March 11, 2007
– GEORGIA TECH HEAD COACH Paul Hewitt
“We are very thankful to be in this tournament. I’m not sure what the deciding factor was, but seeing some of the teams that were left out, I’m sure it was very close. We’re grateful for the opportunity, and we’re getting ready to play against a very well-coached team in UNLV. Lon Kruger is one of the best coaches in the country. I’m familiar with some of their personnel just from being on the recruiting trail, but as far as the meat and potatoes of their ballclub, I’ll know more in the next 24 hours.
On UNLV — “I know that they’re going to be the type of team that doesn’t beat themselves. They’re not going to turn it over much and they’re very solid defensively. He’s always done one of the best jobs in the country as far as getting the most out of his teams. I remember watching his teams at Florida and Illinois. Obviously he’s got connections to the Atlanta area because of his time with the Hawks. You look at the stat sheet and they’re averaging 15 assists and only 11.4 turnovers a game, which is very impressive. They’re probably not going to steal the ball a ton, but at the same time, you’re not going to get many uncontested shots.
“I watched UNLV early in the year when they went to Texas Tech with Coach Knight trying to win his 880th game and they dominated the game start to finish.
“Anything can happen. I’ve been saying for the last week or 10 days, I wasn’t sure if we would get into the Tournament, but I do feel very good about how our basketball team is playing. Each game is obviously a whole new chapter, but I like the way we’re playing going into this Tournament.
“It had to be close. I’m glad we’re in, and I’m grateful to the Committee. Now we’ve got to go out and prove that they chose the right team.
JUNIOR FORWARD Jeremis Smith
What was it like in the locker room? “It’s different for everybody. For the freshmen, they feel one way, and for the people that have been here three, or even five years like Mario, it’s different. Some of us have made it to the tournament and then missed the tournament last year, so Anthony (Morrow), Dickey, Mario (West) and myself all know how it feels [on both sides.] We felt a lot of different than how the freshmen feel.”
Do you know anything about UNLV and their style of play? “I know one of the players is from Houston. Everybody is saying that it’s going to be a fun game because we both play up-and-down styles, and I take it that it will be a fast-tempo type of game.”
Has it been a long [couple of days] for you guys? “We’ve been sitting around trying to burn time, practicing, and trying to sleep as much as possible so that we can pass time. We are just really grateful for the opportunity that the selection committee has given us. We kind of blew our chance in the ACC Tournament, and we are really grateful for this next opportunity that we’ve gotten.”
Have you looked at the other teams in the bracket? “It’s a great bracket to be in. It’s a good UNLV team with a great up-and-down style of play, so they won’t be trying to slow down the tempo of the game. There is a great Wisconsin team and good Texas A&M team that has been working really hard all season. We’re just glad to be in the bracket that we are in.”
Were you confident coming into today? “I was very confident, but at the same time we blew our chance at the ACC Tournament, so we’re just grateful that the selection committee gave us another chance.”
Were you happy that [the announcement] came early in the show? “Definitely. That was very important. We had just finished eating, and my stomach was turning and everything, so we were very happy when we heard `ACC.’ All we had to do was hear `ACC’ and `Yellow’ and that’s it.”
With the strong finish at the end of the regular season, you have to think that you guys have a chance to win at any time. “At the beginning of the season, we played a good Maui Invitational, beating Memphis and competing with UCLA, and then we had our tough times. We had losses and good wins this season, but like I said, we are just grateful that we have gotten another chance because we really felt like we could have made some noise in the ACC Tournament and we feel like we can make noise anywhere we go, just like in the Maui Invitational. We’re just glad to get another chance.”
FRESHMAN GUARD Javaris Crittenton
What was the mood in the locker room when Georgia Tech was selected? “Everyone was excited. Everybody got up and we were hugging each other. They said “from the ACC” and every one just froze, then they called our name. When they called our name, there was this feeling that ran through my body. I can’t explain it. It just felt so good to hear our name called.”
Where you nervous when you were waiting to hear? “I wasn’t really nervous. I had faith that our name would be called. We didn’t have to wait too long to hear our name called. We were the first or second ACC team announced. It felt good. I just can’t explain it. I got a little emotional.”
On waiting for the past two days to know if Georgia Tech would make it in — “In the ACC Tournament, we were focusing on our game with Wake Forest but, everyone was waiting to hear about who got in and here we are. I was just going to be patient and wait for it. I don’t know about my teammates but I was just being patient.”
Do you know anything about UNLV? “Not too much but I’m about to start studying them. I know about 1991 a little but, as for this team, I don’t know much. I’m going to do some studying now though. I have watched Wisconsin a little bit and I know a little bit about that team.”
On making the Tournament as a bubble team — “My teammates and I are very excited about this. Hearing our name called and knowing we are in the Tournament is such a great feeling. Everybody was saying we were on the bubble but, just hearing our name called on television was great. It feels good to be one of those 65 teams that made it in.”
“The feeling that went through me is something I can’t really explain. I was just so happy to hear our name called as one of the teams that made it in. I got emotional because God gave us another opportunity. We got knocked out of the ACC Tournament in the first round so to hear our name called was like another opportunity, like a call up. It’s not over for us. We get another opportunity and another chance to perform.”
“I’m excited for all of our alumni, especially after last year and not making the Tournament. I’m excited for my teammates and I’m excited for every Georgia Tech fan out there. I’m excited for a chance to dance because we aren’t just playing for ourselves; we’re playing for the pride of Georgia Tech.
On playing in Chicago and playing in Central Time – “I’m not too worried about that. I’m just glad we made it in. I don’t care if we have to play at 2:00 in the morning as long as we’re playing is all I care about.”
Was there much doubt Georgia Tech would make it in the Tournament? “No, not in our locker room at all. Not amongst ourselves. We had all the faith in the world. Other people on the outside, that’s different. But within the coaching staff and among my teammates and me, we had to have all the faith in each other because if we don’t have faith in each other, who else will?”
JUNIOR GUARD Anthony Morrow
On the feeling of getting into the tournament — “We were kinda relaxed, it was tense, though. Everybody knew that we had a chance of not making the tournament. We just worked hard today in practice like any other practice, and felt like we did all we could for now. All those games are in the past, so, there’s no need to be real nervous. We did what we could and we did what we did. We’re thankful to get in and so happy to make the tournament.
“We watched it as a team in the locker room. The feeling that came over me was like waking up on Christmas morning when you’re eight years old, seeing all the presents downstairs. It was a great gift for us, everyone felt like we’ve been working very hard and overcome a lot of stuff. We just really felt like we’re a tight-knit family and that we worked hard and it paid off for us.”
On UNLV – “I’ve seen them on a couple of ESPN Classic games, they were really good. With Larry Johnson, Greg Anthony and Stacey Augmon, all those guys, I’m glad they’re not on the team now. They’re a great team, I watched a couple of their games this year. It’s going to be a fun game for us.”
On having tournament experience – “We’re a young team, it’s the first tournament game for a lot of us. It’s not my first one, but such guys like Javaris, Thaddeus and Zach Peacock, and even Alade and the sophomore class. So, the junior class, we’ve got to lead the way. And, Mario, we really follow Mario. We’ve only played two real tournament games, while Mario was part of that great run back in 2004. It’s a different atmosphere, a different kind of game. We’ve just got to be ready for it.”
On other teams in the region – “It’s kinda hard not to look with it being up there, but, we saw it. We take it one game at a time, but, I did see Wisconsin. Take it one game at a time, if we play our game for 40 minutes, tough defense, box out and rebound every game and see what happens.”
On playing UNLV in 1990 – “I was like four or five then. We’re excited to be playing against a team in our first game in the tournament, a good team, a great team. I don’t know a whole lot about them, it’s just fun and I can’t wait.”
On playing close games – “I feel confident in our team in close games. Even though we lost some tough, close games, everybody on the team is confident. Out of the guards who were on the court that night, with me taking that shot, I think everyone was confident with me taking the shot; and I would have felt confident with Thaddeus taking that shot, or Javaris, or anybody off the bench. We know we can make shots and we can win close games. We won a lot of close games this year, so all we’ve got to do is stay confident in each other, and we’ll be fine.”
On the importance of experience on Tech’s team – “Experience does play a huge part, because experience in college basketball is something you have to have. I really learned that last year, my sophomore year. We were very, very young. We had Mario West on the team, he was also a junior. This year with us still being young, we feel like we have a lot more experience just in terms of situations in games. I feel like I’m a smarter player this year than my freshman and sophomore year. So, experience does play a part a little bit, but it’s all about doing what you’re supposed to do every time and having that discipline.”