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Thursday in San Diego: Open Practice & Media

Mar 17, 2022

TUCSON, Ariz. - As the No. 1 seed Arizona Wildcats continue preparations in San Diego ahead of Friday's 4:27pm PT tip-off against No. 16 seed Wright State, Thursday saw head coach Tommy Lloyd and the team pay their first visit to Viejas Arena for open practice and media obligations. Check out the videos below for all the coverage from the day's events:

 


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THE MODERATOR: We're joined by Arizona Wildcats.

Q. We've seen stuff like Kerr sticking the tongue out and Dalen waving to the crowd. Do you win a ton of games because you're cocky or are you cocky because you won a ton of games?

DALEN TERRY: It's our personality. Stuff like that gets us going. It's nothing we do on purpose, just it's part of the game. Me doing whatever I do and Kerr doing whatever he do, it's another edge for our team to keep winning.

Q. Throughout the entire season part of your thing has been about building your brand and whatnot. We've seen some of the athletes get newer stuff now that they're in the NCAA Tournament. Has anything new come along for you? And how does being in the NCAA Tournament with this team help in building that brand?

DALEN TERRY: I mean, obviously us winning more games improves my brand. So us still playing, still being one of the teams still playing obviously is good for me and good for all of us because I'm not the only one that's building my brand. Obviously Justin is building his brand. Ben is building his brand. Everybody is building their brand. It's good we keep playing so our brand can still be on.

Q. Just the thought of being in the NCAA Tournament, what does it mean to you? Do you have any memories of watching March Madness?

JUSTIN KIER: This is something we dreamed of since we were kids. I know it means a lot on the inside but we need to stay locked in and focused for each of our games. So I know a lot of guys are just happy to be here, grateful to be here. I know I am. So we're going to continue to embrace this experience, but also try to do it the right way and come out with a win each game.

Q. For any of you, the lack of NCAA Tournament playing experience, what has Coach Lloyd told you guys to prepare you for this?

BENNEDICT MATHURIN: Pretty much just getting ready. Watch a lot of film and just stick with what we usually do. Keep the game simple and keeping our fundamentals.

DALEN TERRY: Keeping it simple, one game at a time. Yes, it's the experience thing. But we all played basketball games before. We'll not look at this as anything bigger than that. One basketball game at a time. Act like we've been here before.

Q. Have you asked him anything with all his wealth of experience in the tournament?

JUSTIN KIER: He lets us know. He's been there, what, the past 23 years, something like that. He's just giving us, educating us on that stuff. He's been there, we trust him. That's all we gotta do. We don't ask questions because he's got the formula. So we'll just continue to be behind him and listen to him and focus on winning games.

Q. How would you describe Coach Lloyd's personality? And I don't mean as an X and O, just as a person, what's he like?

DALEN TERRY: Overall nice guy. Jokester. Goofy but serious when he needs to be. Just never know what you'll get with Coach -- he's always going to be happy and smile, but, man, he got different jokes. He comes out with jokes like every day. Just a funny guy.

BENNEDICT MATHURIN: Pretty much the same as DT said, he's a fun guy. Comes to practice with a smile. He's looking forward to learn as well. It's his first time as a head coach. It's all about learning and giving us his knowledge.

JUSTIN KIER: As them two said, he likes to crack his jokes, but I'd also say he's really competitive. And that's something I've noticed is, every single game, doesn't matter who we're playing, what level, he's really, really competitive. And I think that instills in us, too. We see how much he cares and how much he wants to win. It just makes us want to go out there, win for him as well, win for this organization.

Q. Bennedict, Coach Lloyd has a history, from Gonzaga to now, of really recruiting and working well with international players. I know you were already at Arizona, but what have you seen, what would you say it is about him that allows him to relate with international players so well?

BENNEDICT MATHURIN: His style of play. Watched a lot of games when he was at Gonzaga, and just the players he brought through his program and the style of play he's playing, I feel it was a great fit to me as well and the international players on my team.

Q. Was there a moment or a game where you guys kind of said to yourself, okay, we're a pretty good basketball team here?

JUSTIN KIER: I think we've always known we were a good team this summer. We kind of bonded and clicked really early, but you just can't go into the season thinking you're going to be this or that, ranked this or that. And obviously we were ranked at the beginning of the year, but we knew we were good enough to be.

Those tough road games you go on and you see how your team adjusts and see how close you guys get. We always knew we were going to be pretty special. We believed in it and we're going to continue to do that.

Q. Could you talk about just how fun it's been playing in the style of offense you guys play in as well as defense because you guys get after it?

DALEN TERRY: Yes. It's fun. I bet it's fun to watch, too. Everybody touches the ball, everybody gets off, and everybody eats. On defense we all have our accountabilities. And we all do what we have to bring to the table so we can play as fast as we do and make it as fun to watch. And it's real fun to play.

Q. Have you guys heard from any alumni, if anybody's reached out? We've heard Steve Kerr and David Blatt reach out to Coach. Have you had anybody communicate, how proud they are of you guys?

JUSTIN KIER: They're always pretty supportive of us. We had our alumni weekend back in Arizona a few months ago. And then we got to obviously see a Warriors game on one of the road trips. And we know they're always supporting regardless if we hear from them or not -- I'm sure some of the guys here personally and individually.

So we know they're always supportive. We see them on social media commenting on certain posts, things like that. It's a great alumni club. Not just the big names, but also a lot of people who have been through the program.

Q. When you got off the bus and walked into this arena for the first time, you see all the March Madness stuff everywhere, what went through your guys' head?

BENNEDICT MATHURIN: It's my first time playing in March Madness, and I'd just say we're pretty excited. (Indiscernible) game after games, but it's an experience like no other, so pretty excited.

Q. As somebody who grew up in Canada, did you watch the NCAA Tournament when you were a kid? And how much has the popularity of the tournament there grown in your estimation?

BENNEDICT MATHURIN: I used to watch March Madness a lot because my sister played at NC State. She's the reason I started playing basketball. I always tuned when basketball was on because she played and said it was pretty fun. I always wanted to be better than my sister and follow her path. So that's the reason why I started.

Q. Wondering how this feels being here especially compared to last year. And what was that experience last year? Did you even watch that tournament? How do you guys compare the experiences so far?

DALEN TERRY: We was talking about this the other day. Last year we wasn't even in Tucson anymore while the tournament was being played. It's a blessing. I feel like that was a blessing for us to not even be here last year, for us to have a year like this now. It makes us that much more hungrier that we're here now. And we just thank God and everybody that was here for us last year who stayed (indiscernible) with us now.

BENNEDICT MATHURIN: Pretty much the same, like DT said, it was pretty hard watching it. But we knew what we had to do in order for us to get into the March Madness. So it was all about motivation and hopefully playing in March Madness pretty soon.

Q. You guys mentioned not being ranked to start the year. At what point did you start to feel like maybe being a hunted team, and now being a No. 1 seed a team that people are picking to win it all?

JUSTIN KIER: A lot of those road games, I feel like you could just sense the opponent's crowd. They let us hear it all. And I think those are the times you realize, okay, you don't get big headed or anything like that, you just know, they're there to beat you -- the tough Illinois, the tough Tennessee, the tough conference road games, where you just realize how big of a target was on your back. But you never let it affect you. We never did. Regardless of win or loss, we played our game and we played our hardest. I think that's the time we realized we were looked at to be beat.

DALEN TERRY: This history of Arizona has always been a rich culture. So even if we didn't have that number next to our name we're still going to be hunted. Wherever we played, they always want to beat Arizona. We know that every time we step on the court, it's the other team's Super Bowl, whether we're the No. 1 team in the country or the 356th team in the country. Just want to make that clear.

COACH LLOYD: Happy to be in San Diego. Excited to play a scrappy, well-coached Wright State team tomorrow.

Q. What makes this place such a good tournament host?

COACH LLOYD: San Diego is a world-class city. That downtown area is awesome now. For us, as Arizona Wildcats, we've got a strong alumni base in Southern California. And I've also heard there's lots of people that have a house in Tucson and second house in San Diego, because with the weather and when we need a break from the heat this is the place to go. So for us selfishly it's a great location. And honestly we couldn't be much better.

Q. Was there a practice or a game where you kind of just said, okay, this team is really good? It kind of clicked?

COACH LLOYD: I honestly thought we had a chance early to be pretty good. But then you haven't been tested yet. And for me, that first -- we got in those first few home games and just feeling the force we played with, I knew that was pretty unique. It was a lot for these other teams to handle.

And then when we got to Las Vegas and found a way to get through those games and had stretches where we played really well, I thought maybe this team has something. And of course I knew we were going to have to tighten things up and grow and evolve over the course of the year, which these guys have done an amazing job.

Each of our losses we've had I think we've really learned from we've bounced back and played well and became a better team for it. Now you don't want to learn from a loss. Hopefully we've grown enough to put ourselves in position to be a tough out.

Q. Early in the season you talked about opposing players you referred to as knowing them as numbers. No. 32, Peter Kiss, what impressed you in the first round, the First Four and in season?

COACH LLOYD: He's not on my radar, he's done. I'm focused on Wright State. He's obviously a talented player for Bryant.

Q. You talked about just the first practices. How difficult was the buy-in if it was difficult? And did it take some time for them to believe in you?

COACH LLOYD: I don't think the buy-in was difficult. Obviously you have to build personal relationships too and that's part of it. I just think back to last spring, we started with, a lot of concepts -- how to pass in a ball screen, how to set a ball screen, how to roll out of a ball screen. And I started building the concepts that are the foundational pieces of the offense.

And then I think the buy-in happens when guys feel themselves start to improve. And none of these guys had much of an opportunity to playmake last year. Now they became, I mean whatever. They led the nation in assists which is pretty amazing thing when you take a step back and really think about it. So I'm proud of these guys for how far they've come. It's been a great group to work with. And I'm still coaching them hard on a daily basis and they let me do it, so I'm thankful.

Q. When you look at Wright State, what jumps out to you? Do you see any similarities to the way you guys play? And your scouting report on Tim Finke, their forward, No. 24?

COACH LLOYD: I would say the similarities are they don't mind getting up and down the court. They play with great fundamentals. And they read and react to a lot of things in the game.

24, Tim Finke, he has a really close relationship with one of our guys our staff, TJ Benson, because he started out at Grand Canyon, and TJ recruited him. So I think he's a tough, hard-nosed player, plays with great effort. He can play the 3 or 4. He can make 3s, which makes him a tough matchup.

But I think more than anything, he's the guy that did a great job defensively on Kiss yesterday in that game. And Kiss had, I think, 28 shots to get 25 points or vice versa, something like that. It's pretty impressive. I'm sure he'll be on one of our better perimeter players tomorrow.

Q. You have a lot of European players on your roster this year. What kind of advantages do they offer you with their overseas experience?

COACH LLOYD: Well, I love international players. And it will probably hopefully always be a foundational piece of any program I'm involved with. I think they have a certain basketball IQ and unselfishness that they naturally play with. And when you put a group of them together and you mix in some American kids it becomes easy.

And one of the things about European kids coming over at a young age, they're much more adept to being a role player and doing those role-player types of things, because if you're 16, 17, 18, 19 in Europe, you're playing with men usually. And then those men don't let you just dribble the ball around and jack crazy shots. They make you set screens, block out and do all the little things. Those kids come over with maybe a little better natural understanding of how to contribute to a team without scoring.

Q. You've had some time to live with sort of being a head coach, and from the outside people say it's gone easy for you. What's surprised you about moving into this chair and being the most challenging?

COACH LLOYD: For me I always tell people, it's an easy answer: I love coaching and teaching. So that has been fine. And everything basketball-wise, I've done, basically I've been a part of doing before. So I had a real comfort level and a conviction in what I wanted to do.

The biggest thing for me has been just the amount of day-to-day energy. When you're an assistant, it's a great job, and you work really hard, but you have built-in recruiting days which aren't easy but they're also, you get to take a breath away from the group, little mini vacations here and there.

You have every third scout. So you might scout really hard one day and the next day you don't have anything. You kind of take a back seat in practice.

As a head coach I've got to be involved in all that stuff on a daily basis and all the game planning. And you don't get those natural time where you just come up for air. For me that's been the biggest challenge has been just the day-to-day energy it requires.

Q. Given your history with international players, when you took this job and some of the international players Arizona already had, did it seem like even more of a natural fit than it might otherwise?

COACH LLOYD: I think for sure. I was familiar with all the guys. I mean being out in the recruiting circles and guys that I had looked at previously. And I think it really helped me retain a bunch of them. I think that's the one thing people don't talk about in college basketball today. Especially last year was the first year that you get a job, everybody's a free agent. Everybody can transfer and play right away. There's no waiver needed.

You had to really go in and re-recruit. I think it really helped me because those guys had a familiarity with me and I was familiar with them. We were able to jump-start our relationships.

Q. What is a key, if you had to pick one or two things in terms of connecting with the international players, when you recruit them?

COACH LLOYD: I think the biggest thing is just letting them know that you're going to be able to help guide them through this process. You know how difficult it's going to be. You know where the pitfalls are. And you're going to be able to support them when they hit some adversity, because they're going to hit adversity away from home.

And that's something that me and my staff are really comfortable with -- me and my wife are really comfortable with, to be honest with you, is dealing with guys from all over the world and kind of embracing it.

Q. When you face an opponent with a great scorer like Tanner Holden, who had 37 against Bryant, is your defensive philosophy to let anyone else but that guy try to beat you, or he can score as much as he wants because he's only one guy?

COACH LLOYD: We'll play normal to start. I mean, they have other good players. I always tell you guys, I know Holden is No. 2. And then I know they've got No. 0, the big guy, Basile or something. And No. 1, I can't remember his name but I know he's really good. They have other good players, too.

And in a single-elimination game, I think you want to come and play solid and straight up and do your best to guard everybody well. As the game plays out maybe you'll have to make an adjustment and tilt your defense more to one guy or another.

But Holden is a heck of a player. He's a natural scorer. He scores a lot of points scoring 2s and 1s which is really impressive.

Q. You've obviously been a part of a bunch of deep tournament runs. With a group that's largely new to this scene what do you tell them about what is required to do that?

COACH LLOYD: We don't have to do anything different than we've done this year. Whether it was in the tournament in Las Vegas, around Thanksgiving, or the Pac-12 Tournament. You go in, you treat it exactly the same.

And we've learned from each one of those games and our guys have been great in the moment. I don't anticipate anything different. I don't think we have to do anything different. And maybe that's the key, just to go out -- and I tell them every day -- go out, most aggressive team wins. Let it rip.

Q. How do you see yourself evolving as the head coach the next five to 10 years?

COACH LLOYD: Now we're getting deep. I would just say this. I take pride in the fact that I think I've always grown as a coach. Somebody asked me once, if I had any regrets in my career. The only regret I can think of, I wish I -- I wish back then I know what I know now, so I could help those former players more.

I've had so many guys over the years, man I'm getting better coaching this now; I wish I could have taught it to this guy seven, eight years ago. It could have really helped him. That's the biggest thing for me.

So I'm always going to challenge myself to continue to grow as a coach. And I think hopefully I'll always be comfortable in my own skin. And I'm going to go coach from the heart, use my head, trust my instincts. And I'm excited. Like you, I want to see where the next five to 10 years leads. I'm pretty excited about it.

Q. With the guys, sophomores, (indiscernible), et cetera, that were around last year, do you talk to them about the difference of having to sit out last year and this experience? Or do you sense it's anything that's making a difference with them?

COACH LLOYD: The only thing I told our guys, yesterday we practiced at an old high school gym and it was loud. And the backboards were dirty. And I said, guys, a lot of us started in gyms like this, or Christian and Oumar started playing outdoors.

So what would that kid back then tell the man you are now? He would tell him to go for it. And understand how far you've come and be excited about it and don't hold back and go out and be excited for this moment and attack it.

Q. How is Kerr doing and are you tempted at all regardless being as you got past Colorado and UCLA to let him rest a few days?

COACH LLOYD: I'm going to give you the standard, it's going to be a game time decision. But I'm 100 percent from the heart. It's true. We'll see. He's made great progress. I'm sure he'll be bouncing around out there a little bit today. And we're going to -- our goal was to push it, see how close we could get him to playing. And I think he's close.

And we'll see tomorrow what it looks like and it could be a deal where he may play but he may not start. And we'll just take it from there and see where he's at.

Q. During your years at Gonzaga, did you ever have a team this young in tournament experience? And is there a benefit in that they basically don't know any better or don't have any tournament history to live off of?

COACH LLOYD: I can't think of a team this young that we had. And yeah maybe there's a benefit. I know Steve Kerr and I were having a conversation a while back. He was telling me how cool it is to go through it the first time. For him when they made that run to the NBA Finals the first year, he just told me, there's a beautiful innocence about it because you haven't been institutionalized yet.

So maybe that goes for me and the team, where we've got kind of an ignorance-is-bliss type of approach and we'll go out, be in attack mode because that's the way we've played all year.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports