SDSU Athletics Press Conference Quotes

Nov. 8, 2016

San Diego State Athletics Press Conference November 8, 2016

Football head coach Rocky Long

Opening statement:
“It’s an exciting day. I love when basketball starts, because I love to watch (men’s basketball) coach Fisher’s team play and (women’s basketball) coach Terry’s team is on the upswing. It’s fun when they start playing because you get to have a fan interest in how they do. Obviously we all pull for each other and it’s fun to watch them get started.

“We have another game this week that we will hopefully prepare for and have the right attitude getting into it so that we can keep this thing moving along. (Reno) is a tough place to play. We’ve had a couple overtime games with them over the past few years and all the games have been fairly close. We expect a very competitive football game in a tough environment.”

On the 2014 meeting in Reno playing in cold weather:
”As the season goes along obviously the games get colder at night. We don’t talk about it. We try not to think about it. All you’re doing is putting question marks in your mind. Both teams have to play in the same weather. It cracks me up all the time when you go to places and they say, ‘Well, they’re used to it.’ They’re not used to it. They practice in the afternoon, they don’t practice at night. And a lot of them have indoor practice fields so they practice inside. They don’t practice outside. They have the exact same problems that we do. If it gets cold, they get cold, just like we do. It doesn’t make a darned bit of difference.”

On playing at elevation in Reno:
“It doesn’t make a darned bit of difference either. It probably does in some sports. It probably does in track if you’re a long distance runner. It probably does in basketball because you are up and down. Have you noticed in a football game how many timeouts you get now? We probably have 45 minutes of commercials in our game last week. You kick off the ball, you run down on the kickoff, you’re tired and you have to play defense. Oh, there’s a commercial so you get a three-minute break before you have to play. One time that was a problem, but it’s not a problem anymore. This game is on TV. If we ever play at altitude where they don’t have commercials and all of that, it might get to be an issue. But that’s not the case anymore.”

On if they are healthy going into the game:
“Everybody that played last week should be able to play this week. They’re all beat up, but I’m sure Nevada is beat up too. This time of year, anybody that is playing extended reps has bumps, bruises, strains, pulls, but both teams have those issues. When you have a skilled player that has the importance like a quarterback people tend to talk about it and worry about it more. The guys that are really beat up are the guys at the line of scrimmage. The offensive and defensive linemen, those are the guys that are really beat up.”

On getting to play a bunch of young guys the past few weeks with the game in hand:
“We have some very good athletes coming up in this program. We have some potentially some very good players coming up through the program. Like everybody, they need experience and while they were out (on the field), there were a lot of mistakes being made. But they were doing it full speed and them getting to play really helps our program. You get some of that newness out of their system and next time they’re out there they will be better and the next time they will be better than that. Athletically we have some really good guys coming up. That experience really helps the development of our program so there’s no drop off when the real good seniors leave.”

On when the time is right to put the young players in there:
“It’s kind of by feel, when you think there’s no way they can beat you. The whole fourth quarter was all new guys on defense, most of them haven’t played very much. I figured the most points (Hawai’i) could score was three touchdowns and we were still going to win so we put them all in.”

On not playing Donnel Pumphrey late in the game even though he needs stats for more national attention:
“We don’t worry about getting him his yards. We worry about getting him the number of touches that he needs to get for us to win. For us to continue to win he has to get the ball a lot. Either by handing it to him or throwing it to him, he need to get it a lot for our team to have success and to win. He’ll get plenty of touches. He’ll get enough touches over the next four or five weeks so that he can break an all-time record. Obviously he has to play well and the guys up front have to play well to give him that opportunity, but it’s not a lack of times he has the ball. We don’t keep track of his yards by the way. I’ve been asked that question too. There’s nobody up there in our coaches box keeping track of the number of yards he’s gained.”

On if the team practices hurry-up offense since they are beating MW teams by so much this year:
“Experience is a wonderful thing. We practice hurry-up stuff every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. And it’s the 1’s against the 1’s and the 2’s against the 2’s. We do that every week, just like every week on Thursday we practice the Hail Mary pass and the Hail Mary defense. I’ve been doing that ever since a team completed a Hail Mary pass to beat us one time. You do all that stuff in fall camp and then all of a sudden a situation arises in a situation six or seven weeks down the line and, even though you’ve taught it to them, they don’t know how to perform it. We do some hurry-up stuff every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday for practice. It’s only five minutes, but we do something every week.”

On Quest Truxton’s solid play this season:
“I think this happens in programs when you are given chances. There are programs in this country where if you aren’t a 4 or 5-star recruit, you don’t get a chance in the game. Obviously we are not in that situation. Everybody in our program, whether you are on scholarship or not, gets the opportunity to prove that they can play and contribute or that they can’t play. We took him because of what we saw on film. He was a pretty good wide receiver and he did a good job of returning punts. He had a little learning curve where he struggled early on, but he’s turned out to be a very good player and he’s getting better as he goes. That’s a benefit to all of us in the program. A lot of the guys on our team that are really good players we took that nobody else wanted. Those are the kind of kids we get. They have a little bit of a chip on their shoulder, they work hard at it, they’re team guys and they’re fun to be around.”

Junior tight end David Wells

On making two touchdown catches over the past few weeks:
“It’s a lot of fun getting into the end zone and helping my team that way. We have great play calls in the end zone. We have DJ (Donnel Pumphrey) - he's dangerous. We have Rashaad (Penny) - he's dangerous. It opens up a lot of things for me on play-actions and a lot of bootlegs. It’s good play-calling too. It’s also getting kind of lucky by getting open and just try to make a guy miss or go over top of him and get into the end zone.”

On if he’s offended when three guys are guarding him like they do Donnel Pumphrey:
“Just more opportunities for me to get open. It doesn’t matter if they focus on me or not, because they’re going to have to focus on our running game. Our running game is very good. It’s something a lot of defenses have to focus on. We have to be able to take advantage of the passing game when we can. It’s a good weapon to use.”

On blocking for the running backs, which have had a pair of 100-yard rushers in three straight games:
“It’s a lot of fun. It’s very tiring too. It’s really nice when we get into the end zone. I like to celebrate with the guys in the end zone, especially the o-line. I’m next to them every play. I’m with them a lot in practice. It’s always fun for us to get rewarded for that when DJ, Rashaad or Juwan (Washington) breaks one for us.”

On disguising his blocking and receiving plays:
“Our coaches put us in good positions. During practice they tell us how long I have to hold onto the block or when to release. Just those minor things that we are told in practice that help a lot when we get out into the game. When we call one of those plays, I just have to remember what they taught us in practice each week and try to put them into the game.”

On if Donnel Pumphrey deserves to be a Heisman Trophy finalist and on that stage:
“I think that he definitely deserves it. He’s the leading rusher in the nation. It would be great to see him up there. He should be represented up there. Hopefully he will be up there in New York in December. That will be great for our program.”

On if the rest of the nation knows about Donnel Pumphrey:
“I think everybody knows about DJ. He’s been doing this for four years not. If they don’t know about him, they should start doing some research. He’s top 5 now all-time in rushing. He’s a great player. I think people are starting to really notice that this season. We just need to keep opening up holes and letting him do his thing.”

On Donnel Pumphrey still being able to run when defenses keying on him:
“Our coaches all tell us that we need to be the toughest team on the field and even when they stack the box against us, we still have pride in our running game. No matter if they put eight, nine of 10 guys in the box, we want to run it down their throats. I have faith that he can take advantage of the holes that we make for him. If we just give him a slight crease, he’s gone. We’ve all seen that before. We need to keep holding our blocks and he can bust one any time.”

On staying focused after already clinching a spot in the MW Championship game:
“It’s exciting to be playing in the Mountain West Championship game for a second year in a row, but our work’s not done yet. Just because we got to the championship game, doesn’t mean we won it yet. We want to win every game. We want to be 1-0 every week. That’s our mindset.”

Junior defensive end Sergio Phillips

On the team’s defensive play in MW games:
“We just started playing the ball that we usually play. Nothing really changed. We started executing and making plays.”

On this year’s defense compared to last year:
“I think we’re a lot faster. We lost a few players, but we’re still the same team”

On keeping the other teams from scoring:
“That’s definitely our goal. We want to stay high in the (defensive) rankings and play the defense that we should play.”

On playing with a club on his hand:
“When I first put it on, it was a problem, but now I kind of got used to it. I’m still able to make plays. It happened against South Alabama. I tackled somebody and my hand got stepped on. I’ll probably have to play the whole season with it.”

On staying focused after already clinching a spot in the MW Championship game:
“We just take it one game at a time. Our goal is to win a championship so we are working to get there.”

Men’s basketball head coach Steve Fisher

Opening statement:
“We are immensely excited to start the official season on Friday. Happy to be opening at home. Look forward to a great crowd and an atmosphere that will say this is how Division I basketball should be, against our cross-town rival, who also I’m sure is looking forward to opening the regular season. We will be anxious to see how we will play and I, with all my heart, believe we will play really well. Zylan (Cheatham) has been through the gauntlet of a season, so I know how excited he and our players are, but we are very much looking forward to the University of San Diego on Friday with our home crowd. Any questions for Zylan?”

Sophomore Forward Zylan Cheatham

On looking ahead to the home opener against USD:
“We try to treat everything the same way, next play. We’re obviously really excited to open the game up. Everyone knows what happened last year, but I think we’re coming in with the same edge, taking it one game at a time, trying to get a W.”

On last year’s game versus USD:
“I mean, that environment was second to none, but we’re expecting a really good crowd at Viejas, and we’re really excited to open up at home.”

On what happened in last year’s matchup against USD:
“I mean, obviously the game didn’t go in our favor. We didn’t make enough plays to win a game. That’s obviously going to be on the back of our mind to a certain extent but you can’t harp on that. It’s a new season, new year, some new guys, so our coaches are going to try to put together a great game plan, and we’re going to try to execute that and get a win.”

On his feelings towards the newest members of the team:
“Excitement, to say the least. To come out first game and score 53 points in the first half, that hasn’t happened in a while so to see that happen and to see those new guys, guys like Montaque (Gill-Caesar) get accustomed to our style of play. It’s very exciting to me to see our potential and to see some of things we could have and be able to do. We haven’t even scratched the surface, we haven’t even had all our guys on the floor so that is really exciting to me, the future of this team and see where we can take it.”

On building chemistry with new teammates in practice versus games:
“I mean, practice is obviously a war. You go to war with these guys every day. Some days you don’t want to practice and that’s when men are made, in my opinion. Obviously practicing so hard every day and battling with these guys is when we build a lot of team chemistry, but every time I’m around my guys, I try to build some type of chemistry and get to know some guys better, even at pregame meals, anything. So like I said, any opportunity for me to be around my guys is a time to build some team chemistry.”

On Malik Pope’s frustration with not being able to play last night:
“I mean, obviously it wasn’t an ideal situation last night. He was obviously prepared mentally and physically going into the game and once the tip off came, it didn’t go ideal. He is always in positive spirits and he tried to stay strong about the situation and just wants to find out what’s going on with his leg so he can put it behind him and get back to war with us.”

On if the team was under the impression that Malik would play:
“Before the huddle, I was 100-percent sure he was going to play. I’d seen him in warmups looking like Malik, doing his fantastic dunks, doing his thing. I didn’t see any flaws and he didn’t either, so I think it was kind of one of those things that just happen and don’t feel right.”

On what he expects from Valentine Izundu this season:
“Valentine is a really interesting character. He is one of those guys that is an impeccable shot-blocker. His timing is crazy. Some of the things he brings to us on the floor—size, versatility, that inside presence—knowing that you’ve got him behind you when sudden plays break down, he makes up for a lot of our mistakes so I’m really excited to get him on the court and give you guys a first look at seeing him and what we have obviously seen through practice and various workouts. I’m really excited about him and I’m excited to get Malik and all our guys back, honestly.”

On playing the five, how he plans to structure his game and doing what the team needs:
“I’m one of those guys, whatever Coach, whatever the team asks of me, that’s what I’m going to do. Obviously that’s something that we were lacking at that point due to injury, but whatever Coach [needs], I know he has my best interest at heart so whatever he asks me to do, I’m going to do. Whether he asks me to play five, one, two, I don’t care.”

On if he’s thinking about how he will dunk on Friday like he did with the turnover and dunk against Cal State San Marcos:
CHEATHAM: “Honestly I don’t know. It’s one of those things where as soon as the ball is in my hands, whatever pops into my mind is what happens, whether that’s two-head tomahawk or windmill. It just kind of flows honestly. I try to give the crowd a little excitement and that gets the team motivated, too, to play harder defense. It brings a little bit more energy so I try to do that when I can. I was blessed with the ability to be able to do it and I try to let my light shine every chance I get.”

FISHER: “I think everybody knows Zylan is a personality and he is unafraid when the spotlight is on him, and sometimes he like to see that spotlight on him. You talked about playing the five, I don’t put numbers on our guys. We have a rim-runner, and we have a guy who takes it out, so you could say that that’s your four and that’s your five, but if you look at what Zylan has done, he has proven if you can do something well, then I’m going to enhance your opportunity to do it. Zylan has been able to face you and make a jump shot, which probably is what his strength is when a bigger guy is guarding him sweeping drive when he comes up and guards you. What we try to do is put all of our guys in a position where they will have the best opportunity to be successful, and when you have versatility, you have opportunity to get on the court and we talk about that all the time. We’re not going to pigeon-hole you. You prove to us you can do something, and we are going to give you opportunities to do it. Zylan and I watched our game last night. He has fun. He has genuine enthusiasm for the game when he’s not in the game, which is neat to see also. So, we’ve got to have everybody playing as hard as they can and playing for the good of the team, and when that happens, good things have an opportunity to happen. We need Zylan on the floor. We can’t have it where I have to take him out because he has two fouls in the first two minutes, but you still have to guard. We’re all growing and we’re all excited to see how we will play when the games really count now, in terms of building a resume.”

On Jeremy Hemsley and what he’s been doing for the team:
“The things Jeremy does now are—I wouldn’t say surprising to me. I watched him progress as a player all summer, I watched him put in the work, I watched him work on those finishes that you see now. I think that’s something that a lot of people don’t get the chance to see. They just see the end result. Seeing him doing the extra work in practice, seeing him do it before and after all summer, I’m not really surprised. He’s an amazing player, and he’s only going to get better because he has the mindset and loves to work, loves to get better at certain things. We expect a lot out of Jeremy and I for sure expect a lot out of him so everything he does is pretty much not surprising to me. I see him do it all the time.”

On Montaque Gill-Caesar and how the other transfers help the team:
CHEATHAM: “Montaque is an unreal scorer. I’ve been quoted saying that weeks prior to what he did. He’s an unreal scorer and brings a new edge to this team, a new scoring ability, versatility-wise and brings us a new aspect that is definitely going to be beneficial in the long run if you ask me.”

FISHER: “I think we are all excited to see the guys who have not shot a ball when it matters for San Diego State, see how they play and perform starting on Friday. We’ve got a handful of them and Teki (Gill-Caesar) is one of them. He had a wonderful game against UCSD and he will be a really good addition for us. He’s got some versatility in how he plays and we need Teki healthy. When he has the ability to be on the practice floor, he’s shown us some things that are instinctive in how he plays, so we’re anxious to get him out there, get Valentine out there, get Max (Hoetzel) back and Jalen (McDaniels) and all the rest of them and give them an opportunity to play.”

On the importance of staying out of foul trouble and how you do that:
FISHER: “We need everybody to come out of the game because I want to take them out, and not because we feel like we need to protect them and hold them because they have two early fouls or three or four fouls, and I told Z (Cheatham) that last night. When he picked up his fourth foul, you can’t be afraid to play, but so often we get our first foul because we don’t have any fouls. So be protective of that first foul. Don’t do something foolish to get a quick early foul. Zylan is our best screener. He’s our best screener, so he has to screen and not get called for an illegal screen like he did last night. So we’ve got to eliminate some of those kinds of plays, but yeah we need to have him ready to go, and me take him out when I think he needs a break and when I want to take him out. He’s got to stay out of foul trouble.”

On setting goals for the team for this season:
FISHER: “We’ve talked on every game matters. Every game builds the thought on someone else’s mind of who you are. Every conference in America, with maybe the Ivy League because I don’t think they have a conference tournament yet, but you have to win your conference tournament to get the automating berth. Last year was the first time in a long time that we only had one team in, and we were that one team that didn’t get in after winning the league. We need to know the value of every game. We’ve stressed that in practice, that you need to perform in practice the way you expect to play. We’ve talked on that. We were seven and six, as everybody knows, in non-conference last year. We are not a seven and six non-conference team, even though we play a challenging non-league schedule. So it starts with USD. They have circled us and we have circled them, so this should be an interesting, exciting game for both teams.”

On the latest status with Matt Shrigley and Malik Pope:
FISHER: “I’ve had my doctor’s appointment over the phone, so I’ve talked about all our guys that either got hurt, were hurt before the game, didn’t play because they were hurt, so I’ve got the update and I would say there’s probably questions marks behind all of them as far as to will they be available on Friday. Just like when we are playing and situations occur, what do you do with the ball? It all depends. Who will play? It all depends. We’re hoping we have a few more out there. We will have enough to go out and play and we will come out and play really hard.

On seeing a lot of his energy on the court this season:
“I hope so. Like Coach mentioned earlier, I’m one of those guys that tries to bring energy to my team and get those guys going, so I mean if that’s what we need, if that’s what I need to do, whether it’s dancing or being serious and telling my guys, ‘Let’s go, let’s focus up,’ I try to be that vocal guy to put us in better position to play with energy and get a win.”

SDSU women’s basketball head coach Stacie Terry

Opening statement:
“We’re excited to get going. It seems like it’s been a while since we’ve been playing games so we were excited to have our exhibition and our closed scrimmage a while ago to get some experience playing someone other than ourselves. I think our girls are excited to start the season. We’re headed down to Riverside and we’re going to face a really good team, a different team than what we saw last year. But they have a lot of key returners and some great newcomers that are going to come in and definitely give us a challenge. They’re a hard team to guard because they run a lot of the Princeton concepts: a lot of flares, a lot of back screens and down screens which will test us early. But I think it’s a good challenge for us and I think our girls are excited and ready to play. We’re excited to get going and looking forward to the season because I think we have a lot of things that will be fun to watch. I think our offense will be improved. We’re changing our defense a little bit so we will have been improved in that but we’re excited for the season to get started and get going.”

On the team’s improved three-point shooting:
“We’re definitely trying to play a little faster brand of basketball, trying to get more possessions and to do that, we’re going to have to shoot the ball a little quicker. We worked very hard on the three-point shot. It was something that we didn’t do well last year and I challenged them in the offseason and the preseason to get in the gym and improve their own game. We had a contest where they had to make 10,000 threes in 10 weeks and we had quite a few that accomplished that. That’s a tall task; 1,000 threes made a week. I think you saw some of that pay off in our scrimmage. Yes, we’ll be shooting more threes. We have a formula we’re trying to get to to score 80+ points and we need some threes in that formula so we’re off to a good start there but we need to do a better job of getting to the free throw line, looking to attack more and that’s what we’ve been working on these past couple of weeks in practice.”

On the team’s rebounding compared to last year:
“We’re hoping to be better. We definitely put an emphasis on rebounding both offensively and defensively in every single practice. With our incoming freshmen, we recruited some height so naturally, I think we’ll have some improvement there just because we’re a taller team than we’ve been in the past. We’re a team that doesn’t have that one kid that’s going to dominate the glass in every game so we’re going to have to do it by committee, where all five of us on the defensive end are going to have to crash. Obviously on the offensive end, trying to get ourselves second and third opportunities, still being aware of our transition defense. We need to rebound as a unit all five going to the glass at all times and I think we’ll be much better off if we do it that way.”

On starting the season on the road:
“It’s always tough to start on the road. Obviously you’re going into someone else’s home and they have the home court advantage so it’s going to be a challenge for us but I think it’s a good challenge and a needed challenge. We have a nice mixture of youth and experience so I think it’ll be a great test on the road early to give us some confidence going into conference play knowing we can go anywhere and compete. Obviously we’d prefer to open up at home but I think it’ll be a great challenge for us to open up on the road.”

On changes on defense this season from last season:
“We’re much deeper than we were. I think we have many young ladies that can contribute so we’re going to try to play a quicker tempo and we’re going to have to play some more man. We’re going to try to speed up the game and press a little bit more, pressure a little bit more and see if we can create some turnovers from our defense. With the personnel that we have, we have some good, quick guards with (senior) Ariell Bostick and (junior) McKynzie Fort and with the addition of some of our freshmen, we can defend a little bit. We’re not exposed in the paint because we recruited a couple kids that are taller than 5’10 and can actually play at the post. We’re confident that we have a rim protector in one of our freshmen, Naomi Ekwedike, and we’re excited to get playing at a faster pace.”

On the team’s chemistry:
“Our chemistry is phenomenal right now. The culture has been changed and set and they really want to be here and play as an Aztec so I think that’s the first hurdle that we had to jump. The second hurdle is to fight through the adversity that is surely to come this season. Our goal is always to win the next game ahead of us. We try not to look to far ahead of us into the Mountain West Conference or postseason play but we have to get better every single game. They’re trying to do that every time they step onto the court. We’ve had great practices and I think a lot of that has to do with chemistry. They’re good kids. We’ve made a lot of strides. Off the court, they’re competing with some of the best students in the country. They’re in the gym working on their game, thanks to the JAM Center. I think you’ll see even two or three more wins just because we’re a tighter unit and they’re playing so hard. I think some of those games we lost by single digits I think will be wins for us this year.”

On the team’s offseason retreat to Big Bear:
“We went to Big Bear as a team and spent two days in a cabin camping. They called it glamping because we weren’t outside. It was a great experience just for us to be together and to learn about each other and bond outside of basketball. It was fun. We had some practices out there. We went to a high school; they were gracious enough to host us in the local high school gym so we just took it back to the basics and worked a lot on our fundamentals and worked on becoming great people. That’s going to equate to being a great teammate which hopefully equates to more wins. It was fun. We had a good time and I think they got closer because of it.”

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