March 21, 2008
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by Washington State student athletes. We'll take questions now for the student athletes.
Q. Daven, can you comment on what the last few days have been like for you. Has it been pretty exciting? Do you have a lot of family around? Your thoughts on being here? Daven Harmeling: It's been a lot of fun. Once I saw Denver come up on the bracket, four seed, I was really excited to be back. My brother and my parents are here. My uncle flew in. Got a lot of other family coming in and friends that live around the Denver area. So it's just been an amazing experience. A blessing to be back home. I think this is the first time I played back in the state of Colorado since high school. So it's been awesome.
Q. Can you all draw anything from defending John Brockman and Kevin Love with defending Luke Harangody?
Taylor Rochestie: I got a lot of experience guarding those big guys, so I'll answer it (smiling).
I think that we just learned that some players like that are just relentless. It's not about just trying to stop their first shot. You know, they're players that are going to put it up and get their own rebound, put it back. It could take five, six times. It's going to take a good team effort to stop such tremendous big men like that that have such a great presence inside.
Daven Harmeling: I echo what Taylor said. Playing in the PAC 10, we have played against some great post men, Brook López, John Brockman, Kevin Love, Taj Gibson, all those guys. Looking at Harangody on film, he's another animal. He's a brut, like Taylor said, just relentless. Tremendous size and skill. It's going to be a tough matchup. We've had other skill guys to go against all year.
Q. Taylor, can you walk me through your decision to give up your scholarship for next year, what your thought process was in all that.
Taylor Rochestie: Yeah, sure. I answered this a couple times. But I think I've been blessed my whole life, just given so many opportunities that maybe I'm undeserving of. Just to be part of this program, be part of this team, be given a chance from Tony Bennett, you know, when I was down, hurt, looking for a school, you know, I feel like he gave me something that maybe I was undeserving of, like I said. To be able to give something back to the program, to my team, to the coaching staff, to all the Cougars out there, the alumni. I feel so blessed to be in the position that I'm in.
My parents have been looking for a way to give back to the program, support the program. This just seemed like a perfect opportunity. I'm just happy and fortunate that my parents are in a situation where paying for my fifth year of college is more of a blessing than a burden. I'm just happy to do it.
Q. Can both of you give me a little bit of word association here with Notre Dame, some thoughts that come to your mind when you hear the word "Notre Dame"?
Daven Harmeling: Wow, just a prestigious school. Just looking at them on film, tremendous size, incredible ability by all of them to shoot the ball. They're impressive. I'll be honest. They look really good. It's going to be a really tough matchup.
Taylor Rochestie: I was sitting up with my parents watching the first half. I asked them, Do we look that big when you guys are up here? I was watching them. At every position they looked big. They're talented. Big men that can move. They have a center, 6'11", coming off, shooting jump shots, squaring up faster than I can. They're going to pose a lot of problems for us. We pride ourself on defense, team defense. It's going to take five players to rally to the ball and try to stop their talent.
Q. Daven, who else recruited you? Did Division I schools in Colorado recruit you? What sold you on Washington State?
Daven Harmeling: Nobody really recruited me, to be honest (laughter). Denver was the only DU was the only in state school that offered me a scholarship. Colorado State wanted me to walk on after that and they told me I'd have a scholarship after that. Indiana State, Long Beach State, Eastern Washington. A handful of schools. I remember the first time Tony called me, he explained to me what he was trying to do in Pullman with his dad. I was kind of speechless when I got off the phone. The first thing he talked about was humility, passion, (indiscernible), and thankfulness, those being the pillars of the program. That really stuck with me. I was just impressed by his character, by both Dick Bennett Sr. and coach Tony. I was thinking, man, if I could play for guys like that, tremendous character, especially the other guys coming in valued those same things, playing in the PAC 10, it's an opportunity I couldn't pass up. I think it was those things that led me to Washington State.
THE MODERATOR: All right, guys. Thanks very much for your time. We're joined by Washington State head coach Tony Bennett. We'll take questions.
Q. Can you talk about sort of the philosophical basis for being methodical, for being sort of patient and precise where other teams might get up and down the floor more?
COACH BENNETT: I think you always look at your team and you say, What gives you the best chance to play against the best and be successful or initially at least be competitive?
You know, you look at the NBA playoffs, you look at a lot of the NCAA tournament, a halfcourt game is required. You have to take advantages, take the opportunities that are there to get out in the floor and go. But we haven't been able to out recruit Arizona, UCLA with talent and just play a wide open game where we can kind of showcase that. We try to get kids that fit our system. The bottom line is we feel that system gives us the best chance to play, hopefully get to NCAA tournaments, advance, play against the elite teams in our league and make runs.
I think it's a very sound system. There's so many different ways to do it. But, you know, the league, it's been interesting to see the change in the PAC 10 over the years with Coach Howland coming in, my father, Tim Floyd, Trent Johnson, Coach Montgomery, who I just did an interview with. You're seeing a lot of that. I think some teams have advanced further because of that in the PAC 10.
Q. Can you speak to a couple things that Notre Dame does that worries you the most?
COACH BENNETT: They're such a potent offensive team. The way they run the floor could have one of four or five guys that will grab the rebound and break out. They really run the floor hard. Probably one of the more skilled teams that I've seen with their size, their ability to shoot, catch and pass. Their assist to turnover ratio is so impressive. We take pride in ours. They're impressive. I don't know if they lead the NCAA in assists, but they've got to be up there. They have a real versatile team and they can stretch the defense. I was trying to think of a team in our league they're similar to. But there isn't one. Oregon can do some things the way they play. When you see those kids spread out around the three point line, make plays off the dribble, share the ball, fun to watch actually. I don't know about tomorrow, but very impressive. I do think they run the floor as well as anybody and are very interchangeable, which causes some matchup problems.
Q. Can you talk about what you saw in Taylor's game that made you want to bring him to Pullman? Not a lot of guys give up scholarships. Can you tell me what that says about the guy, what that means to the program?
COACH BENNETT: First of all, he's a lefty. We know he's got a good start on things (smiling). He's real competitive. He's a winner. We didn't have a scholarship available after his senior year in high school. He played in some AAU events in the spring. Our coaches saw him and said, I really like him. One of my assistants said, He kind of reminds me, my teammate, Ben Johnson, he reminds me of you Tony when you played. We're both lefties, had kind of similar games. We didn't have a scholarship. Tulane jumped in. He had a really good freshman here. He was first team all freshman when the Conference USA was so strong with all those teams. Hit a number of game winners, a couple of game winners that year, averaged like 10 points. Was just real solid.
He showed at a high level he could do that. Then when Hurricane Katrina struck, he had a really bad knee injury, dislocated his knee, had some troubles, he decided he wanted to come to the West Coast. When he put that word out, we just thought this kid could really fit our system.
He's a winner. That's what his high school coaches have said about him, his AAU coach. We were fortunate enough to get him. I think the addition of him, there's no coincidence how our team, it's been everybody, but allowing a guy like Derrick Low and Kyle Weaver to not play as much point guard, and Taylor to take on those responsibilities, just his clutch plays have really given us momentum and been part of our turnaround. Then the fact that he offered to give up his scholarship, you know, he was excited about it. He said, You took a chance on me when I was hurt and you didn't know about me. He says, This is a chance for me to give back to the program. We have five principles in our program we talk about. One of them is servanthood (sic). And said it's a chance for me to be a true servant. He was genuinely excited about it. He said I can let the guys know it's not about me, it's about the team. I want to try to set up the future of this team. I really like the young man that's going to get the scholarship. He hosted him on the visit. I can just see him being a nice player in the future.
He said I've been blessed with my family to be able to take care of this last year. He speaks about him and his family, the kind of leader he is, the kind of character he has. What a neat thing for our program.
Q. Does Luke Harangody remind you at all of Kevin Love or John Brockman? What kind of unique challenges does he present?
COACH BENNETT: Yeah, we were trying to compare. Someone said he's kind of like John, like Brockman, maybe even steps outside and plays a little more off the dribble. But as far as their physique and how continuous they are, relentless, that's some similarities there. The way he fights for position, like Love. But probably more perimeter oriented than those guys. There are some similarities. He's a tough matchup. I mean, obviously the Big East found that out. You can't just key on him. They have other guys.
I was so impressed with how he makes a play. He'll shoot a shot, miss it, bang, he's back at the glass tapping it in. He'll start the fast break off a rebound. He's so continuous. That's the thing you like. He never stops playing. Very physical. Great footwork.
Maybe more like Brockman than Love. I don't know, if you were going to pin me down, I'd say that.
Q. Any concern at all, you had such a huge second half yesterday, about turning it around, making sure the guys keep that focus?
COACH BENNETT: Certainly, you know, we tried to work hard in practice. A goal of ours was to get to this spot again, where we were last year, to have a chance to hopefully advance. Last year we were sitting there, getting ready to play Vanderbilt. I think our kids learned a valuable lesson. We played well but didn't come through. We told them to really think about that a lot.
I think they know what's at stake. I think they're going to lay it on the line. Whether we get it done or not, I wish I could answer that in a positive way. I don't know. But I think they want this so bad, and that's been a significant goal. Last year a lot of people thought it was going to be a one time thing, it would be too hard, we wouldn't be able to deal with the expectations. They fought through that, we had a solid year and now we have a chance to do something special.
My hope is that their mental approach, our mental approach, will give them a chance for preparation, and not dwell on a great second half against Winthrop. It's a different ballclub. Obviously we're going to go against an elite team and they'll have to play at their best.
It's like the PAC 10. When you play a good team in the PAC 10, if you don't play well, you lose. That's just how it was this year. So it's gonna be one of those situations again.
Q. You grew up in the Midwest. What comes to mind when hear the word "Notre Dame," the whole mystique?
COACH BENNETT: We were sitting there scouting the game. They played their song. My assistant, who is from Iowa, we both kind of looked at each other and smiled, said, Boy, that sounds familiar. I think Lou Holtz, you know, it's obviously a very prestigious university. I think Washington State, they almost had them beat in that football game four or five years ago, right, when we had a chance. That comes to mind. A very storied program. A lot of great basketball. Bill Hanzlik was my assistant coach when I played for the Charlotte Hornets, a prominent Denver guy. I got to play for him. He always talked a lot about Notre Dame. That's all I heard about.
Q. Do you feel like you benefit from teams getting impatient and losing poise? Does that happen a lot?
COACH BENNETT: You know, when it's not us, yeah, we benefit from it. At times it's happened to us.
But you try to be as sound as possible. If you can have, you know, on the defensive end, if we can be set and see people, you know, maybe take quick shots or get impatient, that definitely plays into our hands. The same thing offensively. If we can be sound.
But we talked about it before. It's a balance. You still have to be aggressive. You got to be patient, sound, but aggressive. So that's what we talk about. A hard thing to master. But that's what we want. If we can see teams doing that, that certainly helps us. That's always the goal. We just talk about it, Make them earn on every possession. We didn't do that in the first half against Winthrop. That's why there was some frustration there.
Q. How long did it take you to get over the Vandy loss? Do you ever think about it now?
COACH BENNETT: That was a it was such a good year, a hard way to go out because we felt we had that game. It was a double overtime game. My hope was that it would give us the momentum going into this year, that we would learn from it.
I was so thankful for what transpired last year. I said, Can we learn from this? Certainly, I still think about it. You got to have perspective. I mean, I don't sit there and say, If only we could have matched up with Georgetown, maybe it would have gone better. I don't get into that. It was hard right after it.
Once we took our Australia trip in the summer, that ended everything from last year. It was all about this year. That was kind of I'm glad we did it in June. We said, that's over. One of our kids wrote the score on his shoe just to motivate himself, work out, that's about it. It hasn't lingered too much, but hopefully we've learned from it.
Q. It's two distinct systems. How important is tempo tomorrow in terms of big picture?
COACH BENNETT: I think it's important. If we let them get out, easy baskets in transition, get running, it will be very difficult. I think that battle, who can kind of settle into their game, I think will have an advantage. The way they go, like I said, I don't know if we have anybody in our league quite like them. We've talked about that as a staff, to try and have a set defense for them to play against and make 'em earn it. I sound like a broken record. That's all you can do against a team with that much skill.
Q. Can you talk a little bit about the recruitment of Derrick Low. Not a lot of players from Honolulu playing.
COACH BENNETT: Derrick was obviously the best player to come out of the state. One of my assistants, Mike Burns, who is our assistant, he had a friend who told him about a real great player. I think we started recruiting Derrick when he was a junior. He had some big schools looking at him. But once we saw some tape on him, watched him at the my Nike Camp, saw him, I thought this kid could really fit our program. He fit the program in terms of character. He verbally committed without visiting our campus. That's a story that's been told a few times.
He was the first guy we got that, we beat some people on in a significant get for us. We had a football player named Jason Gesser from Hawaii who was part of the turnaround for Washington State football, led them to the Rose Bowl. We said, Derrick, this is a chance for you to come in here. You're going to have the opportunity to play as a freshman and turn this thing around. And he really bought into that. He didn't care about the surroundings. He just wanted to be around people he was comfortable with, had a chance to play in an elite league. He said, I'll commit. We said, Hey, if you come here, hate it on your visit, we'll let you out of your commitment.
We took him to the finest beaches in Pullman, so everything was okay (smiling).
THE MODERATOR: Coach, thanks very much. Good luck tomorrow.
COACH BENNETT: Thank you.
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