Is it difficult to refocus after two big wins like that and look forward to the Sweet Sixteen?
It is. We have stuff like (media day) and everyone around here, for St. Mary’s, the Sweet Sixteen is like a national championship and that we’ve made it. I talked to the team last night and said that we can’t think like that, because the second you think like that you lose to Baylor so you really got to turn the page and focus. And it is hard, but that’s how you’ll see good for these next two weeks and you’ll see who can turn the page and who can’t.
You guys have 5 Australian players. What’s it like to have that have that little pod on the team?
It brings so much to the team. They bring so much of their culture to the team and everyday activities. I don’t think people realize how different Australia is; the way they joke and the way they look at life and it’s great to have them. It’s really brought a whole country into this. The whole country of Australia is into Saint Mary’s basketball and our games are televised nationally over there so it’s quite an experience.
So you’re going to go up against some boys maybe even bigger than you for the first time in awhile. How do those match ups look for you?
They’re a big team and they’re athletic and we’re not. It’s a good match up and it’s one of those games you look forward to.
Have you been motivated by all the doubters personally? I mean, people say you’re not a star in Division I star, well here you are beating back all the nay-sayers and what about after this? NBA… does it enter into your thinking even now?
It does. Obviously the NBA always enters my thinking, but the doubters really help motivate me. And they’re one of the bigger reasons why I get up earlier in the mornings and do extra workouts and stuff like that. I cut out a lot of the stuff I read or paste it above my bed. I really use that to motivate me and help me achieve my goals. It’s just funny that the higher we make it, the more people come up with new things. Like they’re going to lose first round, but now we’re in the Sweet Sixteen and they say well they got lucky and they can’t do it again It’s one of those things that they’re always going to find something and it’s great, because that’s what motivates me.
And how big is that glass slipper you’re wearing?
Size 16, but 16-16… it must meant to be. It’s one of those things that they call us a Cinderella and its motivation for us.
Can you describe the scene coming back the other night, when you guys come off the bus. They really mobbed you and what were kind of the emotions going through you?
Like I said, its just unreal. You’re so happy to see the media and your friends and family and they welcome you with open arms and are so proud of you. There’s such a sense of community. The community feels like they’re in the Sweet Sixteen. It’s such a bond we have with such a small town, you know people come up to me in the streets and say, “Do it for us!” It’s just crazy. I got the chance to talk to a guy at the grocery store and said he just lost his job. He said, “Hey man, I’ve been down the last few weeks and this weekend really cheered me up. I feel like a new man again. Thank you so much!” You don’t realize how much this means to the community.
We just ran into someone who was on the 1959 team. How great would it be to go to the Elite Eight and beyond?
It would be great. It’s one of those things we have in the back of our heads, and if you’re not talking about it you’re crazy, but we understand we have a big task ahead of us and we’re excited. We want to play Duke and that would be a lot of fun. You grow up hearing about Duke so hopefully we’ll get the chance to play them and hopefully kids around the world will grow up hearing about Saint Mary’s.
I know you’ve talked a lot about the doubters, but in reality, there are a lot of people who think you guys are pretty good. I don’t think there are a lot of doubters left. Are you creating some of this on your own?
That’s the thing, its Saint Mary’s. There will always be doubters. At the very least you just have to call somebody from Spokane and you’ll hear some. But I heard some guy on ESPN the other day talk about how Omar Samhan won’t be able to score against Baylor’s bigs; they’re too athletic for him, stuff like that. I woke up the other day so excited and just have such a great night before and I heard him and said, “Thank you. God put this guy in my life.” I had literally just heard this guy stop talking and Coach Kyle had already texted me and said, “Did you hear what he said?” I was like, “Coach, I happen to actually be watching!” “Unbelievable, you have back to work soon.” I said, “No worries.” It’s definitely one of those things that no matter what we do, even if we win the National Championship, people will say, “It was a weak field this year.” They’ll find a way to doubt Omar Samhan and Saint Mary’s and that’s what we want.
And who was that again?
It was ESPN, but I will get you the name, I promise you that!
You were considering getting in some play and shots Saturday night when you got back. Did you?
I did, I did. I got in some shots that night when we got back. We got back in around midnight and there were a few hundred people out. I left for a little and let it calm down a bit and then came back to shoot around.
I heard there was a police escort?
There were police and a huge fire truck and they had their sirens going. They met us right at the ‘Welcome to Moraga’ sign and all the cars were honking as we went by. It was great.
What has been the best or most odd thing you’ve experienced in the last five or six days?
I think how quickly it turned. Joe Lunardi, who’s this big brackets guy said, “Enjoy your trip out there, you’re going to lose to Richmond in the first round” and he had this whole speech on ESPN. It turned so quickly from this team that wasn’t on the map and no one cares about, to now we’re a nationally known team. The things we’re doing as a team and individually, we’ve been doing all year.
You guys went from, we’re happy to be in the tournament to hey we can actually do some damage here.
You know we beat Villanova, we beat Gonzaga, we beat Richmond, why can’t we beat anybody? Confidence is building and it’s such a snow-ball affect so it’s definitely been great. The confidence going into Baylor is the best it’s been all year, which is what you want.
Have you always been the big-man who likes to be the big-man? Have you always been that way or is that something they taught you here?
Yeah I think they paint is sexy. To be in the key and to be a traditional big man, I think that’s awesome. It’s really what every big man should be and I hate when big guys are out there shooting and doing all that kind of stuff. It’s definitely something I take pride in and it works because that’s exactly what we need here.
Does being the working guy underneath the basket fit your personality?
I’m just a work horse, that’s all I have. I lace my boots up, put my hard-hat on, bring my lunch pale.
I really wanted to see the sneakers, I wish you would have brought them…
They look similar, they have holes in them and everything. It’s just one of those things where I take pride in working hard and when guys elbow me inside I get excited. I love to mix it up.