March 12, 2007
DAYTON, Ohio - Both Florida A&M and Niagara arrived in Dayton on Monday in preparation for Tuesday's NCAA Opening Round Game at UD Arena. Click here for more information on the game, which will be televised live on ESPN at 7:30 p.m. ET.
After a short practice on Tom Blackburn Court, players and coaches from both teams took questions from the media.
Florida A&M Head Coach Mike Gillespie
"Just want to thank the University of Dayton, the city of Dayton for hosting this event. Three years ago it was wonderful. We are very excited to be here. We're surprised, but we're very excited. It's an honor to play tomorrow. The hospitality we have starting with the hotel, throughout this entire town is a blessing for us. Like I said, we are extremely excited to play."
"This is a very, very good basketball team that I have. A tremendous group of seniors with three fifth year seniors, they have been amazing. We have 21 wins, the most in 20 years at our university. We know we are going to play a great team tomorrow in Niagara and we are going to give it our best shot, give it all we have for 40 minutes and god willing it will be enough to win the game."
"I'm excited to be here. If you watched us work out, I'm excited, I'm enthusiastic. I think our guys, even though they are low key right now, this is the NCAA Tournament. There are 280 teams that don't have this chance. I bet if we called Syracuse right now, they would take this spot. So would a Florida State. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity. This is what we talked about earlier, it's the journey. This is just one more step. God willing we will be fortunate to get Darius (Glover) and Rome (Sanders) to Chicago to play the University of Kansas. I'm not approaching this any differently. We're happy to be here, we're excited. We want to make sure we cover all of our bases because the difficult thing is preparation. We had very little time to prepare for a team that we have not seen; we have not played and know very little about."
"When we recruited these guys, the one thing we told them before they left was they were going to play in the NCAA Tournament. I would like to compliment all three guys. As we prepared for our last seven to eight games, they made sure this team was one. These three guys could be all league. Rome was the only one. Brian Greene was for the tournament. But they put aside their personal agendas to make sure this team was successful and that's the beauty of this team. We've won 21 games, it's the most wins in 20 years for this university and it's the second NCAA Tournament appearance in the last four years. These guys made it happen."
Senior Forward Darius Glover
"We're a team. We are as one. We are one heartbeat. It's been that way ever since the MEAC Tournament last year. The guys came back and I met them at the apartment and from day one we've been in the gym lifting weights. Coach had us working out. It started last April with our mindset. It all came together. We worked hard and we deserve to be here."
"As far as the fatigue factor, we love to play the game of basketball. Coach makes us do things when we're tired. So we're really not that fatigued. You can prepare for anything when coach can give us stuff on any given day. We're going to go hard every day. As far as going home to Chicago, it's great. My mom has seen me play once and she's really excited. She keeps stressing to me you better win this game or you better not come home. So I'm really excited about playing in this play-in game tomorrow and take full advantage of it."
Senior Guard Brian Greene
"We called timeout and the coaches tried to figure out what play to run. We have one team. For all of the guys to be mentally focused and to know we were going to win this game. We had 1.1 seconds to go on the shot clock and Vic Monaros asked coach if this would be the right play. Fortunately it worked. I knew how the defense was set up. I looked at the coach's eyes and our players' eyes and I told them it would go in and it did. We believe in one another. We do not talk bad about one another. We're just young men who want to play the game of basketball and willing to stick together. If we're the underdogs, it's no difference to us. They have to put on their clothes like we put on our clothes. We want to play the game of basketball, have fun and enjoy this tournament."
Senior Center Rome Sanders
"We feel we're a part of the tournament. It's a 65-team field. We're really excited to play. It's the only game on TV on Tuesday night. Coach said there will be about two million people watching, so we're really excited. I don't know about Niagara, but we're really excited. We're excited to put our hard hats on and the fatigue factor will go down the drain when we step on that court and the ball tips at 7:30."
Niagara Head Coach Joe Mihalich
"Well Pete Carril always said if it's March and you're still practicing, then that's a good thing. Just so excited to be here. We're honored to be one of two teams that get to tip this tournament off, and anxious for the game to start."
"Well, you know, I don't know if it was any one thing. It was a number of things. First and foremost, it's these three seniors sitting up here. I've never been tougher on a group of seniors than I was on these guys. I brought them in about three weeks ago, and said `Okay, it's up to you. You bring us home.' They've been unbelievable. All of our seniors have been terrific. They just savior the moment with each and every game and they appreciate how good we've become. But I think most of the credit, in general, goes to our seniors, how they've been great leaders, played very, very well too. But I don't know if it's been any one thing. To win 11 games in a row, you have to do a lot of things well, and I think we've done them."
"Tyrone Lewis had a great tournament. He's a great year. But again, he has the luxury of leaning on these guys. I mean these guys showed them the ropes. You've got Lorenzo Miles, J.R. Duffey and Clif Brown showing you how to do this and in three years, hopefully, you are showing someone else how to do it. I think that's how you define a good basketball program. I think Charron Fisher, is also someone who has played well. When he came back, he just made everybody better because we have a lot of weapons. We have six or seven games that we think can have big games. Stanley Hodge is another guy who has played well for us. I think we are a team that has some balance."
"Well, I think a lot is being made of this, and we're not disappointed. We are not insulted. We were maybe nothing more than surprised. I don't know how we became one of the teams. It doesn't matter how we became one of these teams. We are, and we are excited to be here. It surprised us more than anything. We just didn't think we would be here. After the 15 to 20 minutes it took to get over that little bit of surprise, these guys can't wait to play. Maybe the committee did us a favor. Maybe that will motivate us. I'm sure Florida A&M feels the same way. But we're playing basketball. We just go finished practicing. They would rather play a game than practice. We get to play a basketball game tomorrow night and there are a whole lot of teams in the country that would love to be playing this game, and we know that."
"I hope they (Florida A&M) had as much trouble getting video as we did. In our league, there are a whole lot of styles, a whole lot of diversity, and a whole lot of difficult game preparations with things that coaches do and teams do. Not to oversimplify it, there are probably a lot of leagues in the country where everybody plays man-to-man defense, everybody runs a motion offense and it's a lot of the same thing. In our league, everybody does everything. You're going to see everything. I truly believe we can be prepared in a short amount of time because we've had to prepare so extensively all throughout the year."
"We have learned in a short amount of time about Florida A&M. They are very good at a number of things. We've seen a lot of similar things throughout the year and we are going to lean on those experiences for this game."
"I am surprised, and I feel a little bit bad about that because I feel like this has been blown out of proportion a little bit. Again, we're not disappointed or insulted. We're just surprised and a little confused. Again, we don't know why we are here, but we are and we are tickled to death to be playing basketball."