Q. For both you guys, without giving much away, what was last night like? Did you guys meet as a team? What is the mood? How are you guys going to go on without Georges?
MELVIN EJIM: Yeah, I mean, after you lose one of your key contributors, one of our brothers, it's definitely tough. It was a bittersweet feeling yesterday winning that game, and losing Georges at the same time. Not much had to be said. We've been in a situation like this with me earlier in the year. Guys know that basketball is a game of adjustments, and this is an adjustment we'll have to make. We're focused in and we know what we've got to do and guys have to step up. Now it's a matter of going out and playing the game.
DeANDRE KANE: Just like Melvin said, earlier in the year when Melvin went down we still found a way to win games. We were 140. Guys stepped up, like he said. But losing Georges is a big loss to us. But I think Coach puts us in great positions. The guys are ready. Like I said all year long, guys have been itching to get out on the floor and play. We have other guys that can step in and take the place of Georges that was in there.
Q. Talking to some of the Carolina players in the locker room, they went through a similar thing when they lost Kendall Marshall in the NCAA tournament a couple years ago, and they said it made them more motivated moving forward. Do you feel that after losing Georges?
DeANDRE KANE: Yeah, we're definitely motivated. We definitely want to get this done for him because he's one of our leaders out there. For us, we just want to get this win and try to move forward, but we want to win with or without Georges. So we've got to keep sticking to our game plan and continue doing what we did all year. That is play together, play for one another and keep running in Coach's system.
MELVIN EJIM: Yeah, along the same things that DeAndre was saying, there is a little bit of added motivation because you want to win this for Georges. He's been such a great part of getting us here, and we want to win even when he was playing. So a little bit of added motivation, but it's all about staying focused, making the adjustments, knowing what we've got and playing with what we've got and going on and playing the game.
Q. I think North Carolina had 19 offensive rebounds in their opening win. When you guys played taller teams this year, what is the key for you reboundingwise against taller teams and particularly against North Carolina? What are you going to have to do?
MELVIN EJIM: Yeah, we know North Carolina is a great rebounding team. For us, we've been doing that and going against bigger athletic guys all season. It's all about gang rebounding and it's all about boxing out. If you can control the glass, we have a great opportunity of getting out and playing our type of basketball and getting out and running. But it starts with rebounding. We know it's going to be a huge emphasis for us. It starts with guys like DeAndre coming in, instead of getting 10 like he normally does, maybe he gets 15. It's all about guys coming in and rebounding as a team to try to nullify that height advantage and athleticism that they have.
Q. Melvin, have you gotten a chance to talk to Greg McDermott this weekend? If so or if not, what do you remember about the recruiting process?
MELVIN EJIM: I definitely did get a chance to talk to Greg. They were staying in a hotel that we got to eat at. Me and Greg still have a great relationship. We still text periodically. He's always sending me text messages of encouragement or talking about this season or just little things. I think that's a great part of the relationship that we have, because he did recruit me and we're able to sustain that great relationship until now.
Q. DeAndre the fact that you guys played North Carolina without Georges, a lot of people aren't giving you much of a chance. I'm sure in your locker room that's not the case. Does that help a little bit knowing it's kind of an us-against-the-world situation tomorrow?
DeANDRE KANE: Not really, man. Like I said, for us, all year long we've just been playing for each other. And not worrying about what the media is saying and social networking is saying and things like that. I think that's how we've been so successful all year.
Like I said, playing in Coach's system and playing for one another, we're a brotherhood. We're really close. We really don't care what people said. They think we're going to lose the game, that's what they think. That's their opinion. We're okay with that. We're going to go out there, and my guys and my team are going to play hard for 40 minutes, and that's all we can get.
THE MODERATOR: We are joined by Iowa State University head coach Fred Hoiberg. Coach, we'll ask you to make an opening statement and then questions from the floor.
COACH HOIBERG: Well, let me start off talking about Georges Niang. Obviously, a very big loss for our team with the way that we use him and utilize his skillset to take advantage of a lot of mismatches. So we'll really miss Georges and what he brings to this team. Not only that, but just his enthusiasm and the way he helps keep guys together and fight through adversity, it's a tremendous loss for this basketball team.
But that being said, somebody will step up, and they always do in situations like this. We've got guys that are itching to get out there on the floor and get this opportunity to go out and compete on the biggest stage. We've had guys fill in for us throughout this season that have done a very nice job. People asked me how are you going to replace him? Who are you going to replace him with? And you can't just do it with one guy. It's going to be by committee. And everybody's got to be ready to go out there and contribute.
But it's a confident group. We're playing in a very good stretch of basketball right now. We know we're playing an excellent basketball team. Coach has that's won two National Championships. A guy I have so much admiration and respect for from playing against him back in the old Big 8 days when he was at Kansas and I was at Iowa State. He's just a wonderful person. He's always been very good to me, and we're looking forward to this matchup.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for Coach.
Q. Who will start in his place tomorrow?
COACH HOIBERG: Well, we'll evaluate that. We'll get a couple different looks in practice today. Get an hour and a half out there on the floor and we'll have to try to figure out how we want to replace Georges in that starting lineup. Do you go small? Do you go big? The important thing is making the proper adjustments. Whoever is out there, if it's working, and if it's not working, try to get the right five on the floor where you can compete.
Again, this team that we're playing against, the length and athleticism that they have is unlike anything that we've seen, just how fast they play. It's a combination of several teams in our league, but to put that whole package together is something we haven't seen all year. So to put together a game plan when you lose arguably your most important player in 48 hours is tough, but we'll do the best job we can.
Q. I've heard Fran Fraschilla talk a lot that a coach has to manage crisis situations as much as anything. I don't know if this qualifies as a crisis. But for you, how you have to handle things and kind of the demeanor you have to show your team, how important is that to let them know that you think, hey, we're we've got a chance no matter what.
COACH HOIBERG: These guys know I believe in them. That's something we try to instill is confidence in our players all throughout the season. These guys all know our system. The one positive is we've got 1,000 plays in our bank, and you try to pick out the ones that utilize your guys skillset and put them on the right place in the floor and be successful.
So we're in the process of using all of those, and plucking them out and finding out which ones can work against these guys. But at the end of the day, to answer your question, Wendel, these guys know I believe in them. They know the staff loves them and these players have each other's back. They've shown that all year in the way they've fought adversity and handled tough situations. We're going to get through this.
Q. Coach, you played at Iowa State and you're Big 12 championship. How do you get the best players in cities to come to Iowa State? How do you attract and keep the best players at Iowa State? What is your pitch these days?
COACH HOIBERG: Have you ever been to Ames? It's beautiful. It's 26° this time of year. It's wonderful. You know what? I think the big thing we always talk to the guys about that we're recruiting, one is the system that we play. We've led the nation in scoring amongst big BCS schools the last two years. I think we've put our guys in spots where they can be successful out there. Just a very unique system of play. I think that goes back to the way we use a guy like Royce White, 6'8", 270pound point guard that got everybody else involved. Then it's always a big thing, our connections to that next level. The fact that not only playing in that league, but having an opportunity to work for five years in a front office, that all helps when you're trying to recruit a kid and talk to him about what their goals and aspirations are. We never promise or guarantee anybody can get there. But to have those connections doesn't hurt. It can certainly help those guys get in front of people and have a chance.
Q. I think the way you guys play obviously everybody communicates very well on the floor. I think Georges is one of the best at doing that. Is that going to be one of those subtle things that people may not realize that that's going to be as tough to replace as anything?
COACH HOIBERG: Georges is so mentally tough. The kid has always played with a chip on his shoulder. He's 6'7". He always played in somebody else's shadows, going back to Nerlens Noel and Wayne Selden and all the guys he played with back in his prep school and AAU ball, but he was always a guy that produced. He was putting up the most points and getting the most rebounds.
But he's got that swagger to him that is so difficult to replace, and he does. He communicates so well. He and Melvin are probably our best two communicators out there on the floor. So, again, everybody's going to have to pick that up a notch, and, again, we're confident our guys will do that.
Q. The game after you is Creighton-Baylor. I don't know how much you've gotten a chance to watch McDermott this year, but analyze what he's been able to do at this level and how he might translate to the next level?
COACH HOIBERG: Well, I'm a huge, huge fan of Doug McDermott. I absolutely love that kid's game. We played them in a scrimmage earlier in the year, a closed door scrimmage. I don't know if I'm supposed to talk about it or not, but just trying to prepare for a guy that does so many things. He's a smart basketball player, especially at this level that I've ever seen. He gets the most out of his abilities. They don't run a ton of actions for him, per se. But when you have a guy that's that smart, you don't have to run a lot of things. That is one thing that Greg has done an amazing job with his team is how he's let those guys go out and play. They can create. They're smart. I think Doug's game, to answer your question, translates very well to the next level. I think he's put himself in the top 10 status as a potential draft pick. Whoever gets him is going to get a very productive player. I know that for sure.
Q. You just mentioned McDermott's probably going to win Player of the Year. Baylor faces him. You guys face one of the blue bloods in college basketball in North Carolina. Is this an opportunity for the Big 12 here in San Antonio to validate its standing as the best conference in college basketball?
COACH HOIBERG: Well, sure. I think any time your conference has opportunities, Kansas, if they can get through this one, hopefully they'll get back. But with Baylor, the uniqueness of their team, you just don't see systems like that. To play that type of zone with that length and athleticism, it is impossible to simulate in practice sessions and then to go out there and see why teams get off to such slow starts against Baylor is because of that zone and also the way they control tempo.
Our group had a very good year. To win the Big 12 Championship and to cut down those nets, that's an experience our kids will never forget. The other team right now in our league is Texas that I'm excited about. They're very young. They've got a very bright future. You look at our conference as a whole, and not many people are leaving, which is a scary, scary thought for a coach when all these players are coming back for another year. But our conference all year has been great. It was a grind to get through, but it helps prepare you for the moment that we're in now.
Q. Earlier in the year when Melvin was out you guys had to face a similar situation with Georges. Does that help your understanding, like you said, everybody having your back with the fact that you guys were able to play without Melvin earlier in the year?
COACH HOIBERG: Yeah, again, he missed the first couple games. It's not the same magnitude, obviously, as these games now. We had Melvin come back for that Michigan game where he really established himself as one of our goto guys. But, again, our guys are playing confident basketball. You've got guys like Monte Morris, Dustin Hogue, Naz Long, Matt Thomas, all those guys are playing the best stretch of basketball they've had all year. Daniel Edozie played all three games in the Big 12 Tournament and gave us very productive tournaments.
Percy Gibson is waiting for an opportunity to get out there. Sherron Dorsey Walker is waiting for an opportunity, and they very well may get it tomorrow night.
THE MODERATOR: Anything else for Coach? Okay, Coach. Thank you very much.
COACH HOIBERG: Thank you.