Quotes From Men's Basketball Weekly Press Conference

Feb. 25, 2009

Coach Herb Sendek

On exceeding expectations in just his third season at ASU:
'If you would have said to me, we would have made this kind of rapid progress, when I first arrived; I would have signed up for it. We started at the very beginning in every convincible way. But having said that, it's like we arrived at some destination, because things change. You still got to move forward to the next day. It's not like you get to arrive, but we have covered a lot of territory in a short period of time. We've got terrific support from Dr. Crow and Lisa Love and the rest of our administration. But we have had to move this program forward in ways both on and off the court. It's not just game night that this transformation is taking place.'

On the importance of shutting down Washington's guard play:
'I have no idea how the game will unfold. I know they have many players that are capable of harpooning you and some of them can do it at once. They're exceptionally talented. I don't know how many more teams in the country are deeper and more talented than Washington is. You're trying to put your finger in the dyke all over the place, you think of some of those old Three Stooges scenes, where they feel that they got the water stopped coming over here, and oh my goodness it spouts right here and you have to move over there...and that's what you deal with sometimes when you play a good team.'

On Washington changing their identity, from a team that plays in the post to a more guard-oriented offense:
'I think the different parts feed off each other. I remember Ryan Appleby hitting six threes against us and he was a guard. Players make each other better. When you have a good team like they do, sometimes like the saying goes you rob Peter to pay Paul.'

On how well the team has played on the road in the Pac-10 (5-2):
'We've been fortunate to win some close games, hard fought games. Guys have stepped up and made plays for us. I don't know if I can detect some special ingredient that we have. We've pretty much been the same team home and away throughout the year I think, give or take.'

On Washington guards Isaiah Thomas and Justin Dentmon:
'Those two guys have become a great tandem together. They both are complete guards. Some guards are standstill shooters; others are quick off the dribble but can't shoot. Those guys can get to the rim, can stop and have a mid-range game, they shoot the three, they push tempo, they can attract defenders and make assists. They can apply pressure on defense, which in turn creates offense. Both of those guys are total package guards and remind you of Jameer Nelson and Delonte West from St. Joe's. I think that they're that kind of good complementary guards.'

On the team being close to maximizing its potential:
'You never know the answer to that question. I try to evaluate what we do every day. That's what I spent my time doing - What's working? What's not working? What is there to learn from this experience? One of the best parts to me about coaching is the game and the team is constantly revealing itself to you in different ways. It's like if there's a really good movie, you can see the movie a second or a third time and depending on the state that you're are now in, which is likely to be different than the state you were in the first time that you saw the movie, all of sudden it reveals itself in a different way. I'll watch a tape and see something, and watch the tape another time and it will reveal itself to me in a different way. To me that's one of the exciting things about coaching. You can constantly learn about the game and your team as it relates to the opponent and relates to your present state of mind.'

On talking to the team about their opportunity to be the first team in school history to win the Pac-10 championship:
'It's not something we have to spend a lot of time talking about. Our guys are aware of it. But at the same time, the way our league is the difference between places in the standings is negligible. Teams are separated by nothing right now. They're still four games left, so there's so much more basketball left to be played. We want to do well, we want to win our next game and continue to get better, and we'll see what happens in the end.'

Jeff Pendergraph

On coach Herb Sendek's calm, even-keel personality rubbing off on the team:
(Jokingly) 'Even-keel? That's what ya'll see. Not even at all. He's one of the most unbalanced people I know.'

On their defensive approach:
'How passionate he is about it. He's even, but on an extreme level. He's constantly extreme when its come to playing hard and effort. He just rubs it in so much, he's like that all time, and so it can't help but rub off on you. You start to think `I might as well do this because this guy is doing it,' and next you know, we start getting it and its fun. We started playing hard defense, causing turnovers, getting transition dunks, everything. We're having fun playing defense and he's over there smiling and jumping around because he's having fun too. So, its like alright, this how we're supposed to play.'

On looking to coach Sendek as a model for being passionate:
'Sometimes. Everybody can't keep it even at all times. There have been times when he comes to the bench and starts snapping at me. (Jokingly) I'm like `whoa, what happened to the calm, cool, poised composure coach. Where is that at' But usually I'm not really helping it, so that's why its directed at me. For the most part, he does a really good job of being the leader as a coach that we need to see all the time. James and me kind of do the same thing, and the rest of the guys follow our example, while we're just following coach's. So he does a really good job of that.'

On having the chance to take sole possession of first place in the Pac-10 with a win at Washington on Thursday:
'It means a lot. This is the first time we actually have a legitimate chance to be in first place. Being half a game back is pretty close. At this time last season, being at the bottom or in the middle of the conference, it was `lets try and salvage the rest of the season and make it look as good as we can come tournament time.' Before that, sophomore year, it was, `lets just go out and have fun, and start getting ready for next year.' Now, our season isn't done yet. We got a lot of stuff left to do in these last four games. There going to be the biggest games we have; they could make or break our season and cost or get us a conference championship. That feels real good to say. We need to get all these games because we want to guarantee the tournament. A Pac-10 title wouldn't hurt either.'

On a change in the team since the loss to Washington (they have won five straight since):
'It's been everybody. It's a team thing. It starts with the guards, they have to guard the ball, so they contain penetration. But even if they don't, the bigs have to have their backs. The last couple games, we have stepped it up guarding the basket. Blocks have gone up and guys are attempting to take charges. Teams are now second-guessing about trying to get to basket all game. They know if get past the guards, then they have to deal with Jeff and Rik at the rim and they don't want to go that route. It keeps everybody up and we just help each other out and have each other's backs.'

On matching up against Washington's big man, Jon Brockman:
'I have my mind right ready for this war I'm about to have with him. We're both about to be bloody, cant walk off the court, dying.'

On coach Sendek being satisfied after a game:
'He's really quick to tell you how good you did, but then he'll bring you right back down. This last stretch of games he's been really happy with the way we've played. He's always going to have stuff to critique us on because that's the he is. He enjoys the moment for a second, but right when he gets home, he is back on the computer, trying to figure out what we can do better. Like the U of A game, trying to figure out how we went up by 17 to down three.'

On being close to maximizing their potential:
'We're defiantly a lot closer than we were when we started, but I don't know how far we can go. I know right now, the way were playing, it couldn't win us a championship. We have the potential, but we know we have to step it up a notch. There is definitely stuff we can work on and get better at. We're kind of close, but we still have a lot of growing we can do.'

On their assists and offense clicking:
'The last couple of weeks, guys have been really working on skills. Derek, Jamelle, they have done a really good job of taking care of the ball and getting it to people to score. James has done a good job of protecting the ball and getting it to Derek and Jamelle, who I think have gotten almost all of their points off of James. Everybody is just helping each other out. Our assists have gone up because were playing basketball and our defense. We're not playing catch-up the whole game or worried about how we're going to guard the other team. Also, guys are knocking down shots, so everything is kind of taking care of itself.'

On Washington being a tough match-up:
'They have three guys under six feet tall. I don't know about ya'll, but whenever I see a guy that little, it gives me nightmares, because all they do is go zoom right by. I hate having to close out on the corner on those guys. I know they're not going to shoot it. I know as soon as they see me coming, they're licking their chops, saying `C'mon Jeff'. It's just not me though; they present a problem to everybody. It's not even just our team; they would have way more wins if that was the case. They cause a super problem for everybody. Then, teams focus on that and forget about Jon. That's suicidal to forget about that guy.'

On being able to tell before the game if Rik is going to make his shots or not:
'Its hard to tell with him. Even in the U of A game, he started off cool, then he missed some, and then we have to see where he goes with it. Before, if he kept missing, he wouldn't have kept shooting and just thought about the misses. Now, he forgets it, and in crunch time, he's ready to go. Last shot is over, next play, and he knocks down those big shots. Its hard to tell really until he starts getting going and doing his little yell, running down the court, then Rik is feeling it. We're going to be alright.'

James Harden

On teammate Rihards Kuksiks:
'When he first got here, he really didn't know a lot of English. As time went on, he learned a lot from us and from being around other people. When he went back to Latvia this summer and started playing there, his English was all off. We had to correct him there and get him back to one of us. He is a funny guy. He's one of us and laughs and jokes around.'

On the upcoming game against Washington:
'They're pretty big and their guards are quick. They have a lot of depth and they are a good team. We have to be ready and be on our A game. They're at home and they want to win a Pac-10 championship as much as we do. We know they're going to bring it, so we have to bring it too.'

On winning so many close games:
'Last year, we were pretty good in close games as well. I think this year, it carried over and we know how to not make those silly mistakes in crunch time. That's helped us a lot and also being together since last year. We know who to go to or where a person likes the ball in a special spot. Little things like that give us the edge in order to win the game. At Washington, it's going to be a clutch, 15-round fight. We're going to have go in there and play our hearts out.

On having the opportunity to win a conference championship:
'It's very exciting. ASU has never won a Pac-10 championship. And to be this close, we taste it a little bit. But we have a lot of people in our way and we can't look forward to games, like Stanford and Cal. We have to take care of what is in front of us. Like I said, it's going to be a good game up there.'

On the pressure and importance of this upcoming game against the Huskies:
'Its definitely at the top. This is a great situation we're in. We have a great team, great chemistry, and we're rebuilding a program. It feels that we're all doing it together and having fun with it too. It's definitely at the top. It's a great program; we have great coaches, great players, and great teammates. Overall, it is an exciting buzz around here and it is unbelievable.'

On wanting to come to ASU to help turn the basketball program around:
'That was the overall plan and I'm sure the other freshman that came in with me had the same mindset; come in here and change the program around. It had all the pieces, the coaches, and the players that were here before. Everything was perfect and all of us coming together with the same mindset. Last year, we did a pretty good of starting something and this year, were doing an even better job of keeping it up. Hopefully, we will try and look past and make the tournament and do some things that people around here aren't used to doing.'

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