THE MODERATOR: We’re joined now by Providence College student athletes, Bryce Cotton, Kadeem Batts, and LaDontae Henton:
Q. Hi, Bryce. How much is your ability to stay on the court for so long and be so productive have to do with your mental makeup and just putting your mind that I’m going to do it and never backing down from getting tired or losing your stamina?
BRYCE COTTON: Basically, our team has had to endure this for three straight years, and we’ve always had a short roster. So it’s something that our team hasn’t had to grow accustomed to.
We’re used to it, so we do a good job training our bodies throughout the preseason, and we hope for the best when the real season comes.
Q. Can you talk a little, LaDontae, about the experience of being at the NCAAs? I know it’s a realization of a dream for all of you guys to be here, and you’ve only been here a little over 24 hours, but does this feel different yet?
LaDONTAE HENTON: It has a great feel to it, bonding with my brothers and having a good time with them. Things like this, going into an interview with these guys. It’s just a great experience. We believe we’ll be able to do this during the season. But now that it came true, I’m just happy to be here.
Q. For any of you or all of you, going back to the first half practice, what are the odds that you would be sitting here at this moment and in this tournament?
LaDONTAE HENTON: Like I said before, me and the guys we talk about it all the time during the summer and during the training season, preseason, we knew we’d be able to be here if we just put our mind to it, and we bonded as a team, and we did that. We had great leaders in Bryce Cotton and Kadeem Batts, and they led us to this point.
BRYCE COTTON: Just feeding off of what LaDontae said, we’ve had the same vision from day one, and even though we’ve had a lot of ups and downs and faced a lot of adversity, our team is full of fighters and we never give up. We always believe at the end of the day that we’d get to the top of that mountain.
KADEEM BATTS: Just to add to what they’ve said. We’ve stuck together as a group and preached family all season, and we’ve been a family.
Q. Guys, was there a moment in the season that you thought, wow, we could really do this? Was there a seminal moment in there where you started thinking what you were going through today was completely possible? Kadeem, start with you, if you want?
KADEEM BATTS: Definitely. We’ve always had faith in each other. We’ve had our ups and downs all season, and we hit a stride and kept running with it. Like I said, we’ve been tight all year. We’ve believed in each other all year, and we kept fighting.
BRYCE COTTON: That wow moment came first practice, at least for me. I believed from day one. So has the entire team. Even though, like Kadeem said, we had a lot of ups and downs, there was no time to fold, we knew what was at hand. This is our last go around, so we wanted to make sure we could make it a run to remember for our team and for the guys we love.
LaDONTAE HENTON: Like Bryce Cotton said, at the beginning of the season everybody believed that we’re a family. Coach said at the beginning of the season if nobody in here believes that we can do the things that we’re accustomed to do, then get out of the locker room. So everybody believed from the beginning of the season.
Q. Kadeem, can you just talk about their front court and maybe how if they look like anyone who you’ve faced this year? It seems they may be one of the more active big teams you’ve faced?
KADEEM BATTS: Off the top of the head actively, athletically, I’d compare them from the Big East to St. John’s a little bit. But the way they run the floor, the way they play above the rim, it’s nothing we haven’t seen.
So we know they’re a very athletic, running group, and we’re ready for them.
Q. For any of you guys, how aware of North Carolina’s basketball history are you?
LaDONTAE HENTON: It’s an historic program. I watched them a lot growing up. A lot of great players came through there. They’ve won a lot of National Championships. They’ve been a great, historic program. But we can’t look at that. We have to look at them as another great opponent that we face this year.
BRYCE COTTON: Yeah, feeding off of what LaDontae said. They’re a great team full of great players, and we’re aware of their tradition. But we’re a great team as well with great players, so I feel it should be a pretty evenly matched game going into Friday night.
KADEEM BATTS: To add to what they said, they have a great tradition, and North Carolina is a great school. We want to be one of the great schools too.
Q. Guys, for any or all, the Big East tournament, winning it from a number 4 seed position, three games in three nights. In what ways do you think that prepares you for what you’re going to go through now?
LaDONTAE HENTON: It prepares us in many ways. The Big East Conference, I believe, is one of the best conferences in the country, and the tournament shows it. We played a lot of great teams in those three days and we fought and gritted it out in close games. It prepares us a lot for this. We’re fortunate enough to not play backtoback games out here right now. So it prepares us a lot.
BRYCE COTTON: Feeding off of that, just knowing that it’s tournament play. We play three games and all of them are win or go home. This is the same type of environment and we’re still going to be playing against great competition. So the fact that we were able to persevere through the entire Big East tournament, I think that’s going to help us, because we’ve faced enough elimination games already.
KADEEM BATTS: It just comes down to being a mentally tough group. We’ve been mentally tough all year, and we’ve been through adversity. So we just have a lot of fighting spirit in all of us.
THE MODERATOR: Okay, gentlemen. Thank you. Up next at 5:30, we’ll have Providence head coach Ed Cooley.
Joined by Providence College head coach Ed Cooley. Coach, we’ll ask you to make an opening statement, and then we’ll take questions from the floor.
COACH COOLEY: We’re very excited to be here as a representative of Providence College as well as the Big East Conference. Our players have had a tough year with injuries and condensed lineup, but I think we’ve played our best basketball coming down the stretch.
Our players have totally bought into this whole heart and soul of what drives us every day. I think players have bought into a role and have this mentality of just playing to win, playing to have fun, and playing with a purpose. I’m excited to be here.
I can’t tell you how joyed I am to coach these kids. It’s been a lot of fun. We play a great opponent. Play a Hall of Fame coach who has been here probably as long as I’ve been alive (laughing). I’m just very appreciative of the opportunity to be in this NCAA tournament and represent Providence College.
THE MODERATOR: Before we take questions, please remember no flash or video photography in here.
Q. Ed, what has made this team fun to coach for you this year?
COACH COOLEY: Well, to see how far we’ve come. You know, I just think three years ago when we took the job almost three years to the day the culture change, the attitude change, teaching these young men how to prepare, teaching them what it is to use basketball as a life experience, and to see how far someone like a Kadeem Batts has come, to see how far Bryce Cotton has come has made it really fun to coach this group. The more I trusted them, and the more they trusted us as a staff, I think the more success that we’ve had. So that’s been the fun part. I feel like a proud father with these young kids of how far they’ve come.
Q. When Roy Williams was in here he was talking about LeVelle from North Carolina Central, his first time here. He should take his time and enjoy it. I know you’ve been here a lot as an assistant, but first time as a head coach. Does that ring true for you, or is it tough to enjoy it?
COACH COOLEY: I think it’s a great question because I’ve dreamed about this opportunity to be sitting on this stage as a head basketball coach that we had a chance to lead to this. I remember as an assistant coach sitting in those same seats listening to the gentleman that I worked for, and I said, wow, I hope one day I have a chance to be on that stage, and right now I’m living that.
So as I sit here today, I’m enjoying this. I’m enjoying this more than you know. Now I’m very nervous. I’ve got a lot of stress. But at the same time, if you can’t enjoy what you do and take something from it, it’s not worth it at all. So trust me, Kevin, I’m enjoying this moment, baby.
Q. Coach, only one problem, the carpet’s not blue like you thought it might be.
COACH COOLEY: Yeah, well, that was our model. In my mind, I still see it as blue. The blue center, the NCAA logo is blue. The letters on the baseline are blue. We’re playing against the color blue. So there’s a lot of blue for us to continue to talk about, powder blue, baby blue, sky blue, blue.
Q. Coach, do you feel like this is about where you thought you should be at this stage since you took over the program? Are you ahead of schedule? Are you a little behind? How do you feel that, or do you even measure it in that sense?
COACH COOLEY: I don’t think you can ever measure success. It’s about the process. I did feel, in early November when we had a full roster, I thought we had a really good basketball team and I thought we could get here. Just like anything else, there are going to be bumps in the road and you’ll have to deal with those. It’s how you deal with something is how you’ll respond to it. And I think our kids have been resilient in that response. When they hire you, they hire you to do a job, and that’s what I’m here doing. I’m trying to do my job.
Q. Talk about what it takes preparationwise for Bryce to be on the court so much and the mental toughness it takes to pull that off?
COACH COOLEY: I was waiting for that, because that seems to be the theme even during the season that everybody talks about is our Ironman, Bryce Cotton.
First and foremost, I still think he’s the most undervalued kid in all of American college basketball. I think he’s an elitelevel guard. He’s been playing 35 to 39 minutes a game since we’ve coached him. So I don’t look at this as any different. He’s a mentally, mentally tough young man. He knows how to pace himself to play a full game. We never think of taking him out of the basketball game, ever. With the timeouts that we’re allowed, we use the timeouts, the long TV timeouts. There are strategic timeouts that are used.
At the end of the day, what kids do really want to come out? They don’t want to come out. I told them come out when you retire. Other than that, don’t look at the bench because you’re not coming out.
Q. You made mention the other day of Carolina’s front court, their size and running ability. As you’ve watched them more, do they compare to anybody that you’ve faced? What does that challenge bring?
COACH COOLEY: We went back and watched Baylor. Baylor has some bigs that run extremely well. We played Baylor last year. Playing against Syracuse and their length, a lot of people who haven’t seen Carolina in person or have evaluated them, they’re really, really long at the rim. They’re extremely athletic and talented. They’re wellcoached, and we’ve got our hands full dealing with that length and speed and overall athleticism. So we’re going to have to be on our Agame if we’re going to be fortunate enough to advance.
Locker Room Interviews
Carson Desrosiers, F., Jr.
On depth being an issue in this game …
“We’re in the NCAA Tournament and we won the Big East Championship, so that hasn’t been a problem yet. People on this team…when their name has been called, they’ve stepped up.”
On being in San Antonio …
“It’s been cool being in San Antonio. A lot of the guys had never been to Texas before, but it’s been a great experience and we’re just really looking forward to tomorrow night.”
On playing North Carolina …
“They like to get up and down in transition. They’re a big offensive rebounding team. We just need to make sure to rebound the ball and get back on defense and I think we’ll be alright.”
On on his role on defense and with rebounding …
“I’ve played them before at my old school. It’s a great opportunity for the Friars to take down a household name…something that we want to become.”
On the nerves of playing …
“There will be a little nerves, but it’s a regular basketball game. We’ll definitely be ready by tipoff.”
On how their style of play matches
up against North Carolina …
“It depends on the matchup. We can play slow and we can play fast. We just need to make sure to rebound and make sure to keep them off the glass. They’re a big-time offensive rebounding team. Good shots for us is going to equal good defensive transition for us. If we get out and take a quick shot and miss, they’re going to take the rebound and go, so we always need to be aware of that.”
Josh Fortune, G., So.
On being in the NCAA Tournament …
“Being here is a great feeling for us. Seeing the sites and seeing San Antonio…it’s a real moment for us. You want to embrace the moment and live in the moment and be prepared for tomorrow’s game.”
On the last 24 hours …
“It’s just been a lot of practicing and getting our game plan together for tomorrow.”
On playing North Carolina …
“They have a couple of great players. They’re long and athletic. They’ve got some good guards and post players, so we know we’re going to have to get after it tomorrow.”
On the experience of the conference tournament and coming into the NCAA Tournament …
“It’s been a good week for us. We won the championship we’ve had all the fans around us and supporting us, so we’re just trying to embrace the moment and take it one game at a time.”
Tyler Harris, F., So.
On being in the NCAA Tournament …
“It’s a blessing to be here. We have an opportunity to go here and make a run and we want to take advantage of it.”
On playing North Carolina …
“We just want to win. No question. We just want to get out there and compete like we’ve done all year.”