An interview with DREW LAVENDER


 

 

March 19, 2008

Q. I can't remember the last time I saw a team that had six guys in double figures. On a team like that it seems like everybody has got their role. What's your role?

Drew Lavender: Just to try to make sure that our team wins, playing hard on defense, giving everybody the ball, trying to find Josh, and knocking down open shots.

Q. Stanley, what's Drew's role?

Stanley Burrell: To make everybody better. He is one of the best pointguards in the country. You have so many options and so many weapons, he does a great job of getting in the traffic and making all of us better. It makes all of us better. It's great having him on our team.

Q. With so many one year players in college basketball, how do you feel you've matured as players in four years, and how much do you think that helps you around tournament time?

Josh Duncan: I think that experience helps us a lot. We're veteran players, and in tough situations we had so many tough situations in these games and we didn't break. We stayed together, didn't lose our cool, didn't lose our focus. I think that experience plays a big role.

Drew Lavender: Pretty much the same thing. We've been in so many games, close games. But our experience might have won the games. But this year we're used to close games.

Q. What, if anything, do you guys know about what Georgia went through in the SEC tournament and their run there?

Stanley Burrell: I think they did an awesome job of handling the adversity. They were facing some tough situations with the storm and everything and their backs were up against the wall and they could have said, man, two games in one day, there's no way we're going to get through this.

 

 

They stayed together and built up a lot of chemistry the last two days. They deserve to be here with the run they made. And now we're looking forward to ending that run they made and moving on to the next run.

Josh Duncan: Basically the same thing Stan said. They played two games in one day and they did a good job finishing up in the SEC tournament. We just know we've got to be ready for them because they're a really good team.

Q. Defensively how are you going to deal with their guard play?

Drew Lavender: Just pressuring the ball and make sure all five players are on the same page on defense the whole game. Just what we've been doing the whole season, just pressuring the ball and helping each other out.

Q. Just wanted to know, you guys have made three straight tournaments, what makes this year different?

Drew Lavender: This is my second straight tournament. But I think this year is different because, like I said earlier, I think we're just more poised this year, and we're used to those close games.

Josh Duncan: Same thing Drew said. We're seniors, so we've just got to continue to lead like we've been doing all year, and just help our guys be focused and be ready to play.

COACH MILLER: Well, our team is excited about playing tomorrow. We're honored to be No. 3 seed in this NCAA tournament. I think it says a lot about this basketball team at Xavier, led by not only three terrific seniors, and meaningful seniors in our program, but three of the most unselfish kids that I've ever coached in Josh Duncan, Drew Lavender and Stanley Burrell.

And as it is with every NCAA tournament, I think it means the most to these guys that will be here until it ends. We've been led all year by those three and really looking forward to watching them play and lead our team like they have all season tomorrow.

Q. What lessons do you take out of the one that got away against Ohio State last year heading into this tournament?

COACH MILLER: Last year is last year, this year is this year. Sometimes it's lost in the shuffle with our experience a year ago that we advanced. We beat a very difficult BYU team in the 8 9 game, and equally a thrilling game.

And then I thought we played at a very high level and tasted a Sweet 16 type game. And then tasted what it felt like to be eliminated at the very last second of the game.

But it's been very much of a positive feeling about that game for this year's team. We have a lot of the same parts back from that team. We worked very hard over the summer, spring and fall, in hopes that we would return to this tournament and have an opportunity to get back to that same stage that we were on a year ago. And hopefully this time do a better job and maybe be able to take that next step and advance.

Having said all that, our focus right now is on Georgia. We respect them a great deal. What Dennis Felton and his staff did in Atlanta, I think captivated everybody that follows college basketball. Fortunately or unfortunately, that's how it shakes out who we play.

Anytime you can play a game that beat Kentucky and Mississippi State on the same day, that really has a way of getting your attention as the next opponent. That's where our focus is. And last year seems like ten years ago right now.

Q. Can you talk a little bit about your scoring attack, six guys in double figures?

COACH MILLER: We do have an extremely balanced team, both on offense and defense. It's unique in that we really have had six players in double figures from Game 1 all the way through Game 33. It isn't like any one particular player emerged, which I think says a lot about the consistency of our team.

As much as we're balanced on offense, to me when we're at our best is when we have the defense accompanying our balanced scoring. But we've had different players that have baled us out on different nights. But generally when we're at our best, we'll end not trying to do it, but it has a way of working out, where four or five, sometimes six players get in double figures. I think that's what makes our team the team that we've been throughout the year.

Q. From your résumé it looks like you've worked with a lot of fantastic coaches throughout the years. Is there anyone that has given you the best piece of advice either how to deal with the madness of the NCAA tournament or how to succeed in the NCAA tournament?

COACH MILLER: Not really. I think any coach who is in my position, has been fortunate to be around great coaches. Two that I've been around, Herb Sendek at Arizona State and Thad Matta, who is at Ohio State, are two that I talk to regularly. John Calipari is a great friend who I talk to weekly, and my dad is a former coach at the high school level that was very successful.

To me, I'm kind of a hybrid of all of those guys, and don't really rely on one more than the other.

Q. You mentioned Coach Sendek, have you talked to him the last couple of days? What parts of him did you get, if that makes sense?

COACH MILLER: I have not talked to him. I feel bad that they didn't make the tournament. Being that we took to them made me feel they were very capable, and was disappointed for them. He's doing a great job rebuilding that program, and I'm sure a year from now they'll be in the tournament and have a very good seed.

What I've taken from him is I don't know if there is a more complete coach in college basketball that understands the total way of running a program more than he does, from scheduling to recruiting; everything that he does he goes through with a fine tooth comb, so to speak.

When you have the opportunity to work with him and be around him, you can't help but I think steal some of his organizational ways of doing things that obviously speaks for themselves, both at what he did at NC State, five straight NCAA tournaments and now what you're watching at Arizona State.

Q. What is the benefit of having a veteran team at this tournament like you have? We've seen veteran teams go a long way and young teams go a long way, is there that much of a difference?

COACH MILLER: I think any time you have tournament experience it helps. Sometimes just because you're a sophomore doesn't mean you don't have great tournament experience. Because of the roles that young players play nowadays, sometimes you can be in the Sweet 16 who advance greatly as a freshman. Now you're in your second year in your program, but you've been there and done it.

For us, Josh Duncan and Stanley Burrell, this is their third straight NCAA tournament. The experience that I like that they have is they entered as a 14 seed, got to experience a tough loss to Gonzaga, a game that either team could win, moved up to a No. 9 seed, experienced advancing and then losing a tough second round game. And now as seniors they return as a No. 3 seed.

So they've really gone through the whole gamut, hopefully they can experience more. But things that we're doing now, from the media, to the buildup, I think they can handle that so much more effectively having experienced it and been in the games and having gone through it in the past. That's where I think it's the most meaningful. When you've done it before you're more at ease the second time, third time around.

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