    WENDELL McKINES: It helps us as far as preparation and what to expect in the game and just the whole overall process of just being here. It can get kind of overwhelming if you let it get to you, especially if it's like your first time here. But after being here, you more so look forward to the game, which I am.

    Q. You guys had some lulls in the season. Describe how the whole season's gone, and are you at a peak and do you think you guys can really make a run and surprise a lot of people in this tournament?
    HERNST LAROCHE: It's been a roller coaster. We won some big games and then we lost some. But I think we're playing good right now. The losses from the beginning helped us play good right now. From the experience I think we're going to make some big runs.

    Q. Can you both talk about the swagger that this team seems to have. And Wendell, obviously, I think you have a big part to play in that particular confidence.
    WENDELL McKINES: I don't have a swagger, I have an aura about me, you can just feel the energy. So "swagger," I wouldn't necessarily use that word. Just the aura in my presence, and you can feel like something special is about to happen. That's a better word for it, "aura."

    Q. What challenges does this team pose on the boards that maybe other teams that you've played haven't?
    HERNST LAROCHE: Wendell is a big rebounder, so I know he's going to step up. We're ready for the big stage. It's going to be a challenge with Cody Zeller, but I think we've got that.

    WENDELL McKINES: Also, the coaching staff has us well prepared to attack their strength, as well. And our strength is rebounding, and they're going to try to counter our strength as well. So that means we have to go even harder. They're pretty good in transition. And Zeller, he runs the floor like a deer, so our centers have to be prepared to run the floor. The three point line, as well.

    That all starts with our offense taking good shots and offensively rebounding the ball, and ball pressure on defense. We'll be fine.

    Q. When we talked to Indiana players and coaches, the coach talked about the team as a whole being very strong for New Mexico State. But many of the players seemed to focus in on Wendell. What does that make you feel as a player, a guy with 20 double doubles this year and this and that. And you're not going to fly under the radar with them. They know who you are. How does that feel for you and how does that go in your mindset?
    WENDELL McKINES: I'm a middle child, so I enjoy the tension. That just means I have to get that gives my teammates an opportunity to get involved early. As long as they play at a high level, I'll feed off their energy if they want to put that much attention on me. Once I get involved, they'll know why I got 20 rebounds.

    Q. Having that year off, what did you learn during that time and do you feel like you, Hernst and the other senior have a chip on your shoulder trying to make a run during the tournament?
    WENDELL McKINES: I appreciate the game much more. It gave me a drive to perfect my craft and be a student of the game and just come back strong with this team.

    Yeah, me, Hernst and Hamidu, the other senior you were pertaining to, we have a great chemistry on and off the floor. Once we got back and start clicking and gelling, once we found our identity as a team, things started rolling for us and got us to this point.

    Q. For both of you, Indiana, that's college basketball, that's the name, Hoosiers, the movie, everything. Is there any intimidation factor or does it get you guys more fired up to play a name like this?

    HERNST LAROCHE: It's basketball. We've got great players. They've got great players. It's going to come down to 40 minutes. We're not worried about the name on their jerseys, we're just going to play hard.

    WENDELL McKINES: Teams that are intimidated and infatuated by playing bigger name schools, those are the teams that lose by 40.

    Q. You talked about maybe letting your teammates get going and then getting into the flow of the game. But in the WAC title game you came out very aggressive from the start and made a point to carry the scoring early. Was that a situation you felt like you needed to be that way or does it carry over into this game?
    WENDELL McKINES: That was just the flow of the game. I was able to crash the glass early. Tyrone Watson was finding me in positions where I could be successful. But Louisiana Tech, they played me man to man and gave me room to operate.

    But as you said, it sounds like Indiana is going to focus on me. So that means my teammates are going to have a whole lot of opportunity to be successful in this game. And once they're successful, if Indiana, if they make adjustments, then I'll be free again. So it's just a team effort. I'm pretty sure I won't see any defenses I haven't seen. I know how to go about being successful.

    Q. A lot of people, the Indiana coaches and players, both named Draymond Green from Michigan State when asked to compare a guy to you. You played against him in the tournament a few years ago. Is that a fair comparison to you?
    WENDELL McKINES: As far as it depends on where you look at it. From rebounding and scoring and from it means a lot to the team perspective, yeah. But I don't really like to compare myself to nobody. I'm special.

    Q. Wendell mentioned how Cody Zeller runs like a deer. Is there anyone you've played against like Zeller, and how important is it for your big guys to get back, especially in transition?
    COACH MENZIES: I can't think of anybody off the top of my head that we've gone up against this year that has Cody's height that runs as well as he does. It will definitely be a key for us, defensive transition, stopping their quick buckets. They pull the trigger, they have a lot of offensive freedom within their system. Tom does a good job of his offensive transition.

    So very specific in lanes, quick ball screens and so forth after. So they've got some deep weapons in their arsenal there, so we've got to do a good job there.

    Q. Your guys seemed really loose up here. They don't seem like there's any kind of intimidation factor. Are they as comfortable as they looked right here?
    COACH MENZIES: I hope so. These guys have been through it before. Particularly Hernst and Wendell have not just been to the tournament, but participated and helped us play a very good game against Michigan State just a couple of years ago.

    We talk a lot about their leadership and their confidence. But it has to kind of shine down on the younger guys. We need a complete group. Because we've only got the three seniors. We can't win with three guys, we're going to have to have those underclassmen, the juniors, sophomores and freshmen contribute, as well. I think what you saw was probably pretty accurate.

    Q. Can you elaborate a little bit more on that, that these three seniors have tournament experience, and tournament experience where it came down to the wire against Michigan State. They've reiterated they can win. Can you talk about how important that kind of tournament experience is, especially for seniors?
    COACH MENZIES: Well, you know, most mid major programs are going to compete based on the personnel. But the dangerous ones are the ones that have the experience.

    When I was assistant coach at high major universities in Louisville and USC, UNLV, San Diego State, we always struggled with the quote, unquote, low majors and the mid major minuses that have senior laden teams. And that's kind of who we are. We're not a high major university, but we've got some guys that we've kept through our retention and our original paradigm that we set up when I took over the job five years ago.

    We've developed some great young men and great players. And so now is our time. I think it will be important for us to rely on those guys. And I think it's necessary if you're going to be successful as a mid major.

    You reference VCU and their run, having experienced guys, and Butler with their upperclassmen. I don't think either one of those teams makes it as far as they do without having some guys that know how to get after it and have been doing it for awhile.

    Q. Have you noticed anything different with Indiana, the way they handle pressure, handle the ball with the loss of Jones?
    COACH MENZIES: They only had the one game that we've been able to view that Jones wasn't there. I'd have to say no, not off the top of my head.

    He was a true floor general. Great facilitator, great defender. We watch all the other games where he was obviously a big part of what they were doing. You saw the intangibles that he brought to the table.

    So I don't know how that will affect them going forward. This is a whole new season. They've got talent. They've got talent beyond the top five guys. And they've got some depth and guys that come off the bench and shoot the ball and defend. How much it affects them, I don't know. I guess that's to be seen.

    Q. Have you reached out to Coach Pitino, are you planning on seeing them play? Have you seen them in person since you played them your first year?
    COACH MENZIES: Yeah, we had a chance to visit already. I don't want to get into too much detail on that. We had a chance to visit some already and shared some laughter and keeping everything nice and even keel. We're more focused on obviously he's focused on getting those Cards ready to play and we'll do the same thing with the Aggies.

    Q. How much does Wendell's personality drive this team? He seems like a guys that's not intimidated by anything.
    COACH MENZIES: He's not. I think that personality has been good for us. He's a very tough kid. He's very passionate about the game. So obviously something like that, attributes like that and virtues like that in the game of basketball will rub off on the younger players, and they've done that.

    So right now we're more than one entity right now, which is great. We've had games where early on every season you go through your ups and downs. And I think all of our guys have learned a lot of lessons this particular season and it seems to all be coming together at the right time, Wendell included.

    With that being said, without him we're a totally different team. You lose Hernst, we're a totally different team. There's a few guys like that that we need everybody healthy and focused and tuned into the scouting report and what they need to do to get it done.

    Q. Wendell was pretty much in here cracking up everybody more or less. Is that more or less typical?
    COACH MENZIES: Loves life, man. He loves life. Wendell is a special person and player, obviously you guys got a chance to visit with him for a few moments. Imagine spending five years with him. I've had a lot of laughs with that kid. He's my first recruit. And he was the first player that I signed as a head coach. We've got a very special bond. I'm going to miss him a lot. So I'm hoping to keep him around a few more days and weeks, hopefully.

    He's a great kid. He's just really grown up since he came to University. I don't think he wanted to say boo and just kind of, dang, I have to talk to the media. He went all the way from there to, when is the next interview?

    It's been a lot here just this past few days, though. I do think now he wants to just play ball and get out on the floor and get everything started.




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