Comments from Coach Tommy Amaker and
Michigan Men's Basketball Players
NIT Championship Game Press Conference
Michigan coach Tommy Amaker
On being back in the NIT championship game ... "We're certainly excited and thrilled for the opportunity to compete for the NIT championship. We recognize that getting to this point is such a significant accomplishment for any basketball team, considering the history and tradition of the NIT. It really is a big thrill for our team, particularly our seniors. I can't say enough about the job that they have done to put us in this position. I think it's been well documented that these kids have done a lot for our program during their tenure. It's very fitting that we have an opportunity to compete for a championship in their final year. We're really happy with the progress we've been able to make in the later stages of the season to get to this point. Again, we recognize that our challenge is going to be a very difficult one with an outstanding South Carolina team. Just watching them compete and play last night, you can see that this was a team that was on the verge of many good things this season as well with their players and how hard they play. I have a lot a respect for what Coach Odom has done with the South Carolina program and we look forward to a matchup between the past two NIT champions. That's something that could be very exciting for all of us."
On whether this tournament is a different experience than in 2004 ... "I think it's always different. Each year it's a different group of players, so therefore you have a different team. Two years ago when we were here and were fortunate to come out on top with a title, we were fairly young and had a youthful exuberance and excitement about our team and our program. I think this year the kids have been mature throughout this process. We start five senior players, which is something we're very proud of. It's given our seniors even more ownership in this tournament and they have taken it and been able to run with it so far. Any time you get an opportunity to play for a championship, you have to feel good about it. But it's always different. There are different sets of circumstances that allow you to get to this point. For the young players on this team that weren't here before, this is their first chance to be in the postseason. Hopefully we can utilize this opportunity that we have in front of us to the best of our ability."
On what catches his eye about South Carolina ... "I think their athleticism. They're a very athletic team, long and rangy. I think they're a very confident team. They aren't as deep right now and I think that's obvious. But those kids that are out there know that they're going to be out there. They play with a great deal of confidence and you're able to see that. Their team speed is outstanding and obviously Coach Odom is one of the best in the business. They've been on a tear here down the stretch and they were on the verge of winning their conference tournament before coming up a little short. They've gone on the road to win some big-time games in this tournament, at Cincinnati and at Florida State. They put forth an outstanding performance last night; I thought they were incredibly quick on the glass and getting down the floor. They are a very confident group that seems to play well together."
Senior Forward Graham Brown
On the value of having five senior starters ... "I think it's been great. It's really helped us out. The seniors are out there and could be playing their last game, so they go out there and really set the tempo for the rest of the guys. We go out there and play as hard as we can for a couple minutes, then the next group of guys come in and take over for us. We just try to go out and set the tempo and everyone else follows from there."
On the importance of containing South Carolina's big men ... "It's going to be huge. If we make them work on defense, they might get a little tired and they won't be able to get out on transition as much and not get as many dunks as they did last night. Hopefully we can wear them down a little bit. They basically have three guys playing in the post. We're going to do the best we can. It's going to be a tough game."
On the thought of playing in his last game on Thursday ... "I'm not even worrying about that right now. I'm just focusing on this championship game. I can't think about anything else and I can't think about this being my last game. I'm just going to go out there and play as hard as I can and try to get a victory."
On having the experience of making a run at an NIT title in 2004 ... "I think the experience is really going to help us out. Being through this same thing a couple years ago and having the experience of playing at Madison Square Garden in New York City is really valuable. Quite a few of our guys were here two years ago; we've got a lot of seniors and juniors who played in that tournament. That experience is really going to help and we know the atmosphere and the court quite well."
On whether the team has a quite confidence about themselves ... "I think that our team does have a confidence that really doesn't show. We may not be cocky on the court, but I think we have the confidence that we know our game and we know how good we are. I think defense is the key to this game and it's going to set the tone for us. We need to start off the game with great defense and let them know that we're going to be there the whole game."
Senior Guard Daniel Horton
On having the experience of making a run at an NIT Championship ... "It means a lot. I think you can see that with South Carolina as well. After making a run last year, they were able to use that experience to go on the road and win some games this year. For us, we knew we had to step it up defensively because we knew what it would take to get to this point and have an opportunity to end our season with a championship."
On Michigan always being considered the underdog ... "I think that's how it's been since we've been here at Michigan. We have to go above and beyond what other teams do to get the same recognition. It's frustrating at times, but being here four years and maturing, you get used to it and know that it's not going to change."
On having a well-balanced production on offense ... "That's what we've been striving to achieve since this team was first put together. Guys have stepped up when we've needed it, and that tells a lot about our depth and us being back to the three H's (healthy, happy and hungry) that Coach (Amaker) talked about earlier this year."
Senior Forward Chris Hunter
On the experience of having an NIT title under their belt already ... "I think it definitely will help us. Being here before and not being in awe of everything that's going on and knowing how to prepare for a tournament like this is really going to help us."
On having a balance of post and perimeter production of offense ... "It's great to have that type of balance. When things aren't going right in one area, the other parts of our game can help us out. Courtney Sims and our other post players did a great job last night, and our perimeter guys can shoot the ball well from outside. I think the most important key is to be consistent on defense."
On playing at Madison Square Garden ... "It's pretty special. You don't get to play here too many times. There have been so many great people that have been in there and performed or competed. It's great to be in there and know that you're one of those people."
On his personal success in the NIT Tournament and what he can attribute that to ... "I just wanted to come back and help this team win. I wanted to take advantage of my opportunities early on in the tournament. I got a lot of opportunities to do good things. My teammates looked for me and I tried to convert. It's been good for me."
Contact: Tom Wywrot (734) 763-4423