NCAA MEN’S BASKETBALL CHAMPIONSHIP: FIRST ROUND – RICHMOND VS IOWA
Q. Keegan, what have you learned from the oldest guy in college basketball history?
KEEGAN MURRAY: I don’t know. For me, it’s just the leadership that he brought, I guess, this year, just the experience that he had. We have an inexperienced team, you would say, going into this season. So I just think he has really brought us all together.
Q. When has it meant — (Off microphone) —
KEEGAN MURRAY: I think for him, it’s a familiar spot for him because he has been playing there his whole time here. Joe Toussaint has been really good about giving that position up and just coming in and doing what he does, but he just he really just grasps that role. And a lot of our guys have went along with it, and it’s been good for us.
Q. Jordan, you’ve been to a lot of NCAA tournaments. What makes this team different in your mind that you can make a big run here?
JORDAN BOHANNON: I just think how together we were. Obviously, you have to be together to win four games in four days in the Big Ten Tournament. The league is the best it’s ever been. A lot of great teams we beat in the Big Ten tournament. So for us to rally around each other and pull that off last week, that shows how together we are right now.
At the end of the day, you can be the most skilled, most talented team, but the best teams in the March Madness that are able to make deep runs are the most together teams, and I think we’re definitely right there.
Q. For Jordan. The selflessness it takes to take advantage of the COVID-19 year and to stick to playing basketball when you could be doing other things, you did it and the six guys on the Richmond team did it. What is that like when you are facing a team of that kind of experience and just the overall, I don’t know, I guess selflessness it took to do that, to commit to one more year of college?
JORDAN BOHANNON: I have to give a lot of credit to this Richmond team. They have a lot of those guys that brought all these guys back and decided they wanted to do something special this year, and they’re one of the most experienced teams, very skilled. They’re really tough to guard. I can’t say enough good things about that.
I think across the whole country, I think every college athlete that had the chance to, I think they should have, especially after the year that we had last year. It just didn’t ever feel like a real season with regards to just playing every day and getting tested every day and going through the whole COVID pandemic. So it’s cool to see because my advocation for it, a lot of these college athletes that have stepped up this last year, it’s really cool to see them take advantage of that, and especially NIL coming about, it’s definitely a great experience and hopefully that experienced this last year well and obviously they have making the NCAA tournament.
Q. Keegan, when you look at the past three years for you, senior year of high school, prep school, now you’re first team all American, how describe the ascension and how quickly that happened and the work you put in to do all that?
KEEGAN MURRAY: For me, it was just really putting my head down and not listening to what anyone had to say about me. If I listened to other people’s opinions, I wouldn’t be here right now.
For me and my brother, we really just worked in silence. We worked out with each other a lot and got each other better, and I think that was one of the key things that allowed me to have my run this year and also last year, my ascension. I just credit the hard work of the people that have been around me and stuck with me.
Q. If you have been asked this in any form before I walked in here, just tell me, and move on, but have you been surprised at all with all the national basketball figures who have projected big things for you guys in this tournament?
JORDAN BOHANNON: I could care less what anyone says, especially Jeff Goodman. I don’t really — (Laughing). No, we’re really focused on what’s inside the locker room. You know, we obviously — it’s hard not to pay attention to it after winning a Big Ten title and Indianapolis and the run we had, but at the end of the day, we care most about what is happening inside the locker room. We’re not listening to anything outside, and that’s going to continue to be our focus.
Q. Keegan, could you express maybe the impressions about Richmond and concerns about Richmond?
KEEGAN MURRAY: Yeah, I think they’re a really experienced team. They have a lot of seniors on their team, so that helps them a lot going into March, but they’re a team that plays really well together. They share the ball really well. They have a couple of good players, and I feel like they are team — their experience helps a lot, and that’s what you need and that’s how they made the run in this tournament as a six seed. So, yeah, for us, it’s all hands on deck because we know they’re a really good team.
Q. When I talked to you the other day, you said Keegan doesn’t talk much. He is quiet. You could kind of see it now a little bit. Give me a story of maybe when you have seen that personality come out, and maybe even his development as a player and how that pertains to him being more confident?
JORDAN BOHANNON: He is very — he doesn’t like to show a lot of emotions. That’s pretty obvious. We’ve been trying to get him to smile a little more these past couple of weeks. I got him to smile after a press conference, I don’t know, I think it was after the Rutgers game. Big baby steps forward, definitely. That’s about the only story I can share on that aspect of showing his emotions, but he is the ultimate guy that’s just always locked in.
You see guys like this once in a generation that are so hard-working, put their head down and don’t let any distractions get to them, and he is just 100% focused on not only himself, but helping this team win. Like I said, that’s one in a generational talent, and he is going to do extraordinary things in the future, but right now, you can see where his focus is, and that’s with this team.
Q. For Jordan. This kind of follows us on what Jeff just asked about Keegan’s ascension. You’ve been around a while. You have brothers who play the game. You’ve been around a lot of good players. Did you see this coming? Did you sort of — were there elements of his game when he was younger when he first came into the program that you said, yeah, this guy could be a star?
JORDAN BOHANNON: I think last year, you saw flashes of that. Obviously, it was really hard to see. We had so many talented guys last year from Joe Wieskamp to C.J. to Luka. Just go down the line, we had so many talented players. And Jack Nunge who went to transfer to Xavier, he is, like I said, once in a generational player. He is showing that this year. The fact that he broke Luka Garza’s single season scoring record this year. After what Luka Garza just did last year, that shows the type of player he is, but that also shows the work he put in from going from what he did last year from seven to eight points per game to being the single season holder in points per game at Iowa. That step just doesn’t happen by accident. That step happens by day in and day out of continuing to work hard and helping this team win, and that’s exactly what he did in this offseason.
Q. Jordan, your résumé is chockful of individual accolades. The one thing that may be missing is that deep run in March. This is your last chance for the basketball games. What does this mean to you, the last run for you in college basketball maybe to make one more deep run?
JORDAN BOHANNON: It means everything to me. That’s why I came back. Me and Keegan had a moment after we won the Big Ten title. He pretty much just said briefly that this is why you came back right here as the confetti was falling, and that’s when all the emotions kind of hit me and Keegan and everyone else on the team that we worked so hard this offseason to accomplish that goal, and as well as make a deep run into March Madness. And this is our first stop, hopefully the first stop of many stops. All we can do right now is continue to focus on each other and not listen to outside noise and continue to work.
Q. Go back to you, Jordan. You had a moment on social media the other day that I thought was pretty funny. I don’t know if everybody else did, but I thought it was pretty funny. I’m just wondering why? I think some people see that and think, like, why draw more attention to yourself? Why draw more attention to the critics? What is it about you that made you decide, like, yeah, I think I’m going to have a little fun with this?
JORDAN BOHANNON: I just take my steps I’ve taken to help college athletes out this past year. I’ve been employed by the NCPA, and the National College Players Association, and thanks to the NIL waiver that was passed this year, I’ve been able to talk to thousands of — hundreds of, if not thousands, of athletes across the country these past eight to nine months and learn their stories and their backgrounds and what they’ve been through. And I think the fact that I was able to — I have pretty thick skin, so I don’t really take notes of those DMs. A lot of our guys on the team get the same DMs. We’re not focused on that.
Myself to bring a spotlight to that kind of just bringing back to other college athletes because a lot of those college athletes that get those DMs, they struggle a lot. You hear all these guys that are going through depression, anxiety, and playing on the big stage and worrying about what other people are saying about them, it’s a real thing, a real issue that’s going on, and now there’s just another reason why I decided to bring a spotlight to that.
FRAN McCAFFERY: Just really excited for our guys to have this opportunity. It’s so special. I always say I hope every one of my guys gets to go to it at least once. You want them to do it every year if you can. I’m very fortunate that as a player, as an assistant coach, and as a head coach, I have tremendous respect for every team that’s in this tournament and how they got here. We’re excited for tomorrow.
Q. When you look at Jordan and then when you look at your opponents and having six guys who didn’t need to be here, but took that COVID eligibility year to come back, what’s that say about the selflessness of these guys, and how much do you look at that experience that Richmond has and know that that is — you can’t overlook that?
FRAN McCAFFERY: I think it says a lot about Chris and how he has built that program. I will say this. I wish I could come back for a sixth year. It’s something that I think was strange at first for the guy — I remember talking to Jordan about it in the beginning, you know, because he had graduated, and he had in his mind kind of moved on. We had senior night and celebrated senior night. Wait a minute, I can come back. How great would that be?
I think the important thing for him — and I’m sure it’s the same for the Richmond guys — okay, if we’re coming back, we’re coming back for a reason, and I think that’s what we saw, two teams that won the tournament championship and get to play in this tournament, so I’m happy for all of them.
Q. Looking at Richmond’s team, four 1,000 point scores and another one right there on the cusp, is there a team that you can think of that has that much experience and scoring balance?
FRAN McCAFFERY: No, I don’t remember any. There may have been. We did play a number of teams this year that had a lot of seniors. You’re seeing that more and more. Seven of your top nine, eight of your top ten are either red shirt juniors, which makes them four-year players or beyond, but I think the point that you’re making is these guys were all incredibly productive 1,000 point scorers, so that gives them a lot of weapons, and I think that that has been proven, especially when they come down the stretch.
Q. My question to you is, what’s your experience like in this moment coaching two sons and what have you learned from your sons as basketball players?
FRAN McCAFFERY: It’s incredibly exciting. It was very emotional for our family on Sunday, but we’ve had some moments like that before. I remember bringing the boys and having them shoot around at the site when they were — Jack was probably 4 or 5, and Connor and Patrick were in elementary school. Just excited to be here in the locker room with the guys and coming on the floor. How cool is this? Then to one day have them be on the team and be contributing the way they have, just phenomenally emotional for us. Just very thankful to be able to do that.
I’ve said this many times, but I talk to all the coaches that have coached their sons, and John Beilein always said, you see your sons every day. In his case, it was Patrick. For me, it’s Patrick and Connor. Seeing them every day, experiencing the journey because while Sunday was the culmination of a lot of hard work and it was a great celebration, there’s times when you lose and there’s adversity, but at least we’re doing it together, and that’s what the journey is.
Q. Ed Cooley got asked the same thing. Just being back in Buffalo, does it bring back memories of your time at Siena and the MAAC and the amount of success that you had there?
FRAN McCAFFERY: Yeah, especially because we practiced at Canisius before we came over here, so we come up once a year and play Canisius and Niagara. That was always a difficult road trip. A lot of times, you kind of had to get through Buffalo to get to the NCAA tournament in many ways, so great memories certainly from my experience in this city.
Q. Fran, Chris Mooney is a Philly guy. You’re a Philly guy. Can you kind of talk about your relationship with him and how that has kind of grown over the years?
FRAN McCAFFERY: Yeah, Chris was a really good player, really good. We both played in the Philly Catholic League, and he went to Princeton, and I went to Penn, which typically makes you not like each other, if you know anything about that rivalry, but I think anybody that played at Penn has so much respect for what Pete Carril did and what Bill Carmody did after that and right on through Mitch, and a lot of those guys that probably went to Princeton not thinking they were going to be coaches, that’s not why you go to Princeton, but just fell in love with the game at another level and decided to become coaches. And Chris is certainly one of the best in our business.
We became friends over the years, and in particular, Nike used to take the coaches on a trip every year, and that way we not only would get to know each other better because I always knew Chris pretty well, but our wives would get to know each other. You know, and that’s how I ended up going to Matt Painter’s wedding. Our wives are really good friends, and I think that bond is formed.
Chris and I are a little bit different being Ivy League guys that just kind of grinded our way through the business, and I enjoy seeing him on the road. We sit next to each other when we’re recruiting and talk. He has a great sense of humor. I have a lot of respect for what he has done.
Q. I wanted to ask just specifically to Richmond’s defense as of late has been really solid. What impresses you about that unit, and also, in a guy like Jacob Gilyard who has a record that might be difficult to attain, and that’s the most steals in NCAA history?
FRAN McCAFFERY: That’s going to be a hard one to break. He seemingly is all over the place, and guys that play that way, sometimes they get burned. He doesn’t seem to get burned at all. He has a great sense of where the ball is, where the ball is going, and you’re right.
I mean, I think the impressive thing about that while their defense was really good, I think let’s look at why. They went into that tournament determined to get here, and in order to do that, they had to play defense the way they did, so really got to give them credit for that.
Q. On the flip side, what they do offensively is a little different. I wonder how much of a concern that is for you?
FRAN McCAFFERY: I think any time you’re dealing with different, it’s going to be a concern because you have to get ready for that. We played some really good teams last week, but we were playing them for the second or third time this year, and we may have played them two or three times last year, you know, so we know their system, and we know their personnel, and coaching tendencies and so forth.
I think that’s the beauty of what this tournament is. Everybody is different. Everybody comes in not knowing what the other team does. You try to figure out — figure it all out in a couple of days, and then you turn the kids loose and see if they can execute a game plan.
Q. Some media analysts have you, Coach, as an NCAA champion finalist in this year’s tournament. How do you deal with the pressure of that? How do you deal with the conversations of that type of talk, and what do you tell your team?
FRAN McCAFFERY: Yeah, we don’t — we really don’t talk about that at all because that kind of stuff happens all year long. It didn’t happen for this team, what you just said, but it did for last year’s team, and it’s something that I think our guys have to know and understand. That’s what people are going to talk about. You’re going to be good. You’re not going to be good. You’re going to be really good. You have a chance.
The only way we handle that is to specifically focus on the next game and not look too far ahead or not think too much about all of the talk around what’s possible. I think you have to take care of the present. That’s what we’re trying to do.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports