Quotes from Men's Basketball Weekly Press Conference
March 4, 2009
On the last weekend of games:
'Kinda hit me really hard yesterday. I was just sitting at him thinking about it. I had to call my mom. I was like; `this is my last week for an official season'. It's crazy. It's gone by really fast. I remember just getting ready to start conditioning and wishing we could start playing. `Games are so far away, I'm tired of running.' Now it's like, `whoa, we only have so many more games left.' I remember when I first got here; I was like, `man I'm going to be here forever, it's going to take forever to do something.' Now I'm already where Kevin was. It's crazy.'
On his college experience:
'College was fun. Towards the end of it, it started to remind me of high school a little bit. Same thing with school and what goes on and the people you see. Things go from being this gigantic, big place, back to being really small again. It was fun. I'm definitely glad I came here. I did what I wanted to come here and do; got my degree early, played really well basketball wise. Now I have the opportunity to do a lot of things. Make history for the school, try and go to the NBA. Just a lot of stuff happening right now that I didn't think would be possible when I first got here. It just makes my experience that much more fun.'
On the experience changing him as a person:
'I think so. Changed in a good way. I've grown, physically and mentally. When I came here, I looked like a toothpick, now I'm not really a toothpick anymore. Mentally, that's why I like college. Looking back at it, that's one thing I'm really glad I came here for. It is definitely a growing up process; going through college and everything we went through has helped that. If I hadn't come here, I don't think I would be who I am today; calm, a good leader on my team, and as a student. Its all credit to the whole college thing.'
On thinking his career could be over after having a tumor removed from his left knee freshman year:
'Definitely. It was kind of scary. I thought it was some type of movie thing. I had the typical young guy thing going, `I'm invincible, I'll be fine. Just cut me open and I'll be back to playing.' Next thing I know, I wake up from surgery and I'm like, `man, my leg hurts.' Then they're like, `its going to hurt for a while, go ahead and relax, you'll be on the court soon.' Also, the whole time I was waiting for them to give me the doctor's report, so that was kind of spooky too. It made me appreciate the game more and being away from it. Some guys really get injured and take the game for granted. It happened to me before I could even start my college career and I think that was one of the best things that could have happened to me. I appreciated that as soon as I got on the court. I sat out for three months and that was one of the worst times of my life. I never want that to happened again and I just took advantage of every moment on the court. Whenever I could be in the gym, I was just working on my game. I just thought it was growing pains or something and that made me realize how fast it could all be over. It definitely puts things in perspective.'
On getting used to the size of ASU:
Definitely. It took me a couple of years to get used to it. The first year, some classes are only in certain areas, so you don't really realize how big campus is. Every semester, your like, `what building is this again?' I didn't know where everything was until my junior year and even then, it was still kind of a learning experience. And there's always people around and it s just always busy. It's not like high school when it's only during lunchtime when you see everybody. You can wake up in the morning people are here, you can be here at night and people are here. Its crazy.'
On the difficulty of Sun Devil basketball not getting much recognition from the student body early on:
'It was fine with me. When I first got here, I was kind of shy. I didn't want people all up in my face. It kind of made me uneasy. It was fine if people didn't want to say anything to me, I wasn't here to be friends with the whole student body. I can't know all 50,000 people. But once people start recognizing it, it was nice to see that other people were also recognizing our good things. People would come up to me and pat me on the back and be like, `good game, you guys did good, tough this, tough that, but were proud of you.' That felt really good to know people had your back. When I used to walk down palm walk, people would just be like, `dang he's tall.' Now it's like, `hey that's Jeff.' It feels good to go from being known as a tall guy to being known as Jeff.'
On coach Rob Evans being fired after his freshman season:
'I was really disappointed. It was spring break. We had just finished the Pac-10 tournament and I was like, `Alright were going to see what happens.' I didn't think it was that bad. I thought I did good, our team did alright. There were games we could of won, ones we won we shouldn't have. It was really up and down. Then I go home and turn on ESPN, and on the little ticker, it says, `ASU lets Rob Evans go.' I was like, `what!' Then he calls me and talks to me about it. I had to think about what was going on. I thought, `I don't have a coach right now. I don't know if I'm going to be here. I don't know whom they're going to bring in. I don't know if this is going to work. I don't want to have to waste a year.' It was really hectic for a little while.'
On his initial thoughts about ASU hiring Herb Sendek:
'None. I know it sounds kind of sad, but I didn't really know who he was. For real. I was like, `who is he.' I never heard of him. I didn't know where he came from or his coaching background. I think that helped though when I first met him. There was no bias either way, a brand new first impression thing. I think it worked out pretty well.'
On graduating early and staying with the basketball program for all four years:
'That's why I think senior night is going to be so much fun. With that, plus how well we have done lately and how much better we have gotten, it is going to be a big factor during senior night. I think a lot of people are going to show up and show their appreciation for me being here the whole time and graduating early and that I've helped the team go from the bottom to the top. It's going to be a big night.'
On which is more important: his success in the classroom or on the court:
'It's both. The graduation thing is really big, but I don't think it would be as good if I didn't have basketball. And it would be the other way around if basketball was really good, but I didn't have the degree. I would have an empty feeling like I forgot something.'
On what he was doing when the moment hit him:
'I was playing video games, Call of Duty. I started getting my butt kicked, so I took a time out, set the controller down, sat back in my chair, gathered my thoughts real quick, centered myself cause I was getting really frustrated. Next thing I know, everything just started hitting me. I was like, `Man, I'm about to be done. I'm done with school. I'm a senior. There is no coming back to college.' College basketball is over and there's only a couple games left.'
On the difference being comfortable in front of the media:
'I think so. I've gotten used to being someone everyone wants to talk to after the game. T-ro (men's basketball SID Doug Tammaro) has been really good. He's been coaching me and helping me with this stuff as well. It has gone from being like, `man, I got all these lights and mics in my face. I don't know how I'm going to respond. Are they going to ask me a hard question that I don't know how to answer?' Now, it's like talking to my friends. I'm just hanging out talking. You guys see it more than I do, from when I was first here. You guys used to ask me questions in the hallways and I was just like, 'uhhh, me. Uhhhh. I'm looking for where Tammaro's at. He's like, `Jeff, just don't worry about it.' Now, I'm like, `T-ro, I don't even need you anymore, go help out someone else. Questions for Jeff?'
On missing the media at ASU once he graduates:
(Jokingly) 'You guys are going to be stuck in here with coach Sendek all by yourselves. Like, `where's Jeff at, we need someone to help us laugh. Coach just isn't the same.'
Coach Herb Sendek
On Jeff Pendergraph:
'Jeff and I talked when I first came in April a couple of years ago. I asked him to not only lead us on the court, but also to be a great ambassador for our program. I think he certainly has done that for us. Academically, he already has his degree. He's been a tremendous person in the community for our program and really represented Arizona State with flying colors. Obviously, as a player, he has been sensational. However, as good of a career he has had, you can make a strong argument that he has been our most improved player. The leap he has made from this year compared with last year has been sensational. I think he has matured and improved and is better on a broad based front.'
On Jeff thinking about transferring after his freshman season:
'I never found myself really having to sell him. We had some good talks and I think he really wanted to be at Arizona State.'
On the difference between playing with passion and emotion:
'It is important to do anything with passion and joy. You have to love what you do and have enthusiasm and it is ok to get excited and have fun. Those are things that, regardless of your vocation, are good to have and enhance it. The difference is, when talking about emotion, it is a matter of connation. It connotes energy that is pulling you away from your goals.'
On his respect for Washington State head coach Tony Bennett:
'He's a great coach and his teams are very difficult to play against. He also has done a terrific job getting really good players to go to school there. That is part of it as well and I think he has done a remarkable job.'
On Jeff being a good ambassador for ASU basketball:
'I'm referring more to the way he goes about his ordinary life than the way he smiles while riding in a parade. There will be somebody who comes to practice and afterwards, he will spend time with them, whoever it is. He'll talk to them. It's more a function of the way he lives his daily life than any special community projects, although he has volunteered and been involved in a number of good service works as well. I just think that's who he is. It comes naturally. It is his nature, not something he does. It is who he is.'
On losing both games last weekend, first at Washington and then at Washington State:
'It was a very difficult weekend. Very difficult. I don't know if you get over it, but you get ready for the next game. No different than if you have a really good win. I don't know if you get over that, but you still have to get ready for the next game. I think there is a direct correlation between youth and the ability to stay in the present. That is the wonder of a five-year-old; they are able to stay completely in the present. Although our guys are older than that, they are still young enough that they are able to stay in the present. That is a great gift to have. I think our guys will be fine. They were good yesterday in practice. They know what happened and they don't feel good about it, but today is Tuesday and not Saturday.'
On dealing with the tough road trip the past few days:
'Two overtime losses, especially losing the second one at the buzzer, are difficult to swallow. I don't know if our play was any different than it was in some games that we won. We've won some games where we didn't necessarily play our best in, but the combination of circumstances tilted in our favor. Somebody on the other team missed the shot that Rochestie made, somebody on our team made the shot that we didn't make. So you go from this swing of emotions, where you're thinking, `everything must be pretty good and were awfully good' to `the world is ending, we just lost these two overtime games.' When you take the emotion out of it and you just watch the screen of the two games, you would be hard pressed to tell which one we won and which we lost, if you didn't know the score.'
On their bench play being inconsistent all season:
'We have not established our depth in the most ideal way right now. I think that is very true of our team.'
On James Harden's performance during the Washington road trip:
'I think his best half of basketball was the first half at Washington. Then, I don't think he played his best basketball of the year for the one and a half plus remaining halves.'
On the concern that James and Jeff will be tired come tournament time after playing some many minutes the last couple of games:
'You look at a lot of teams and their best guys play a lot of minutes. Those are two guys who in less than a year from now aspire to play in the NBA. Those games are 48 minutes long, and they play a minimum of 82 games, excluding playoffs. So I hope the number of minutes they have played this year doesn't knock them off their horse.'
On Jamelle staying in the starting line-up:
'We'll see. Like we talked about in the past, who starts isn't nearly as relevant as we sometimes like to make it. There have been guys who started just so their team could win the tip. Georgetown used to do that back in the day when I was in the Big East. They had a big center that coach Thompson would let win the tip; sub would already be at the table. Jamelle hasn't won any tips for us though.'
On being ready for Stanford at home after beating the Cardinal by 30 in Palo Alto:
'Everything went our way that night. I can remember at the end of the game, Rik Kuksiks shot faking, side stepping at the end of the shot clock and throwing it in. It was just one of those games where the score unraveled because all the breaks went our way. As we've watched Stanford through the year, we know that they're going to be another really tough game for us. They're coming off a weekend in which they played really well and had a great win over SC coming into our game. I just think the Pac-10 is a great conference this year. I'm bias, but I also get a little chagrin that it is not proclaimed for what it is. Washington State is the number one defensive team in the United States. They are really good on defense. The quality and depth of our league is as good as any league, and that is not to diminish how good the other leagues are. Because, I really believe this, if you were to take a team from our league and transplant them in the Big East, they would come back and say, `this league is ridiculous. Conversely, I'm totally convinced, as a relative newcomer to this league, if you brought a team from the Atlantic Coast Conference and put them in the Pac-10, they would say, `you got to be kidding me. An 18-game gauntlet in this league, a true round robin.' I think it's that different. It's fun to talk about as fans and you hear certain people proclaim the superiority of one league over another like its written on a stone tablet, but I don't see it on the court.'