Men's Basketball Media Day Transcript

Oakland Head Coach Greg Kampe

Opening Statement

“Obviously, this is a culmination of the last five months and the prize for the past five months is winning the league championship with the best record in the history of the league. That’s a great prize and we treasure it. The most important thing though is our number one goal: to win the tournament. We’re out there for four days and when you put five months of accomplishments aside and you go for four days, you try and reach the ultimate. I told them that I don’t know if we’re the greatest team to ever play in The Summit League, but the numbers say we are. To be able to legitimize that, we have to win the tournament. If we win the tournament, we can say that. If we don’t, I don’t know if we can go about saying that. The second thing about the tournament is that we feel very comfortable and confident because of where we have been in the past. Through mistakes, we have earned our right to understand the tournament and we’re going there with a great understanding of what has to be accomplished. We’ve been in that championship game for two out of the past three years and we’ve had double digit leads in the second half and somehow those games got away from us. We’ve made mistakes and everybody on the roster who is going to play a major role in this has been in the tournament, made mistakes and has learned from them. Very similar to our start this season, we have played a very difficult schedule. We had it handed to us quite a few times, but we didn’t sulk, hang our heads and get discouraged. We knew that there was a purpose for that schedule and we learned about ourselves. We were exposed in some areas with guarding the ball and executing our offense. Because we got exposed, we learned from it and became a great basketball team. We’re going into that tournament with great experience. We’ve made mistakes, we’ve thrown the game away with a minute to go. We’re going to take that learning experience and use to help us accomplish our goals. We’re confident and excited about playing; we know it’s a difficult task to beat teams three times. We don’t care who we play and we don’t care about our draw. We are going to play whoever shows up and we’ll play to win. We’ll figure out how to win that game and go about our business.”



On whether this team is as good as it can be

“I don’t think we have played really well for the last stretch of the season. We had a great first half at Southern Utah and we played well at UMKC without Derick, as well as against Oral Roberts at home. But other than that, I don’t think we have played to our potential. We’ve played well enough to win and I think JJ put us on his back with some home games to help us clinch. That’s what seniors do though and I’ve told you all that you can’t play at your peak level for 31 games. There are ups and downs and great teams learn how to win when they don’t play well. I think we’ve done that; we’ve won every way you can win. I will say this: We were 17-1 and I get phone calls from reporters in other cities and asking what’s wrong when we only win by a slim margin. We had a double-digit lead in 16 of those 18 games and have not been behind in the last five minutes of a league game, with the exception of playing IUPUI at their place and the game at South Dakota State. That’s pretty dominant. People might say we are not doing this and that, but it’s pretty hard to look at those guys in the eye and say what is wrong. It’s tough and it’s a long season. The last place team can play with the first place team because they’ve played each other 12 times in the last three years and you know what’s going to happen. I’m very proud of what we have done and there is more to go.”

On the non-league schedule

“You look at records. We have six BCS losses this year and six last year. We’ve won 46 games the last two years and we have 12 losses to the big boys. If we had only played four big boys and played eight mid-majors or less and carried the same winning percentage, we would have 53 wins right now and that’s up with the elite. That’s not we’re about. We are about playing the best, challenging our kids and trying to learn from it. We learned in those games that we didn’t guard the ball very well. You can play a team you’re way better than and when you don’t guard the ball, it will hurt you. When you look at the tape, you can get better from it. We’re sitting here today with a championship because of our defense. I think we’re an outstanding defensive team and it’s hard to beat us off the dribble and we tire teams down. We learn that through the non-league schedule. Also, if you don’t execute offensively against the big boys, you’re not going to score in league play. Then, you play in those arenas. When we played SDSU, the place was packed, but it was nothing compared to playing Syracuse and Kansas. It had no effect on our team. Our kids want to play those games, too. They’re going to talk about playing those teams. Right now, Syracuse is No. 1 in the country and Kansas is No. 2. We played both of them and they’ll remember that.”

On making adjustments in the tournament

“We’ve won eight in a row, but I just don’t feel like we’ve been clicking like we have at other times of the year. We haven’t lost in February since 2008 and I’m really proud of that fact because it shows that your team is getting better. You always look for that as a coach. That’s a good feeling because I think when we get there, we’ll be hitting on all cylinders. We always save plays for the tournament. We have an out of bounds play that we’ve had for years, but haven’t shown this year because we might need it in the tournament. We save things all the time. We’re not going to change anything; I would be an idiot doing that with a 17-1 record.”

On how much tougher it is playing in the tournament than the regular season 

“There is a lot at stake for the other teams because they know they are playing us, which puts pressure on them. I can remember being in situations where we are playing a high seed and we know we have to be perfect to win, which is not easy as a lower seed. There is pressure on both teams. If you look at the league, who has won a championship. Oral Roberts returns nobody from their championship team, IUPUI doesn’t have anybody on their team that has one. North Dakota State has a few and us, everybody on the team just won one. It’s a very inexperienced tournament as far as winning a championship goes. We have all that experience. Keith Benson missed two free throws in the last minute of that championship game. Blake Cushingberry threw that ball away in the last two minutes. Johnathon Jones’ man made the winning basket. Our guys have all experienced the tournament and the heartbreak of making a mistake. That’s going to make us better and I like that experience in on our side.”

On if Oakland gets respect on a national level

“We are up to eighth in the mid-major poll. If you look at it, I don’t think we can climb any higher. All the teams ahead of us have made a national name for themselves and for us to get higher, we have to win at that level. I don’t care about that, though, I don’t care about what the basketball fan in Iowa thinks of OU; I care what the people here think. I’m just a guy trying to do my job with my players. I don’t want to win for those reasons. I want to win because I had to walk into that locker room after that loss to NDSU and then a week later after the game at Bradley. I know what those players have gone through and that’s the reason why I want to win.”

Senior forward Derick Nelson

On how important this tournament is after sitting out last year

“It was really tough to watch my team in the championship and when you sit and watch, you feel like there are things I maybe could have helped with. But, I wanted them to win really bad and when they didn’t, I knew we would come back this year and get back to that point to win it. That’s been our main focus for the entire offseason and regular season; to get back to the championship and win.”

On his role as a defensive player

“I knew that when I came back this year that my role would be different. Coach saw me as a defensive stopper for the team and I want to do whatever I can to help. All I care about is winning the championship; I don’t really care about stats. It’s not just me, either. The defensive effort is about the whole team. I wouldn’t be able to stop my man without the help of my teammates. It’s nice, but we play defense as one and I can’t stop my man by myself.”

On his playing as the favorite

“It’s been like this pretty much all season. We have had the bulls-eye on our back. I wouldn’t say it was pressure, but we want to finish. ‘Can you finish,’ has been out motto all season and in years past we haven’t. So we’ll see if we can.”

On team leadership

“JJ and I both have been through a lot of the hard times here. You don’t forget those kinds of things. We’ve been through big games, some with wins and some with losses. We can use all that experience we have had to help our younger players. It helped make us better and to lead the team this year.”

Senior guard Johnathon Jones

On earning the extra day to practice, being the No. 1 seed

“I think it is going to help a lot to have rest in between the games. You are able to get your legs back and it gives us another day to prepare for the upcoming opponents. It’s going to be a big key for us.”

On using the close tournament losses as motivation

“I think we use it as motivation in the summertime to get better, but once the season progressed, I think we let it go. We moved on to this season. It’s in the back of our heads, but we learned from it and we’ve learned from our mistakes last year. We’re going to go out there with a better effort.”

On the first round matchup with UMKC

“We feel pretty good. We played well against them and established our presence against them. We had people come off the bench for us that really kicked our game up. I think we just have to do that again against them.”

Junior center Keith Benson

On his role with the team

“I think my role is to be a presence on the inside and to discourage other players from driving and to be a set up point in our offense. If I am double teamed, I will be able to kick it out or go one-on-one with my man and score.”

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