March 18, 2012
THE MODERATOR: We'll start with an opening statement from Coach Tom Izzo.
COACH IZZO: I don't know if you would believe this or not, but I thought to myself the game would go just like it went. I didn't know who would win, but I told my guys I know what good a coach he is.
People told me to be ready for a box and one, triangle and two, because he does different things if need be. He did an incredible job in one night. But I knew it would be a physical war. We play in the Big Ten, and I thought it was a physical game. And I thought we had our chances.
But I think what I was proudest about is Draymond only got 11 shots and yet when we came out of those timeouts late we knew who we were going and how we were going to it.
And Keith, they did what they thought was best, and I give them credit for that.
It's hard to sit there and let people go after you, but then we started making some adjustments and he started backcutting a little bit. And then he hit those two big shots inside/out. That takes a lot of character and courage to do that after the game went like it went.
So give them a lot of credit. I mean, that was one of the tougher games we've played in. But gotta give our guys credit, too, because, hey, we didn't pretend to be God's gift to basketball. We know we're a working man's group. And we had to work today.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for the student athletes.
Q. Keith, what goes through your mind when you see them playing off you like that and kind of begging you to shoot?
Keith Appling: At first it was kind of surprising. But at the end of the day I just had to remain...I just had to keep my composure and just let things happen and be patient and continue to run our offense.
Q. Draymond, Coach Majerus talked about you guys being on this stage before. These aren't the nets you want here, and you don't want to cut nets really in the Elite Eight, that it's in New Orleans. You've been there before. Can you reflect on taking another step in the right direction?
Draymond Green: Well, first off, I think everybody always forgets that we still have a very young team who doesn't have a lot of experience, tournament experience. Keith had a one and done, (Payne) in the paint, one and done. Derrick Nix, one Final Four, didn't play a ton. Austin Thornton, two Final Fours, still didn't play a ton. And my freshman year I didn't play a ton.
So we have a little bit of experience. But I think that experience helped us out a lot. And one thing that really helped us is it's not really about that experience because at the end of the day that all goes out the door. It's about surviving and advancing. And that team came out to play very tough.
I think one thing we were able to do when our backs were against the wall, we all stuck together, and that's how we were able to pull out this game. It wasn't really about tournament experience or nothing like that. Maybe Coach tournament experience helped us out because he knew what to go to in the right situations. But I don't think it was more about our tournament experience, I think it was just the way we stuck together in the key moments.
Q. Keith, did you think that 3 was ever going to drop? It seemed like it hit every side of the rim and then the backboard.
Keith Appling: All night they pretty much had me begging to shoot the ball. We got in the huddle in one of our timeouts, Draymond instilled some confidence in me, told me I was a 41 percent 3 point shooter last year, so shoot the ball.
We drew up a play for him, and the defense collapsed and I was wide open, he hit me with a pass that was perfect right in my shooter's pocket, and I was able to knock it down. As soon as it came off of my hands, it felt good. And once I seen it go through the hoop, I was all smiles.
Draymond Green: All night I was begging him to shoot too.
Q. What did you see on that, you made the drive down the left side and then made the overhead pass.
Draymond Green: One thing Coach tells me in situations like that, you would think after so long that he would feel comfortable with it. But one thing he always tells me is make good decisions in the key moments of the game. He tells me, I'm putting the ball in your hands; make good decisions.
I know he felt very comfortable with me having it, or he wouldn't have given it to me. When I drove I saw the defense collapse, and one thing I don't want to do is drive in there and get a charge. And I knew that that's a very well coached team and they're taught to take charge if somebody's out of control.
So I just tried to go in there under control. And when I jumped up, I was going to lay it up with a left hand. I saw how the defense had collapsed and Keith was wide open.
And one of the things that people forget is - was going to forget that I remember those things, he had just hit three shots prior to that, three jump shots. And his confidence hadn't gotten rolling, and one thing I want him to always know is I have confidence in him.
I don't need to be a hero trying to make some scoop layup. If I see a guy open, I'm going to hit him. He was wide open in the corner, and I knew once he caught the ball, it was going in. I ran from out of bounds. I kept running. I didn't try to get the rebound. I ran down the court. I already knew it was going in.
Keith Appling: Why didn't you tell me (laughter)?
Draymond Green: Wasn't enough time.
Q. Keith, can you describe what that game felt like with so many dead balls, so many frustrating calls, just kind of no flow to it, what was it like to play in a game like that where everything you had to fight for everything?
Keith Appling: It wasn't any frustrating calls to me. It was a very fun game to play in. It was pretty physical. Hard fought. But that's what this time of year is all about. It's win or go home. I'm pretty sure neither team wanted to go home, but at the end of the day one team had to.
We're glad we were able to come out and get the win.
Q. Draymond, I remember talking to you a few years ago, and it's strange because you're so confident now on the court. You seem so confident in everything that you do and in your teammates. But a few years ago you told me how you were going into Coach Izzo's office asking him why aren't I playing more, what do I gotta do, what do I gotta do. Are you as confident as you look or are you still going to him or other people saying what do I gotta do?
Draymond Green: Well, I'm very confident. One thing that I wasn't when I first got here as a freshman, I wasn't a workhorse. I was a workhorse in games. I wasn't a workhorse in practice. I hardly went to the gym extra. I was just talented. And that's something that Coach Izzo instilled in me is working hard, working hard.
One thing I didn't know when I got to Michigan State, and I talked to Coach about it a couple of years ago, I never knew I had a second wind because I never pushed myself to that point to know I had a second wind.
I think that's one of the things that's allowed me to grow as a player, because Coach Izzo never gave me anything. He taught me how to work for something. And when you work - I've put a lot of hours into the gym - and when you work on something constantly, you feel very comfortable with it and I think that's really where my confidence comes from.
Of course, I'm human. So I still have times where I struggle and I go in to Coach behind closed doors and talk to him. Nobody may know about it. My teammates may not know about it. For instance, before the Indiana game, I was struggling with just taking everything in. I started hearing stuff about National Player of the Year and Big Ten Player of the Year. And it wasn't bothering my play, but it was bothering me as a person. It was bothering me how I interacted with Keith Appling, how I interacted with Brandan Kearney. I wasn't myself. That's a struggle.
So I still go to them all the time. I live in Coach's office. Behind closed doors I still have my times where, hey, what do I need to do? Because I'm not perfect. I still have a lot of things I can get better on. And I have a mastermind as a coach. I can always get some advice. So I'm going to stay in there picking that brain of what I can do.
Q. Draymond, we can break down all kinds of statistics in a basketball game, but sometimes it seems like there's moments where it's sheer will. Where does your will to win come from? Has it always been a part of you or have you developed it as you gotten older?
Draymond Green: I've always been a competitor. One thing even when I was a young kid I was a sore loser. I was the type of kid where if I lost I wasn't getting off the court. If it was my basketball, nobody was playing unless I was standing on the court.
So I've always really had that, just that will to win. And sometimes it got me in trouble. My mom used to make me stop playing the video game because I get so mad at a video game if I lost.
And she's just telling me, hey, it's not real life. Like calm down. It was just always that will to win. For instance, if I know I can't win at something, video games, I don't play video games anymore because I suck at them, I know I can't win. So I really don't want to do it.
And playing at a good high school program where winning was the number one key thing, and it was very important to me, I think that helped me out a lot.
Then coming to Michigan State where winning is everything, that helped me grow even more. And when you play for a coach who's a winner - you have Mateen Cleaves coming back every day a winner, and Magic Johnson coming back who is a winner. You're playing under Travis Walton, the leadership, who is a winner.
You're surrounded by winners. One thing we say, if you are surrounded by winners, you're going to become a winner, because that's all you're surrounded by, that's all you're going to know.
And coming to a winning program, which was a key in my decision to choose Michigan State, because they win. And when you're surrounded by that, it just helps that out a lot more.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you. Questions for Coach.
Q. We have a player who does so many different things within your system, and you depend on him so much. Do you ever worry that guys get caught up in a situation where they're waiting for him to do things and if he ever struggles, how that could impact the team?
COACH IZZO:I don't worry about that. Sure, I want him to have good games, but he started out average in games like he did two nights ago and then he hits 10 out of his last 13 shots.
I think they have faith in him and he has faith in him, and I have faith in him. So that's a pretty good combination. But Draymond can do it more than just in scoring. That's what makes him special. When we came out of the timeouts late, we weren't able to get the ball inside. It was so physical we just couldn't get it in there.
And I just said I'm going to put the ball in his hands at the point and have Nix screen for him. We ran some big big ball screens and that was an adjustment for us.
And he hits Keith on one of them. He takes a 3 on one of them. And he takes that little short shot on one of them. So he was really in decision making he really did a great job during that stretch.
Q. Along those lines, the pass that he made to Keith for the 3, can you just talk about what a smart basketball play that was?
COACH IZZO: Well, he's right. I did go up to him and I said: Look it, I'm going to put the ball in your hands the last three minutes because we can't get it to you down low, but you've got to make good decisions.
He'd be the first to tell you, once in a while, beginning of the game, he's so jacked he'll jack a 3 or something. I said we can't do that. We gotta penetrate. We gotta penetrate under control. If you're open, you have to shoot it. If not, you've got to find somebody else. He found Nix and Appling.
But he really did say that to Keith. I told Keith he's gotta be patient with it. Because, you know, that's something that I think was a good move on their part in a one day prep, but Keith Appling can shoot the ball.
And Draymond just kept talking to him about it, because the ironic part is Draymond gives Keith a lot of credit for those - we call them Euros at the end of the fastbreak, where he tosses it back to him and he hits the shot. And this time he reciprocated and gave him the great pass right in the pocket.
I can't speak on how important that is to have a guy that you know you trust, and I trust him.
Q. Would you mind sharing the gist of what you said to Keith a second ago? And the other thing is on Keith, just how disciplined he was in not being baited in the shots. Could you talk about it a little bit? He said he was tempted early, he wanted to shoot everything.
COACH IZZO: He did take a couple shots early. And I just said to him make the shots, inside/out shots, and don't let them - where you're sitting there off the dribble and you're thinking about it. And then we adjusted by cutting him, and he got some of those backcuts. He got some layups on those backdoor plays, and Nix hit him on one, Day Day hit him on one, and I think it was Trice hit him on one.
But what was nice was to see him come full circle, because that is hard when somebody's backing off of you if you're not ready for it. He'll be ready for it if somebody else wants to try it, but to step up at the end and hit the big shots, as I said, shows you a little bit about his toughness. I think he's mentally and physically very tough.
And what I talked to him about here is once in a while I think he feels foolish. He's a shyer kid. He doesn't love press conferences. And I always tell him I've been there; I did that before.
And he's happening to sit next to a college version of Dick Vitale. I said learn a little bit from him. But at the same time, I told him before the game, you play well, Keith, you're going to keep getting better. You're the leader of the team, you're the quarterback of a team that's now a No. 1 seed; and if you do, you get to those press conferences, they ask you questions.
And today the first four or five questions were for him. And I just wanted to prove to him I'm right again. (Laughter).
Q. Were you concerned, though, whether he had the confidence to take and make some of those shots today, Keith?
COACH IZZO: Sure. Sure, to be honest with you. I feel comfortable with Keith taking the right shots. But that's even harder. That's like shooting a free throw. That's a technical where nobody's there. It's a little bit harder. And I just like the way he let the game come to him. I like the way he backcutted, and I like the way our guys found him. We struggled today, guys. We did not play great, and a lot of them was them. But some of it was us. I think our young guys showed their youth.
We just weren't covering things that we normally cover. And Keith still defended pretty well and played within himself. And we adjusted trying to change some plays up a little bit on who got the ball inside and who didn't. And you know what, Keith didn't mind that at all. He was great.
Q. From where I was sitting at I had a couple of fans behind me. Towards the end of the game they made a comment that SLU might be one of the harder outs you faced in a while and that you may not face a harder team until you get perhaps into the Final Four to the National Championship. Would you agree with that?
COACH IZZO: I would agree with the first part. I wouldn't agree with the second part. The game's getting tougher now. But that is a very well coached and a very difficult team to play against.
And I think this is where Big Ten helps us. This is where, for me, I kept trying to tell them, when Dick Bennett was at Wisconsin, it was just tough.
And these guys, I think, are even better athletically. But I've been in those kind of grinding games, we've been in some in our own league. That's why we play different people.
You play a Florida State and it's going to be smashmouth, and I thought our young guys caved in a little bit. A little bit. They bounced back. But that was a lot for them to handle. If we ever missed Branden Dawson I said it would be this game. Evans, on that block, he was throwing people around.
So we missed B.J. a lot in that game. But to their credit, they bounced back the second half, and we played much better when we started going inside/out again, we got better. But I love his team. And I think he's a brilliant coach. I really do. I think he makes adjustments and he runs good stuff.
Q. Do you mind sharing what you said to Kearney there on the bench, I think he bit on a pump fake, got a foul? Obviously you're going to need him going forward, his defense.
COACH IZZO: I can't tell you everything I said. I can tell you what I said in your language. I can't tell you what I said in mine.
But Brandan Kearney has played better and more than I thought he would. But I warned those two guys that you're going to get tested by some veterans that have been here and done that. And we did bite on some things.
For the first time in a while I thought they played like freshmen. But that's okay. It's okay. As I reminded Day Day when he was a freshman, in fact at halftime I said: It's okay that you're playing like freshmen, but the only problem is Day Day did the same thing and so did Nix and so did Thornton when they were freshmen, but I didn't have to play them. I gotta play you guys.
So we gotta grow up here in 20 minutes and we gotta get a little better. And he's been a very good defensive player. I think everything kind of got to him a little bit. And he struggled a little bit.
But I bet it's going to be one of the best learning experiences he has in his life. And I'd be shocked if he doesn't bounce back, because he has been a very intelligent player and very good defensive player. His offense, he's shooting the ball better in practice than all year.
So it's just part of being a young guy that's going to learn what it's like. And it will be good. It will be good for him. He'll be a better player next week.
Q. What was Draymond's hangup that he went to talk to you when he heard he was in the conversation for national honors and Big Ten player of the year?
COACH IZZO: I think I've had experience here with different pro guys. It's not like there's a million of them like in Kentucky. But I've had experience where guys act like they can handle everything.
And so now I'm in my preventive mode. I let the Jason Richardsons in their day, and I just believed: Everything's okay, coach.
I don't believe nobody no more. I don't think anybody can handle...I have trouble handling success. I think everybody does...And I talked to him about it. I said don't give me this BS that nothing's bothering you. In fact, he said I'm officially off Twitter. And I said that's cool. That's a step in the right direction, even though I don't believe them. These guys, that's what they live on.
But he realizes that it is hard to handle everything and that's why I call Steve Smith, that's why I call Mateen. That's why I called Earvin this week. Because I think it's fair for a coach to explain to a player his experiences. But I've never walked in those shoes. I've walked with other players that have walked in those shoes.
Sometimes - we're lucky at Michigan State when you can get a player to tell another player, that is special. And so sometimes I bring them in there and I get what I want to get.
I call a couple of my guys that I think can talk to him, say give Draymond a call. He loves it because he respects and cares about the people. So I never ever am afraid to say anything I want to him.
One guy asked me: Well, Draymond didn't play well the first half, why aren't you on him? I said: Because he wore me out his first two years. Now I chill out with him. I know what he'll give me and where he'll go. And when you get that way I'll do the same to you.
So as dumb as this sounds, we had one of the best learning days that you can have in college basketball. Now, whether that will do anything for us next week or next year, time will tell. But it was tough. And I think it was good for us. So appreciate you all, and Saint Louis is a hell of a team.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach.
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