K-State Preps for Sweet 16 Matchup
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah. - Kansas State met with the media Wednesday in preparation for Thursday's NCAA West Regional semifinal matchup with Xavier. Tip-off from EnergySolutions Arena on Thursday is set for approximately 8:37 p.m. CT.
Be sure to also follow the Cats during the NCAA Championships as CBS College Sports provides coverage of the tournament including exclusive, behind-the-scenes access with the K-State program. The Network has been embedded with the Wildcats since Selection Sunday and will be with Coach Martin and the team throughout their tournament journey. Features will run as part of studio programming and also online at www.cbscollegesports.com and www.frankmartinbasketball.com.
Below is a transcript from press conference activities on Wednesday. A full PDF transcript is also attached.
Q. For both of you, can you take me back to that first meeting against Xavier, and what gave you the most success in defending Jordan Crawford the way you did?
JACOB PULLEN: Jake did a really good job of guarding the ball. Dominique did a good job of trying to deny him of getting a lot of touching, being comfortable. Helps our defense as a team. We really just worked on trying to make everything he do tough, like we do when we play any other good player.
CURTIS KELLY: I think it was a pretty good team effort. I think Dom started out on him, then we moved Jake on him a couple possessions also. I just think we did a great job on him.
He takes a lot of shots. He likes to put pressure on the defense. We made him take tough shots and we made him force a lot of things that he didn't want to do, so...
Q. Can you give me your first impressions of the building, what you think of the facility, the general feel of the building.
JACOB PULLEN: I haven't even been out there. I just walked into the locker room.
CURTIS KELLY: Well, we was in Oklahoma City, we stayed in the Oklahoma City Thunder team locker room. That was an experience. It's not like Oklahoma City's team locker room. But, you know, we going to get used to it, we going to make it our home.
Q. When you've played a team early in the year, but it was quite a while ago, then you're going to watch tape, how do you balance the two things of a team that may be different just as you guys are different?
JACOB PULLEN: Can't really worry about the last game. It's two different seasons. Last game means nothing. Records mean nothing at this point. It's just about who wants to win more.
Just got to study what they've been doing good lately. When you figure out what they've been doing good lately, you try to take that away from them, put them in a different situation, make them feel a little uncomfortable. That's what we succeed in doing.
CURTIS KELLY: Like Jake said, it's a different time of the year. More is at stake. To be honest, they're a real different team than when we seen them early. They share the ball more. I think they buying into what they coach is telling them, they run the plays a little harder and better.
They had a talent there when we played them, but they didn't mesh as a team as they are now.
Q. The top seed in the entire tournament was the Kansas Jayhawks. They've lost. Now you guys are still alive. Is this a chance that you can show that there's another team in Kansas that plays good basketball and it's Kansas State?
JACOB PULLEN: I think we've been trying to do that the whole year. Kansas has been a top team all season. You know, we've been behind all season. But we've actually showed that we can play with the best off‑season. You know, we feel the more we win, the more people we get behind us. That's all it's about, showing that there's two good teams in the state of Kansas.
CURTIS KELLY: Yeah, I think Jacob is right. It's been hard for Kansas State living behind Kansas' shadow, to be honest. This is a little bit different year. I think this time we definitely trying to show that we have another good team in Kansas, but I think we did that early. I think we did things early in the season before we come to this point now that shows that it's another good team in Kansas.
But we just got to continue and try to do the best we can.
Q. As much as you've tried to make it one game at a time, as you go through the tournament, the excitement in the community, what have you had to do to balance the excitement that you're getting from outside sources and then still approach games the same way?
CURTIS KELLY: We try to keep each other humble. We know we accomplished a lot here. But it's the humble Coach Martin brings that we want more. We feel like we can go further, feel like we can get more. That carries over to everything we do: schoolwork, on and off the court. We just want more. We want to be a better team than we was the year before or the team we was early in the season.
I think we just try to keep each other humble. We try to have fun, relax, not worry about the hype, just worry about each other.
Q. Jacob, can you talk about the bigs on your team, what stands out to you about them, why they're such a good group down there.
JACOB PULLEN: They compete, you know. Sometimes they might be undersized or they might have to go against someone who is supposedly better than them. They didn't receive the hype all season long. They just really got after every team we played. They really helped me and Denis out a lot. I don't know if people understand it as much as we do. A year ago, we pressured teams the same way we do now, but we didn't have the athleticism that we have this year back there blocking shots, really helping us when we push people to play faster than they want to.
This year they just really controlled the glass. That's how we get in transition so well, because they challenge shots and they rebound and then they get in transition. So it makes easy opportunities for us to score the ball. That's just been the difference of our season from last year and this year.
Q. Tomorrow, 22 years ago, was the last time Kansas State played in the Sweet 16. They played Purdue. You guys are going to be playing tomorrow to represent Kansas State again. Talk about the sense of pride you have in bringing this program back to where it is, reaching this point.
CURTIS KELLY: I think it's been a real blessing. I think we deserve it. We worked hard in the summer. We worked hard all year. The things we doing here is phenomenal. I think the things we doing here, the people starting to appreciate also.
But it's a lot more to be done. K State is a growing program now. People see our growth, see how much we trying to get better and trying to do more. So, you know, we just got to keep going and keep staying focused and try to keep breaking records and breaking standards.
JACOB PULLEN: Good answer, Curtis (smiling).
Q. Curtis, can you talk a little bit about when you were at Rice, how you ended up here, the path you took, how that helped you?
CURTIS KELLY: It been a long road. I always tell people, my favorite quote was that I went from something to nothing, and now I'm trying to go back from nothing to something. It's been a hard fruition. Thanks to Jake and the rest of my teammates and Coach Martin, I ended up at a great place here. I'm starting to do better. I'm starting to do more.
Most people know about my past with UConn. I don't hold no grudges. I don't feel no pain anymore. I'm just trying to do better and get better. By the grace of God, I've been doing that. I think it's just been a great process and great growth for me.
Q. Jacob, you've been on a good roll with your shot. How has that come along? How are you feeling with your outside shot?
JACOB PULLEN: It's my teammates, Denis and Frank do a great job of calling the sets. Curtis and the rest of the bigs do a great job of setting the screens. We a real physical team. We feel like if we can out‑physical teams, it gets us where we want to be.
Like I said, when we get in transition, it's hard to guard us because we can get to the basket, and we can create opportunities, and we can also spot up and make shots. Like I said, Denis been doing a great job. Curtis when they double him in the post, they doing a great job of finding me. I'm just trying to square my body and shoot the ball in.
Q. The games against Xavier have been not real close and they've been pretty physical. Was there ever any kind of bad blood going on there or just a couple teams?
CURTIS KELLY: Jake has been here and had a little bit more experience playing Xavier thank I do, so he can answer that (smiling).
JACOB PULLEN: You know, they beat us bad my freshman year. You know, you don't forget things like that, especially when it was New Year's Eve. They just really did what they wanted. They laughed on the court, played around. You just don't forget things like that.
So when you get the opportunity to play against a team like, that you always remember that, no matter if it's one person from that team on that or 10 people from that same team.
A little physical, you know, there's some bad blood, but it's nothing serious, nothing to start a fight about.
Q. Jake, before the BYU game, you characterized your team as a team with a chip on its shoulder. Has that carried over here to Salt Lake?
JACOB PULLEN: No, I think we brought it on the plane with us. A lot of people still undermine us. They think we're not that good, we shouldn't be here, we got lucky. Whatever it is, we still feel like we have a lot to prove. We feel we're playing to prove things to other people.
Q. Curtis, you said you didn't hold a grudge. Did it make you a better player? Was it good for you to get away from the city?
CURTIS KELLY: It definitely made me a better player. It's life‑learned lessons I had to learn, and I didn't learn as fast when I first got to UConn about the college basketball game is a different atmosphere for me, and I struggled. I struggled a lot.
But the main thing that happened was my personality. When I was there, I was above the clouds. I was a cocky young kid coming from high school. It grounded me a little bit and it made me more humble and appreciate the game more.
When I got here, you know, the space from home and from people close to me helped me out a lot. I got to focus on school and playing hard and working on my game a little bit more.
I just started to grow to a better person and a better ball player. So that's about it.
Q. Curtis, you mentioned keeping each other humble. How has Jake been handling national stardom? Have you had to manage him at all?
CURTIS KELLY: Uhm, Jake is going to be Jake. You know, Jake has a shining personality. He has a charm to him to make people know that, My name is Jake. That's how he shines, My name is Jake. He been holding it down. He's been a great player and person. That's just Jake, how he is.
When he gets around other people, you know, he's going to be Jake. When he gets around us, he's never mean or he never violate us or anything like that. He's humble, he's cool. He shows the love that we deserve as his brothers. We better.
You never violate. You better never violate (laughter).
Let Jake answer that question. I want to hear what he says.
JACOB PULLEN: The same as before. Doesn't bother me. I'm around him all the time. We still get the same jokes, the same things. It doesn't really change. Even as a team, when we got into the top five, we got a little complacent at the end of the season with games and stuff.
But as far as a team, nothing changed. We still play video games. We still talk about each other. We still do the same things we done before we were ranked and after we were ranked.
CURTIS KELLY: T‑shirts on sale, by the way (laughter).
Q. There's been a buzz going around you might break out a new uniform tomorrow. Can you comment on that?
CURTIS KELLY: Indianapolis wondered about that. I don't know about that. I hear a lot about that, but I don't think so. I hope so. But I heard a lot about it, though. Rumors around the air, but it's not nothing I know about. Jake probably know about it.
JACOB PULLEN: I know all the secrets. I talked to the dude from Nike today (smiling).
No, we wearing the same jerseys. I don't think we got new jerseys. I don't think so. Why would they do that now? If we lose, everybody blame it on the new jerseys (smiling).
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, gentlemen.
We have Coach Frank Martin at this point from Kansas State. We'll take questions for Coach Martin.
Q. Top seed in the tournament, Kansas Jayhawks are out of it. You are still in it representing your state. Is this a chance for you to show there's another team in Kansas that plays pretty darn good basketball? Is there a window for you now?
COACH MARTIN: Might help if we beat them. But, I mean, if we beat them, then maybe we can lay claim to that statement.
But we're excited about the opportunity. You know, my heart went out to Bill and his guys when they got beat the other night because I've got tremendous respect for them.
But, I mean, we're excited about where we're at. You know, if that helps us establish ourselves as a better program, a program more worthy of more attention, whatever way it may be, that's great. That's what winning brings to you, that's what competing at this time of year brings to your program.
To compare us to Kansas, we're going to have to start beating them first. If we're not beating them, we're not getting too much done.
Q. How are your kids handling this success? Are you concerned at all with their ability to handle it?
COACH MARTIN: I'm not concerned. They've been pretty good about it all year. I mean, they are kids. There might be a chance that some of 'em don't respond well, you know, whatever it may be, in a negative way. I don't dwell on negative too much. Might appear that I do because I tend to get upset a lot. But I don't really dwell on negative.
We communicate with our kids about everything. We try to spend a lot of time speaking to them about the different things that take place at this time of year. You know, we have different people that have been through this speak to our guys. It's all part of the process. It's part of the experience.
How we handle it, I don't know. I can't predict the future. But I know our guys have been good all year as far as staying focused, staying in the moment. I don't expect us to do it any other way.
Q. Last game it was Jimmer, this game is Jordan Crawford, a guy who has strung together many 20‑point performances. The first time you met, you held him to 16 points. Going back to that first meeting, what was the key to the success you had defensively against Jordan and what have you seen from him as he's continued to flourish this season?
COACH MARTIN: You know, I think some of the things we did well was we defended their guards early, which took away some dribble‑penetration which in essence didn't give them ‑ I'm talking about Jordan ‑ as many opportunities. He missed shots, too. When you play good players, you defend them best you can and try and make their job hard. But you got to kind of hope that it's not one of those days where everything they're throwing up there is going in.
We rebounded the ball. That's one thing we did real well. We limited them to one shot per possession. We rebounded it pretty darn well. Then you got to do that when you play Xavier. If you gave him multiple opportunities, he's too good a player, and they're too good a team.
Q. I know both teams feel like they're different teams, and better teams, from when you first met. How do you balance your preparation?
COACH MARTIN: You have to study and see some of the things that you did that were good against them, and you have to see some of the stuff that you did that you got to do better against them. Then you have to look at where they were back then and where they're at now, a lot of things you have to clean up and do a lot better.
At this time of year, most of your coaching is done through your mind, through the players' minds. They've been through the grinder. That's what the Big 12 does to you. Physically you know you can do it; if not, you wouldn't be here at this time of year. It's a matter of preparing their minds as best that we can. That's what we try to do. We spend countless hours of film with our team the whole year. Not just two weeks ago, not just when we play Kansas, but everybody.
Anytime we play anybody, we spend countless hours of film. It's all part of what we feel needs to be done to help players understand how to prepare their minds. That's the way we try to do it.
Q. Jake was going back two seasons ago to the loss at Xavier, the big one. He said you don't just forget about things like that. I know life has moved on. You've played them again. When you see the same Xavier pop up and you got to play 'em, does that one still ring a bell in your mind?
COACH MARTIN: It rings a bell because they're Xavier. They're a team that played to go to the Final Four a short time ago. I spent time at the University of Cincinnati. So I know their program firsthand. I understand the winning culture that they have, the expectations that they have. Then we've played them. We got absolutely annihilated by them on national TV on December 31st, Jake's freshman year ‑ for an old math teacher, I'm having a hard time counting ‑ two years ago.
Yeah, we played them again back in December. It was a hard‑fought game. The final score was not indicative of the kind of game it was. It was a lot closer than that. We just made some free throws and stuff towards the end which kind of built a little separation. But it was a hard‑fought game.
I don't anticipate it to be any differently this time around.
Q. Xavier has made a lot of strides statistically since you played them last time. Can you talk about your team and what improvements you think you made since playing them the first time?
COACH MARTIN: We're a much better offensive basketball team, for starters. We're a lot more understanding defensively. Guys have really understood what we try to do defensively. Now, all those first‑year guys, whether it be Curtis Kelly, Wally Judge, whoever, they just feel a lot more comfortable with what we're doing defensively, with their roles, with their responsibilities.
But both teams are better. I mean, we're a better team than we were then and so are they. It's going to be a heck of a challenge. They're very good.
The one thing that's obvious when you watch them on tape is that now Chris has put his flavor into the program, and those kids are responding to his flavor and embracing it and playing the way he wants them to play.
Q. 22 years ago tomorrow, I believe, it was Lon Kruger that took Kansas State to the Sweet 16 against Purdue. You're going to be playing tomorrow. 22 years removed, you were at the pep rally, know how much this means to Kansas State, talk about what it means to you, to be able to bring this program back to this spot?
COACH MARTIN: It's important. It's something that from the day I got there ‑‑ see, the most difficult thing to build is tradition. If you don't have tradition, you're selling a dream when you recruit, when you try to get kids to play a certain way. K State has unbelievable tradition. Having tradition, you're not selling a dream; you're trying to rekindle the fire. You're trying to get people's passion going again.
That's something we've worked real hard to do, is to connect the present with a great past. Make the present understand just the incredible amount of people that have had tremendous success and trying to connect the two.
When you have tradition, then you have your ‑‑ your present guys have something they have to live up to every time they take that floor. It's important to us.
Q. None of the teams who are here are from anywhere near here. It's probably not going to be huge fan bases. The atmosphere might be different from a home or an away game. Is that something you have to prepare your team for, a flat atmosphere?
COACH MARTIN: I mean, it's obvious our guys take a lot of pride in our fans. We embrace walking out of the tunnel and seeing purple out there. I don't know how many of our fans will be here, but I'm sure they're gonna be loud.
I also know that after playing in 19 consecutive Big 12 games, every time you walk out of a tunnel, it's absolutely a madhouse, whatever arena you're in. You know, you get used to those environments.
But, you know, we played in a couple of neutral‑site environments where we didn't have a lot of fans and the other school didn't have a lot of fans. You have to focus your job as to what's happening on the floor and the opponent and your team. If you can do that, everything should be okay.
Q. Don't take this the wrong way, but I can see in your face, you're going really, really hard in terms of you look a little bit worn, not in a negative way. But how hard has this run been and how hard are you going?
COACH MARTIN: I'm all for being tired when this is the kind of stuff that happens. I used to be tired from mowing yards and cutting trees that fell down after Hurricane Andrew, landscaping, getting off my bouncing job at 2:30 in the morning, walking into mathematics class at 7:00 in the morning. That was hard.
This is easy. I ain't sleeping. But I'm saying these kids are having an unbelievable amount of success. This is what it's all about.
The funniest thing, if anyone ever wants to see something funny, look at an NBA coach the first game of the season and then look at them when they're in the playoffs. See how old and tired they look. That's kind of what happens. I am tired. My wife told me this morning, she said, Man, you look like a mess. I'm tired.
But you know what, this is a good tired. The excitement of this weekend helps you overcome the lack of sleep or the exhaustion or whatever it may be.
Q. I hope you don't kill me, but Jake told me to ask you about a rumor going around about new uniforms tomorrow.
COACH MARTIN: Jake said, "new jersey." I told him that's a state.
Q. The guys in the locker room said they've been spoiled a little bit. They rode first class for the first time coming out here. Can you to talk about maybe some special treatment, some of the reward you've been able to provide for these guys?
COACH MARTIN: Well, none of us would be here if it wasn't for those guys wearing those uniforms. Rather than put the old people like me in those first‑class seats, the ones that deserved to be in the first‑class seats were them. They were there, so the right people sat in them.
They do all the work. They're the ones that deserve it. They're the ones that accept the coaching, the guidance, embrace the responsibility, then go out on the floor and believe.
So any perks that can be given to them legally, they rightfully deserve.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, coach.
COACH MARTIN: Thank you.