Wildcats Prep for Saturday's Game with Badgers

Jacob Pullen

March 18, 2011

TUCSON, Ariz. – Kansas State met with the media and held a closed practice Friday at McKale Center in preparation of its NCAA Third Round matchup with fourth-seeded Wisconsin on Saturday. The game will tip at approximately 7:40 p.m., CDT and will be televised nationally by TNT. Live video can also be found online for free at www.ncaa.com.

Below is a transcript from Friday’s media activities in Tucson, Ariz.

THE MODERATOR:  From Kansas State we've got Curtis Kelly and Jacob Pullen.

Q.  How are you feeling?  And second of all, the matchup tomorrow with Jordan, it's something all great players like to revel in going against other great players.  Two guys are going to have the basketball.  Tell us what's going through your mind right now.
Jacob Pullen:  I'm feeling a lot better.  I got a good rest.  I slept most of the day today.  It's a good match up.  He is a real good guard.  He does a good job of really using the shot clock and lulling you to sleep before he tries to take over a possession. For us we have to do a great job of defending the ball screen and keeping him in a position where he doesn't know what kind of defense we're playing whether we're trapping it or soft hedging the ball screen.  Just really keep him guessing. The other thing is we really got to make him guard.  Whoever he is guarding, we have to make sure he plays 36, 37 minutes a game, we've got to make sure he is using his energy on both ends not only on offensive end. Should be a great match up.  But at the end of the day it's a team game and both of our teams have to come out to play if we're going to advance to the next round.

Q.  This question is for Curtis.  Coach Ryan from Wisconsin talked about their swing offense.  You've seen it on tape and you probably played against similar offenses.  How much discipline is involved in dealing with an offense like that?
Curtis Kelly:  I think it's a lot of discipline involved.  It's kind of weird because their bigs step out a little more than I'm used to.  So I have to step out on the perimeter and guard more.  I'm going to have to come off screens.  Instead of dealing with a lot of cross screens I'm going to have to deal with a lot of down screens and stagger screens.  And me being a big, that's going to be a little difficult.  But, you know, I'm going to try to do my best to guard the player they want me to guard as best I can.

Q.  Jacob, probably no person on this team is in a better spot than you to talk about Coach Martin and the relationship with your guys.  For those of us who weren't around the team all the time, can you shed some light on not only his style but the way he gets the most out of you guys?
Jacob Pullen:  You know, Frank is, he is a loyal dude.  At the end of the day, that's what you want your coach to be.  You know, you see a lot of instances where, you know, coaches sometimes might put a lot of blame on players and stuff like that.  Frank never did that to anybody in our locker room. You know, and, at the same time, he's an equal opportunity employer.  So if you don't come in to work every day and practice, your job will be taken from you.  With that being said, he holds everyone accountable. So you know that made our team grow up a lot this season.  You know, because last year we had a lot of dudes who understood the ropes, who understood Frank and we really meshed well together.  This year we had guys who had to step up and play bigger roles than they probably ever had to play in their life. For this year we had our ups and downs, but at the same time, the dudes that stayed loyal in that locker room and understood everything we do is for a purpose, they continued to work hard, as a result we continue to get better.  And, you know, it's a good time of the year for us to be playing good basketball.

Q.  Jacob, you have expressed an interest not to know the totals on the scoring record.  But does the career scoring record mean a lot to you?
Jacob Pullen:  I think when the season's over with it will.  You know, right now it doesn't.  Because, you know, if I get it and we don't win, you know, then, you know, I'll feel like it was pointless, you know, at this moment.  At the end of the day I'm a competitor and I really want to win games. You know, when I'm done playing basketball at Kansas State and I get a chance to actually sit down and look back, you know, I think it will mean a lot then and I'll really cherish it more.  But right now I don't want to jinx myself and I don't want to know how close I am because that is the wrong focus.

Q.  To the same point on Coach Martin, Jacob, your teammates yesterday were a little concerned.  Even though you got the victory, they thought for sure that coach was going to run you guys pretty hard.  And some guys were talking about, I forget which loss it was this year, but that it was a jail style practice the next day.  No fouls called.  You know, just no whistles at all.  What was practice like today?
Jacob Pullen:  We haven't had practice yet.  (Laughter.)  Hopefully it's going be as good as it was earlier today. Nah, when we don't play well, you know, the next day in practice he expects us to bring a certain amount of energy, you know, to really understand what we did wrong the day before.  And I assume since we have a tough game Saturday, you know, practice won't be crazy.  But, at the same time, we're going to compete, you know, just to make sure we understand that, you know, this is a serious game coming up on Saturday.

Q.  Curtis, can you talk about Wisconsin's bigs, Jon Leuer, Keaton Nankivil, what kind of problems they may pose for you guys?
Curtis Kelly:  Well, Jon Leuer probably will be my matchup.  He's a phenomenal player in my eyes.  I watched a lot of film on him.  I know when he catches it outside, I see he like to go right a lot.  I see he like to shoot it a lot.  He shoots it well. So it's going be a good match up.  I think I can handle it, God willing, but it's going be a good match up. I just have to know his tendencies, know what he likes and doesn't like and try to pay attention to film and try to guard him as best I can with as much energy I can and see how it goes from there. As far as the other bigs, they have a few bigs that come off the bench and a few bigs that start.  So we got to be physical.  We got to match their intensity and their physicality.  And we just got to try to out rebound them and try to run them as much as they can.  I don't think they like to run too much.

Q.  Jacob, can you just talk about the second game of an NCAA tournament weekend and trying to prepare in that short amount of time what you have to do to get ready for the next opponent.
Jacob Pullen:  Well, it's quick turnaround.  The great thing about the Big 12 and the Big 12 tournament, you know, you have days like that when you play in conference.  You know, you can have a game on Saturday and turn around and have to play Big Monday against a really good team.  For us it should be something that our team is used to, something that we can pick up on fast because I feel we matured a lot as the season went through. With the importance of the game, I think energy shouldn't be a problem with us because we understand that any game now can be your last game.  You know, the harder you play, the more you make yourself aware that, you know, you don't want to go home.  And, you know, at the end of the day, both teams are playing not to go home.

Q.  Jacob, what do you remember about the Badgers' defense from the 2008 second round game?
Jacob Pullen:  You know, they played good D. You know, they really, me, Bill and a lot of other guys had problems.  You can say they play good D on Mike, but Mike always got 30.  So as far as their job, I think they wanted to do was contain me, Bill and everybody else. Then on the other end defensively we didn't do a great job that game.  I remember us being really young and just not really understanding all the principles of Frank's defense and things of that sort.  So, you know    and, you know, they were a mature team.  They had Trevon Hughes, they had Flowers, they had one of the Landrys, Bush, they had a lot of upperclassmen guys who really understand the game at that point. So, you know, that was a different match up.  I think this year, you know, we have a lot of more mature guys and we understand the match up.  We understand what we need to do to be successful in this game.

Q.  Jake, Frank said last night in that second half you kind of reverted back to when you guys were struggling.  Specifically, what went wrong in that second half and how do you make sure that doesn't happen again?
Jacob Pullen:  Well, defensively we just had a lot of lackadaisical moments.  You know, we really, we got comfortable.  And we started to take the easy way out on certain plays.  You know, and offensively we didn't take great shots.
But, at the same time, we worked the shot clock and made sure we got decent enough shots that we can keep the lead.  When you play good teams    you know, Utah State wasn't able to take advantage of it that night.  But you play a team like Wisconsin who really works the shot clock on their end, then also is a really good defensive team, you know, you can't have mistakes like that or your season will be over.

THE MODERATOR:  Okay, gentlemen, thank you very much. Coach, if you want to start with some opening remark.

COACH MARTIN:  Just happy for our kids.  They've battled so hard this year to grow and give themselves a chance and take on adversity, not run away from it, accept responsibility, not pass blame, and grow and give us a chance to play tomorrow. At this time of year, that's all you can ask for.  Real proud of our guys.

Q.  Frank, you addressed this about Shane last night a little bit, but take me back and how risky was it putting him in the starting line up when you did.  He hadn't had a whole lot of minutes being a freshman.  How has he progressed since he's been there?
COACH MARTIN:  Um, I don't know if it was risky because stuff wasn't working the other way.  And if I am going to go down the tubes, I'm not going to go down the tubes by continuing to fail in the same way.  So I knew we needed a little change. His practice habits have become better.  His attention to detail have become better.  He was willing to be coached.  So I thought I'd give him a chance.  Because he does two things for us:  He gives us tremendous size on the perimeter because of his length; has an understanding how to guard on the perimeter. When we recruited him in high school I felt he could end up becoming a big time perimeter defender because of his instincts and his length.  And then the thing he added to our team, which was my frustration early in the season, was I didn't think we were a very good passing team.  He is a pretty good passer.  He made a pass to Curt yesterday in a crucial moment where he just read lob and just threw it up there.  That is a freshman making a big time play in a big time game. You know, those are the things I thought he brought to the team.  So I took a chance.  It wasn't working the other way.  So I figured, you know, he deserved an opportunity to see if we could take it work.  And he's earned it.

Q.  Frank, I think Jacob said after the game yesterday one of the keys against Wisconsin would be getting after Jordan Taylor, trying to get him to play at an uncomfortable pace.  But they're very good at not allowing that.  What sort of challenges do they present and how tough is it going to be to speed them up tomorrow?
COACH MARTIN:  If you can speed up a Bo Ryan team, it will probably be the first time in 30 years that that happens.  Our challenge is to not allow Jordan Taylor to get comfortable.  To not let him get rhythm.And, number two, is to keep him out of the paint.  Because when he gets in the paint, then he forces help and then he finds shooters.  They put five shooters out there, four shooters, he is a shooter also, but four other guys outside of him, so then that puts tremendous pressure on your rotations to get to that next shooter.  And that's what we have to do. You know, we can't let him get rhythm, get in a comfort zone.  We got to make sure we keep him guessing as to how we're doing things defensively.  And we got to keep him out of the lane. I don't know if we can speed them up.  I don't know. We have to make sure we keep them out of rhythm and we got to rebound the ball.  Because if you give them an offensive rebound, they're either scoring or pulling it out and now you are guarding for 30 more seconds and that makes it for a long possession.

Q.  Coach, Rodney McGruder does so many different things for you.  What's your favorite part of his game?
COACH MARTIN:  Who he is.  You know, a young kid.  When we had Jake and Curt go through their situations earlier this year, he stepped up and wanted that responsibility to keep our team moving forward.  You know, he still has holes in his game, like everyone does.  But he's got a tremendous heart and tremendous will.  And when you see a young man that is still a sophomore in college be so willing to do different things, to accept responsibility, makes you have a lot of confidence in him as a coach. Then this day and age when you challenge young kids, they roll their eyes, they pout, they whine.  You challenge him, he is coming.  And that's the kind of guys I like.  And that's why I got the kind of confidence I have in him.

Q.  Frank, your last six regular season games you guys did some nice work defensively, including both Kansas and Texas.  What were the keys during that stretch?
COACH MARTIN:  Freshmen, sophomores continuing to get better, understand how we're supposed to play.  Secondly, offensively we became a better team.  We took better shots.  We lowered our turnovers. See, when you take a bad shot, that usually leads to a bad situation defensively.  Because that means you got bad, for me, bad shots are shots where you have bad floor spacing because then you can't offensive rebound.  Then that allows people to get clean defensive rebounds and they're gone.  That puts you in a bad    you never want to get put in transition defense where they got numbers.  Because when you are playing at this level, people will finish plays on you. We grew offensively.  We don't turn it over.  We take better shots.  Then our half court defense, our freshmen and sophomores just stayed the course.  They continued to get better.  Continued to get better. Then Jacob just    remember, he was the only kid in the Big 12 that was a unanimous First Team all defensive player.  Along with being a unanimous All Team first team player and leading the Big 12 in scoring in Big 12 play.  So when you put that guy at the front of your defense, then those guys behind it start becoming more comfortable.  And now Curtis Kelly is back there protecting the rim for you in a more consistent basis. Jordan Henriquez is growing as a player, gives you a chance to grow.  Remember, those are all young kids and as the season went on they got better.

Q.  Coach, you've often said when you put together your schedule you schedule a lot of quick turnarounds to get you ready for this time of year.  Talk about that scheduling philosophy and how it's coming into play here, particularly this quick turnaround and what's the schedule been like for the last 24 hours or so?
COACH MARTIN:  Yeah, we've been through this plenty of times this year.  And, you know, I've had to answer the question all year about, well, you guys have disappointed because of the expectations others placed on you.  Like I said, if we failed someone else's expectations we apologize.  We create big time expectations of ourselves. One of the things we do is we tell our players, That's where we want to play, so you got to be prepared to deal with this turnaround.  You have to understand how to prepare in this kind of turnaround and we schedule that way.  All we're trying to do is prepare our guys so if we're lucky enough to get to this moment, we've been through it. And, you know, hopefully our team grew because of those challenges during the year and we can go out today and have a productive practice, which we've shown in the past that we're willing to do.  And then go out and play to the best of our abilities tomorrow.  That's all you can do.

Q.  Coach, last night I think you did a wonderful job of chasing the Utah players off that three.  Wisconsin, especially their bigs, shoot the ball particularly well from the three point.  Is that something that you are looking at coming into the match up tomorrow?
COACH MARTIN:  Yeah, absolutely, Reggie.  You know, when their bigs put us in pick and roll situations, pick and pop situations, how we handle that is going to be a big factor.  Because Taylor puts    you can't go under the ball screen with Taylor because he is going to shoot it and he shoots at a high clip. So you got to do some other things.  And, you know, we'll work on those things.  We've done it before.  And in our league we got a guy name Dionte Garrett, plays at Iowa State, who is a handful coming off a ball screen.  We had to do different things against him. So we got to revert to some of the things we've done against other people.  But at the end of the day, how we handle those scenarios is going to determine our level of success.  And when we do get caught where he comes off the ball screen and we've got, you know, we've got to do what we got to do and they hit the pop, our ability to get there on rotations and get them off the line, I think, is going to be, outside of the defensive rebounding, the biggest part of the game. If we allow them to move the ball freely side to side and then get it in the paint, get it out and shoot, we're in trouble.  And that's something that we got to make sure we do.  Especially the bigs.  Our bigs    which is a problem for us, because now it drags Curtis Kelly out of the lane and he is your best shot blocker.  Drags Jordan Henriquez out of the lane and he protects the rim for us.  Because they got to guard on the perimeter some when those bigs step out.  We'll work on that some today and use some of the experiences from the season to hopefully get us as ready as we can.

Q.  Coach, like you to reflect back to the '08 game and what it was like coaching Jake at that point with that group and what it's like with him now with scouting reports and that.  Secondarily, would him getting the scoring record mean anything to you at all?
COACH MARTIN:  Evidently.  To answer the last question first, eventually it will.  I'm too wrapped up on this team being able to maximize what it can be.  But eventually, if he can figure that one out, you know, it would be an honor to have been the person that was able to coach him while he accomplishes that.  Because he is a great, great young kid. But just    I watched that tape earlier today, early this morning.  I watched them play till the wee hours last night.  Then early this morning that's the first tape I watched.  I can tell you from watching it right away Jacob's a lot better defensively now than he was in '08.  That was    he played against a guy named Trevon Hughes which is similar to Jordan Taylor.  And we couldn't handle him coming off the ball screen.  Then once we settled down and started handling him we couldn't get a defensive rebound and that hurt us and got us beat. It didn't help we were 0 for the day outside of 12 feet too.  Shooting the basketball that is.  Jake's a lot better defensively.  And he feels a lot better right now.  So I think we'll get the Jake that you and I have seen for four years.  I think we'll get the guy that plays with tremendous energy and enthusiasm out there.

Q.  Frank, we've spoken before about how you like to play a bunch of guys, and you were doing that earlier this year.  Now the rotation seems to have been narrowed somewhat.  I know you still are using some guys situationally.  Kind of take me through, you know, the reasons for going to a smaller rotation and if you like the results of that and if there's any kind of philosophical change here.
COACH MARTIN:  Finally, someone asked that question in a way that's worthy of an answer. Like I've told you, Kevin, I used to play a lot of guys.  You guys asked:  When are you going to cut your bench down?  So when I cut my bench now, when are you going to play more guys?  I coach to win.  My job is to help our team win.  And if guys don't deserve to play, it's not charity.  You know, they better practice well or they're not going to wear a uniform. Unfortunately, for some of the guys there, I've made the decision that right now, you know, they got to play the minutes they're playing.  That's the personality our team started taking in early January.  And we've just kind of continued    just like I thought we needed to change when thing weren't going well, well things started working out a little better for us this way, and just like I know to change or at least that's what I think, change when things aren't right, I don't change too much when things are going pretty good.  We've been playing well that way, so I figured, you know, why mess with it right now.

Q.  Coach, I know you're stuck in the moment looking at tomorrow's game and coming off yesterday's game even with the win, weren't thrilled with the way your guys finished.  But if you could look back a little bit at the turning point in your season going, you know, five out of seven losses in the conference schedule and some of the changes you made.  You know, in your mind, how much did you feel like the wheels were coming off at that point?  I mean, everybody had an opinion about the direction it was going, but what was your level of panic?
COACH MARTIN:  Never was one.  Never was one.  I told someone the other day, you know, all those people, the opinions, I'm happy I don't work for them, and I'm happy they didn't play for me.  Because then we'd have issues.  If I panic, what do you think our kids are going to do?  My job is to teach them.  My job is to get them ready for the next day, make them understand how lucky they are they have an opportunity to play basketball and then take advantage of that day and become the best we can be on this day. You don't play a season to finish the second week of January.  You play a season to play all the way to the end.  And, you know, just like playing a game.  So if you play well the first 20 minutes do we throw a parade, then screw up the last 20 minutes.  If you don't play well the first 20 minutes, are you going into the locker room and saying, You know what, we're done, I'm not coaching the second half?  Doesn't work that way. We have got great kids.  Confidence.  Our kids acted this season like I wish our society would act.  That means that when things get hard, they don't pass blame.  They don't run away from it.  They don't roll their eyes.  They don't quit.  Which is a great word in today's society, "quit." Contrary, our guys handle stuff with loyalty, with honesty, with commitment.  Those are the words I grew up on.  And, unfortunately, our society's turned some in today's day and age.  I'm just happy our kids didn't pay attention to society and they stuck to the values that I believe in.
           
THE MODERATOR:  Coach, thank you very much.  Good luck tomorrow.