OHIO STATE TALKS ARIZONA
March 27, 2013INDIANA SPORTS PAGE
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA
THE MODERATOR: We have Deshaun Thomas and Aaron Craft. Questions for the student?athletes?
Q. Obviously, a lot of the stories focus on you two, but LaQuinton Ross, Shannon Scott and a number of other guys have helped this team. How important is the supporting cast for the Buckeyes in terms of what you all have accomplished thus far?
DESHAUN THOMAS: It's important for those guys to come in and make big shots and score the ball really well. To guys asked the question who was that other scorer, but now guys are stepping up and making big plays, LaQuinton Ross, Shannon Scott, and also Lenzelle and Sam. So it's good for our program and our team.
AARON CRAFT: Yeah, it's been great to have multiple guys kind of come into their roles, and it's not always been scoring, it's not always been the most flashy of things. But it's been great, everyone really kind of taking to heart what they need to do for this team to be successful, whether it's Shannon coming off the bench, bringing us energy off the defensive end, LaQuinton coming in and making big shots.
It's been great for our team as a whole, and it's helped us to grow a lot, and hopefully we can continue to do that tomorrow.
Q. Do you find?? could you see how someone might see you as annoying?
AARON CRAFT: I think they're asking you, Deshaun (laughing).
Q. I mean, not just basketball, any time. Could you see how in basketball you might be annoying in real life? Anything like that?
AARON CRAFT: I know there are probably a couple people you could talk to back home that would say I'm pretty annoying outside the basketball floor. But I think the way I play, I hope that's the way I'm viewed. That's what I try to do to other people, and I know in practice when Shannon does it to me, I think he's pretty annoying as well. It helps out.
Anything I can do to make them think about other things and their game plan or anything like that, they can think as bad as they want about me, as long as they're not thinking about what they should be doing.
Q. What team that you played this year would you liken Arizona to?
AARON CRAFT: It's always very tough to compare one team to another. I think they're going to play very physical, and I think the league that we played in, we played physical people. Michigan State comes to mind with the bigs they have inside that can score, and also the guys that are surrounding them that can knock down outside shots and also drive the ball.
But every team's different, and everyone has their own kind of spin on some things. So we're just looking forward to a good game, and it's obviously going to be big and physical.
DESHAUN THOMAS: Yeah, I think the physicality is like Michigan State. They have similar plays a little bit. They run the floor, transition, and also rebound the ball really well. So we're going to try to play them like a Michigan State, box out, and just play our style of basketball.
Q. Have you seen virtually every defense in the world this year? Can you describe what you've seen?
DESHAUN THOMAS: Yeah, I've seen a lot of defense, multiple defenses. A lot of teams changeup two?three, always collapse on me in the middle, different bodies. But I just try to run the offense and run it with pace and try to take good shots.
Q. Solomon Hill said he's going to be matched up against you most of the game if not all of the game. Can you just talk about what you've seen on film from him? One of Arizona's better defenders.
DESHAUN THOMAS: He's a great player. He's a great offensive player. He can make shots. He's a mismatch nightmare out there too at 6'7", long, and can play the post, can shoot the three. He's a great player. It's going to be a great match?up, and I'm looking forward to seeing it.
Q. The jumper you made against Iowa State and the way you finished it, was that an homage to Michael Jordan?
AARON CRAFT: I don't think I'm nearly close enough to being able to be put in that same category as him. I know if I wouldn't have made it, I think Deshaun was going to be a little angry at me for not throwing him the ball, so I think that gave it the extra oomph for it to go in.
Q. Did you realize you were doing that though?
AARON CRAFT: I did not. I was actually talking about that with someone as we were walking over here today. It was just kind of happening. Living in the moment and letting it happen.
Q. Did either of you players see the Ohio State?Xavier game in 2007? Do you have any memories of it at all?
DESHAUN THOMAS: No, I didn't see that. I know Coach talked about it a little bit, said it was a great game, but he said one thing his guys did. They needed to get ready for that game from the beginning. That is the only thing he really talked about.
AARON CRAFT: Same thing. It was obviously a really good game, and Coach kind of alluded to it a little bit, but not a ton.
Q. Did you know what anybody was talking about when Ron Lewis was mentioned with your shot last week against Iowa State?
AARON CRAFT: I consider myself a student of the game, and I do not know what you are talking about, so I feel kind of bad. I might get in trouble for that with some Ohio State people, but, unfortunately, not.
Q. Deshaun, could you describe how Aaron can be annoying?
DESHAUN THOMAS: I don't think he's annoying, really. He doesn't guard me at practice or nothing like that. He's on my team, So I like to see him get in people's head and other people think he's annoying. I don't think he's annoying, because he's on my squad and he's out there on the ball 90% of the time. So I like it.
Q. But do you see him annoying others?
DESHAUN THOMAS: Yeah, I can see he frustrates other point guards a little bit, because a lot of point guards like to force a lot of things. Especially scoring point guards trying to get their shots off and Aaron gets so into them. I think point guards see that, and I see it too.
Q. When you look at Mark Lyons what he's able to do and what you might try to take away assuming you're guarding him?
AARON CRAFT: It always gets tougher the further you go in the tournament. You play against great players and as a defender you always want to take away their go?to or whatever it is. When you play great players, they have more than one.
He's definitely one of those players. He can score in a variety of ways and get a shot off, which is always very tough. So as much as we try to neighboring it a one?on?one match?up type of thing, it's all about our team and how we can get in gaps, show him bodies, and hopefully take away some lanes that he drives in usually. Make him make some tougher shots and hopefully that will be enough.
Q. For laughs, do you ever go on Twitter or blogs and chat rooms to see what they're saying about you? If so, what do you enjoy?
AARON CRAFT: I actually don't have a Twitter, so I like to avoid all of that. It's either way too good or way too bad, so you don't really need to read either of them.
Some guys bring up things every now and then from Twitter, and some of the ones that are funnier. Guys send me one. There was a Chuck Norris one the other day that was pretty funny from a former teammate.
Q. What was it?
AARON CRAFT: I believe it said that I would kick Chuck Norris's butt, and then he would shave his head to look more like me. I thought that was pretty funny. I thought it was pretty good. Gave me a good laugh.
THE MODERATOR: Coach, if you could make some opening comments and then we'll take some questions.
COACH MATTA: Well, obviously very excited to be here in this tournament, this part of the tournament. I think from a standpoint of being in the west division coming out here, it's good for our guys.
We took practice at home yesterday, had a very good workout, came out, let them enjoy Los Angeles a little bit, and today has been all business as it will be as we go to practice here. Like I said, very happy and excited to be here to play tomorrow.
Q. You had the long conversation down there with Sean Miller. I know it's a private conversation, but can you share any of that? How long has it been since you guys have had that kind of a discussion?
COACH MATTA: Face?to?face, probably since last summer on the recruiting trail. But we talk periodically throughout the course of the season. It is kind of ironic as we talk about our teams to each other. So he's got a pretty good feel for us as I do for his team.
But we were kind of talking about his son is a huge Ohio State fan and wants to go to Ohio State. He's a junior in high school and the possibilities of him being a manager for us, so that was kind of the gist of it.
Q. Don't want to rat him out, but Craft doesn't know who Ron Lewis was. Just admitted it. Was the game that long ago, Thad?
COACH MATTA: Yeah, well, think about how old he was. At that point probably sixth, seventh grade, I would imagine. But I think Ron's been back, and he's living in Houston now when he's not overseas. I know he's been back. It may have been when Aaron was injured this summer or whatever. But I'll brief him on it.
Q. How is Sean Miller as a roommate?
COACH MATTA: Sloppy, sloppy. Yeah, the thing about Sean that I've learned over time is whenever we'd go somewhere, he'd forget his wallet. We were flying down to Miami many years ago. He was at N.C. State, I was at Miami of Ohio, and he sets up a trip for us to go down. Jeff Van Gundy was coaching the Knicks. Stan was Pat Riley's assistant.
He says, hey, we're going to go down. We're going to go to Stan's house, and we'll meet at the airport. He shows up. Says you're not going to believe this. I forgot my wallet. You're going to have to pay for everything, and he was making a lot more money than I was. But that's him.
We shared an office together for a year at Miami of Ohio. And quite honestly, he taught me a ton just in terms of he came from a basketball family, and obviously his brother, Arch, the Dayton coach, worked for me for two years.
Special friend, somebody that I'm very, very excited that he's here. I don't like the fact that we're playing, but I'm happy as can be for him.
Q. Sean was saying the other day about how competitive you are, and I'm curious if you guys ever played pool or Ping?Pong or was there ever anything that you two of you would battle over?
COACH MATTA: We used to play, back when I was healthy, like we may have shooting contests or whatever, and they would get kind of heated up. But he was a passer, not a shooter. I was a shooter and not a passer. So you can figure out how it went.
But I could never do the ball handling stuff. I don't know if you remember the stuff he used to do from when we were at Xavier together. At camp he'd do a trick of the day at the end. I remember one time he says, hey, we'll give $1,000 to a camper if he can do this. I'm like, Sean. And he said, don't worry, they can't do this. And he was right.
Q. I know there's not much that's off limits when the two of you guys talk, but is that 2007 game, is that the one sort of taboo subject almost?
COACH MATTA: Not really. Number one, that was so long ago. I think somebody asked me in Columbus about this. The difference in that game was I had coached those guys at Xavier and had recruited a lot of them.
So that was just so unique in itself that you're looking out there and you're seeing guys that I had coached a couple years earlier in the Elite Eight, and now you're coaching against them.
I think in terms of he and I, when you do this long enough, as we're both starting to, I've been 13, he's 9, your paths are going to cross. I'm sure he feels the same way. I want to win like crazy, but if things don't go well, I couldn't be happier for him, and I know he's the same way.
Q. You're three time zones away from home, which means you're a long way from your comfort zone. I asked Sean about your aversion to traveling long distances to play games, and he told us a recruiting story. But if you could revisit why do you choose not to go long distances to play non?conference games? I think you pretty much try to stay in one time zone in Columbus when you do it.
COACH MATTA: Yeah, I do. Regular season, I think, it's hard to come out and play one game with the time zone in terms of just you're off a little bit. We were fortunate enough to come out here and kind of get acclimated and by tomorrow we should be in good shape.
The other thing is I played out here many years ago. We were playing at Stanford, and we were tipping off at like 12:05 our time. We had been there one day and it was a 9:00 o'clock ESPN game. But if I can keep it kind of midwest or south, I would probably prefer that.
Q. When Sean was contemplating going from Xavier to Arizona, did he call you and run it by you?
COACH MATTA: Yeah.
Q. What did you say?
COACH MATTA: I can still remember where I was when he called and it was about an hour conversation. I stepped outside of a restaurant. I came back in, and my wife said what is he going to do? And I said, I have no idea. I've never seen a guy jump from one side of the fence to the other as many times as he did.
I think that Sean looked at the thing that intrigued him was Arizona is one of the, if not thee, top job on the west coast. You've got your UCLAs, your Gonzagas, Washington. I know programs are up?and?coming now, but I think that was something that he felt pretty strong about in terms of just the reputation of what Coach Olson had built there.
It was definitely a situation that he was going into that had banners hanging from the rafters when he took the job.
Q. Obviously, a lot of talk about Aaron and Deshaun. But how important has the supporting cast been for this team? Especially guys like LaQuinton as you've had success in the last month or so?
COACH MATTA: They've been the difference. The thing that I've enjoyed watching come to fruition is just those guys accepting their roles, but then taking great pride in doing their job. I think that's kind of been one of the biggest keys for this basketball team. Guys quit asking questions in their minds and just started playing basketball. With that said, it's definitely made us a better basketball team.
I think when you go through the length of a season, and there are many ups and downs, even through wins, to watch those guys continue to get better. This team has never stopped working. Yesterday being March 26th, they came in, they were ready to go in practice, and I think we got better. They know from film Monday night that we didn't play particularly well against Iowa State. If we don't play better, we don't have a chance tomorrow night.
Q. In your coaching career, have you ever been booed like you were in Lexington? Did it bother you, because clearly the program was in good hands when you were there, and it was in good hands when you turned it over to Sean.
COACH MATTA: My dad told me as a young kid one of the greatest compliments you can ever be paid is booed by opposing fans. I think I had three great years there, and I think from the standpoint of when we got there we left the program in better shape.
Obviously, Sean took it and continued to roll with it. That stuff never has bothered me. I'm one of these guys that I'm always playing forward, I never look backwards. It will be?? hopefully they'll be rooting for Ohio State tomorrow night since Sean's the one most removed.
Q. When the two of you started off at Miami, can you kind of describe what made you hit it off? Was part of it sharing that small office for so many hours a day?
COACH MATTA: Yeah, I think that Sean had just such energy and passion for the game. This is a true story. I took the job on a Thursday and on Friday he asked me, hey, I'm going to speak at this clinic. You want to ride with me? I speak tomorrow morning at 8:00 a.m. for only ten minutes, we'll get in the car and come back. I said, where is it? He said, I'm not exactly sure, but it's around here somewhere.
So we left at 6:00 from Oxford and arrived in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, at like 3:00 a.m. He got me. At that point, I kind of knew what I was in for.
I don't know. His personality, my personality, we've always gotten along really, really well.
Q. You guys had just met right before that?
COACH MATTA: Yeah, I didn't know him really well. But like I said, it's been great to see him do?? I was so thankful that he chose to come with us at Xavier, and obviously, it's really worked out well for him.
Q. Did you get him back?
COACH MATTA: No, it gets worse. He left to take the Pitt job and, he had owed me about $350 for all the lunches the time he had forgotten his wallet.
So as he's walking out, he has his box. He said, hey, here's what I'm going to. Call adidas, and you can have my money. I didn't spend it all, and it's cost free. So he walks out the door; I called adidas.
I said this is Sean Miller; they said you no longer work at Miami University. So he got me again. So I've never been able to recover that money from him.
But I did call him last week and told him if his son does come, he could stay in my basement and save on room and board because of his fine he got last week. So just trying to help him out a little bit.