Seton Hall Head Coach Kevin Willard
Thursday at Bon Secours Wellness Center
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by Seton Hall student-athletes Angel Delgado, Desi Rodriguez and Khadeen Carrington.
Q. All three of you, Angel, what makes you such a great rebounder? What's your attitude about rebounding? Both his teammates, talk about what you think about his rebounding, what makes him such a good rebounder?
ANGEL DELGADO: I think it's just something God gave me because I really cannot explain it. It's like, how can I tell you this, it's like, I always play hard. When you play hard you can get anything you want.
KHADEEN CARRINGTON: He said about his rebounding? Like he said, I think it's a gift because if you know him you can't jump over a stack of newspapers, but he gets every rebound. But it's just a gift he got.
DESI RODRIGUEZ: It's like nothing I ever saw before. I never saw a great rebounder like Angel before. Coach screams at me for rebounding but it's hard to rebound the ball when Angel is in there. He kind of takes all my rebounds. But it's definitely a gift and I'm excited for him.
Q. Tell me the value of Ish. He doesn't really score but when you watch you play, he's so valuable. Why is he so valuable that he rarely scores?
KHADEEN CARRINGTON: This is tough. A lot of things he do it will show up on the stat sheet. He's our best defender, I would say. Keep us together. He's just a hustler. And every team needs somebody like that, and that's our guy.
DESI RODRIGUEZ: It's just the most hard-working person on our team. He gets after it on defense and he challenges everybody to make them better. Like Khadeen said, it don't show up in the stat sheet, but he definitely pulled out a lot of wins for us this year. And he's great.
ANGEL DELGADO: I think he's one of the best defenders in our league because everything he do on the court, he do the little things. When he do the little things, that makes you a good player or a great player. I think he's a really good player in our league, and for me he's the best defender, too.
Q. Khadeen, how would you say you guys are going to try to match Arkansas's tempo? You know they really like to play fast. They average 80 points per game. What have you guys seen on film?
KHADEEN CARRINGTON: We definitely see they like to play fast. They kind of play like Creighton. Creighton like to play up and down like that. So we kind of compare them to Creighton. But we like to get up and down also. But we just want to play at our pace. Sometimes we're going to play fast. Sometimes we're going to slow down, so we just try to keep it at our pace.
Q. What happened to you guys last year in the first round, knowing that, how has your approach changed this year on a day like today, even a day like tomorrow? What's the difference between this year and last year for you guys?
DESI RODRIGUEZ: This year I believe we have more experience. Last year we took a big step in winning the Big East championship and we didn't know how big – maybe we didn't know how big the NCAA Tournament was. So this year, knowing we're going to be more hungry coming in and being more focused, and the junior class and some of the guys that was here last year know what it was, knows what it takes to win. So this year I'd definitely say we have more experience.
Q. Khadeen, piggybacking on that question, does it help this year to know you guys have the extra day now, you're playing on Friday? Was everything rushed last year, the way everything went down?
KHADEEN CARRINGTON: Yeah, I definitely say so. It was definitely rushed. Like Desi said, we just came off winning the Big East championship, so I guess we were still on our Big East championship high. I guess we didn't take the NCAA as important as we should have. Even though it was a big step for us, I don't think we were experienced enough or we knew enough to take it that serious. But this year I think we took a big step forward. So, yeah, we're definitely more hungry this year.
Q. Angel, what do you know about Moses Kingsley, Arkansas' 6-foot-10 center, and your thoughts about matching up against him?
ANGEL DELGADO: I think he's a great player, a good player. I think he'll give me a good battle in the post. But I'm not focused – I'm the type of player that doesn't focus on one guy, I got to focus from the point to the center. That's how I play, and that's how our game is.
Q. You guys all decided to come. You talked about making history, bringing the program back to where it was. Last year, as big of a step as last year was, how important of a step is it to advance in the NCAA Tournament this year. Just Khadeen?
KHADEEN CARRINGTON: I think it's a big step for us. Like I said, we won the Big East championship, and that was one of our goals coming in. And this year, we made it back to the NCAA Tournament. So definitely a win right now would definitely, that's another goal of ours. So we definitely are working towards that goal.
Q. What would the significance be of advancing in the tournament after losing early last year?
KHADEEN CARRINGTON: It will be great for us, individually, for the program. So it will be great all around. That's why we're working, we're working now to get a W.
Q. For Khadeen and Desi, Arkansas plays maybe 10 guys or more double-digit minutes. What do you think about their depth? And how big a concern is wear and tear, or do you feel like with all these TV timeouts and everything it's not as big an issue?
DESI RODRIGUEZ: We just got to study film and just see how they – what their style of play. We know they like to get up and down. I feel if we can stop their guards we can probably slow them down a bit. They have a deeper depth on the bench and more guards that come into the game. But if we stay solid and just defend and stop them from running so much, we maybe have a good chance of winning.
KHADEEN CARRINGTON: They definitely are deep on the bench, deeper than us. But definitely the TV timeouts play a role, get us more rest. And if we just focus on keeping the guards out of the lane, keeping them from hitting 3s – number three, number four, keeping them from hitting 3s–- I think we have a great chance of winning.
Q. You guys said you're hungry. How would you describe just the mindset right now compared to what it was last year?
DESI RODRIGUEZ: More hungry, we mean we're more focused and we're taking it one step at a time. We were here last year. We know what everything is about. We know what it takes to win and what we have to do to win. And we have to prepare well and that's what we've been doing so far. We're going to get out and practice and just go up and down, make sure we're in great shape for tomorrow, because we know they like to get up and down. Last year we were kind of, maybe I'd say tired, or we were just tired coming off a great win over Villanova. So this year we're more focused. We got a lot of rest, and we're just looking to go out and have a great game tomorrow.
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by coach Kevin Willard.
Q. Do you feel a different vibe this year as opposed to last year, just the extra day to prepare, just not coming off a Saturday game? Is it a different experience, especially with your players having gone through all this?
COACH WILLARD: Yeah, I definitely think the vibe is the same. I think our attitude is a little bit different. Again, last year was such a whirlwind, winning the Big East Tournament and the Selection Show and leaving for Denver that Monday. I don't think we ever recovered emotionally. Physically I think we were fine, but emotionally I don't think we ever got back on track. This year, with a tough loss to Nova, we're able to have two days where we kind of can get back and get normal. And we've had a normal week of preparation. So I think it's just kind of, you know, you're still excited to be in a tournament, Selection Sunday was awesome, being at the house with everyone's families. But I think we're still excited and it's awesome to be in the tournament. But I think we're a little more rested and a little more emotionally back to where we normally are.
Q. In all of your days as a player and coach do you remember anyone quite as unique as Ish? He doesn't score as much but it's clear how valuable he is?
COACH WILLARD: Yeah, I mean, and it's been a tough year for Ish, because – I just talked to him in my office before we left. He got hurt at Georgetown on February fourth. And he's only played technically three games since February fourth. So he hasn't had quite the year that I think he was expecting or maybe we were expecting. But he is as valuable to us as Angel, Khadeen, Desi, because of what he does on the defensive end and from an energy standpoint. He's a difference-maker that doesn't show up in the box score.
Q. Arkansas, you know they go about ten guys deep, sometimes even 11. What's your thoughts about their depth? And they usually outscore teams in the second half. What's your thoughts on the wear-and-tear aspect and how you can neutralize that?
COACH WILLARD: It's not an easy thing to neutralize. It's quite impressive having, in today's, especially this time of year, still being able to go 10 or 11 deep. Just about everybody shortens their rotation to maybe eight. Even in the SEC championship game, they were bringing subs in late in the second half, guys hadn't played a whole lot. I think that's what Mike's teams try to do. They've always tried to do that. I think he's successful in that. I think the most impressive part about Arkansas is their guard depth. It's very hard to get four or five guards to come in play at a high level. If you look at what Barford is doing, his last eight games have been as impressive as anything. And the fact that Mike still plays ten guys this time of year is more impressive
. Q. What have you guys done to prepare for pace of play, tempo?
COACH WILLARD: You know, their tempo is a lot like Creighton. I think we're lucky that we have someone in our league that plays as fast as them. Creighton really likes to get up and down, outscore you, get in the 80s, put a lot of pressure on you. So we've kind of gone back to our practice plans when we go against Creighton. A lot of transition defense drills. But I think it's going to be a little bit of a shocker for us when we first go out there, because we haven't – Nova plays a really slow tempo. Marquette plays a fast tempo, but not really. DePaul doesn't play a fast tempo. So most of our league that we've played in the second half is a grind-it-out style. We haven't played Creighton since early February. So a matter of just getting our guys used to transition defense, constantly getting back. It's something that I think it's going to take us a little time in the game to get adjusted to because we just haven't seen it in a while.
Q. Question about Moses Kingsley, how he's a rim protector, how he's impressed you on film?
COACH WILLARD: I like Moses because of the way he runs the floor. I think the amount of pressure he puts on opposite bigs. Obviously he can block shots. He's physical down low. They can switch pick and rolls with him. They can trap pick and roles with him. He can play one-on-one in the post, they can trap in the post. But I think what's most impressive is a guy his size with his physicality that can run up and down the floor and get deep post position is really impressive. There's not too many big guys that have the motor and the stamina that he does for the minutes he's playing. So he's been -- not only is he impressive on the defensive end, but the offensive end the way he runs the floor.
Q. With your NBA background, is there anybody that from the NBA days that reminds you of the way Angel rebounds? Or anybody in college? Did you know he was going to be this kind of rebounder when you signed him? I'm sure you knew he would be good, but did you think he would be this good?
COACH WILLARD: We call Angel Moses Malone, to be honest with you. I know Moses wasn't in the league when I was there. But I remember watching Moses. Angel's tremendous at following his own shot and using his lower body to get position. He doesn't out-jump you. He doesn't out-quick you. But he's really good at reading where the ball is going to come off. He also understands – he's very smart, in fact, he understands what offensive play and who is going to shoot the basketball. And it's like, a little like Dennis Rodman, always knew how Scottie Pippen always hit the back rim, or Michael's shot always hit soft. Angel is very smart which guys are shooting the basketball. He reminds me of Moses Malone, in the fact that he'll get it, he'll out-muscle you down low. If he misses it, he's got a great motor to follow it. And he usually gets fouled on the second one or gets a score on the second or third one. And when we signed him, it was what I loved about him most was his motor. He was a relentless rebounder in high school, he really was. He didn't have many other skills, but he was a relentless rebounder in high school.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.